Two Dr. Moms Say Later Potty Training Spells Trouble for Children, Parents, and Environment

October 2, 2008                                

As seen on CBS “The Doctors”

Two Dr. Moms Say Later Potty Training Spells Trouble for Children, Parents, and Environment

Potty Training in the United States is being completed later and later due in large part to the convenience of the disposable diaper—which now come in sizes large enough to accommodate 5- to 6-year-old children. The problem with this trend is that later training is more difficult for parents, creates emotional and health problems for children, and contributes billions of pounds of unnecessary diapers to our landfills. Developmental Psychologists Dr. Linda Acredolo and Dr. Susan Goodwyn are endeavoring to reverse this trend with a innovative new approach that makes it not only possible, but fun and easy, to start potty training as early as 12 months.

Startling Trend towards Later Training

Up until the 1960s, 95% percent of all children were potty trained by the age of 18 months. Since the advent of the disposable diaper, the average age of potty training in the United States has risen to 37 months—an all-time historical high. Moreover, the trend towards later potty training is likely to continue given the recent release of size 7 diapers for children over 40 pounds, the average weight of a 5- to 6-year-old.

Later Training Is Problematic for Parents and Children

Since the 1960s, diaper companies have actively promoted a ‘modern approach’ to potty training in which parents are advised to wait until their child is “ready”—age 2½ or 3 years—to even start potty training. This advice implies that later potty training will be easier, with children practically training themselves. However, according to Drs. Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn, potty training after age 2 is actually more difficult. Why? Because, as the term “the terrible twos “implies, this is an age when children begin to say “No!” to everything. As a result, potty training all too often becomes a battle of wills, especially because eliminating in a diaper has become a well-ingrained habit that’s hard to break and also because parents, frantic over looming preschool deadlines, frequently resort to pressure tactics.  There are other consequences of late training as well, according to Dr. Goodwyn.  “After age 2, children develop the ability to experience shame and embarrassment about bodily functions which can lead to emotional problems such as low self-esteem.” In addition, pediatric urologists have begun to report an increase in the number of children with urinary tract infections and chronic constipation which research is showing is related to later potty training.

Later Training Is Bad for the Environment

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 7.26 billion pounds of disposable diapers end up in US landfills every year, with each diaper estimated to take up to 500 years to decompose.  According to the National Geographic documentary “Human Footprint,” manufacturing a year’s worth of diapers for a single baby requires 759 pints of crude oil, 286 pounds of plastic, and 1.8 large trees. What’s more, laid end to end, the number of diapers used in one year in the United States alone (18 billion) would circle the world 90 times!  While some parents believe that changing to cloth diapers alleviates the negative impact on the environment, many experts cite serious concerns about the increased use of energy, water and chemicals required for laundering cloth diapers. Clearly, decreasing a child’s stay in diapers would have a significant and very positive impact on the environment.

New Approach Aims to Reverse Trend

Concerned about the detrimental effects of later and later potty training, Acredolo and Goodwyn began a 2-year investigation of potty training practices and concluded that the ideal age for potty training is between 12 and 24 months. “Because this is a time when verbal language is limited,” says Dr. Acredolo, “and because effective communication is important to successful potty training, we saw a natural role for infant sign language. By using a few simple potty-time signs, babies can easily tell their parents they need to go potty even before they can talk.” Acredolo and Goodwyn’s Potty Training Made Easy with the Baby Signs® Program is an innovative approach that makes it not only possible, but easy, for parents to start and finish potty training their child by age 2.

Success at Any Age

The Potty Training Made Easy with the Baby Signs® Program has been field tested by parents with children from 9 months to 3 years across the country with great success. Using a child-focused approach emphasizing the potty-time routine, a highly motivating DVD, board book, stickers, and a train conductor’s, children of all ages are getting “On Board the Potty Train.”  According to Jennifer Macris, mother of five, “I potty trained my four older children before using this program with my youngest son, and I can definitely say that this is the most fun and effective program out there.”

For more information, an e-press kit or program sample, contact Linda Easton, Baby Signs, Inc. or visit

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