Often, the grandmother picks up a one-week-old baby, holds him over a pot and makes hissing noises, quite convinced that the baby can be trained to pass urine in the pot! She is convinced that when she brought up her little babies, she never had wet napkins. There is no need to hustle these things and one should wait for the right signals from the baby himself.
Most babies will pass urine and stool after a feed, and pass urine on waking up from sleep. So if you hold the baby over a pot at that time, he will sometimes pass urine or stool in the pot. There is no harm in doing it as long as you do not overdo it. If the baby does not pass urine or stool in a minute or so, he should be put down in his cot.
Gradually, as the stools become more firm and less frequent, there is usually a regularity about the time the baby passes his stool, say after the morning or the afternoon feed. When this has happened for a few days regularly, then it is time to take advantage of it, and put the baby on the pot after the feed. In all probability he will oblige.
You will gradually learn to recognise the expression on the baby’s face when he wants to pass a stool. He will concentrate, stop playing with his toy, strain a little and go red in the face. When you get such a signal, you can make use of it by putting him on the pot; in other words, you are training yourself to watch the signs rather than training the baby.
By nine months to one year, the baby can be trained to pass stool in the pot and not dirty his napkin. The control of urine, however, comes a little later. As mentioned earlier, babies pass urine very frequently, but the frequency reduces as the baby grows. The regularity of passing urine after a feed or waking up can be utilised and the baby can be picked up and held over a pot at such times.
After the age of one year, the baby can be taken to the toilet every one or two hours, and he will gradually learn to pass urine there. He will also indicate his urgency by holding his genitals or his abdomen and by jerking up and down. Unless helped immediately, he will wet his pants. He may give a shriek, and stand watching over what he has done or even play around in it.
The baby is usually dry by day by one and a half years and usually gives the mother enough warning so that she can take off his pants and take him to the toilet. Accidents occur, however, if the baby is absorbed in play, excited, unhappy, unwell, or is in a different environment. The night control comes a year or more later.
Like every other field of development, the control over passing urine also differs in each child. So if the child is not ready for toilet training, he should be left alone for another two or three months. All that you will have is a few dirty napkins. If you persevere with potty training, the child develops a dislike for it and insists on passing urine or stool everywhere except in the pot.
A mother I knew was driven to distraction because her baby would not pass stool in a pot. So she resorted to spreading old newspapers and yet the child would triumphantly pass stool on the only place which did not have the newspaper. The obvious lesson was to leave him alone for a while.
You can either use a special toilet seat on top of the ordinary toilet seat for the baby or have a separate potty for him on which he can sit comfortably. This should have a guard in front, so that there is no danger of the baby falling out. The ordinary toilet seat is high and some babies are frightened by it. The sound and sight of the toilet being flushed also frightens some babies. A small potty is more convenient for the first two to three years. It is low, safe, and the baby’s very own. He can sit on it himself and feel independent and the mother does not have to be around. A string of beads or a toy will keep him occupied and happy. In winter, the pot may be cold and the baby may not want to sit on it.