There are so many reasons for wanting to potty train your child as early as possible. You want to stop buying diapers; they’re bad for the environment, expensive and gross. You want your child to be ahead of the game. The reasons for early potty training are a no-brainer. However, the reasons for wanting to potty train your child early seem silly compared to the magnitude of the reasons why you shouldn’t.
According to Dr. Steve Hodges, M.D., of the website BedwettingAndAccidents.com, it is unreasonable to put children under the age of three in a position that makes them fully responsible for their own toileting habits.
What Can Possibly Go Wrong with Early Potty Training?
When it comes to early potty training, sure, children may be able to become potty trained well before the age of three, but are they doing it properly? (Yes, there is a proper way.) When it comes to using the potty, doing it wrong can lead to a variety of health problems.
Dr. Hodges claims that out of the approximately 100 kids he sees at his clinic each week, about half were potty trained before the age of three and are what he calls “dysfunctional voiders.” This dysfunctional voiding causes urinary tract infections, bedwetting, and sudden onset of accidents (regression). When a child chronically retains poop, a mass forms in the rectum, taking up the space that the bladder needs to hold urine. The nerves can get irritated as a result of the mass and cause unexpected bladder contractions. Those unwanted contractions combined with a lack of ability to hold urine cause frequent urges to urinate and accidents.
It gets even more frustrating. That build-up of poo in the rectum has lots of bacteria in it. And that bacteria have a good chance of sneaking over to the bladder and causing bladder infections in little ones, especially if they have a tendency to hold pee as well.
If you’re cringing about all this pee and poop talk, you’re not alone. Most parents think potty training issues are totally normal and don’t bother mentioning them to their pediatricians. But it needs to be discussed. According to recent studies, including this one published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, avoiding the habits of holding and dysfunctional voiding is key to preventing accidents, bedwetting, and bladder infections.
How Are These Issues Linked to Early Potty Training?
The reason little ones who potty train as early as 2 years of age have more of the problems mentioned above than children who wait until they’re at least 3 years old is that they’re not mature enough to decide on their own when they should pee and poop. They don’t yet realize the importance of eliminating right when they feel the urge and eliminating completely. According to Dr. Hodges, every year of holding urine shrinks the bladder, making it more overactive.
What Should You Do?
- Watch for signs that your child is ready to potty train, such as these signs from WebMD.com.
- Tell your child to use the bathroom every two hours. Don’t ask. They’re likely to be too busy having fun and will hold it as long as possible. This is a dangerous habit that strengthens the bladder to a point where the child becomes desensitized to any feelings of fullness, and the bladder empties on its own.
- Don’t bow down to peer pressure. If you’re being told by a school or daycare provider that your child needs to be potty trained before attending, consider another provider.
- Remind them to try to “get it all out” before they leave the toilet.
You may be one of those lucky parents whose child just “gets it” right off the bat. And, yes, your child may be 2 years old. But for parents who are still struggling with potty training, know that you’re not alone. You’re actually in the majority.
You wouldn’t trust a toddler to brush their teeth properly every night, and you shouldn’t trust a toddler to know how to eliminate properly every single time they use the bathroom. Remember early potty training can prolong your responsibility to closely monitor their bathroom habits.