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When to start potty training?

Magdalena Adaś
When to start potty training?

Many times you ask about when to start potty training? It should be noted that starting potty training too early can do more harm than good. Be careful not to discourage the child from the potty. In the following article, I will tell you how and when to start potty training and share the story of a certain toddler.

Potty training – physiotherapist?

Why am I even bringing up the topic of potty training on a physiotherapy blog? For two reasons. The first one is that I recently heard a sobering story of a certain toddler, and I think it’s important to share it. The second is that our body is one big machine, which will not function properly if even one component is failing. Although it would seem that potty training is not the job of a physiotherapist, I’ll surprise you – it is. For a bowel movement or urination to occur, certain muscles must be activated. And what is physiotherapy if not a field that deals with muscles and structures in the human body?

Potty training before the first year of life

Let’s start with a story. A few days ago I was at the home of a patient and the child’s mother asked when her son would sit up and when to start potty training? I replied that 5 months is definitely too early and we should wait until around 2 years old. She thanked me for this information and said that she always prefers to ask a specialist rather than harm her child. However, something didn’t give her peace of mind and she pursued the topic. She told me about her six-year-old niece named Kasia. The child had been put on the potty since she was 4 months old. The woman was puzzled as to how it was possible that the girl was already sitting up and settling on the potty, while her son, although older, does not yet have the ability to keep himself upright in a sitting position.

Occasionally I meet toddlers who are indeed already sitting stably at this 4 months, and the parents insist that they have never sat them down. Rare, but it happens. I remember once a mother brought a 3.5-month-old baby to the clinic in a sit-up stroller. Puzzled, the child’s pediatrician asked me and the neurologist to take a look at the behemoth. Neither of us found abnormalities in this infant’s development. We recommended that she not be seated, after all, it could damage her spine. And then this little girl beautifully demonstrated to us that she can already pull herself up and sit by herself. It’s hard to believe it, but it’s true. Sometimes toddlers can surprise even specialists with a lot of experience.

Putting on the potty too early

Let’s go back to the story of Kasia, a baby girl put on the potty at 4 months of age. Apparently, the baby did both pee and poop on the potty immediately after being planted. Her mother and all those close to her were delighted that the child learned to use the potty so quickly and there was no need to buy pampers. And how is Kasia now at the age of 6? She is a very sick child. She is an anorexic and is being treated for intestinal obstruction. In addition, she has hemorrhoids, constipation, bowel problems and happens to wet the bed. She has been treated by many specialists, and until now no one knew where such problems in a young child came from. The girl’s aunt in telling the story did not connect the facts. You guys have probably already guessed what I am getting at. Nothing happened without a cause.

It is likely that Kasia, at four months old, was not yet able to control her trunk, and therefore was also not ready for a sitting position, and certainly not for sitting on the potty. Perhaps the child planted on the potty was leaning forward, thus pressing very hard on her tummy and generating a lot of tension on her bowels, which consequently led to rapid and violent defecation. The push on the bladder and bowels may have damaged the muscles responsible for controlling defecation – the urethral and anal sphincters. This is likely to be the cause of hemorrhoids, urinary incontinence and perhaps even bowel obstruction in Kasi.

Putting a one-year-old on the potty

The muscles responsible for maintaining urine and stool are the sphincters (urethra and rectum). They are believed to form to perform this function until the age of 2. And it is this time that is indicated as the right time to learn to use the potty. Children under the age of 2 don’t feel when it’s time to urinate, and they can’t control their sphincters. Therefore, urine flows out without control. If we plant the child on the potty too early and reward him for the achievement, the toddler figures out how to get the reward. He doesn’t yet control his sphincters, so he figures out how he can tighten the muscles he already knows to make the urine, or poop, flow out. In this way, he manages to win the reward, at the expense of stressing and straining his muscles.

Putting a child on the potty too early results in activating abnormal muscles during defecation. If the child is not yet able to control the flow of urine with its sphincters, it uses the gluteal and thigh adductor muscles to do so. We can observe this when the toddler visibly tenses his whole body during defecation and crosses his legs or tightens his knees. In this way, the child generates tension to enable defecation. The consequences, in addition to stress in the future, can include strained muscles, pain, incontinence of urine or feces, potency disorders. For this reason, we should plant a child on the potty after the age of 2. Earlier attempts, can carry many negative consequences.

When to start potty training?

Planting a baby on the potty before the age of one year is a bad idea, let alone planting a 4-month-old baby on the potty who has no control over his trunk and over his sphincters (the muscles responsible for defecation and urination). From when to plant a child on the potty? Experts say that the optimal time is the second year of life. Only then is the child able to control his sphincters, that is, he is able to tighten the muscles around the urethra and anus.

How often you should potty train your baby?

There is no rule here, so observe your child and plant him on the potty when he needs it. How to recognize it? The child usually has a certain facial expression, sometimes crouching, hiding in corners or running away to another room. Certainly, any parent observing their toddler will figure out when is that right moment to potty. It may be helpful to know that toddlers at the age of 2 pee about 10 times a day, while they usually pass stool no more than 1- 2 times a day.


In summary, it is best to start the adventure with the potty training around the age of two. Only then the baby able to control his muscles responsible for defecation. I have touched on an important topic today that every parent should know about. I want to make you aware of how devastating putting your child on the potty too early can be. Share the post and tell your friends. Remember, I will not reach myself every household where there are babies, but thanks to you I already can. Share the knowledge and support your friends and family in this challenging time of motherhood.



Author: mgr Magdalena Adaś

I am a pediatric physiotherapist. This job is my dream and passion. In addition to directly supporting patients, I try to make sure that the knowledge of proper child care reaches as many parents as possible. Hence my online activities. My materials are used by thousands of parents every month.