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Potty Training: What's Normal And What's Not

Sarah Jenkins

Potty Training - What's Normal And What's Not

Potty training can be difficult for both parent and child. Just when you think you’ve mastered it, your child may do something completely unexpected that makes you second-guess throwing out all those old diapers after all.  But most of the time, the things you may be worried about are completely normal and not a cause for concern. Read on for explanations on typical potty training setbacks, and what you can do about them.

“My daughter was doing great, but recently has wanted had a lot of trouble staying dry and is asking to use diapers again. What’s going on?” 

This is called regression and is completely normal. There is no single cause of regression, but it can often happen in times of transition. Is there a new sibling in the house, new school, or other changes happening? These types of changes can cause a potential regression in potty training.  The answer could also be medical – many kids with constipation have bladder leaks. Talk with your doctor if you think your child may be constipated to see what you can do to fix the problem. Sticking with your potty training routine is key to reverse the regression – inconsistency will only cause the regression to last longer. So keep up the timed potty usage (every 2 hours is a good rule to follow), make sure to have your child go before going out and before bed.  Find ways to motivate her to use the potty again – sticker charts, treasure boxes, or other rewards usually work great. Be patient with her and before you know it she’ll be back on track.

“My son has been completely dry during the day from months but still continues to wet the bed at night.”

It is very common for children to master daytime use of the potty first. Staying dry through the night typically comes a while after that, sometimes even years after.  Nighttime training should be looked at as “round 2” of potty training. It is much harder for children to master than daytime dryness, and some children simply take a little longer to develop the physical changes needed to stay dry at night. 

Once your child has been able to wake up dry five mornings in a row, it’s a good time to let him try wearing underwear to bed (be sure to use protective bedding, such as plastic bedcovers or waterproof pads). But don’t pressure him, and don’t reprimand him if he has an accident – bedwetting is involuntary and not their fault.  And if he starts having more accidents at night, don’t be afraid to go back to pull ups. He may just need a little more time to develop.

“My daughter seems to have random accidents all the time, even though she has been potty trained for a while.”

Accidents will happen from time to time, and that’s completely normal. Many kids will actually put off going, or simply forget about it, because they are too absorbed with playing.  The easiest way to fix this is to keep her on a schedule – take regular potty breaks, and ask her periodically if she needs to go. You can also watch for cues that she may need to go - holding herself or dancing around - and take her to the bathroom if she’s demonstrating any.  Consistency is key and often just little reminders can help remedy the issue.

“My son is 3 and shows absolutely no interest in using the potty. Will he ever be ready?”

Every child is different and kids become ready for potty training at different times – there is no hard and fast rule that says a child should be potty trained by a certain age. Be patient with your child and try to encourage his interest by reading him books about the potty, taking him to the bathroom when you need to go (or seeing that Daddy goes too!) buying new “big boy undies” and even familiarizing him with a training potty. Don’t push him – it is harder to train a child who isn’t ready and will only cause frustration for you both. Don’t worry – he’ll get their in his own time.

Above all, with any of the issues above, try your hardest to not reprimand your child when he or she has an accident. Potty training is a huge milestone for kids and making them feel bad can cause real setbacks in their training (and resistance from your child). Be understanding when they have an accident, and praise them when they succeed. More than anything, they need to know that you are on their team and are rooting for their success.