About this Episode
If you’ll be potty training your child, grandchild, or even a toddler in childcare, this Brainy Moms podcast interview hosted by Dr. Amy and Teri with guest Mary Vaughn is a must listen! (Even those of us who have been through potty training already learned a lot!) From the five signs your child is ready to start potty training and how to effectively use pull-ups, to when ADH (the antidiuretic hormone) begins being secreted to slow the production of urine overnight, this episode was so jam-packed with information that we’ve invited Mary back for part two! (stay tuned for that one!)
About Mary Vaughn
Mary is a certified PCI Parent Coach©, sleep consultant, and potty training coach. She helps moms escape survival mode induced by lack of sleep, desperate need for more time in the day, and the chaos of having young kids at home.Her mom-to-mom life coaching (pregnancy through early elementary school) was designed to help women find more joy, hope, and fulfillment in motherhood. On her website, MotherTogether.com, you can book a free 20-minute call with Mary, read her blogs, get a free potty-training assessment, or download her workbook, “Managing the Mental Load.”
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“Managing the Mental Load” workbook: www.mothertogether.com/blog/mental-load
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Read the transcript for this episode:
Dr. Amy Moore: Hi, and welcome to this episode of Brainy Moms, brought to you today by LearningRx brain training centers. I am your host, Dr. Amy Moore, joined by my co-host, Teri Miller, coming to you today from Colorado Springs, Colorado, and we are both really excited to welcome our guest today. We are gonna be talking about potty training. This is not a topic we’ve covered yet on Brainy Moms, and so we are just honored and just pumped for this conversation with Mary Vaughn. And Mary is a certified parent coach, sleep consultant, and potty-training coach. She’s also the mother of three boys, the founder of Mother Together, which she started to help moms feel engaged, uplifted, and supported. Welcome Mary.
Mary Vaughn: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here.
Teri Miller: So glad to have you. Yes. So, I wanna just right away get started by you telling us, um, why you started Mother Together and how it’s helped not just lots of other parents, but how it’s personally helped you.
Mary Vaughn: Oh, oh my gosh. This is, I could talk all day about just this. Prior to mother together, I was a middle school teacher and then I married into the military life. And so my husband uprooted us and we moved across the country and was really difficult to find and sustain work. And so after having our first, who was a horrible sleeper, and I was alone and very far from family, it became very clear, this need for a semblance of a village, even if not all, you know, you can’t always have this perfect … You’re not gonna find a group of friends everywhere you go, you’re not gonna find … But having supports, no matter what that looks like, became really important to me. And so Mother Together started out as sleep initially and as we moved and kind of evolved and grew, added potty training and have added coaching for moms, and so it really filled a gap for me professionally, but also just personally. It allowed me to connect with moms on a regular basis for me to talk to people and support people and find some meaning where—I know I speak for a lot of military spouses who are under, I mean, there’s a massive underemployment problem in the military community for spouses. But we also have, oh, where was I going? It’s just, yeah, it’s really, it’s a challenging world to be in, but finding something meaningful for me to do so that I was more than, you know, lieutenant so-and-so’s wife.
Teri Miller: Right.
Mary Vaughn: And something to offer besides conversation about the army. Because like it was really important to me to be my own person, right? And, and so this was it and it has evolved from like a very side hustle where I was happy to make a couple hundred bucks here and there. It was great and has just grown and travels with me. It moves every time we move. It is incredibly flexible. I’ve been able to raise my family and work and hit pause during deployments if life got a little too hard. It has just been really the dream career for me because it helps other people, like you said, but it also fits so neatly into what is a really difficult lifestyle.
Teri Miller: Right. Wow.
Dr. Amy Moore: Yeah, so I’m a military spouse too. And so—
Mary Vaughn: Is that why you’re in Colorado Springs? Is that …?
Dr. Amy Moore: Well, so my husband’s a retired fighter pilot, Air Force. And so we, he retired here in Colorado and we just stayed. Yeah, but if I had had a community like the one you offer when my kids were little, wow, what a gift that would’ve been. I always say that every time we had a baby, we had to move. And so our first one we moved when he was six weeks old. Our second one we moved with the military when he was 12 days old. And so I had no support. Right? And even though I was a child development specialist, it’s different when you’re the mom and so to have been able to connect with other moms at the same time … Because, you know, when you first move to a new base, you don’t have any friends yet. And so, wow. What a gift. That is just amazing. And I thank you for gifting moms the support that you’re doing. Okay, so let’s dig in. We know that potty training is a topic that impacts every mom.
Teri Miller: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Amy Moore: Right? Every mom!
Teri Miller: I mean like every kid grows up and actually doesn’t—
Dr. Amy Moore: Nobody potty train themselves.
Mary Vaughn: You all get there. None of them go to college in diapers.
Dr. Amy Moore: So what are the five signs that your child is ready to potty train? And I think this is a key question because a lot of times we try to potty train before we see signs that they’re ready.
Mary Vaughn: I agree. And I’m gonna, on the other side of it, explain what happens if you kind of wait too long. So there’s a, there is kind of a sweet spot. So, of the signs you’re looking for, the least important one is age. And that might surprise people. People are looking for a number. They really want to know, you know, “What age do I start potty training?” And in general, 18 months is kind of the low end. And if you start to hit older than three, then you may have missed a really opportune window. But there is no magic number. It isn’t 24 months, it isn’t 28 months. It is, it is just a number, but it matters. And you know, you don’t wanna start too soon because it will just be frustrating for everybody. But aside from age being the first and least important, your child needs to be able to use or at least understand potty training lingo. They need to know what the words involved mean. Do they understand poop, pee, wipe, flush, wash your hands, all of the language that goes around it. And they don’t have to be able to articulate it, but they do need the receptive communication to be able to engage with you about potty training. The third is the ability to stay dry for at least about two hours. And that’s just an average, but if your kid can’t even hold it for an hour and you are having wet diapers all day long then it’s not going to be worth your time to try because they just don’t have the capacity to potty train. You’re not really gonna be able to leave the house, you’re not gonna be able to get anywhere. It’s best to just wait until you’re seeing stretches of dryness that last at least about two hours.
Dr. Amy Moore: So lemme ask a question about that. So you are not talking about having the behavioral capacity, you’re saying that physically their bladder or their kidneys just aren’t mature enough yet?
Mary Vaughn: Yeah, your child’s bladder will double in volume between the ages of two and four.
Teri Miller: Wow.
Mary Vaughn: And so, yeah, so the sheer volume, it’s, yes, there is, and I will talk about, you know, the hormones we can talk about, especially nighttime training. Nighttime potty training is really important to understand the hormonal development. But no, it is, it’s not necessarily behavioral. It really does hinge on physically being able to hold it and that’s not always a willpower thing. Some kids just can’t. And so waiting until you see those indicators will give you a big leg up.
Teri Miller: Okay. So keep going. Fourth. Fourth sign.
Mary Vaughn: So fourth would be their ability to communicate. And so this is the one that is most behavioral is communication. And it does not mean verbal. It could be verbal If your child is extremely articulate for two and has all of the words in place to talk about going to the to the bathroom and can tell you. It would be great if they said like, “Mother, I have to go void my bladder now.” Like that would be great, but it totally counts if your kid can sign. It even counts—communication can be like potty dance, crossing their legs. A lot of kids will go hide behind the couch or go behind a curtain or hiding kind of the same spot every time they go to the bathroom. Essentially, it’s all communication and the really important thing is that you, as the parent who knows your kid best, will be able to say “they need to go.” And it doesn’t need to be verbal, but if you can look and you can spot that cue, that is communication and that’s gonna be your biggest indicator of success is parent being cued into the child’s communication, whatever it looks like. So interestingly, the signs of readiness are the same for like neurotypical kids and kids with developmental delays. It’s all the same because the communication doesn’t have to be verbal. And so even for children with autism, I recently was working with a mom who’s trying to potty train her 5-year-old with autism, and the signs are all the same. And so that’s really interesting, it’s very consistent, but obviously presents differently. And then the fifth one is interest. And I wanted to be very careful to put that last because interest doesn’t mean desire. And if you are waiting for your child to want to potty train and sit down and say, “Mommy, I want to do this. I want to throw away my diapers.” You might never get there. But an interest in what’s going on in the bathroom and what are you doing in the bathroom and what are siblings doing in the bathroom, and what does the toilet do and what is coming out from between your legs? That all counts as interest and capitalizing on their curiosity is what we mean there. And so it is not like, “Please …” I see a lot of parents who say, “Well, I’m waiting for my kid to be interested,” but what they mean is I’m hoping my kid will just do it themself and I won’t have to do it. And that’s kind of a hard truth to share with parents that if you’re waiting for them to jump in with two feet, you’re never gonna get there.
Dr. Amy Moore: Okay. So let’s talk a little bit about those behavioral signs. So, even if they don’t have the verbal capacity, if you notice patterns of behavior, like for example, my first would go hide behind the couch. You’d see his face turn red. He would grunt. And we knew. We knew he was gonna have a bowel movement and it was consistent every single time. Run behind the couch, squeeze, grunt, and there it was. Right. So would that be an example of the sign you’re looking for?
Mary Vaughn: Yes, a million percent. And a lot of times, for a healthy child who has healthy bowel movements, that probably is also happening at a similar time of day. And so that is really valuable information. If you know your kid is a 5 p.m. pooper, then it’s gonna help you too. Because one of the things that I, one of the like hottest tips and like, put neon lights around this is, I really don’t believe in over reminding children about going to the bathroom. I hate potty timers. It should be child initiated with a parent watching for those cues. But if you are going to remind your kid and initiate their trip to the bathroom, doing it at the time of day when they’re most likely to have to go is best for your child. Rather than asking them all day long if they need to poop and they don’t, they don’t need to. And so you’re just gonna frustrate them and create this resistance where your awareness is apparent and be like, “Okay, I’m looking for cues. I’m looking for this communication that my child needs to go. And I know in the back of my head that they typically go more or less at the same time most days, and that’s gonna be when I’m really keyed in into making sure they get to the right place.”
Teri Miller: Right. I wanna just like encourage listeners that whole idea—I love that you said the least important sign is age and oh my goodness. I wanna just encourage parents. I’ve got nine kids and have helped potty train two of my grandsons and it is such a vast difference between kiddos and a lot of times it is their verbal communication. Like for my kids, it was a lot of times related to number one, their verbal ability. And number two—this is a weird one, I don’t know if you’ve experienced this as well, Mary, but the month of their birth. For example, my winter babies generally potty trained later, more like two and a half, because it’s easier to step into kind of a potty training practice when it’s summertime or spring or it’s a warmer, you can kind of do some of that going in shorts or naked or whatever. Yeah, so my summertime babies, potty trained or spring, you know, potty trained sooner. And you know, I had one kiddo, he’s actually February, but in that summertime, he was very verbal, very early, early development. He initiated it. He wanted to go potty like big brother. He’s like 18, 19 months old and speaking. “I wanna go potty.” You know? We’re like, what?
Mary Vaughn: Yeah. And run with it.
Teri Miller: Yeah. And then I have another one that had a winter birthday and potty training for her—she was very, very babied and carried around. She was, anyway, the third, she was the baby for five years and she didn’t potty train till almost three. And that was just, that fit her, you know, that was what fit our family. So anyway, be encouraged, parents. Widespread timeframe.
Mary Vaughn: It is. Even for our own, I had one potty train about age two even, and ours are all boys. We had one train right around two, and then our youngest, the baby, who is such the baby in every way. He was my hardest of potty train because he just, he lacked interest in any, any of it. And there was no amount of—and we can talk about rewards—but there was just no motivating that kid to do it. So he didn’t, he didn’t really potty train until after three. Like fully was after three.
Teri Miller: Yeah.
Dr. Amy Moore: So can you give us the basic process, how long it should take, what parents should be doing. Like what does that look like?
Mary Vaughn: Yeah, so I don’t want to set expectations for parents that your child will be 100% potty trained in 72 hours. There are plenty of books out there telling you that you can potty train in three days, and I don’t believe that’s realistic, and I think it sets parents up to think that they have messed up the process or believed that they are doing something wrong. It can take weeks to months for your child to be 100% potty trained. And that is just, it is normal to continue to have accidents here and there for a really long time. It is very normal. It is normal to have regressions. It’s normal to have, you know, the progress chart here is not perfectly linear. It is very—there are ups and downs. And so I want listeners to know that you can start on a long weekend. It is great. You will, you should see really immediate successes. You should be able to tell right away if it’s going to work because you’ll start to see, and we can talk about the how to here, but just know that you might have three days of really great wins and then you send your kid back to preschool or daycare and they have accidents at daycare. That’s all part of the process and it’s very normal for you not to hand off a perfectly potty trained kid after a three-day weekend.
Teri Miller: Right.
Mary Vaughn: But as for the how to, I recommend doing—going bottomless, totally bare bottom, for at least a day or two. And the most important thing, the long and short, the whole deal is that you as the parent can spend a day or two at least watching your kid. Commit to paying attention to what they’re doing. Get a—I love having even multiple small potty chairs around the house. You wanna make it very easy to get them to an appropriate place to void. Because sometimes that minute between spotting the behavior that you’re looking for and them going is a very short window sometimes. And so being able to get them to the right place really quickly. But rather than setting timers, and rather than putting your kid down every 20 minutes, your job is to watch them. And watch them like a hawk for a couple of days and watch for those cues. And as soon as you spot it, escort them to the right place and that’s it. And the more opportunities you give them to go like absolutely pump them full of fluids, help them go, the more iterations you have, the more practice they get. And you should really, if your kid is ready, you should start to see successes immediately. It should not be. I have a lot of moms who fear going bare bottom, and it just isn’t like accidents all over the place. It really shouldn’t be. And if you are having just all-day accidents, either you are not watching or your kid isn’t ready and there’s no—if they’re just not getting it at all, I would just take a break and start over.
But yeah, your whole job? Watch, watch, watch. Take them to the right place and then celebrate. And if you’re doing rewards, that’s awesome. We can talk about that. But if you’re not, then just like a big celebration and helping them internalize their success is, that’s the whole thing. That’s all there is.
Dr. Amy Moore: So talk a little bit about what the conversation looks like between you and your child during this process.
Mary Vaughn: Yeah, absolutely. Hyping them up to right. This is a very big kid thing. It is so exciting. It is. And if you know they’re ready and you have anticipate success, then I love to take them out and, you know, go buy them new underwear. Let them pick out, let them pick out their new underwear. Let them pick out a small reward. Let them pick out all of the things and really get excited about it. Help them, show them where the potty is gonna go. Ask them where we should put it. Get them involved in as many small choices as possible. Even buying like, fun, bubbly soap or whatever. Just getting them involved in the process is really fun and gets them excited and motivates them and shows them that their rate really begins to give them ownership over the process. And while I love the idea of your child being motivated internally by just the satisfaction of being a big kid, I also think that if you wanna pick up M&M’s, that’s probably just fine and get your kid excited about some stickers. I don’t knock rewards. But yeah, just, and then rip the diaper off and go crazy. And even for naps, I have parents who are really afraid to go diaper-free at nap time, but if your kid can stay drive for about two hours, they can probably make it through their nap. And so just all day until bedtime. Yeah, just dive in and cheer for them and they’re gonna be, if your kid is ready, it’s gonna be great. And it is not as scary as you think it is.
Teri Miller: Yeah. It’s so, it’s so fun to hear you say that ‘cause that was so much our experience as well. That I’d be like, “Okay, Buddy. We’re gonna, you know, next weekend …” We’d talk about it for, you know, days leading up to it and the other kids would know, “Okay, this is what we’re doing, we’re taking Thursday to Tuesday” or whatever, you know, we’re gonna carve out that time. I knew that we didn’t have busy activities going on. Even if there was something that you know, normally would happen, I would maybe cancel it. Like, “Hey, we’re not gonna go to big sissy’s gymnastics class on Friday, you guys, because we’re gonna potty train.” You know, and everyone would be excited about it. And if you have with older siblings, I think it is great to engage their help so that they’re excited about it too, so that they’re not like, grossed out and discouraging.
Mary Vaughn: Right. That’s funny. That’s an interesting, I think in general, I want to say that in general, younger siblings are easier to train because they want to be like big siblings, so desperately. To say that until my third, who just had—is absolutely cool with diapers forever. But yeah, it is getting them so excited and even having big siblings, if they’re old enough to like help, is so fun.
Teri Miller: Yes. Yeah, that was, you know, we had the older ones like, you know, “Help me watch” you know. “Let me know if there’s an accident or if you think, you know, little Eliza’s ready to go,” you know, whatever it would be. And you know, they would get to pick out their little underwear, their little panties and new little set just for the process. And then we also did like, I would maybe have like two options. Or I’d say, “You get to have special juice for our potty training weekend!” And it was generally like a big four days, you know, basically Friday to Monday. But, pick out juice, a lot of times I’d water it down and a cup, a special cup, lot of times kinda a transition to maybe a bigger kid cup or something like that. So just a little plastic cup, you know.
Mary Vaughn: I love that.
Teri Miller: Yeah. To drink a whole lot and it just made it like a party instead of drudgery. It was a party and every time an accident happened, you know, it’s like, “That’s ok. We’re learning. No big deal.” You know?
Mary Vaughn: Yeah, you just spoke right to it. That keeping you—staying cool as the parent about accidents is one of the most important things that you can do as parent, right? Your job is to watch. Your job is to be aware, but accidents aren’t going to happen and putting pressure on your child is a surefire way to create more problems. And so if you feel the need to tap out with a partner and take a break, if you are finding yourself frustrated, if you’re finding yourself getting irritated by the process, go take your break. Even if your child had to go back into a diaper for you to take the break because the damage of being angry and putting too much pressure on your kid would be worse than giving them a diaper for a little bit. So like take your break and stay cool is one of just the most important parts.
Teri Miller: Yeah. And outside is so helpful. So depending on where you live in the country, if it can be in the warm months. Outside. Outside.
Mary Vaughn: And we have three boys who were highly motivated by peeing in the bushes. And I’ve, people ask me, they’re like, “Does that count?” Like, well, if they deliberately went to the appropriate place to go, then yes, it counts. It absolutely counts. They knew, they were aware of what was going on in their body and they went to the “right”—right in air quotes here—went to the right place, and yeah, that’s a huge win. As long as they were—it wasn’t a true total accident in the middle of the yard, so, yeah. Totally.
Dr. Amy Moore: Okay, so you mentioned how it would make it easier if you had multiple potty chairs all over the place. Just, you know, obviously to shorten the distance between the child and where they need to go. Do you have a recommendation between potty chairs and those inserts that go on the regular adult sized toilet?
Mary Vaughn: You definitely want to have an insert when you transition to the big potty. And you’ll kind of know your kid might be interested, right? You can kind of hype up the big potty. You can move—once you start to see some pretty good successes and you see them making it more consistently and self-initiating. Once they really take over and can say, “Mommy, I’ve gotta go, gotta go pee,” and they run to the right place, then you can start to pull some of the extra potty chairs from the house. But yeah, making sure that they feel secure in the big bathroom is part of it, especially for kids with any degree of anxiety or sensory issues, making sure that they feel very safe on the toilet and there’s no concern about falling in. It might be a little bit softer than the regular chair. It might not be so cold and hard. All really, really good things and having a stool for them so that their feet are planted. And they feel safe is another thing. So if you’re gonna move them to the big potty, making sure that they have a place for their feet and their bottom is really secure.
Dr. Amy Moore: Okay. So do you encourage parents to have kids empty their potty chairs with you?
Mary Vaughn: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. And they can, your kid has probably been practicing pouring for a lifetime and you might miss a little bit, but that’s, that’s no big deal. And so, yeah, absolutely. The more involved they are, because then you want them to, you know, the small potty counts as getting it in the right place, but that go in the extra step to show like, “Okay, we’re gonna flush it!” And that’s a whole part of your child understanding the process and procedure of what it means to potty like a grownup. So yeah.
Dr. Amy Moore: So what about children who are attached to their poop and really get upset when you flush it?
Mary Vaughn: That is, it is so hard. And there are kids—the pooping is its own. We could probably do a whole episode on just poop if you want to. It is, there are kids who are anxious about letting it leave their body. There are kids who are anxious about seeing it in the toilet. One of the best things you can do—so you, you want to be sensitive to that. It’s hard because as a grownup we know that it’s an irrational fear. One of my favorite things is prepping them both with—there are a couple of different approaches, right? You can use their stuffed animals or dolls to kind of model the process, including flushing away what they have voided. There are lots of really great social stories about pooping; specifically pooping, not just potty training. There are some really good stories about pooping and letting go of your poop and how normal that is. There are, I mean, even just Daniel Tiger comes to mind, right? Like, learning that that is part of the step and that it is okay. But the books, there are some great books about just the body and how we pull nutrients from our food. And then this is the waste. And explaining to them. The kids who aren’t really attached usually just need to be, you know, kind of respected and explained. Teach them. Don’t just say, “Oh, this doesn’t matter. It’s fine. Just flush it.” But saying, “No. Okay. Let’s talk about. What poop is and why it’s here and why we don’t need it. And this is, this is how the body works.” And there are a lot of kids who really appreciate being spoken to and you taking the time to like, respect that fear and, and give it, put it to rest meaningfully.
Teri Miller: Instead of shaming. I think that’s a big thing that that can be an easy mistake to be like, you know, “That’s disgusting!” you know, or “You had an accident!” or “This is gross!” instead like this, “No, this is natural. We clean it. We clean it. No big deal.”
Mary Vaughn: Right. And that, you know, their attachment is, it is what it is. We can’t just dismiss it. And so trying to educate rather than shame is the best—better approach. But it is, it is so hard. It is, especially when you are days and weeks into the process and you would like things to be moving along, it’s really easy as the parent to get frustrated with your child. And so leaning into, “Well, what does my kid need from me in order to resolve this problem?” And education is the better option.
Dr. Amy Moore: So we need to take a break and let Teri read a word from our sponsor and when we come back, I wanna talk a little bit about the differences between boys and girls in potty training.
Teri Miller: Are you concerned about your child’s reading or spelling performance? Are you worried your child’s reading curriculum isn’t thorough enough? Well, most learning struggles aren’t the results of poor curriculum or instruction. They’re typically caused by having cognitive skills that need to be strengthened. Skills like auditory processing, memory and processing speed. LearningRx one-on-one brain training programs are designed to target and strengthen the skills that we rely on for reading, spelling, writing, and learning. LearningRx can help you identify which skills may be keeping your child from performing their best. In fact, the team at LearningRx has worked with more than 100,000 children and adults who want to think and perform better. They’d like to help get your child on the path to a brighter and more confident future. Give LearningRx a call at 866-BRAIN-01 or visit learningrx.com. That’s learningrx.com.
Dr. Amy Moore: And we’re talking with our guest potty training expert, Mary Vaughn. So Mary, talk to us a little bit about the difference in potty training, boys versus girls.
Mary Vaughn: Sure. I will say, I get asked this question often, and I find that, at least anecdotally, girls do seem to be ready a little bit earlier than boys do, in some cases. I have yet to find research to back that up, but I find that at least anecdotally, that girls tend to be ready a little bit sooner. And the other, the biggest difference I—and this is not a great answer, but I think boys are a little bit easier in some ways because, especially with pee, it’s so easy to gamify potty training for boys and it’s a little bit harder to do that for girls. But how highly motivating, we know that even for adults, that gamification is the strategy out there for learning anything. And so for boys, I think that is, that works in your favor in a big, big way. The classic shooting Cheerios is classic for a reason and it works and, and I encourage parents to leverage everything that works in their favor in that way. But interestingly otherwise, I find that boys and girls are not so dissimilar. And I know you mentioned it right at the beginning, so I would love to know what your thought was about your experience with difference between boys and girls.
Teri Miller: Well, gosh, yeah. I’ve got lots of comparisons. Yeah. But being ready earlier, I don’t, I’m not really sure. That wasn’t particularly my experience because I just felt that it was based more on their birth month within the year and sort of the weather, you know?
Mary Vaughn: That is so interesting. I have never thought of that. But that’s, I will be looking for that.
Teri Miller: That was a big factor because in those cold months, I mean, it just pretty quickly it became apparent like, yeah, this is not gonna work. For my little girl that was born January 4th to start potty training right around two, it was cold, you know?
Mary Vaughn: That makes so much sense. I just have never. I’ve never put that together or had anybody articulate that before.
Teri Miller: Well, and if you live in Florida, who cares? You know, no big deal. So it depends on where you live, right? That was, that was more a factor. And then for—as far as being easier, oh my goodness, just the mess of it for boys is so much easier because they can go pee outside. I mean, even if you’re in a neighborhood, I know it feels like, “Oh, that’s a little awkward,” you know? But it’s when a little boy’s potty training, I mean, you’re not gonna wanna go right off the, you know, the curb out the front door. But it’s a great way to help them learn. And you just can’t really do that with little girls. It’s just messy. I mean, I know some people could be like, “Oh yeah, teach ’em to pop a squat,” but it’s just harder. I’m sorry. It just is. And then the other thing that I experienced is that two of my girls ended up with urinary tract infections during like, not in the potty-training process, but right after potty training. And it was a function of that process of them holding it and learning to wipe or not wipe. And so I think that’s a big one for people to, for parents to keep in mind. Potty training little girls. You don’t have to wipe for a little boy. For poop, yes. But for little girls, I mean, every time they pee they’re having to deal with that. And so you really have to help them understand how to not, without shaming, how to not get germs back up in that urinary tract. And one of my daughters, it, she was just real tough and active and go get ’em. And I did not know that she had the problem until there was blood. Because her urinary tract infection was so bad. I felt like the worst parent ever. So just definitely something to watch for.
Mary Vaughn: No, that, that’s a really good point. And it makes it a little bit more labor intensive for parents of girls, because whereas with boys, yes, you’re gonna have to wipe for poop for a long time. Your kid is not going to successfully wipe themself until they’re five or six. I don’t know. It can, it can take a while. But that you have to go help them for a really long time for every pee which is all day long. And, and so that just makes it a lot more intensive on the parents’ part to keep your kid clean and healthy. And that is your—that’s a really good point.
Teri Miller: So it was a, it was a longer, it was just a little longer for, I think my daughters, like you said, more labor intensive.
Mary Vaughn: It’s more involved for sure. You can’t relax and just let go and let them complete the entire potty process independently for a lot longer than you can with boys.
Teri Miller: Yeah. And have to be more diligent in the follow up, the weeks following, months following with accidents, things like that. It’s just different for little girls. You have to be diligent to watch for urinary tract infection.
Dr. Amy Moore: So you mentioned, um, during the potty training process, let ’em go bare bottomed until bedtime. So I’m assuming you mean then you put ’em in the diaper or the pullup for bedtime. And so then how long do we wait until we try to potty train overnight?
Mary Vaughn: Yeah. I love this question. There are a lot of, there are a lot of schools of thought out there that want to rush into nighttime potty training, and that is honest to goodness, just a fool’s errand because like I said before, first of all, the bladder capacity being one indicator of your child’s success rate, your kid can hold it for two hours during the day. But they can’t possibly hold the sheer volume of 10 to 12 overnight hours until your body starts to develop what’s called the antidiuretic hormone. And that is the hormone that regulates the production of urine and keeps it to a minimum overnight. And if you’re not producing it, then your body’s gonna keep producing kind of a large volume overnight and you just can’t hold it. And so there’s not really a point unless you want to sacrifice sleep. And as a sleep consultant, I never ever want to sacrifice sleep. If you’re, if you can just put them in a pull-up overnight, most kids will overnight potty train. Within six to 12 months after they daytime potty train. And that’s just kind of an average. That is no guarantee. And interestingly, every pediatrician I’ve ever spoken to on the topic has said that it is normal to continue to have overnight accidents, well into elementary years, that even eight and nine, they don’t get concerned about nighttime incontinence until your child is in like second or third grade. So with that information, you really can release the pressure to nighttime potty train. And release the pressure on your child that it’s okay if they are not nighttime trained at three or even four. And for your big kid who is probably embarrassed because they have peers who have been, who don’t wear a pull-up at night and, and that’s really hard stuff, but it isn’t something to be ashamed of. It’s very normal and it’s just part of their body’s chemistry and how their body’s working.
Dr. Amy Moore: What’s the typical age range for producing the antidiuretic hormone? When does that usually happen?
Mary Vaughn: I would have to double check. I don’t—I want to fact check for you, but I wanna say it’s four. But that is—I might be fabricating, it might be fabricating. But it’s young. It’s not, it is not usually an older thing. Most kids, you can pull the pull-up by four or so. But the real indicator is to look for is if your kid is waking up dry in the morning. The easiest way to nighttime potty train is just to wait it out. But be very aware if they are using their pull-up first thing upon waking in the morning, which is really common. I have parents who say, “Oh, my kid is still going at night.” They’re not. They are just going as soon as they wake up. And if you are on kind of a schedule where like—I know in our house, my kids wake up well before, you know, we have kind of morning trained and we have their okay-to-wake clock in the morning where they start the day. So there’s a gap where now they’re old enough to go to the bathroom, but there was a period of time where one or another was in a pullup and they would wake before we were ready to start the day, and they would be using a pull-up during that gap where they’re wakeful. But I haven’t started the morning yet with them. And so, being aware and getting your kid to the bathroom first thing in the morning so that you can check for a dry pullup, which is a huge thing. And if you start to see a pattern and you get through maybe a week and you see pretty consistently dry pullups, you can just, just ditch ’em and make sure your bed is lined and make sure that you have all of those precautions in place ‘cause there will be accidents. But if you see kind of an overwhelming pattern of success, then you can probably just pull it and be done.
Dr. Amy Moore: Well, do you have that communication with them though? Do you say, “Hey, when you first wake up, see if you can run to the potty?”
Mary Vaughn: Uh, yeah. If they’re old enough to leave their room and responsibly get to the bathroom, which might not be true for a two-year-old, but certainly would be for like a three and change, right? It depends on their communication. It depends on your kids. If you are ready to go help wipe them, right? You don’t want—if we’re talking about UTIs, you don’t want your daughter running to the bathroom and not having, so it’s a whole parental involvement. And that conversation is more than just their ability to go make a mad dash to the bathroom. It’s, “Are you awake and ready to parent?” Are you, are you, are you … right? There’s a lot of other just kind of familial circumstances that might be different.
Teri Miller: A fun way, a fun little transition. And again, this may be something you’ve not, I don’t know if this is in a book or whatever. It’s just something with that we did that was, that helped the transition, is we would let them wear, or we would have our kiddos wear their new little underwears or panties or whatever, inside the pull-up. And that helped with like nap, nap time accidents or even during the day because a pull-up is super absorbent. But when those, those panties are against their skin, they feel it. And so they get it. And overnight, like once they started to get dry, it would be like, “Oh my gosh, this is the fifth night your pullup is dry. I think you get to wear your big girl panties tonight. What do you think? Let’s wear the special ones with Cinderella.” You know? Right. And then we’d pull that, pull up on over it for our comfort. But, you know, but then she would feel that. She would know, and it just helped that learning process. Again, no shame, but just like, “Oh, Cinderella got wet. That’s okay. We’ll wash her and we’ll try again tomorrow.” You know?
Mary Vaughn: Yeah. Interestingly, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that families that skip pull-ups as part of—so, not nighttime, but for daytime, right?—there was, at some point, a school of thought where using pull-ups was a potty training strategy, but they are so much like diapers and there’s almost no material difference. And so families that go straight from diapers or pull-ups to just cotton underwear are much more successful and faster potty training. So using a pull-up … I know they market some that say they’ll feel cold when they get wet. I know they market some that are—but the less you do and the fewer steps you create here, the more successful you’re gonna be.
Dr. Amy Moore: So, I can’t believe it’s already been 45 minutes, but we need to finish this conversation. But we would love to have you back because we didn’t get to talk enough about poop. We didn’t get to talk about the daycare-parenting partnership in that. Would you be willing to come back and do a part two?
Mary Vaughn: I would love to. Poop is a whole topic.
Dr. Amy Moore: It sure is. And I have some good poop stories, so.
Mary Vaughn: Oh, no, I love it!
Dr. Amy Moore: I’ll share the poop stories next time. How’s that sound?
Teri Miller: The neurodiversity issue I think is a good one too, that we could come back and talk about that. I think, you know, even if your child is not diagnosed with, you know, a neurodiversity, that they’re—it’s so important to understand that kids develop differently and their brains just work differently. And so with neurodiverse kids it may look very, very different Because we had, we had one kid that’s, we know now is on the spectrum. We didn’t realize at that time that was very upset by the messiness of the potty-training process. So interesting thing we could talk about.
Mary Vaughn: Yeah, it’s a completely different protocol for getting your child, for building their relationship with the bathroom, which is just a wild thing that you wouldn’t know unless you know and it’s part of your life. And so, yeah, all of it. I I would love to come back.
Dr. Amy Moore: Let’s do it. So Mary, in the meantime, tell listeners where they can find you.
Mary Vaughn: Sure. I am on Instagram at Let’s Mother Together, and if you want to grab, I have a potty-training readiness assessment that you can score for your child and indicate how ready they are. And that is at MotherTogether.com/potty.
Teri Miller: And then the. Managing the mental load. You have a free downloadable workbook. Tell us about that real quick.
Mary Vaughn: Oh, I do. It is such a great tool. It is as comprehensive as possible and designed to be done by yourself or with your partner, where you really can just download everything from your brain onto paper and use that to create a system And just, right, we know and we can talk about the mental load all day. And that’s an episode unto itself, but it is— just gets, gets it out of your brain and onto paper and into a system. And so it’s just a tool to be done either by yourself, ideally with a partner. But yeah, that is fantastic, and I think we can link it in the show notes if that’s okay.
Dr. Amy Moore: Yeah, absolutely. All right. So, Mary Vaughn, thank you so much for being with us today. We can’t wait to have you back for part two. Listeners, again, you can find Mary at mothertogether.com and on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn at Let’s Mother Together. We’ll put all her links and handles, the link to her free downloads, we’ll put all of that in our show notes. So thank you so much for listening today. If you liked our show, we would love it if you would leave us a five-star rating and review on Apple Podcasts. You can find us on every social media platform at The Brainy Moms. You can even watch us on YouTube. So look, until next time, we know that you’re busy moms. And we’re busy moms. So we’re out.
Teri Miller: See ya.
Mary Vaughn: Thank you.