Local News

Doctors take the Diaper Debate to the Bank

Posted January 13, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST

— The already-difficult process of toilet training is not getting any easier, as parents try to sort out mixed messages about the exact age a child should be out of diapers.

Some experts say children must choose to use diapers when they're ready. As a result, supermarkets now sport a larger selection of diapers, including diapers for larger children, some of which have been endorsed by the country's leading pediatricians.

Debra Sasser is among a growing number of parents letting their kids decide when to master the skill. "Well, we've been in the process for some time now," Sasser says. "We're letting him tell us 'what I want to do when I want to do it.'"

Less than 25 percent of children are currently toilet trained by the age of 18 months. In the 1950s, 92 percent of children were toilet trained by the time they were a year and a half.

Parent Carrie Martin says she's from the old school, and is taking a more stern approach about toilet training with her daughter Erin.

"I do the constant checks in going to the bathroom every hour," she says.

Many day cares and pre-schools require children to be toilet trained by a certain age. Ironically, doctors say the reason kids are getting toilet trained later may be due in part to the number of working mothers.

They say when mothers stayed home, they focused on the process more.

Not only do mothers spend less time focusing on the process, according to doctors, but having multiple caregivers can delay potty training.

"One of the most important things with potty training is consistency," Fine says. "If you have multiple caregivers throughout the day, everyone's going to do it a little differently."

"Maybe you're not better off one way or the other," says Dr. Kate Fine.

Pediatricians say there's nothing medically wrong with waiting. But they say that toilet training too early can cause more harm than good if the child is unsuccessful, or develops constipation.

Pediatricians say a regular routine can yield the best results.