Starting in toddler-hood...
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...
Decide when to offer
Hopefully you have picked up a signal or two from your observations (be mindful these will likely change over time). But if not, you can be just as successful by relying on your awareness of your babies timing and wait for signals to appear later in life. Try at a quiet time you deem is likely to be successful, then try again one more time. You can stop anytime. However, once you've had your first 'catch' you'll likely be keen to keep going. You may like to try to catch a poo since those cues are often more obvious and the easier clean up is so rewarding.
Deciding when to offer your baby an opportunity to toilet will rely on a combination of these two things, unique to you and your baby:
Wriggling, squirming, fussiness, kicking
A pause, followed by frowning or a blank expression
A certain sound or grunts of effort
A certain mouth movement
Farts (they can be a precursor signal by a minutes/hours)
Small pees (a warning pee before a real pee)
Phantom pee feeling when they are sitting on you
Looking at or moving towards the potty in the room
Trying to get your attention somehow
Simple sign language (if it has been learned)
Verbally saying so (once able)
Looking down at their groin/legs or clutching there
Immediately after waking up from a sleep/nap
Immediately after nursing/eating a meal
Immediately after taking the baby out of a sling/stroller/seat
Immediately after taking their nappy off (nappy change)
Before leaving home
Before or after a bath
These can be thought of as 'transitional moments' and work well due to physiological and psychological reasons for you and your baby, as well as convenience. Most babies toilet frequently in mornings (e.g. every 10-30 mins) and less frequently in afternoons/evenings (e.g. every 1-2 hrs).
When you are ready, announce your intention with the hand-signal and words you have chosen in Step 1 of the preparation phase.
Hold your baby in position over a potty
Choose your potty carefully. It must be comfortable for you and for your baby to be able to relax. For newborns who like to be held close a top-hat potty held tight between your legs as you sit is very convenient. Some come with a fleece cozy for the rim to be soft (and gentle on the skin) as well as nice an warm (feeling a cold hard surface may startle). If you are comfortable over a sink or toilet (or even a bowl/bucket) that can work well too. Try a few different holds to get confident with and stay open to trying new positions as your baby's body develops and certain muscles get stronger and different holds become more comfortable for you or your baby.
Positions that work well for 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.
Cue your offer
As you hold your baby in position, breathe in and then exhale loudly - as a prompt to help you and your baby relax into each other - and then make your cue sound for 5-10 seconds to let baby know that now is a good time to release. If they are looking comfortable and concentrating you can give them up to half a minute or so to respond. If they're squirming or upset, stop and offer again another time - they obviously don't want to go right now for some reason. It doesn't matter if your baby goes or doesn't go. You have offered the opportunity and that won't be lost on your baby. Keep a relaxed attitude and start small - offer a few times a day and then build on that.
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.
With the intention of staying relaxed and making the experience enjoyable and engaging for your baby, talk to them about what's going on throughout the hold. Acknowledge if they are peeing or pooing to help them keep their awareness on what's happening and mix in some loving words of encouragement and other positive vibes.This is your quality time together so you can make it fun in your own way. The aim is to have a conversation with each other, through actions and words, and see what happens. It is important to remain matter-of-fact and supportive in either eventuality. Some useful things to say could be "look you've peed, you've got the hang of this" or "looks like you don't have to go just now, we'll try again later" or similar. You can also announce the "finish" of the toilet opportunity for your baby to round off the routine of the experience.
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.
Have a wet-wipe or wet cloth handy, or wash baby off in the sink - taking extreme care to keep the temperature comfortable and not too hot (risking burns) or too cold (discomfort leading to a negative association with the process). If using a potty, dump the contents into the toilet, wash in the sink and have a towel set aside to wipe dry ready to use again.
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.