New parents in the world are constantly wondering: When can I begin potty training? (Some don’t even realize that, with the right information, they can even begin potty training their baby).
Believe it or not, there are options for the first year of life (yes! you heard me right!), as well as the 11-18 month range, and 18 months and beyond.
So which potty training age is truly most beneficial to your child’s health?
There is a lot of crap out there on the internet about potty training, pun absolutely intended. It can boggle the mind. And there are a lot of marketing-fueled lies circulating (with the primary aim of selling more diapers). So. Because the current society is so convinced of certain mistruths, we need to push those aside right now. Before we dive into which potty training method works best for each age range (super-detailed info below), let’s first get something crystal- clear: Early potty training will NOT damage your child in any way.
There is no scientific study that actually proves that early potty training will harm your child (contrary to Dr. Hodges’ marketing influence, which is based on a study that doesn’t say early potty training will damage them, but that incomplete emptying of the bladder will).
And late potty training (starting at 2 years old and up) CAN potentially damage your child, in many ways. (This article compares and cites all the science that proves this, inarguably.)
• If your child is already over 18 months old, get educated and begin potty training this week.
• If your child is less than 18 months old, it can only benefit your child to begin today, in some way, big or small.
The science supports it. Again, I will break the ages down further, below, so keep on reading. And the most healthy time to begin? Early, early, early. As early as birth. (As early as wherever YOU are when you read this post.)
Establishing healthy potty use and attitudes from an early age is beneficial to your child, on so many levels. Parents: You get to choose, from birth, whether to train your baby into using the diaper as a full-time toilet, or using the toilet as a full-time toilet.
Full permission granted to choose what works for you (and a little bit of research might be necessary so you can feel confident executing this decision!).
Okay, now that this myth is completely disproven, we can confidently move in to answer the question: “At what age can I potty train my child?”
The top method for starting potty training at 0-12 months
The method you would use for starting potty learning with babies 0-12 months is called “elimination communication.” It is a way of tending to your child’s natural instincts for cleanliness by learning and responding to the signals, rhythms, and preferences of your baby.
It is not hard to do, and you can do it part-time! And the earlier you start, the sooner you integrate this into your life and it becomes your “normal”…no potty training usually necessary. Learn more about elimination communication (EC) on my EC 101 page here.
The best method for starting potty training at 11-16 months
To start potty training with 11-16 month (likely walking) babies, which is actually considered by Montessori school of thought to be the “sensitive period” (the best time!) to begin toilet learning, you would use either pure EC or a hybrid of EC/potty training.
This is a time period where you can both begin and wrap up toilet learning all within one developmental stage! Learn more about why starting at 12-18 months is great with this post and video here.
The top method for starting potty training at 15-20 months
To start toilet training a 15-20 month toddler, you’ve already mostly passed the EC window (although you can give it a whirl if you’ve got a super laid-back, not-yet-walking baby!)…and you’re now sitting at what’s called early start potty training. But, don’t you dare feel bad! You will now spend less time potty training/doing EC and more time teaching the final pieces of independence. Like ripping off a Band-aid, potty training at 18-24 months is a much more rapid process than EC (and it should be! Toddlers crave mastery at this stage, and being lax or hands-off about toilet training at any toddler age is a disservice to your wonderful toddler!!). Learn about early potty training on my Potty Training 101 page here.
The best method for starting potty training at 20 months and up
For this, you’d also do the same as the previous age range, but it’s not going to be called early potty training…just your regular ole run-of-the-mill potty training (but pls don’t use a boot camp or gradual plan!). Again, do not feel badly! The earlier you begin, the sooner you’ll be done, and you do not have to wait for readiness signs or fear that you’ll harm your child by doing the training too early. That is all BS funded by the diaper companies.
Some quick reassuring facts (for those of you who are skimming)
Which is the best time to potty train your child? Whatever age your child currently is. That is the best time to start the learning…now!
What is the current average age of potty training completion in the US? 36-38 months average.
What is the current age of toileting independence in the rest of the world? 12 months average.
What was the toilet training age in 1957 in the US? 92% of children were toilet trained by 18 months of age.
What would happen if we reduced the toilet training age by 1 year (from 3 to 2 years old)? The diaper companies would lose approximately $8 billion/year in revenues.
Remember: You can begin potty training at any age, starting as early as birth. It just looks a little different at each stage. And, no shame mama/daddy! You are where you are right now, given what you’ve learned so far. Now you know some more stuff about what age is best to begin potty training, get started today. We’re rooting for you!