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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
  • 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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  • No matter how much I tried, my first 3 children were right at 3 before “getting” it. Now with #4, he’s 26 months, and we just started trying, but because I’m nursing a newborn, I’m not getting up to make/take him potty, and he’s not willing to go when I do urge him to sit. he likes the big potty, not the little potty chair, and treats aren’t incentive enough yet…we’ll see how well this works, but it may take a while. I’m a stay at home mom, but still, if the child isn’t ready, how do you “make” him go???

    Jennifer Beggs on
  • I had always heard that cloth diapers = earlier potty training, but that was not the case for us. My daughter was stubborn and actually told me she liked pooping in her diaper vs the potty. (Trust me, I tried everything to get her to go on the potty. It lead to her holding it in, which created an entirely new set of problems.) Not sure if we’ll do anything different with #2, but I’m sure each child is different and there is no “normal”!

    Keara B. on
  • Interesting article. My first thought was my own laziness. I did, of course, want my child to be potty trained and successful, but out of convenience, timing, ect, we were not able to spend a lot of time working with her until recently. She had a trainer potty since she was 1, but is now 32 months and fully trained after working really hard together over spring break. We decided to not even bother with putting pull ups on in public, because I knew I would be tempted to not listen to her if her need to pee was bad timing. We used disposable with her and she was probably mostly ready to train around 18 months, went rebellious for a period of time, and then was old enough to change her own clothes and wanted “princess panties” instead of her diapers. I am curious to see how things will go with me staying at home and with my other two.

    Ashley on
  • Potty training my daughter took forever. She sat on the potty for 10 to twenty minutes every hour with no results, only to have her go in the pull up shortly after putting it on. I finally had to switch to cloth training pants and she eventually got it. She did still have accidents in those as well. My son has been in cloth since 10 months old so hopefully he will be easier.

    Wendy on
  • I never knew that children who cloth diapered potty train earlier. Definitely another advantage!

    Breanna McMillen on

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