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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?).


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.


Photo credit: Thinkstock

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


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

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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