How We Potty Trained our 20 Month Old

When we found out we were pregnant with baby #2, it didn’t take us long to decide that we wanted my daughter, Lily, to be potty trained before he arrived. I really did not want two sets of diapers at the same time.

When Lily turned 18 months, I started researching potty training techniques and asking fellow moms if anyone had been successful at such a young age. I decided to go with the 3 Day “boot camp” technique and invested in a book to help us stay on a plan.

There’s a few different books out there, but I decided to go with “Potty Training in 3 Days: The Step-by-Step Plan for a Clean Break from Dirty Diapers

I liked that this one went straight to wearing underwear instead of the bare buns technique. And I especially liked that she was anti-baby potty chair. I hated the idea of cleaning a potty chair… what’s the difference between that and a diaper??

But, one of the most important things about this plan is having 3 consecutive days of staying at home with nothing else going on so you can follow your toddler around and catch them peeing. Surprisingly, even as a SAHM, finding 3 days that we weren’t busy was not easy, especially around the holidays.

Practicing before the Big 3 Days

So, we practiced for a couple months with pull-ups. Here’s how we practiced before the “boot camp”…

I went and bought the following items:

  • Pull-Ups
  • Toilet Seat – I started with this one with Minnie Mouse on it, to get her excited, which worked perfectly for practicing. However, it wasn’t very stable on the toilet, so I went with the recommendation from the book and got this BabyBjorn Toilet Trainer. Totally worth the money… it stays put and I’m excited about the splashguard since we’re having a boy next!
  • Step Stool – I made the mistake of getting this one at first, which was not a big enough platform for her. I highly recommend a more stable and bigger one like this if you have a young one.
  • Card stock for a sticker chart (I just wrote “Lily went Potty!” on it and she stuck her stickers wherever she wanted)
  • Stickers
  • Treats – At first we did bigger snack-like treats like bags of fruit snacks, mini boxes of raisins, fruit strips, bags of Nilla Wafers, etc. Then, when she started going constantly during the boot camp, we gave her one little piece of candy at a time like M&Ms, Jelly Beans, chocolate chips, etc. And when we got desperate for her to go poo on the toilet, she started getting special treats like Oreos every time she went!
  • Underwear (to get her excited about wearing them someday)
  • This Elmo Potty Book
  • Some Babyganics Hand Sanitizer and a sink extender for keeping hands clean
  • Travel toilet seat – I bought this one, which is nice for storage, but it doesn’t stay on the toilet all that well. Not sure if there’s a better one out there or not.

Then, we just practiced when the time was right. I let her put a sticker on her chart if she went in the toilet and then gave her a treat. At first, I let her have fairly large snacks, like a bag of fruit snacks or mini box of raisins, every time she went since she wasn’t going all that often.

Lily immediately took to going on the potty. She went both pee and poo on the toilet almost right away. She would voluntarily sit on the toilet (mostly to earn a treat, but who cares). She still went in her pull-up often, though. I didn’t bother having her try in public.

Unfortunately, the poor thing got really sick for a good long time and we got way out of practice. Then, Christmas came and went, and that’s when I decided to start the boot camp. It was like starting almost from scratch since she had gotten out of practice so much. We started our 3 Days of potty training when Lily was 20 months old.

The 3 + Days

Day 1

On the first day, I tried to follow the book as closely as possible. Lily woke up, we had something to eat/drink, and I explained to her that today was the day she would get to wear her big girl underwear. We went around and got rid of all her pull-ups and diapers. We took her changing pad off of her dresser. And we took the box of wipes and Aquafor and “gave them to baby brother.” Then, we went to the bathroom, she had her first pee in the potty of the day, and we put her panties on.

For the rest of the day, I kept a close eye on her and constantly reminded her to tell me if she needed to go. Every time she went in the toilet, she got a sticker and a small treat, like one jelly bean or one M&M. We went so many times, I lost count, but she only had one tiny pee accident in her underwear the whole first day. Unfortunately, she never pooped in the toilet, only once in her panties.

For night time, the book suggests getting a different type of pull-up so they seem different than the ones she was wearing before. We went with the X-Small size of Goodnites, which was perfect because they’re Little Mermaid and Lily is obsessed with it right now.

Day 2

Day 2 was pretty similar to day 1, but she didn’t have a single pee accident. However, she did have two poop accidents and again, never went poo in the toilet.

Day 3

Again, Day 3 wasn’t much different (although I was starting to lose my mind.) She still had no pee accidents. But, yet again, another poop accident. Now, we were getting frustrated that she wouldn’t go poo in the toilet, and we were afraid she was getting constipated. I was getting really worried that she was just too young for this.

Day 4

On Day 4, we were determined to get her to go poop in the potty. We were dying to leave the house, so we told her that we could go somewhere if she just went poo in the potty. We sat her on the toilet for longer periods of time and reminded her constantly. We had a visitor that day, which really distracted her and she suddenly had several pee accidents. Now we were really losing all hope until she FINALLY went poo in the toilet. We put the entire box of candy on the floor and just let her rummage to let her know how incredibly proud we were!

So, while she was napping, Alex let me go into town and have some much-needed shopping time to myself. Later, after she woke up, Alex brought her into town to meet me for a couple more stops, just to let her get out of the house as well.

She did great while we were out until the ride home where she had a small pee accident.

**Which reminds me… another great product we invested in was a PiddlePad for her car seat. That way, if she has an accident in the car, it’s a lot less cleanup.

Day 5

On Day 5, I had an ultrasound, so we all packed up to go. Alex was a saint and dealt with taking Lily to the bathroom during our long wait at the doctor’s office. We also went out to lunch and went shopping with no accidents.

Unfortunately, she decided to pee and poop in her pants once we got home that afternoon. However, she redeemed herself and pooped in the toilet again. All the praises again!

Day 6

We have a breakthrough people… Day 6 had zero accidents! We went to the zoo in the morning and went to our neighbors that night. Alleluia!

Day 7

And once again, we had no accidents! She even had a babysitter that night. However, she was kind of manipulating the system and barely tinkling in the toilet to get a treat… but you know what, who cares!

And so on…

We can officially say that Lily is potty trained. Although, she does have some accidents here and there. And she still expects stickers and treats. And we still give her an extra special treat for poops. But, I couldn’t be happier with the results. We have a 20 month old who no longer wears diapers. And with one more month until her brother arrives, it should be some good practice time to nail it all down.

Some Important Tips

If you get the book, it says most of this, but just to show you how important these things are…

Celebrations. Rewards. Positivity.

Lily is definitely a people pleaser, so showing her how proud we were was so important in this. Not to mention, she loves stickers and loves candy. I’m sure every kid is different, but find a way to get them excited about going every. single. time! Even if she had just gone pee 5 minutes ago and went again, I forced myself to be excited for her and to let her have her rewards.

Do Not Give Up

Do you know how badly I just wanted to throw in the towel on that 3rd day? It says 3 Days… why isn’t she potty trained yet?? The book says to follow the plan for at least 10 days before you completely give up. Believe me, I wanted to. I straight up cried on Day 4 because I wanted to get out of the house so badly. I’m telling you… just be patient and keep with the program!

Keep Them Busy on Toilet

Apparently, Lily just needs to be distracted in order to poo. I noticed that every time she pooped her pants, she had been quietly and diligently playing with something. So, when I was getting desperate for her to go on the toilet, I gave her the Elmo potty book and let her push the buttons over and over until she finally just let it all out.

We now keep her Elmo book and her toy cell phone right next to the toilet. I guess she just needs her “magazine.” LOL

Timing is Everything

When it comes to training a toddler before they can speak, it’s really your responsibility to make sure they are going to the bathroom when it’s convenient. We make sure that Lily sits on the potty when she wakes, before and after she eats, before we leave, right as we get to our destination, and so on.

Keep Reminding

It gets so annoying, but little people easily forget, and so you have to keep reminding them that they need to tell you when they have to go. You’ll find yourself saying the same things over and over again, but it really works.

Accidents Happen

I had to constantly remind myself that accidents are going to happen. As gross and no fun as they are, they are going to happen. And it’s important not to get frustrated, especially in front of the kid. We would just take a deep breath and get to business. We would show her the mess she made and tell her how yucky it is. Then we’d explain to her that we don’t do that… we go potty in the toilet, not our pants. And if there was a mess on the floor or a chair, I’d show it to her and even give her a paper towel to help.

Going with this… always be prepared for an accident. We keep a new outfit and underwear in the diaper bag at all times. We also have 9 pairs of underwear so I’m not doing laundry everyday.

So, that’s our potty training journey! She’s been in her underwear for over 2 weeks and things are going great. I will warn you, it is an exhausting time. And there are times when I wonder if we should’ve kept her in diapers. However, I know that I will be so happy we did this in a few months when she becomes more independent and I have a newborn going through 10 diapers and 3 onesies a day!

Feel free to send me any of your potty training questions… I’m no expert but I’d love to help you in your own journey!

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