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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

  • I am using cloth diapers, and am hoping to have my daughter potty trained by 18 months. She just turned one, and we have been sitting her on the potty when I go to the bathroom since she was 7 months. Whenever she sits on her potty now she tries to pee (and almost always does) so we are well on our way! I think part of it is I made potty time fun and something that she could observe mama doing too!

    Brieanne on
  • Every child is different. My son was in cloth and trained at 3.5 in one day. By himself. No accidents, no issues. I didnt push; he was just ready and he knew it.

    caitlin on
  • I think that’s really interesting; I hope my son potty trains too…having two in diapers is exhausting.

    Mary on
  • The poop nuggets had me howling! I’ve totally been there. I used disposables with my older kids. With the youngest we’re using cloth, and loving it. We didn’t start until he was a couple months old, but even in disposables I could tell when he was wet because he would get cranky. With cloth he gets downright mad. The good thing is that I know right away and can change him immediately. My hope is that it will translate well for potty training since I figure he’ll be just as motivated to use the toilet as I will be to encourage him to.

    Margaret on
  • Potty training for our little guy seems so far away (he’s only 3 months), but I am going through it with my niece. One help for Mom and Dad seems to be getting the child to be comfortable going to the potty with another non-parent adult.

    Amanda on

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