Inside: Tips on how to overcome the trickiest part of potty training for many little ones.
Everyone was seated at the counter eating their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with fruit. The kids were crunching veggie sticks, laughing, and bouncing up and down like our normal mealtime circus.
It was my grandmother who noticed it first.
From across the room in her comfy chair she said, “Rachel, that boy won’t stop scratching his bottom!”
“What do you mean?” I said, distracted as I cleaned up a milk spill. There’s always a milk spill.
“He’s got his hand down his pants scratching and then using it to eat his sandwich.“
Read: Must Have Potty Training Supplies
Oh, I thought… great. Very hygienic. I am really doing a good job at this mom business.
I had him wash his hands and we carried on our meal. But over time I noticed this habit repeating itself. Not all day long, but always when he was required to be still in one place. He would use a free hand to scratch his bottom, both inside his pants and out.
This carried on for months.
I thought it was eczema. I thought it was sensitivity to his clothes. Then, I thought it was worms. I thought it was anything except what it actually turned out to be…
He didn’t know how to wipe his bottom well.
Read: How To Teach Your Child To Pee On The Potty
In retrospect it should have been obvious. I should have known that “itchy bum” was a clear sign of improper wiping, but I didn’t. Now I know all the signs to look for.
- Itchy bottom
- Wadding up toilet paper or wipes instead of using a full square (I just assumed it didn’t really matter how he used the paper)
- Staining on underwear or clothing (I thought the occasional stain was from an accident, not from lack of wiping, there’s a difference!)
You see, after he learned to use the potty on his own, I just let him at it. Woohoo, I thought, one less bottom to wipe. Turns out, I should have kept wiping a bit longer. Or spent more time teaching him how.
One of the trickiest parts of potty training is actually teaching our kids how to wipe their bottoms well. If we abruptly stop wiping for them and assume they’ll figure it out on their own, we’ll end up with itchy bums.
Not to mention germs and possible sickness.
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How to teach kids to wipe their bottoms
It’s not complicated, but it does require dedication until our little ones have got it.
Read: Life Skills For Kids By Age (With Printables!)
Make It Easy For Them
Toilet paper isn’t easy for a little one to use, but we know that regular baby wipes can’t be flushed. One way to help your children be able to wipe completely without having trash cans full of dirty wipes is to get flushable wipes during this transition. This sets your child up for independent success.
You don’t need to help your children wipe every time they potty if they’re given the proper tool to get themselves clean.
Read: How To Get Your Child To Sit On The Potty
An issue we ran into with my son was he tried to use toilet paper, but didn’t fully get himself clean. Since then we’ve transitioned into using Kandoo flushable wipes.
These help get him clean without having to be thrown into a trash can and pulled out and chewed on by a baby.
Because I have a curious baby.
Go In The Right Direction
When my daughter was 13 months old she was hospitalized with a UTI. Even though I know I cleaned her properly, I wonder where I went wrong.
Since then I’ve been sure to repeatedly remind her of wiping best practices. Girls need to wipe from front to back, not back to front.
Demonstrate the Proper Technique
Since the beginning of my marriage, my husband and I have had the same discussion about the best technique to wipe.
I said that wadding up a huge ball of toilet paper seems to work fine.
Well, turns out I’m wrong.
My child who wadded up the toilet paper to wipe never got clean.
In fact, I realized I’d never actually taken the time to explain exactly how to use a wipe, much to my dismay.
- Take a wipe, wipe bottom, fold the square so the clean part is on top, wipe bottom, repeat until you’ve used the wipe and need to get a new one and repeat until fully clean. This should only take one or two wipes, max.
- Wipe bottom fully with one wipe, throw it away, get another wipe and repeat until fully clean. Again, if done properly this shouldn’t take more than 2 wipes.
Whatever works best with your child. My son who had trouble wiping is a rough and tumble boy who is not into details. Folding a wipe after each use is not going to work for him because he’d end up with dirty hands.
The goal is for your child to potty and wipe on their own so do whatever works!
Help If Needed And Ask Questions
Even if they’ve been potty trained a while, but haven’t mastered the art of wiping, it’s a good idea to do keep an eye on the wiping situation for a while.
Do spot checks, nonchalantly watch your child wipe and see if they are doing a good enough job. Another question I ask if I see a hand scratching a bottom is…
“Do we need to go wipe our bottoms? If we haven’t wiped off all the poopoo it’ll be itchy.”
Being very matter of fact about the whole business takes away the tendency for the kids to be embarrassed. It’s a fact, not something that is being singled out.
As we’ve gotten 3 of our 5 kids potty trained, things are starting to look up. Less diapers, less bathroom help, and more independence.
But that doesn’t mean we aren’t still involved and training. Even when children learn the skill of getting to the potty on time, they still need to master wiping.
They’ll get the hang of it soon enough, mama.
Connie and Gary Dryer says
As Grandparents starting over, 38 yrs between, this was a refresher. Grandson seems to regress on his bowel movements. Does real well for 2 to 3 weeks, then back in underwear. Any help?
Rachel Norman says
Just keep at it, that’s what I say. They can pick up on our stress on this issue and it’s hard for them as they feel like they’re “failing.” Try not to communicate disappointment and he’ll get there ;)
How old were your children when they learnt to wipe themselves? My daughter is 2 years and 4 months old but the size of a 1-year-old and has been potty trained (toilet trained) for 3 months now, and barely ever has accidents. However I always need to help her on the toilet as she cannot reach the toilet seat by herself, or with the steps we have to the toilet she can but it is not very safe to get on with pants and undies halfway down the legs. And then there’s the wiping issue – she cannot safely reach the toilet roll holder on the wall and wipe herself properly. We have flushable wet wipes too but nowhere to attach them where she could reach them.
Depending on what she’s wearing, she can push her pants and undies down, but not get them fully up on her own. She can do all of the hand washing herself in the bathroom but doesn’t have enough strength to turn the tap on as she needs to reach far for it.
Any suggestions on how to get her to toilet herself independently? I have a 2-month-old baby who is soon to transition into the cot my older daughter is sleeping in, and when she moves into a single bed, I’m planning to try for night time toilet training – when she has access to the toilet at night independently out of her bed.
Rachel Norman says
Marika, can you let her use a small potty that sits on the floor? Or have some type of product that helps her walk up to the potty? A lid on top?
Except flushable wipes actually cause problems in the plumbing! Either your own or down the line; our sewage systems just can’t handle them. They should be tossed regardless of their label.
Rachel Norman says
And they are not safe for septic tanks!
Ashley Hale says
Got any tips for a sweet boy 3.5 yr old boy who is EXCELLENT during the day time but still not getting the hang at night? We monitor his fluid intake before bed, I go in at 10pm and 5am (and he usually pees both times), he’s been good on day time for almost a year but this night time thing’s got him bamboozled!