Potty training too soon may actually be harming your child - and this is why
I sometimes feel like when it comes to potty training, it went so smoothly with my own two children that it almost feels like it was a non-event.
Which I know is almost too good to be true, and it makes me fear that if I was to have anohter baby, the laws of the universe will probably work it so that I will finally see the suffering it is for so many otehr parents. And then some.
At around the age of two (slightly later, maybe more like 2,5 with my little boy), both my children, who were in part-time childcare as I freelanced and desperately tried to meet deadlines, just sort of decided one day that they were done with nappies and wanted "big girl/boy pants." And that was that.
And when I say that was that – it actually was. No accidents, no drama, no nothing – not even really a potty, as they both sort of seemed to prefer going on the actual toilet – which was fine by me, as the idea of the whole emptying the potty thing always slightly grossed me out, to be honest.
When (and how easily) children potty train varies hugely – and I think, as parents, we often stress ourselves out by reading or hearing about just how early everyone elses children transitioned from nappies to potty.
There are many reason why parents stress over getting going with potty training. Nappies are terrible for the environment. They cost a fortune. Or worse: Some Montessori schools might only take them when they are fully potty trained.
However; now an expert has weighed in and warns that potty training before the age of three might actually be a mistake.
Here is what Steve J. Hodges, a pediatric urologist who specializes in toileting problems, had to tell Babble recently:
"Children under age 3 should not manage their own toileting habits any more than they should manage their college funds."
Hodges then also goes on to say that preschools that require 3-year-olds to be potty trained are actually harming kids, and that infant toilet training is "just plain nuts."
The medical expert argues that this is not to say that young children cannot be potty trained if you want them to – but that knowing "how to poop on the potty is not the same as responding to your body’s urges in a judicious manner."
Learning to 'hold it in' can be harmful to young children
What can happen, Hodges explains, are long-term issues, where they even years later start experiencing pee and poop accidents, urinary tract infections (UTIs), urinary frequency, and/or bedwetting. Most of which, apparently, are related to chronically holding pee or poop or both.
"Children – and I mean all children – don’t like to interrupt their lives to use the bathroom. Once kids learn to put off peeing and pooping, essentially the definition of toilet training, they tend to do so often and for as long as they can. This is a dicey habit. Each time you squeeze your sphincter to prevent the release of pee, you create resistance in your bladder."
This then becomes a problem when you realize that the bladder's sensation mechanism gets affected and can go awry.
"When a child habitually delays peeing, over months and years, his bladder wall becomes more muscular and eventually the bladder can get so strong and irritable that it empties without any input from the child."
Much the same happens when a young child learns to delay pooping, he explains.
"There’s only so much room in the pelvis, so the bladder gets squeezed out of the way and can’t hold as much urine. What’s more, the nerves controlling the bladder, which run between the bladder and the intestines, can get irritated when the intestines are enlarged, causing unexpected and unwanted bladder contractions – in other words, mad dashes to the toilet and accidents."
Chronically holding pee and poop can also caus urinary tract infections.
Two-year-olds, Hodges argues, are not mature enough to understand the importance of eliminating as soon as they feel the urge, and will teach themselves to hold on. As well as this, the human bladder actually needs about three or four years to grow and develop, and uninhibited voiding facilitates maximum growth.
How old were YOUR children when they were potty trained, mamas? Did YOU feel like you were made potty train them before they were ready? Let us know in the comments or tweet us at @Herfamilydotie