Benefits of Cloth Diapers & Potty Training

Cloth diapers to potty training

Cloth Diapers to Potty Training 

There are so many well-known benefits of using cloth diapers. But one potential benefit is not as thoroughly explored. That is, do cloth diapers help with potty training? It’s hard to say with absolute certainty, but there are some incredible differences between the fully cloth diapered babies of the past and the babies of today that wear disposable diapers. And that is… age of potty training. Keep reading as we explore the history of cloth diapers, the rise in popularity of the disposable diaper, and the average age of potty training. If you are looking for some potty training tips, here we provide some helpful advice and suggestions to ease the transition. Even explore some telltale signs that your child is ready to use the potty, along with potty training tips for boys and potty training tips for girls.

Potty Training Cloth vs Disposable Diapers: a brief history

In the 1950’s, it was estimated that 95% of babies were potty trained by 18 months! Fast forward to today, and only about 10% of babies are potty trained by 18 months. So what has changed? In the 1950’s, nearly all babies wore cloth diapers, whereas today, 95% of babies wear disposable diapers. Over the past half a century, the average age for a child to complete potting training has drastically increased from 18 months to 36 months+. If you want to further explore this change, read the following article by the Huffington Post: Who Decides When to Potty Train: You, Baby or Big Diapers?

Let’s take a closer look at how disposable diapers have influenced when children are potty trained. The child-oriented approach to potty training began in the 1960’s when large pharmaceutical companies started test-marketing the first disposable diapers. This is explained by Linda Sonna in her book “Early Start Potty Training”. Disposable diaper companies sought after pediatricians to promote their new product. They also looked for pediatricians that would encourage parents to extend the age at which their child should be potty trained. The notion of waiting until a child is “physically, mentally and emotionally ready” emerged. This was coupled with the influence of large scale marketing and advertising of one-time-use diapers. And so, families extended the age at which they potty trained their child, and at the same time increased their dependence and consumption of disposable diapers. This certainly paid off for disposable diaper companies! 

We are now more than a half a century after the first disposable diapers hit the market and there is a growing backlash against child oriented potty training and the use of disposable diapers. Why? 

The increased age of potty training can double the amount of diapers a child wears in a lifetime. The average child wears anywhere from 2000 to 3000 diapers in a year. Think about the consequences. 

For those families using disposable diapers, this results in a considerable expense. We also see a significant increase in the amount of diaper plastic and waste. The environmental impact of disposable diapers is significant – untreated sewage, toxic chemicals (dyes, fragrances, toluene, xylene, ethylbenzene, dipentene, and super absorbency gels) and plastics in our landfills. 

And so, increasingly, parents, healthcare providers and authors are calling for more economical and environmentally friendly diapering options as well as a return to early potty training. It is not surprising that cloth diapers are growing in popularity and are once again becoming more common! Many cloth diapers, like Nora’s Nursery diapers, are easy to use and are one-size-fits all - a set can last from birth up until baby potty training time. If you are curious about cloth diapering, check out Nora’s Nursery’s Cloth Diapers 101 blog.

Do Cloth Diapers Help with Potty Training? 

Cloth diapers can help the potty training process by developing awareness. Children that wear disposable diapers rarely feel exactly how wet or dirty they are thanks to the use of sodium polyacrylate – a chemical used to keep disposable diapers dry. Since cloth diapers do not contain any absorbency gels, a child recognizes the feeling of wetness. The immediate feedback helps a child make the connection between a full bladder, the following release of muscles and a wet or dirty diaper. When a wet or dirty diaper becomes uncomfortable, the child may become upset and triggers a diaper change. This reinforces a preference for a dry bottom. This pattern creates awareness, and is the first step to successful baby potty training. 

A Final Verdict? 

It is clear that the use of disposable diapers has corresponded with an increased age at which children are potty trained. Big budget advertising and product marketing has influenced the use of disposable diapers and how long people use them before they start potty training. Prior to disposable diapers being readily available, children wearing cloth diapers were potty trained at a much younger age. Is this because parents today choose to let their children decide when they are ready to potty train? Or is this because marketing has influenced when we think children are ready to become potty trained? 

It is difficult to make the claim that all cloth diapered babies will transition to the potty faster or more easily than babies wearing disposables. But history has shown that there is a stark difference between children who wear disposable diapers vs children who wear cloth diapers and the age at which they are potty trained. 

Tips for Potty Training your Cloth Diapered Baby 

Baby potty training can be approached in so many ways – parents should approach potty training in the way that they are most comfortable with. Many parents transition their children from regular disposable diapers to pull-up disposable diapers to help their children through the process. However, this may not be the preferred option for parents who use cloth diapers. 

A well-known approach to baby potty training is going cold-turkey. This may be a good approach for a cloth diapered baby since they have already developed an awareness of the relationship between feeling the need to go and the sensation of being wet. 

Going cold turkey doesn’t have to be scary if you plan it right and follow a few potty training tips. 

1. Time it right.

Choose a time that is best to start your potty training journey and dive right in. Wait for a stretch of 2 to 4 days when you will be home with your child, or enlist the support of a trusted family member or caregiver. 

2. Bring out the big kid underwear or training pants. 

Right from day 1, the diapers comes off first thing in the morning and the regular underwear goes on. Have a good supply of underwear on hand. Or better yet, easily convert cloth diapers into training pants by removing the insert. Your child can wear the cloth diaper shell as they make the adjustment to big kid underwear. 

Tip: avoid pants during your first few days of potty training – pulling down pants is an unnecessary step when you are trying to adjust your child to using the potty. 

3. Practice, practice, practice. 

Have your child sit on the potty every 20 minutes or so. When they are not on the potty, ask them regularly if they are dry. Let your child differentiate between the feeling of being wet and being dry. If there is an accident, which certainly there will be, do not get upset. Simply help your child identify that they are wet, allow them to help clean up the mess, and start over. 

4. Celebrate and encourage. 

Celebrate with your child when they are dry. Make it as fun as possible. When your child successfully uses the potty, celebrate this success in any way that works for you – sing a song, do a dance, offer a reward – you choose!  

6. Be patient and stay consistent.

Repeat this all day, for a few days, until your child adjusts to using the potty. Stick with it and enlist help if you need a break. Your child may show resistance along the way. Practice patience. Every child is different. Some may take to potty training quickly while others will need lots of practice. But consistency is key so set a routine and stick to it!  

Tip: if possible, consider trying this cold turkey method when the weather is warm so you can spend as much time outside and avoid messes in the house. Alternatively, roll away the rugs and put some protective covers on the furniture as needed!   

Look for additional Potty Training Tips from Experts and Parents at 

Overnight potty training? 

You may wish to continue using cloth diapers overnight until your child is well adjusted to using the toilet, can recognize the need to use the washroom, can hold a full bladder for an extended period of time and can go to the washroom by themselves at night. Many toddlers are not ready to wake up when they sense a full bladder, or hold their bladder for 10 to 12 hours at night. In fact, most children are not able to stay dry at night up until age 7, and overnight accidents are common and nothing to be concerned about. Mastering daytime potty training does not mean you need to master night time training right away. When you are ready for overnight training, invest in a good mattress protector and have extra sheets on hand to quickly respond to overnight messes. Some parents choose to wake their child up during the night for a trip to the bathroom as they start to transition out of overnight diapers.    

Tips to Making Potty Training Fun! 

  • Choose a location. Some kids will show an interest to the regular toilet, while others may be best trained using a small plastic potty. Consider putting the potty in a room that they spend most of their time for easy access. 
  • Find a fun plastic potty or potty seat. There are so many options available, you are sure to find one that will get your child excited to sit on the potty. A small potty can also be moved to different parts of the house or even outdoors! Alternatively, if you want to start on the toilet right away, consider using a kid sized seat that attaches to the regular toilet seat, or look for a toilet potty chair. 
  • Recruit your child’s favourite toys. Get a second little plastic potty and allow your child’s favourite doll or stuffed animal to participate in the potty training process. Whenever your child sits on the potty, so does the toy! Easily find a potty second hand, or even have your child make one by using a plastic bowl and some craft supplies. 
  • Consider using rewards. Some parents swear by treats, like Cheerios, crackers, grapes or candies. Some children are best persuaded with a small toy, like a figurine or car. Maybe consider a sticker board or decorate your child’s outfit with stickers or bows every time they successfully use the potty. At the end of the day, your child can proudly show off their accomplishments. 
  • Focus on praising your child. Give lots of attention, positive reinforcement, love, affection and of course pride in potty training accomplishments. Making a big deal over small steps can have a huge impact. 
  • Come up with a potty dance or song! Celebrate when your child has dry pants, and celebrate when they successfully use the potty! 

Potty Training Tips for Boys  

  • When potty training boys, many parents say it’s best to start them sitting down. This not only helps to reduce mess, but keeps the number of variables your boy needs to think about to a minimum. This way they sit for number 1 and number 2.
  • If your boy is not keen on using a small plastic potty or a potty seat, consider having him sit on the toilet facing backwards. This way he feels secure and this position will help with aim! 
  • Whether standing or sitting, show your son how to aim. You can make this fun by floating bits of toilet paper or drops of food colouring in the toilet and challenging your son to hit the target. 
  • Choose pants with an elastic waist that are easy to pull up and down when it’s time to use the potty.
  • Remember that boys can sometimes have a harder time with potty training than girls. Choose a time when you think your son is ready, and practice patience and consistency.

Potty Training Tips for Girls   

  • Just like when potty training boys, consider clothes that are easy for your daughter to pull up or down. Teach her how to hike up a skirt or dress to sit on the potty. 
  • When potty training girls, teach proper wiping etiquette. Wipe front to back or pat dry if that is easier at the beginning.
  • Ensure to make the process relaxed and fun. Always stay with your daughter while they are using the potty and help ease any anxiety by recruiting dolls, stuffed animals or other comforting toys to participate in the training process.

Signs Your Child is Ready to Potty Train 

Every child is different, so look for some telltale signs that they are ready to start potty training! 

1. Your child shows interest.

Your child shows an interest and curiosity towards the toilet. Maybe they show an interest in wearing big-kid underwear, or they can differentiate between the feeling of being wet and dry.

It has been shown that girls are often ready to be potty trained before boys. Look closely for those signs of interest to find the best time to start with your child. 

2. Your child can stay dry.  

The benefit of using cloth diapers is that you and your child can tell when they are wet. If your child stays dry for longer periods of time, they may be physically in a good place to start potty training. But this physical stage isn’t a must, it simply may help in reducing the number of times you head to the potty. 

3. They know when they go. 

Does your child hide in a private area to go? Do they point to or touch their diapers when going? Do they immediately show frustration with a wet or dirty diaper? These are all signs that your child is aware of when they need to go and can certainly help ease into potty training. 

4. They show signs of independence, can communicate and follow directions. 

A child who is showing an interest in trying new things, or wanting to do things independently may be ready to start using the potty. Likewise, potty training will be much easier if your child can communicate with words or signals that they need to use the potty or have wet themselves. Also, consider if your child can handle following directions and the multiple steps that are required to use the potty. 

5. Your child can undress. 

It certainly will help your potty training journey if your child can pull up and down their pants. Choose clothing that is easy to put on and take off when you dive into potty training. 

7. They can walk, run and sit still. 

It is important that when you start potty training, your child can easily walk and run. There will be quick dashes to the potty so you want to ensure they are steady on their feet. Also ensure that they can sit still for a period of time, allowing them to sit on the potty when the time comes! 

Check out 8 Signs That Your Toddler is Ready to Potty Train from Very Well Family. 

And there you have it! Potty training doesn’t have to be difficult if you make it fun and consider what will work best for your child. History has shown as that it is in fact possible to potty train earlier than what we generally see today, and it is clear that using cloth diapers can help your potty training journey in a few ways. It really is up to you to decide when you think you and your child are ready to dive into the potty training adventure!  

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Here at Nora's we pride ourselves on providing you and your little ones with sustainable Cloth Diapering and Nursery products that are made with the highest quality materials and up-to-date on stylish designs and functionality.

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