Diapers Be Gone: How to Potty Train in 3 Days - 4 minutes read

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Wondering how to potty train in three days? It’s possible. Here’s what you need to know about the three-day potty training method.

Of all the early childhood milestones, potty training is one of the most momentous—and frequently one of the most stressful. It can be hard to tell who is prouder of successful potty training—the parent or the child. There are countless methods out there, including many that promise three-day potty training. Sounds pretty amazing, right? But can you really get your kid out of diapers in a long weekend? Here, experts weigh in on how to potty train in three days.

Benefits of 3-Day Potty Training

There’s no denying the allure of getting your little one out of diapers in just three days. When it works, the benefits are numerous: If you use disposable diapers, you’ll save a lot of money and cut down on landfill-bound waste; if you cloth diapers, you’ll get to do way less laundry. Plus, no more wrestling a kiddo who’s outgrowing the changing table just to get a clean diaper on them, and no more drawn out potty power struggles.

The three-day potty training method gained popularity largely through word of mouth as parent compatriots passed around Lora Jensen’s 2001 PDF ebook, 3 Day Potty Training (though it was nothing so new—looking further back, two psychologists wrote Toilet Training in Less Than a Day in 1974). There have been many variations since then, either inspired by Jensen or developed organically, that promise accelerated potty training success.

While there are plenty of advocates of three-day potty training methods, others are wary of the unrealistic expectations they say they can create. Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right is another popular book and potty training method that has a similar foundation to many of the three-day methods, but whose practitioners want to distance themselves from the fast-track trend. Jenny Phelps is an Oh Crap! potty training certified expert who cautions against this mindset. “While it’s possible to lay a foundation for potty training in three days, there is still a lot of solidifying of skills to do after that,” she says. “If you go into this with a ‘three day and done’ mindset, it’s very likely you’ll inadvertently put pressure on your child, which is the biggest way to derail potty training.”

One thing that most experts can agree on is that potty training should be a positive experience, free from scolding and punishment. There will be accidents, and while you can redirect your child, carry them to the potty and remind them that pee/poop goes in the potty, yelling or shaming them about making a mess will only create problems.

When to Start 3-Day Potty Training

There’s a range of opinions on the optimum age to potty train a child. Jensen says in her book tha22 months old is ideal. Julie Fellom, a San Francisco-based preschool teacher and originator of the venerated Diaper Free Toddlers program, says that between 16 and 26 months, most toddlers will start to show signs of readiness, and that 22 to 26 months is ideal for potty training.

According to Fellom, signs of readiness can include:

  • resisting diaper changes
  • hiding to poop
  • having bowel movements at the same time everyday
  • being able to run with a steady gate

  • letting an adult know with words or gestures that they need a diaper change

Sally Neuberger, a licensed clinical social worker and potty coach, takes a slightly different approach. She argues there are actually two stages of potty readiness: the first happens around 2 years old, when the child first expresses interest in the potty and may even start using it, and then around 3 years old, when she says they’re developmentally ready and can be potty trained painlessly in three days.

According to Neuberger, signs of readiness in that second stage are:

  • the child can stay dry for two to four hours at a time
  • can pull their pants up and down
  • let you know when they’ve peed or pooped
  • they know the potty routine

There are a lot of ideas out there about whether girls are easier to potty train than boys, but it really has more to do with the individual child than their sex. As far as sitting or standing, Neuberger recommends starting out sitting down for both boys and girls. Once a boy has pooped sitting down about 10 times, then you can introduce the concept of peeing standing up; if you start with them standing, Neuberger points out that they might be prone to poop standing up as well.