Potty training

Introduction

Photo of little boy sitting on the potty
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Before you know it, tiny babies turn into toddlers that can walk and talk a little. Parents often then wonder whether it's time to start potty training. Research suggests that it could be a good idea to start getting children used to using a potty or toilet around the age of two.

After birth, children begin a long process of development. The brain continues to mature and learns to control more and more body functions, including bladder and bowel movements. Although this comes naturally to older children, the process is complex, involving various , muscles and the nervous system.

The speed at which children develop varies greatly. Bladder and bowel control is just like any other part of child development. For example, some children already start walking at ten months, while others start at 18 months or later. Studies have shown that most children start using the potty between the ages of two and three years. While some children already learn to use it by the age of two, others only learn when they are four years old.

Do not start too early

There are mainly two good reasons for starting potty training around the age of two years:

  • Children under the age of 18 months are often simply not physically capable of using a potty. Starting potty training earlier may mean that it takes longer to see results. That's often frustrating and tedious, both for parents and children.
  • Children who are much older than two years may find it harder to change their habits. Here, too, it might then take a while for the child to learn.

But regardless of the child's age, it's never a good idea to put pressure on them. Doing so can even lead to problems like constipation during potty training.

Jansson UB, Danielson E, Hellström AL. Parents' experiences of their children achieving bladder control. J Pediatr Nurs 2008; 23(6): 471-478.

Joinson C, Heron J, Von Gontard A, Butler U, Emond A, Golding J. A prospective study of age at initiation of toilet training and subsequent daytime bladder control in school-age children. J Dev Behav Pediatr 2009; 30(5): 385-393.

Kaerts N, Van Hal G, Vermandel A, Wyndaele JJ. Readiness signs used to define the proper moment to start toilet training: a review of the literature. Neurourol Urodyn 2012; 31(4): 437-440.

Klassen TP, Kiddoo D, Lang ME, Friesen C, Russell K, Spooner C et al. The effectiveness of different methods of toilet training for bowel and bladder control. Evid Rep Technol Assess (Full Rep) 2006; (147): 1-57.

Van der Cruyssen K, De Wachter S, Van Hal G, De Win G, Van Aggelpoel T, Vermandel A. The voiding pattern in healthy pre- and term infants and toddlers: a literature review. Eur J Pediatr 2015; 174(9): 1129-1142.

Vermandel A, Van Kampen M, Van Gorp C, Wyndaele JJ. How to toilet train healthy children? A review of the literature. Neurourol Urodyn 2008; 27(3): 162-166.

Warzak WJ, Forcino SS, Sanberg SA, Gross AC. Advancing Continence in Typically Developing Children: Adapting the Procedures of Foxx and Azrin for Primary Care. J Dev Behav Pediatr 2016; 37(1): 83-87.

IQWiG health information is written with the aim of helping people understand the advantages and disadvantages of the main treatment options and health care services.

Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. informedhealth.org can provide support for talks with doctors and other medical professionals, but cannot replace them. We do not offer individual consultations.

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Updated on June 6, 2019
Next planned update: 2022

Authors/Publishers:

Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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