Observe and practice - then repeat to refine your skills
It's your choice how to start
You could either learn about your own baby's specific habits first, with some observation time, and then try to bring some easy 'catches' into your day-to-day routines, or you could try to catch some pee or poo straight away by using some common knowledge, and then use observation time to get to know your baby's normal rhythms, whether they are giving off any signals beforehand and to develop your sense of intuition. The key is to do both! Repeatedly observing and practicing will help you and your baby learn together and build trust and confidence in each other. All the information you need to get started is described below.
Then you can move on to the age-specific information to get an overview of what key milestones to look out for, what positions might be the most comfortable, and tips for easy-access clothing for their level of mobility.
Learn to speak the same language
Observe your baby during nappy-free time or while wearing cotton training pants, so you can see any wetness and they can feel it immediately. Try it full-time for a day or two, or a few mornings in a row, or on-and-off over a week or two.
Respond by making a simple sound for the duration of their pee or poo, so they learn to associate this with the muscles they're using at that time. Then, once finished, acknowledge what happened for them in a relaxed and friendly tone, e.g. "you’ve peed, that must feel good". It is part of the process for their learning and they understand language and especially your tone much earlier than you think.
A popular sound for pee is 'pssss'. Some like to add a separate sound for poo like 'mmh mmh'.
After a quick gentle clean, consider what you've learned. Were there any specific behaviours beforehand? How long since the previous pee or poo? How does that relate to when they last ate or drank? Note down the time if that helps. Most babies to pee frequently in the morning (e.g. every 10-60 mins) and less later in the day.
You can acknowledge and reflect anytime you are sure a pee or poo is happening (even with nappy on)
Understanding what you want from each other is critical for working together - or in this case, learning together.
Offering toilet opportunities
When to offer
You choose when to offer a toileting opportunity based on a combination of:
Your baby's signals (body language, a noise/grunt, a pause, a facial expression, fussiness, wriggling, squirming, kicking, pre-poo farting)
Your baby's timing (intervals between feeds, pees, etc you've observed)
Your intuition (your thoughts of "its been a while, lets try")
Common transition times (when most babies typically need to go), e.g:
After waking up from a sleep/nap - just like us adults!
After nursing/eating - the body making room during or soon after
After taking their nappy off (nappy change) - when they feel bare bottom freedom and have been holding on as to not soil themselves
After taking the baby out of a stroller, carseat, highchair, babycarrier - their strong instinct not to soil themselves holds a while but lets go when transitioning to the next thing. It is also useful to offer before going into one of these, especially if for a longer time, as the sitting/squat position is conducive like a potty-hold.
Transition times are the easiest to start with. Choose a quiet time and start small - offer a few times a day and then gradually build on that.
Another easy and very rewarding opportunity is to offer whenever you see a clear poo signal ('that' expression). Most parents know when their baby is pooing. Ask them to "wait", then move them calmly onto the potty and help them relax to finish there. This sets good habits early on that poop goes in a proper place. Even if you only ever catch poo that’s success.
Don't feel discouraged if you aren't seeing any signals (many caregivers don't, especially for pee) as you can still offer toilet opportunities based on timing and intuition very successfully.
How to offer
1. Use a simple hand-signal or word (e.g. 'potty') to tell baby that you are about to offer.
2. Get them into position - use a hold that suits you both (see options below).
3. Take a deep breath in and out to relax, then make your cue sound for 5-10 seconds to let baby know that now is a good time to let go. Wait and see (up to half a minute or so). If they squirm or are getting upset, stop and offer again another time.
4. Explain to your baby what's going and make it fun for them by using loving words of encouragement or making funny faces and smiling. If you both enjoy the process each time, whether they go or not, it builds trust and increases the chances you'll offer again. You could say "look you've peed, you've got the hang of this" or "looks like you don't have to go just now, let's try again later". Then, announce the "finish" of the offer before you move your baby off to wind up the routine.
5. Give a quick and gentle clean up with a water and a cloth/wet-wipe as needed, then clean the potty/sink, or flush the toilet, and set up ready for next time.
You will likely be very delighted for your baby when they pee or poo on cue – which is great as your warmth and enthusiasm makes the process fun – but it is best to stay in the realm of positive reinforcement rather than praise. None of this is to 'please you'. The urge to pee or poo is not something someone can control, so it makes no sense to praise or reward it. It's a normal bodily function and the focus should stay on your baby. Consider how you react to other daily activities - just as we don’t usually reward babies for eating or sleeping, going to the toilet is a matter-of-fact thing they'll do all their life.
Every toilet learning experience should be a positive one - babies learn best when feeling safe and having fun!
Build your own routine
Once you are underway, you can get more consistent by building toileting opportunities into your existing routines, for example:
"When baby wakes up, I will offer the potty"
"After I every nap, I will first offer the potty, then nurse"
"During every morning nappy change, I will offer the potty"
"Before going in the high-chair, I will offer the potty"
"Whenever I see a poo-face expression, I will say 'wait' and offer the potty instead of ignoring it"
"After a bath, we try the potty, put PJ's on, brush teeth, then read a book"
- "When my baby crawls toward me, crying for no likely reason, I will offer"
This 'new' habit of holding baby in position over something shouldn't take long, so when you get to the moment in your day you said you would do it, just offer and make it fun and see what happens.
If your baby doesn't like to be held in a certain way, consider trying a new location or investing in a new type of potty or try a different position potty-hold. If you run into any difficulties we encourage you to check out our Help section, FAQ's or other online Resources to to help you learn and refine your process. Contact us or follow on social media where we regularly share information from other experts and caregivers around the world. For specific accessories and easy-access clothes check out our Shop.
A simple regular routine of WHEN and HOW you offer will help your baby relax and trust the process.