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Potty Training Regression

Potty Training Regression

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I love your advice columns and personal blog – my two little guys are close in age to your Ezra and Ike, just a few months behind (our newest is one month old). Anyway, I know you aren’t a huge fan of talking about potty training, but we are at a loss with our oldest son and maybe you or your readers have some suggestions. He potty trained easily and the whole process was very self-led and we declared him trained! just before he turned 2.5 in July. Daytime, nighttime, naps, pooping…he was doing it all, and was very independent about it. I didn’t even really have to ask him to use the potty most of the time, he would just go (can you sense my previous smugness? am clearly potty training expert). We were completely diaper- and accident-free for about 6 weeks or so.

Everyone warned us about the potty-training regression that would occur after the new baby came along. And sure enough, we have had more accidents in the last 4 weeks than we had in the previous 6 months of potty training. We seem to have stabilized on the pee – he just needs to be reminded – and nights and naps are dry. It’s the pooping that is making me crazy. He is pretty consistently pooping his pants (underwear, not pull-ups or diapers (yet)) at daycare in the mornings, and will poop in them at home unless we are super-vigilant about keeping an eye on him and rushing him to the toilet when we can see he is starting to go.

SO. I know this is probably an attention-getting stage, and to be expected, and all that. But what do we DO? Go back to diapers or pull-ups? Offer new rewards? Ignore the whole situation for a couple of weeks to remove the pressure? We are trying really hard to be sensitive to his feelings and our attention and not shaming him, but I would love some sort of strategy. Or maybe I just need someone to tell me that it will pass (soon-ish? please?).

Thanks!

Yep. Yep. Yepyep. Everybody warned us about this too, but naturally I ignored the warnings because pfft! Ezra! Regressing back to diapers? Mr. I’m A Big Boy himself? Puh-leaze. People had talked up the potty training regression before Ezra was born and Noah never went through it (though probably because we were only good to go with pee at the time…poop remained a problem for a few more months). So I mostly assumed it would be a non-issue.

Heh. It wasn’t. We saw exactly what you’re describing. Accidents became a regular occurrence, like nothing we’d ever even seen during the actual hardcore potty training period. Part of it, I think, was that we were simply more distracted and hadn’t realized that we were probably giving Ezra more guidance and reminders than we thought prior to Ike’s birth…in our rush to get two kids AND an infant out the door, that last-chance potty time sometimes got forgotten about, only to catch up with us in the middle of a Target aisle, when…oh. NO. NONONO STOP.

But our distraction aside, there was no doubt that some of the problem was a real and honest regression. Like you, we got the wetting accidents back under control in a couple weeks by being super vigilant (and offering mini-chocolate chips). But pooping on the potty was not happening. Ever. He’d just…go, no matter what he was wearing. I even tried naked naps for awhile thinking that would help. Nope. Just squatted in a corner of his room and went. Then we had repeated issues with him trying to “help” and put the poop in the potty AFTER the fact, which…oh God. The mess. The horrible, horrible mess.

Like you, we kind of flailed around without a plan for awhile. I resisted going back to diapers or pull-ups because I worried that would set him back even further, but then got so frustrated over soiled clothes and bedsheets that I bought some disposable pull-ups and started making him wear them at nap and nighttime.

(I did try reverting back to our cloth diapers, thinking maybe THAT would appeal to his sense of “I’m NOT a baby anymore” pride, but since we HAD gotten back on track with pee, our snap-closure cloth diapers didn’t work. He couldn’t get them off himself to use the potty on his own, so I felt like we were seeing unnecessary wetting accidents in them. We had some very lightly lined cloth training underwear [good for leaks but not much else], but had managed to skip “real” heavy duty reusable training pants since he trained so quickly. I debated buying some, but instead decided to cross my fingers and hope that the regression wouldn’t last long, and thus not require many more pull-up purchases.)

The pull-ups helped us put the issue on the back burner and kind of ignore the problem — he could handle going pee by himself in them, which I continued to praise him for. But I knew he needed to poop before naptime and we would dutifully try to sit on the potty for bit, just like the old days of potty training. Then I would put a pull-up on him, send him to bed, and basically count the minutes until he announced he’d pooped. It drove me nuts, yes. Absolutely bonkers. I would bite the inside of my cheeks to keep from scolding or questioning or letting him know AT ALL that I gave a crap. About the crap. In his pants. That, compared to what I was changing in the baby’s diapers, looked like it practically came from a full-grown man. OMGCHILDYOUHADTHISCOMEON.

And then…it stopped. Just like that. No rewards, no hassling, no nothing. One day he came out of his room and announced that he had to poop. Then he walked into the bathroom and went while I stood there slack-jawed in shock. Ike was about two, maybe two-and-a-half months old. We kept him in pull-ups in bed until we ran out, just to be safe, and then went cold turkey at nap AND nighttime. He had maaaaybe two accidents during the final days/weeks of pull-ups, but has been absolutely golden ever since. At school, at home, at night, at the Target, THANK GOD.

So my advice? Do whatever you need to do for your sanity and whatever helps you keep a cool head and a poker face about the problem. Which will probably correct itself relatively soonish, no matter what approach you take. He’ll stop seeking negative attention and once again revel in your positive attention, once the baby ceases to be such a world-changing thing to him.

THIS TOO SHALL PASS.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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SarahA
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SarahA

My mom made me wash my underwear when I regressed when my sister was born (I was almost 3). She told the daycare that, too so they would have me rinse out my undies after an accident. I was pretty mad but I guess it worked (I don’t remember any of this).

bethany actually
Guest

We had friends whose older daughter M was 3.5 and totally potty-trained when their second daughter D was born…six weeks early, with some drama, and a small amount of continuing drama because D was a preemie. M, who had been completely potty trained for ages, totally regressed on the poop front. They even had to remove her from preschool for a while because she had so many accidents. Her parents tried everything and were going out of their mind not knowing how to fix it. Finally they asked their pediatrician, and he told them, “Back completely off. Put her back… Read more »

Kimtoo
Guest
Kimtoo

Gotta second not letting your frustration show. I got into a total power struggle with my daughter. Worst parenting move ever, and there are still ramifications to this day. (PPD was definitely a part of it, but still – wish I had been able to stay calm.)

(And how cool is that video?)

JCF
Guest
JCF

I could have written your letter word for word after my third baby was born. It took my older son about 2 months to start pooping in the toilet again, every day of which, I thought I was going to lose my mind. I tried so hard to remain neutral while changing my son’s dirty underwear, and was successful most of the time, though we certainly had some ugly moments in those months. We went through the same thing again with BOTH of my older kids when we moved recently. After about a month of changing dirty underwear 7-8 times… Read more »

Karen
Guest

Thanks so much for this! The key is to definitely do what works for you and stay calm. I can’t remember exactly what I said the first few times my 2 year old crapped her pants, but it was not a proud time in my life… some swear words were even uttered. Massive parent fail! Lately, my husband and I have matter-of-factly cleaned her up and put her in a Pull-Up. She didn’t mind at first (she was in underwear before), but then suddenly had an epiphany “This is a diaper, Mommy!” She’s stopped pooping her pants.. for now.. fingers… Read more »

Christine
Guest

I’d just like to chime in to mention that sometimes a regression happens without even having a new sibling to blame it on. I thought my daughter was done, pretty much, at the start of the summer when she was 2.5. Then we went away (five hour time difference) for three weeks in July, it all went to heck, and hasn’t come back since. She’ll be 3 next month. Gah. It’s frustrating, but it’s totally a control issue (that is, not a physical one) – she knows exactly what she’s doing. I keep calmly saying that when she’s three there’ll… Read more »

Dee
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Dee

I want to thank you for a great discussion board. I don’t follow any blogs/social media/forums/posting things, so I’ve never responded on one before (I’m so very behind the times). Though my story below may be long, I promise the main take away is that this is the best advice board/forum/blog I’ve found on regression. (see, I don’t even really know the correct terminology). So, I have found myself smack in the middle of the potty training regression, and the only thing I know to do when I need answers is to do a google search for ‘potty training regression’.… Read more »

Erica
Guest
Erica

Hi Dee, I have also never done this, but just had to share in response to your post. I recently spoke to a potty coach who has trained over 1,000 kids. She said that most regression happens when the younger sibling is AT LEAST 6-9 months old. At 6-9 mos, the younger sibling is cuter and more interactive than when he/she mostly slept as a newborn; therefore older sibling is more likely to experience jealousy later than sooner. Perhaps this explains some of your daughter’s regression 13 months after her brother was born? all the best to you and yours…… Read more »

Lauren
Guest
Lauren

My son will be 3 on Friday and I have a daughter who will be 5 months on Saturday. I was afraid of my son regressing on potty training when my daughter was born so I hadn’t started potty training at all until after she was born. He was doing great and not having any accidents so we moved him to underwear. He’s been in underwear for awhile but all of a sudden he started pooping in his underwear every time. He refuses to try and poop on the potty but has been doing fine with peeing. So far, we… Read more »

Janie
Guest
Janie

I’m so glad I found this board to know I’m not alone. This has happened TWICE now with my son. He was three when his sister was born and he regressed. He was barely potty trained anyway so I just kind of let it go and started with pull-ups again. Well, after a few months he started using the potty. Fast forward to now. He turned 4 in Sept and stays with my mom during the day. She also keeps my sisters son who is 9 mos. He is wetting his pants there multiple times a day and 4 of… Read more »

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Incorporating a New Baby into Your Daily Life Breastfeed.Babywear.ClothDiaper.Naturally!

[…] new baby. Expect some chaos. When my son was born, my daughter wasn’t quite 2. She regressed with potty training, and I was convinced she hated me. Let siblings help with baby duties, such as getting diapers or […]