Potty Training Tips from Pro Jen L'Italien!

December 26, 2016

Hello everyone! I’m Jen of Oh Crap Potty Training From ME To You, and I’m super excited to be sharing some tips with you today all about potty training for you city mamas.

But first, I thought I should share a little bit about me and how I’m connected to Donna and the Greenpoint/Williamsburg community. I was lucky enough to once work in the same office as Donna, back when we were both Real Simple editors. I can say, for those of you who haven’t met Donna in person, that she’s as sweet as she is talented, and she is easily one of the best-styled women I’ve ever come across. (I covet her collection of bohemian tops to this day!) While I now call Maine home, I lived in New York for 14 years, and I birthed my babes while living in Greenpoint. I spent gobs of time in Wild Was Mama, back when it was called Caribou Baby, during my first year as a new mama. My kids still wear some cool finds I nabbed back in the day at Flying Squirrel (consignment shopping is admittedly not great in Maine.) I loved living in Greenpoint for my first few years as a mama. And I did potty train my daughter in our Brooklyn apartment, so I know personally what potty training in the city looks like.

I’m certified in the Oh Crap Potty Training method, which many of you may know (back when I lived in Greenpoint, I remember there was an entire preschool co-op who was using Oh Crap.) But however you choose to potty train your kiddo, I thought it’d be helpful to share some simple tips to help you in the process and beyond, when you’re navigating Brooklyn with your newly potty trained toddler. So here are 10 tips specific for you city mamas! - Jen

1. Map out a plan for public restrooms: So you’re thinking about potty training your toddler? Before you’ve even started, start paying attention to where bathrooms are in your neighborhood. You’ll need them! No matter how quickly your child potty trains, the process of *holding and consolidating* takes a while to happen naturally. Unless if your child naturally runs as a camel, you will have very little notice to find a bathroom. (In the cold months, even with a travel potty, you’ll want a bathroom simply for warmth.) Yes, Starbucks is an easy one to check off, but notice what other local shops and restaurants would be friendly to you popping in with a toddler who has to pee. It’s similar to the map of stroller-friendly subway spots I remember seeing on the blog Love Taza. That’s what you want in your head when you’re out with your child — a general map of some spots where you can make haste to find a bathroom.


2. Clear the schedule: One of the easiest pitfalls in potty training is pressure. It comes in all forms — a looming deadline for preschool, classes and commitments you want to make, and even a general sense of wanting to get it *just right* with potty training. Set you and your child up for success and clear your schedule of commitments for a week. That doesn’t mean you need to take a week off of work, but sending your child off to music class a few days into potty training is a lot of pressure. There’s a reason our parents had an easier time potty training us as kids. It’s because it was much easier to unplug back in those days, and that’s what you really need to be able to observe your child, and teach your kiddo how to use the potty. Rushing to make some class that first week, and putting artificial time frames of how long it should take, works against how this is truly a new big skill your child is trying to learn — and one that’s going to be big in building their confidence.


3. Skip the Facebook share: Post on Facebook that you’re potty training, and you’ll suddenly get 350 opinions on what is the right way to do it. That can really throw your confidence (and confidence is what you need to dive into potty training!). You are the expert on your child. You’ve chosen your path. If you’re looking for community and support in going through the process, look to your local mom’s group or your close friends.


4. Make use of that blasting radiator: Winter is upon us! I shared tips on why I think winter is an ideal time for potty training. In short, this is the time when we’re already hunkered down indoors. And with many city apartments, that means your radiator is blasting hot! Perfect time for bare bums and potties.


5. Get a travel potty: I am completely biased on this front and think there is no greater travel potty than the Potette fold-down potty with silicone liner. I am not paid by them, I just really love their travel potty. Keep yours in a wet/dry zippered pouch (I got mine originally from Wild Was Mama, though Amazon sells as well.)  You can even fit that travel potty zipped up in your pouch in your styling mama backpack, like my beloved Fjallraven backpack. I’ve heard some city mamas say that they just have their toddler pee in the street. Now as a potty training consultant, I see how that presents some issues. You will definitely come across a thank-goodness-for-the-travel-potty moment. My first one was when there was a line out the door at the airport bathroom and so I set up the travel potty on the bathroom floor which saved us. Second, you want your child to learn to be comfortable sitting to pee/poop on the potty, and squatting to pee on the curb works against that goal.


6. Invite friends over: City apartments can be small and feel even more claustrophobic when you’re in the throes of potty training. Invite close friends over (ones with kiddos) to bring some fresh energy to your space. Being around other friends, and other toddlers who may be potty training, also helps your child. I still remember one of our close friends coming by and how her daughter encouraged my daughter to sit on the big toilet with the insert for the very first time. Also music. Get your dance party on and keep the mood light when you’re potty training.


7. Reusable for the win: I was always so impressed by how sustainably-minded so many Brooklyn mamas are in their daily lives. Here’s a simple trick for accidents, because yes, accidents will happen in the beginning. Rather than paper towels, opt for cloth diaper prefolds. They’re way more absorbent and so handy when you have a pee accident on the floor. They also work great for padding up the bed for potty training at night.


8. Scope out the playgrounds: Along the lines of Tip #1, it helps to know which playgrounds have restrooms when you start out. Some do and some don’t in the city. Some are gross, some are tolerable. For a little while, it helps to choose your playground based on what will be easiest on the potty front.


9. Sitting and accidents: There’s a reason parents more often see accidents when a child is sitting in a high chair or in a car seat. When your child is sitting at that angle, the bladder is crunched and if your child is holding their pee, you’re more likely to see an accident. For you city mamas, the same holds true for strollers and even sitting long stretches on the subway. The solution? Always be sure to get a good pee in before long stretches of sitting time.


10. Team up with your child: There are a million and one things posted online about how awful potty training is and how you must do this, that, or the other. I know because I’m on Pinterest all the time. Here’s my simple advice. Team up with your child. After you teach your child how to use the potty, there is a leap of faith that comes with it. What happens when your child feels that you’ve put your trust in them? They typically rise to that expectation. When you start to move outside your home and go for outings around town with your kiddo, channel that team spirit. For us, that meant going to get our photobooth picture taken on the 6th day out from potty training and having that sweet memento (and no accidents, hoorah!) as a reminder that yes we can do this potty thing together. Potty training actually can be a real bonding experience for you both. Tune out the negative online noise.

Thanks so much to Donna for having me here!

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