Starting in the playful imitation phase...
Clothing tips for toileting newborns
If your newborn is happy lying down the easiest thing is to only dress their top half and use a blanket to cover their lower half so you can easily pick them up and hold them over their potty without messing about numerous times with pants or nappies. With a waterproof liner and a simple prefold cloth under them you'll quickly see and change any misses.
If you prefer full clothing and a nappy on them to catch misses then a dress or long night-gown with elastic at the feet can also be faster and easier to use than shorts or pants.
After the preparation phase, when you are ready...
Positions that work well for 9-18 month olds:
Hold baby over the seat facing you, or with you nearby as required for safety, and using a seat reducer if required.
Baby can sit on the potty with or without support from you, as needed.
Remember you are both learning. Repeated experiences strengthens the association for them between the sound, the position and the sensation in their body as they pee or poo. With a bit of practice you as the caregiver will also develop a feel for how long it takes or whether they'll take you up on the offer.
You will likely be very delighted for your child when they pee or poo in response to your cue – which is great, your warmth and enthusiasm makes the process pleasant and positive – but I urge you to stay away from overenthusiastic praise or special attention (such as rewards from you). Stay in the realm of affirmation and positive reinforcement rather than praise. None of this is to be done to please you. The urge to eliminate is not something someone can control, so it makes no sense to praise or reward someone for having this urge and acting on it. This is a normal bodily function achieved by your child and the focus should stay on them. It is not special, nor taboo. Consider how you react to other daily activities - just as we don’t usually reward our children for eating or sleeping, going to the toilet is a matter-of-fact process that you do all your life.
Newborns love to be held close and comfortable, so baby-carrying using a stretchy wrap is a great way to support them. When you are carrying your newborn in quiet alertness close to your body you get very attuned to their movements and can quickly recognise an 'I need a toilet' squirm to get out of the carrier. Their instinct is to be off your body and out of fabric to pee or poo (to avoid soiling their nest). You may even experience a phantom pee (hot sensation as if you're being peed on, but aren't). If either occurs its a good time to offer a toilet, as well as anytime you take your baby out of the carrier. There are many types of carriers and you may prefer different ones for different activities. Personally, I preferred a Tula Explore for longer walks; a moby wrap for cosy time at home; and a woven ring sling for out of the car and popping into a shop and back again.
Out and about with a newborn
Some newborns are quickly comfortable outside the womb and ready to face the outside world, and others are very sensitive and require a lot of planning on how to protect them from over-stimulating when away from the comfort of home (this is where babycarrying works wonders as they can snuggle tightly into their protector).
In the same way that you – when planning an outing – take into consideration when your child might be hungry or sleepy, you'll gradually develop an awareness for when and where you can offer an opportunity to eliminate. It can help to plan what type of clothing they could wear to make it easy for you since facilities vary widely. You may like to start by just offering a toileting opportunity at transitional moments like when you are leaving home or arriving anywhere, or at any time you might be near a bathroom by chance. You may choose to take a potty with you or just have a well practiced hold you can use over any toilet or sink.
Keep an eye on whether they seem to be sensitive to toileting somewhere new, or if they are just tense the first few times, or if it is no issue. Once you are both confident toileting out and about there is often much less to carry than with a nappy-wearing baby. In the rare instances that there is no bathroom nearby but you know your baby has to go you could cue your baby in their nappy and then find a place to change soon afterwards.
Night-time with a newborn
How you approach night-time is likely linked to where and how your family sleeps. Being well rested is vital, so make the night-time choices that work for you.
Newborns pee frequently and are generally sensitive to a wetness so if you aren't able to change their nappy or potty them frequently at night then you'll want a feel-dry nappy to improve your chances at long stretches of sleep. See our information on nappies here.
A fact worth knowing is that babies, like adults, produce anti-diuretic hormone in their sleep to keep them dry. The urge to pee comes on very soon after waking (even if ever so slightly). Therefore, newborns often become restless in the night from that uncomfortable urge to pee/poo or to eat. Their shifting and squirming before waking is your opportunity to help your baby relieve themselves quickly before they've even fully woken up.
Interrupted sleep is a way of life with babies, so if you are going to be up anyway you could give night-time toileting a go. Surprisingly, the lack of distractions can make night-time toileting easier than in the day. All you need is a potty, wipes and stock of nappies (for misses) next to their bed and a dim night-light to see what you are doing.
By putting a bit of cloth inside to reduce splash or limit any mess if it is accidentally knocked over in the dark.
Eventually, you may become confident enough to let them sleep without a nappy (on a liner and waterproof pad) to make night-time access faster and easier.