Potty Training a (former) Cloth Bum

Bear starts nursery in September. She will be three years and one month old; potentially one of the youngest in her class. However, she is still required to be potty trained before starting as they have a strict “No Nappies” policy (except for children with special needs).

cloth nappy child

When we had children we wanted to use cloth nappies, as aside from their absolute cuteness, they were a lot cheaper and less wasteful than disposable nappies, as well as being gentler on baby. However, we also liked to make life easier for ourselves, so if the girls went to child-minders or we went away, we used disposable nappies instead. Usually for very short periods, using cloth 95% of the time. Then, at Easter, we went away for a week and made the decision to put the cloth nappies away and stick to disposables while we started potty-training. Putting on a washload every day was getting boring, and wasn’t she going to be potty-trained soon anyway?!

So we started gently trying to encourage her to let us know if she needed the toilet. And then we tried going cold turkey and just putting her in knickers but, despite seemingly being ready and able, she certainly wasn’t willing. She loved the knickers we bought her and would try and pull them on over her nappy, but if we dared to suggest she took the nappy off first, it would result in a tantrum from hell.  We tried pull-ups but she just treated them like nappies, delighting in telling us when she’d done a wee or poo in them. We were getting nowhere fast and summer was well and truly underway, the clock ticking loudly in the wings. Not to mention the bank balance that was quite literally going down the toilet!

We tried using incentives to encourage her, but she didn’t care. Then I had a brainwave.

I wondered if the disposable nappies were just a bit too comfortable and too convenient for Bear. What would happen if we switched back to the cloth nappies, now stored in the loft awaiting listing on used-nappy sites, that would feel wet (and presumably uncomfortable) if she wee’d in them?

We got them down and next nappy change gave it a go. Bear was distraught: “It hurts!” she cried as she tried to walk, and no amount of adjustment seemed to calm her. So I gave her the option of wearing knickers instead, but having to use the toilet or potty. She virtually ripped the nappy off in her enthusiasm!

using potty

All well and good, of course, but only a success if she doesn’t then treat the knickers like a nappy. And incredibly, she didn’t. From that point on, she happily used the toilet or a potty if she needed a wee, even taking herself off to find a potty and pulling her own trousers and knickers down to use it if she needed to, without any prompting.

It all seemed too good to be true, but even when out and about (and everyone knows that the first week of potty training demands lots of home time), she would wear pull ups but still ask to use the toilet wherever she was. Even a week being ill with a virus didn’t have the expected detrimental effect.

It wasn’t all plain sailing of course. Poo was an issue for some reason and to begin with she didn’t go from the Wednesday until the following Tuesday and then EXPLODED!!! It was horrific, but not surprising! We did have a final breakthrough when she complained of tummy ache and tried to go on the toilet but claimed she couldn’t and then proceeded to do it in her knickers not 5 minutes later. However, while cleaning up the mess that soft poo in knickers invariably causes, she asked to do some more on the toilet and was so excited when it worked, that she hasn’t had any accidents since.

So now we just have nighttimes to crack, but if this is anything to go by, I think we can be confident it won’t take long.

There is research to suggest that cloth nappied children toilet train quicker but our experience, both with Bunny and then with Bear didn’t back it up. However, going into disposables for a brief (excuse the pun) period and then going back to cloth seemed to work the required magic. In fact, I even suggested to a friend that she borrow some of our cloth nappies to try with her son who is displaying the exact same behaviour as Bear was. It would certainly be an interesting experiment to see if it worked!