Why Are Babies Potty-Training Later?

potty training
Having three children, now (thankfully) all out of diapers, I've researched and written on the subject. One thing I was surprised to learn was that children today are potty-training much later than they were 50 and even 100 years ago. With technology, the internet and the advances in medicine and science, it's almost hard to comprehend that potty-training has actually regressed. We're so used to faster-better-new-and-improved-at-your-fingertips-millisecond EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME in 2015, that it's completely contrary to all of the progress we've made in other areas. Why is this? I did some more research and a little brainstorming. After a quick Google search, I found and enjoyed reading: A History of Potty Training. The invention of disposable diapers has actually negatively impacted how quickly children potty train—if you are using age as a measure. According to PottyTrainingConcepts.com:
  • In the 1950s, almost a 100% of children wore cloth diapers and 95% of these children were trained by the age of 18 months.
  • In the 1980s, about 50% of children wore cloth diapers, while the other 50% wore disposable diapers and only about 50% of the children were potty trained by the age of 18 months.
  • Today, almost 90-95% of children wear disposable diapers and only about 10% of children are potty trained by the age of 18 months.
  • Today, the average age for potty training is about 30 months with the age ranging from 18-60 months.
Later potty-training has also drastically increased how much diaper waste goes into landfills each year. If 95% of children were potty trained by the age of 18 months in the 1950 but today are potty trained at an average of 30 months (and some as many as 60 months!) that’s between an additional 2,500 to 3,000 diapers for every year over the of age one-and-a-half years! I got this figure by using 8 diapers a day. Infants will go through more and toddlers less but 8 seemed like a good average number. (You don’t see disposable diaper companies complaining about this epidemic).
later potty training
There are a number of reasons why potty training is happening later, such as disposable-diapering parents being less motivated than cloth diapering parents (though thanks to the invention of the washing machine, even cloth diapering parents today are less motivated than those who had to hand-wash diapers many decades ago), the change from the parent-centered approach to toilet training to the child-centered approach to training and the fact that we are just too dang busy. We want results and we want them now! Who has time for wet pants or poop nuggets on the floor? Raise your hand if you have put-off potty training because: You had a 3 hour flight to the opposite coast to see family coming up? Or because you wanted to drive to see the Grand Canyon this summer? Or because your third child spends so much time in the car while his older siblings are shuttled to and from school, to karate, to playdates, or while you run to the grocery store? I am just as guilty as anyone. These days our lives are so fast-paced, we often don't seem to have the time or the patience for things that mean slowing down, staying home, putting down our phones and letting the dishes sit in the sink. But that's what we need to do to really pay attention to the cues our toddlers and their bodies are giving us. How did you potty train your child? If you have another child, do you plan on doing anything differently the next time?
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44 comments

  • My daughter wore disposables only and wasn’t trained until just after 3. To be fair, I was also a college student and working, so I didn’t put as much time and energy into training her. Here I am, 40, with a 2.5 year old and an 18 month old. Both boys. And this time around, I am able to stay home with them full time. We used cloth with both. My 2.5 year old has been daytime trained since 22 months and has been overnight trained since just after his second birthday. He has never wet the bed, and hasn’t had an accident during the day since a month or so in. My 18 month old son will use the potty 90% of the time. If he sees big bro go, then he will climb up and go. He is very headstrong and the boys compete over everything. We aren’t officially training our 18 month old, but I’m thinking we may not actually have to train him at all. While in the home, we leave him in undies and he can pull them off and on himself. I do wipe him and also my 2.5 year old when they poop.y 2.5 year old does it himself but I do it to be sure he is clean.
    IMO cloth helps the transition. My boys both hate(d) being wet or soiled.

    Jess on
  • I trained my daughter at 23 months, slight set back when she got a UTI but we got right back on track after we got it cleared up. She’s 26 months and day time potty trained, she still wears a pull up for bed, but well work on that.

    kirsten on
  • I read somewhere that typically cloth diapered children potty trained quicker, but it’s interesting to read that it’s not necessarily true. I think we are all busy these days, and potty training sometimes is put on the back burner.

    r roy on
  • My first child was clean during the day at 14 months. He wasn’t interested in the potty he had a little step for the big toilet and asked for help to sit for a poo. Clean at night soon afte.no accidents.Second was lazy and it was my fault so she was about 20 months and liked the potty.was clean at night soon after. My youngest was clean during the day at 16 months and at night 18 months. I think people leave it too late toilet training

    Jo blunt on
  • I find statistics fascinating! The only major reason I can think of for this shift, is that most mothers in the 50s were sahm , and most mothers today are working moms. This makes a big impact on how much time those moms have to work on potty training with their child.

    hannah on

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