child development

The Dangers of Potty Training Too Early

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Potty training is one of those things that you’re either super excited for, or want to put off as long as possible. Diapers are expensive! Changing diapers is gross and annoying! But, diapers are convenient. And as gross as cleaning up a dirty diaper can be, it’s nothing compared to scrubbing shit out of your rug. There really is no right or wrong age to start potty training your child; experts agree that your kid will begin showing signs of readiness, and that parents should follow those cues. For some kids, that starts around 2 years old. For others, it can be much later. It’ll happen when it happens! However, there is such a thing as toilet training your kids too early. And it can have serious and permanent consequences for your child.

Potty training can be brutal, so it makes sense to want to get it done and over with as soon as possible. But starting too early isn’t the way to get it done.

Diapers aren’t just for keeping the mess contained. They’re sort of like training wheels for your child’s body. They teach a child to relieve themselves freely, which is key to successful potty training when the time is right. Peeing and pooping isn’t just a natural instinct. It takes practice! Diapers help children learn how to relax and go. When you take your child out of diapers too soon, you run the very big risk of stunting this practice. Babies and toddlers need to learn proper and natural waste elimination, without the added expectation for doing it over a toilet.

Kids who are potty trained too soon may develop an abnormal ability to hold their pee and poop. This can lead to all sorts of problems.

Holding it in can lead to urinary tract infections, kidney problems, and can even affect the size and development of your child’s bladder. Dr. Steve Hodges, a pediatric urologist at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center says, “A child’s bladder, which continues growing to its standard size until age three, grows stronger and faster when it’s filling and emptying uninhibited.” Additionally, holding it can lead to problems with constipation, and can even make night time accidents more frequent. Bed-wetting occurs when the child’s muscles finally relax and the child is unaware.

Experts recommend starting potty training at age 3, when a child’s cognitive levels have developed enough to be able to recognize the need to use the toilet.

By the age of 3, a child should be able to successfully hold their pee and poop on command, and will be able to read their own body cues to know when it’s time to go. And even then, potty training can be hard! Every family has their own strategy that worked for them, and it may come down to trying a few to find one that works for you. I will say, cold-turkey worked wonderfully for my girls, as did unabashed bribery. But be prepared for things to get super gross, even if you start when your child is ready. Kids wouldn’t be kids if everything was easy, right?

Your child will eventually successfully potty train. They will! But forcing them into it too early will only make things harder on you and them, and could potentially do a lot of damage. Enjoy those diapers for a little while longer, parents.

(Image: iStock/ElenaNichizhenova)