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Newborn Baby

0-3 months

Helpful Hints

Signs, reasons and hints for times when it's not going so well.With a baby, misses are a fact of life - don’t be discouraged.  Even the most easygoing parents can get frustrated or too expectant with toileting, just as with any other parenting issue e.g. eating, sleeping. Babies can sense this.  It's very normal.  Just step back. Scale down. Offer the potty less. Try another time or the next day (or next week).  This is not about catching every pee or poo, its a gradual process of learning and enjoying the benefits for you and your baby. 

If your baby is reluctant and having misses, remind yourself they are trying to communicate something to you.  This is your opportunity to focus more on the communication than the output. If you notice them going, comment on it e.g. "look, you’re peeing" or "you just poo'd, let me change you so you can be more comfortable".  Together, you can maintain their bodily awareness through anything. 

Also, by staying alert you can aim for near-immediate nappy changes and get the satisfaction of having recognized when a pee or poo has happened, even if it was too late to catch it.  By reflecting on what you saw, heard and felt moments before you will keep getting more intuitive.  

Some babies have days with very frequent pees or poos with no discernible patterns - give yourself permission to catch just some of them.  Consider if their diet (e.g. diuretics, allergies) or gut (e.g. constipation) might have issues to ask a nurse or doctor about. 

Out-of-sync days

Each pee you’ve caught is a success in itself.  It's important not to focus on the misses.  Having a relaxed attitude is vital.  You want your baby to associate toilet time as a loving, quality, bonding time with you. It's about joyful learning, not results every day non-stop. 

Happy Young Family

Common reasons for out of sync days

  • Milestones (teething, learning to crawl, walk, talk)

  • Sickness or some discomfort/injury

  • Uncomfortable due to visitors or your mood/energy

  • Unfamiliar environment or circumstances

  • Jetlag or other big changes in routine

  • Becoming more independent or resisting interruptions

  • Boredom - wanting a change in location, hold or potty/toilet​

Common times to have a miss

  • When a small baby is on their belly (tummy time)

  • When baby wakes and urgently needs to pee

  • While siblings require attention

  • While you are distracted (e.g. cooking, visitors, phone)

  • When you or baby are very tired or sick

  • When they're sitting upright in some kind of seat or toy

  • Immediately after a small pee/poo (partial-miss); it's worth offering to support them in case there is more

Ways to re-engage with toileting

  • Talk to them - give quality time

  • Let them hold a toy or book or mirror

  • Try a different potty or toilet insert

  • Use a soft potty cozy for comfort

  • Offer a drink of water to relax

  • Try night time toileting with less distractions

  • Be flexible about where to toilet and be relaxed about whether they take up the offer

Potty Pause

If resistance to toileting together stretches out longer than a few days it could be what’s referred to as a 'potty pause'.  These can happen at any age but are most common with toddlers, and happen with late toilet training too.  Babies are always changing.  It is very possible that a developmental milestone or other issue is taking up all of their attention and they're simply not interested in participating for a while.  

Just step back and change nappies whenever they're wet and keep communicating about the process. Talk about toileting, have an open door policy on the bathroom, cue stuffed animals on the potty, or encourage them to pee somewhere else when cued (e.g. outdoors, in the bathtub, in nappy).  By backing off you have given your child a feeling of control over the situation which relaxes them. Within a few days or weeks you’ll likely see an opportunity where they're more receptive again to the potty. 

When you start back up it can be useful to change the routine a bit to capture their attention again and try to make the experience more fun, comfortable or relaxing.  Let them know it is quality time together and take care to be fully involved with them at this time and not distracted (e.g. by your phone).  An older baby might want to take more initiative and show off their independence, e.g. they may enjoy having a choice between two potties, letting them walk there rather than being carried or choose which room to be in.  It may seem trivial to us but can have a big significance to them. 

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Sickness, and even teething, can commonly disrupt sleeping, eating and elimination patterns.  New mums are often asked by their midwife or other medical professionals whether there are lots of wet nappies or what colour their baby's poo is to ascertain the baby's health.  It's very helpful to pay close attention to your baby's patterns so you can recognise if something is out of the ordinary.  For example, dribbles of pee may indicate constipation (due to pressure on the bladder) and would be difficult to detect with the use of disposable nappies. 


If you or your baby are sick the main priority is rest for recuperation. This is a very good time to use feel-dry cloth or disposable nappies to reduce the number of nappy changes and give yourselves a chance at the longest possible sleep without disruption.

Image by Brandless
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