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The simple truth about toilet training is that if the child is ready, it happens very easily. If not, a power struggle often ensues—and we all know that no one wins a parent-child power struggle. Fights with your child about his or her body are fights you will probably never win.


Luckily there isn’t really a reason to fight with your child about this. Moving from diapers to being self-sufficient to use the toilet is a natural process. Humans have been doing it for a long time—they all get out of diapers sooner or later.

So you don't actually need to "toilet train" your child. Instead, set up conditions so your child can learn. Your goal is to make it as easy and effortless as possible. Think of this as a process of learning that unfolds over time, like all other learning and mastery.

Here are some pointers for child-led potty learning.

Do’s

  • Remember that most kids learn through modeling. Start talking about what you're doing in the bathroom. Let your child watch. Boys will benefit by watching other boys or their father use the toilet. Kids also love to copy other kids, so slightly older cousins or friends who are willing to use the bathroom in front of your toddler can be invaluable in modeling. For boys, you might make a game of it by putting a small bulls-eye in the toilet for them to aim at.
  • I strongly recommend having a potty in each bathroom of the house. That way, kids can practice sitting whenever they want, including while they keep you company in the bathroom.
  • Make it a habit. At first your child will probably need help recognizing the signals that mean it's time to head to the bathroom. If you notice them getting antsy, or starting to squat behind the couch, you'll need to remind them. Every time your child does notice and tells you that they need to use the bathroom, even if they don't make it in time, is an opportunity to admire their progress in the right direction.
  • After they’re used to sitting on the potty clothed, ask them regularly if they wants to sit on it naked. Sometimes they will say yes, and sometimes no. Don't make a big deal of it. Your goal is just for them to get completely comfortable. Read potty books and other books to them while they sit there. Toddlers are busy. You have to make the potty a place they love being if you want them to spend enough time there to let anything come out.
  • Notice when they give signs that they are about to defecate. Becoming quiet, withdrawing to squat in private—give them language for what's happening: "Are you ready to poop? Do you want to do it in the bathroom?" Humans naturally like privacy when they defecate, and it's fine if your child wants to go off by themselves. Remind them that the bathroom is a great place for poop, that you will help them take off their poopy diaper whenever they are ready. It may take them awhile to begin telling you, but they will begin to learn the concept that when they feel like this, it's time to go into to the bathroom. Eventually, they will probably be pooping in their diaper in the bathroom. Once that's a habit, you can ask if they want to try sitting on the potty to poop, even with their diaper on.
  • When they do pee or poop in the potty, be sure to celebrate with a special song and dance or parade through the house. But be sure you're celebrating other things, too, like their climb to the top of the play structure, or the sun coming out. Don't make such a big a deal of using the potty that the pressure on your child makes them anxious. they aren’t confident yet of their abilities, so don't make them feel like they have to repeat their use of the potty—this should be their choice. Remember to let your child be in control of the process. No pressure.
  • Be open if they request a toilet seat. Many toddlers squat to poop and prefer a potty that allows them to assume a similar position. They prefer a potty because they are afraid of falling into the big toilet ,or they’re afraid of the flush. Some kids, however, will want to get a seat that goes right on the big toilet. If so, be sure their feet rest securely on a stool. Dangling legs tighten rectal muscles and make defecation difficult.
  • If you're buying a seat to go on the potty, find one they love. Flip seats have a regular toilet seat plus a training seat. Some kids will love a seat that makes music when something is deposited in it. Just google potty training seats and you'll have lots of choices.
  • Institute regular times when you both use the potty. First thing in the morning, after breakfast, before snack, before and after lunch, etc. Your child doesn't have to go, just to sit with you while you go, and to try himself. Make clear that the rule applies to you, also, so your child doesn't feel singled out. This will help your child's body move onto a schedule, which will be a bit easier for them to manage. Of course, if they ask to go on their own schedule, cheer them on for listening to their own body. Usually, over time, they will ask more and more, gradually taking on the responsibility.
  • If your child is afraid to use the potty, help them with their fears. Any silly, playful games that get your child giggling about the potty will help them let their anxieties about the potty evaporate. Here's a letter about helping your child with their fear by playing: Toddler with Potty Learning Fears
  • Watch for constipation. Many children—especially those who don't eat as many vegetables or whole-grains, or who don't get as much exercise—tend toward harder stools. That makes them more likely to put off pooping for as long as possible. This can happen even before a child is out of diapers, but it is especially prevalent once a child is using the potty, because it requires them to stop what they’re doing and go to the bathroom. The more the child gets in the habit of procrastinating, the harder the poo gets and more painful to pass, and the more the child avoids it. The problem with this is, even children who eliminate on a daily basis often build up fecal matter inside their bodies. This can deaden the usual sensitivity of the child to the need to use the toilet, so the child doesn't even know they needs to go. And since it pushes on the bladder, it can also cause pee accidents and even bed wetting. Unfortunately, most parents whose child is in this situation don't even know their child is constipated and don't understand why they’re having accidents, until an x-ray reveals the extended rectum. For more info on this issue, I recommend, The M.O.P. Book: A Guide to the Only Proven Way to STOP Bedwetting and Accidents by Dr. Steve Hodges.

Don’ts

  • Don't begin toilet learning under pressure. Wait till you have some time when you can be relaxed and attentive to your child. Many preschools demand that children are toilet trained. That kind of pressure can only be bad for you and your child.
  • Don't be in a hurry to start. Just encourage your child to sit, fully clothed, on his potty. It builds muscle memory for your child to get on and off the potty, and you want them to feel comfortable sitting there. Make sitting on the toilet festive and fun, well before they even think about peeing in it. For instance, be sure there is a stash of books next to the potty. Sing silly songs or give special cheers each time they get on and off the potty. But never force your child to sit on the potty, or to stay there.
  • Don’t worry about accidents. Don't express any disappointment at "accidents," or you'll make the stakes too high, and your child may rebel or give up. Instead, respond to accidents by shrugging, and saying with a warm smile, "Oh well, accidents are how we learn. Soon you'll get it in the potty every time. Let's go in and try again." Accidents are a step in the right direction, when your child learns from them without getting discouraged. If your child has noticed themselves the accident as soon as it started, but hasn't made it to the bathroom, encourage them, "You noticed as soon as you started to pee! Good for you! Let's go quick to the bathroom in case there's more to come out. Then we'll clean this up together. You noticed yourself when you needed the potty! Next time you'll probably notice sooner and get all the way to the bathroom!"
  • Be enthusiastic but never pushy. Pushiness complicates potty-learning. Never punish or disapprove of your child when they have an accident, or it will backfire.
  • Don't make the move into underwear until your child insists. In fact, try to avoid mentioning underwear until your child brings it up. Let it be their idea.

Remember, learning takes time, and you’re there for support.

You can set the stage, but your child has to do the work. The MOST important secret for stress-free potty learning is that the child be ready. If you push your child, you may end up with serious issues, from a child with constant accidents, to power struggles, to a child with fecal retention.

Wait until they are ready. Does it really matter when that is? Sooner or later, everyone uses toilets. Handled with good cheer and confidence, they will master it in good time, and the process of toilet learning will be enormously empowering for your child. This is a big step for your son or daughter. Your job is to make it a positive one.

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.

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A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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