Q&A: making the leap to underpants

Erin writes:

"P is now almost 29 months old and has shown an interest in the potty since he was 17 months old.  We bought him one at 18 months, he used it a couple of times a week, but we never pushed it and he never really got all that interested in it. 

Now that I'm a SAHM and he's not in daycare anymore, I decided it was time to be serious about potty-training so that he'll be fully trained by the time he goes back to school in a few months. I decided to go for the diaperless-thing in the house...no bottoms at all.  He's a pro!  I don't even have to remind him to go potty.  He only had one accident on the first day, and he was already in the bathroom, trying to get to his potty when that one happened.

It's been a week, and he's great.  The problem is whenever we put anything ON his bottom, he loses it entirely.  We tried Gerber underpants.  Pees through 5 pairs or more a day, and doesn't seem to care--just lets us know that he's wet and needs to be cleaned off.  We tried shorts alone, thinking that since they were only tight at the waistband, that would make a difference.  Nope.

We're at a loss of what to do now, and I'm feeling house-bound!  I don't want to put diapers on him when we go out, but I tried the underpants the other day and he peed all over himself while in his carseat--and I'd prefer not to have to wash it daily.  We have a portable potty seat and he'll sit on it when we're out if I remind him, but he's never once gone potty when we're not at home.  Help!"

It sounds like you're doing really well on the potty training front. It's just going to take a little time and a few nudges to get him full-time in regular underpants.

The first thing I'd do is go cold turkey on the pull-ups. When he's in diapers (I'm assuming he's still in diapers at night) he's in diapers, and when he's not he's in cloth underpants. Now before you freak out, let me recommend two kinds of cloth underpants. The first is the Gerber training pants (I've seen them at both KMart and Target, and I'm assuming your local baby store will have them, and a quick Googling shows that they're available at PottyTrainingConcepts.com ) or Luvable Friends training pants. These are regular cloth underpants, but they have a triple layer down the middle, so if your child has an accident the underpants will get wet but the clothes (and floor) won't. You'll need a bunch of these.

These are going to be your bread-and-butter, getting-used-to-staying-dry-even-while-wearing-underpants underpants. You can try them on him for short periods in the house to get him used to feeling when he has to go even while wearing pants. You can also try them for short walking trips outside the house. Have him try to go before you leave, then put on the pants and go walk around outside, then come back in and have him use the potty again. Start with a 5-minute trip, then increase the time a little each trip. Eventually he can wear them for long periods in the house and long periods outside the house.

The other kind of cloth underpants is the kind with nylon or PUL (laminated fabric) on the outside (basically a washable pull-up). You can find them at many big-box retailers, and also here and here and here (and a bunch of other places, too). You'll need a few of these.

These are the pants you'll put on him for naps or when you go out in the car or in public. They're still underpants, so you're not backsliding into diapers or in the endless pull-up limbo, but you won't end up with a soggy crib or carseat.

Once you've got the proper equipment to keep him moving forward, it's just a waiting game. He'll get better and better at knowing when he has to go, and being able to feel things even when he's wearing pants. Eventually he'll be able to stay dry without thinking about it. And even once he's reliably dry all day, he'll still have occasional accidents (especially if he's particularly stressed or excited, or is concentrating really hard on something).

It sounds like you've got the right momentum, and one of these days it'll "catch" for him and he'll be in underpants full-time. Congratulations on being the mom of a big boy!