When I first started cloth diapering, I heard over and over that using cloth would help with potty training later on. The reasons for this made sense:
1. Cloth feels wet, so toddlers are more aware of accidents.
2. Cloth has to be cleaned when soiled, so toddlers can be involved in the process, or at least observe what mama has to do when an accident happens.
3. Cloth offers more options as far as colors and prints are concerned. Toddlers can have fun choosing their trainers, and be encouraged to keep them clean and dry.
4. Cloth requires more time and effort for mama, so that may motivate her to facilitate potty training in whatever way she can.
Since we started with cloth I’ve potty trained just one child – Benjamin. He showed readiness at age 3, but was not trained until a year had passed by. We used cloth trainers the entire time, yet for him it just didn’t seem to make a difference. He didn’t care if his pants were wet or soiled. He would gladly help me clean them, but this didn’t encourage him to avoid making messes. He loved all the fun trainers we bought but cautionary commands like “don’t poop on the cows!” were completely ineffective.
What can I say? The boy just took his sweet time. And I gritted my teeth in frustration for that entire year. Reason #4 was definitely motivating ME towards potty training success, but it seemed that despite many different tactics, he just wasn’t going to cooperate.
So what was the breakthrough at age four? Susanna was born! I kid you not: the week she arrived, Benjamin potty trained. Completely. He never had another accident. The timing was not coincidental, I assure you. And he wasn’t the only boy holding out on me. Samuel was 18 month old at the time, and had us all worried because he wouldn’t walk. When I called home to announce Susanna’s birth, my mother asked “guess who just took his first steps today?”
So do my experiences mean cloth doesn’t help with potty training? I don’t think so. Who knows? Ben may have waited even longer if we had relied on disposable pull-ups that whole time. I certainly wouldn’t have been as motivated to teach him, especially with a newborn on the way. All that learning paid off when the time came that HE was ready. So I’m still convinced that cloth diapering gives you an edge, even if it’s only a small one, when potty training.
Let’s hope I’m right. Because now it’s time to potty train Samuel!