Accidents are common when potty training and can suddenly start again after you think you are making good progress.
The first stage of potty training is knowing when you have done a wee. This feeling of wetness is harder to recognise in a nappy, therefore it is often not until the child is out of nappies and into grown up pants that they can start to make this connection. Old style terry towelling nappies made children feel wet and uncomfortable, which also helped them learn this before the nappy was removed. This may be a major factor in why potty training appears to be taking longer now than it did in previous generations. To help children recognise the feeling of wetness you may wish to place a Dry Like Me pad in their big boy or girl pants. This also has the added advantage of catching the majority of the accident, which means less mess, and in trials Dry Like Me pads were proven to reduce accidents by 43% within a week of use.
If your child has an accident, it’s important to get them to sit on the potty anyway, to make certain that they have completely emptied their bladder. Likewise, accidents can be reduced by ensuring that they are taking the time to fully empty their bladder when they sit on the potty or toilet. Encourage boys to sit down to do their wees as this gets them into a better position to fully empty their bladder. Make sure they are comfortable enough on the potty or toilet to sit there and fully empty their bladder.
If your child is having accidents more frequently than every hour and a half, it may be that their bladder is not yet strong enough for potty training. This may be the case in children who are under 2 years old. If you find yourself in this situation, it may be best to pause training and focus instead on putting in place a good routine.
Very often parents tell us things are going well but then accidents start again in the daytime. This can be sign that they are learning to hold on for longer, especially if the accidents you are seeing are bigger than previous ones. The only way to learn how long to wait before going to the toilet is through trial and error. If this happens regularly introduce toilet time to encourage more frequent trips to the loo.
Sometimes children just get distracted and absorbed in their activity so don’t want to disrupt themselves to go to the toilet. Watch out for signs that they need to go to the toilet, such as fidgeting and then interrupt play to get them to go. If they refuse to go and then have an accident make sure the clean up is even more time consuming and disruptive than going in the first place.
Try not to keep asking children if they need a wee. The chances are they will say no, and they do need to learn to listen to their body in the long term.
When to seek help
Accidents can be a sign of constipation (pooing less than four times a week or more than three times a day). When constipated the bowel can put pressure on the bladder and impact on the amount of space it has to hold wee.
Accidents could also be a sign that your child may have picked up a urinary tract infection (symptoms include wee being smellier or cloudier than normal and a raised temperature). If you think a UTI or constipation could be causing your child’s accidents, book a doctor’s appointment so they can get checked over and treated if necessary.