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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’m a retired school teacher. I also am a baby boomer who was born in the late 1950’s. I agree many parents don’t train or discipline their children because it involves training and disciplining themselves. Days of larger families where most younger children didn’t want to be “babies” longer than their older sisters & brothers had been are mostly a thing of the past. In other words seeing older sisters & brothers wear regular underwear often encourged them to want to.

    Or Daycare as my kids had. My kids were in daycare full or part time while I went to college and my early yrs of teaching.My little girl was potty trained way before age 2. Not long after walking at age 1.She turned 1in May and that summer she learned quick!

    Being a college student on a very tight income I did it as soon as my daughter could walk and talk and undress herself which was at a young age.

    I never remember her saying one word at a time-seems she just went to sentences! Being short for her age people were always amazed how well such a little girl talked! I remember my Mom sharing with me a trick she did potty training me. I did it for my daughter and it worked the 1st time!

    She was sitting on her child size toilet and I got a cup of lukewarm water and poured it between her legs as she was sitting down. Telling her she was going to go to the toilet like Mommy did. She giggled as the water flowed between her legs and sure enough it turned on her “faucet” right away! She was able to urinate then and was quick to learn especially after she got some pretty panties instead of the training pants she had worn.

    I looked for training pants for my granddaughter we kept 1day a week and was amazed how HARD they were to find and how large the sizes went up to! Poor Kindergarten Teachers! Sheesh! Unless something was medically wrong most times it was parents fault not taking the time!

    Once my little girl was having #2 accidents some but always when she was busy playing and didnt want to stop! The day she took off her dirty training pants and told me “Here Mom swish them in the toilet!” as she was going to hand them to me-I said “Enough!”

    I said “Oh No” Now YOU are big enough to do that!" I supervised as she took the dirty training pants and swished them in the toilet then put them in the pail by it. I showed her how to swish them and what it was FOR!
    (NO IT WAS NOT NEAT BUT THE LESSON WAS LEARNED!)

    She did NOT like that at ALL! She also got in the tub afterwards and I had her wash the best she could and followed up myself making sure she was clean!

    She was MAD! She got on dry clean clothes and went out to play again with a neighbor friend. The next day I was watching them and saw my daughter pointing to her underwear to her friend. I HAD to easedrop! She told her friend. "YES it IS my turn so WAIT! I need to go to the bathroom now! Mommy Quit putting my dirty pants in the toilet! I dont want to do it! Yuck! As she held her nose!

    She ran inside-did her job and went right back outside to playing!

    I wonder how many kids who just get lazy & busy? Would do the same when they realize how Yucky! and MORE time it takes to NOT stop & go? She NEVER EVER HAD ANOTHER #2 accident again! Barely ever #1 unless ill!

    Yeah,it probably sounds like dinosaur info! But her & her brother both turned out fine & never went on Oprah because Mom made them help clean up messes they made-once they were old enough to do different!

    Signed Retired teacher but Forever Mom & Grateful Grandma!

    Robin Johnson on
  • I’ve always heard that cloth diapered children potty train earlier because they can feel the mess in their diapers, where as with disposables, not so much. I completely skipped training pants or disposable pull-ups because of this little fact and indeed had her trained by 2 and a half years old! Friends of mine who use disposables are still shelling out $$$ for their 3+ year old children. It’s almost worth it for them to just go diaper-less and follow them around like a brand new puppy! Haha But potty training is tough and a dreaded task, no matter the diapering method. I’m guilty of putting it off for a few weeks, even when my first was showing signs of being ready. I wasn’t ready.. for the mess… and poop nuggets! LMAO That killed me! ;)

    Samantha Buentello on
  • My daughter day-time potty trained a little over two, but she still wears diapers at naps and bedtime and they are still wet every time! (This is now a full year after she day potty trained). It is frustrating!!! At least it’s cloth though, huh? :)

    Laura F. on
  • We put out a toddler potty when my daughter was around a year old so she could practice sitting on it and become familiar with the idea, especially since she likes to join us in the bathroom. We then started suggesting she sit on the potty, especially when she was not wearing a diaper, starting around 18 months old. By around 20 months she was mainly trained in the house, but we would put a diaper on her when we left the house. Around 22 months we started leaving the house with no diaper, and around 25 she stopped wearing a diaper during the day at all, including nap times. Now she is 28 months and only wears a night time diaper still. We haven’t rushed her through any of the stages and pretty much let her tell us whether she wanted the diaper on or not. We are expecting baby number two in the next few weeks and plan to the same. Both my first and second daughter will have spent their whole diapering time in cloth.

    Rebecca A. on

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