You might have heard that girls are easier to train than boys, but that's not really true. "Girls aren't easier to train, though they do take to the potty a few months earlier on average than boys do," says Scott J. Goldstein, M.D., a pediatrician at The Northwestern Children's Practice in Chicago. But that doesn't mean your daughter will be ready earlier. Plenty of girls are just as resistant to potty training as boys are at an early age, so it's crucial to start training only when the time is right for your child. The good news is that girls can be neater than boys; they tend to be more aware of good hygiene (like wiping and washing their hands). Also, because they sit when using the potty, it's less likely that urine will end up all over the bathroom floors and cabinets. Here are a few suggestions that can help your daughter master this fundamental skill more smoothly.
Go on a shopping spree with your little girl. Start by buying some underwear and let her pick out whatever kind she wants, perhaps with a beloved character on it, like Cinderella or Minnie Mouse. As a backup, you can pick out some potty training pants together, especially to prepare for times when you may not have access to a toddler-friendly toilet, but keep in mind that when your child is ready to use the potty on a regular basis, she should wear only underwear. Let your daughter choose a potty seat from among the plenty of colors and themes available. Also, if you can find it, consider picking up some toilet paper in pink or your child's favorite color. The key is to make potty training seem like a blast, not a chore.
Make sure your daughter's feet are flat on the floor or step stool and that her pelvis is in a horizontal position. "Kids need something to push against," explains Lisa Asta, M.D., a clinical professor of pediatrics at University of California, San Francisco, and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. By having feet firmly planted, your daughter will feel more secure, have an easier time "pushing" and going to the bathroom, and be less afraid that she'll fall into the potty. Plus, this will help prevent fewer accidental messes. "When a little girl is dangling over the potty and her backside is lower than her knees, some urine can collect in the posterior part of the vagina, and that little puddle of pee will leak into her underwear when she stands up." Have your child sit as far forward or back as she likes; just keep in mind that sitting too far forward can lead to unwanted leakage.
Girls should always wipe from front to back to avoid introducing bacteria into the urinary tract. You can use a doll to show her the proper technique, but your child might need some assistance from you. "Most girls under kindergarten age will not be able to wipe themselves," Dr. Goldstein says. "Help your daughter wipe whenever she uses the potty." You might also be tempted to buy disposable wipes, but there's no need. "Wipes have chemicals in them and every time you use them you disrupt the vaginal mucosa," Dr. Asta says. "They can be irritating and can cause redness." Instead, use just toilet paper, but explain that only a few sheets are needed (not the whole roll!) Of course, teach her to wash her hands every time after she uses the potty -- she should lather with soap for about 20 seconds and then rinse with water. Avoid relying on hand sanitizers. "Some viruses, like noroviruses, the most common cause of epidemic gastroenteritis in the U.S., don't die with hand sanitizer, so you want your child to always clean with water and soap in case there's any poop on her hands," explains Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D., a Parents advisor and pediatrician at Seattle Children's Hospital in Seattle, Washington.
Because many girls don't wipe properly at first, urinary tract infections are more common among the potty training set. When a child wipes from back to front (instead of front to back), she can bring bacteria from the anus to the opening where urine comes out. Look out for signs of an infection, such as a frequent need to urinate, pain or burning during urination, cloudy, bloody, or foul-smelling urine, fever, poor appetite, pressure in the lower abdomen, and frequent accidents even after your child has been trained. If you notice any of these symptoms, call your pediatrician, who may diagnose it properly and prescribe antibiotics to treat it.
There are plenty of books on potty training that are specifically geared toward little girls (and boys), such as Once Upon a Potty and The Potty Book. Dora the Explorer's Dora's Potty Book might offer some more guidance. There are also dolls designed specifically to help with the toilet training process, like Mattel's Little Mommy Princess and the Potty Doll, which comes with a mini potty that makes a flushing sound and actually shows a "surprise" after the doll goes potty, and Corolle's Special Feature Baby Emma Doll, an anatomically correct doll designed to hold and eliminate water. Other potty training tools can help, too, like mobile apps It's Potty Time, which has an interactive rewards chart and a cute game and song, and I Love Potty Training, which has tips, tracking tools, rewards, and a printable diploma when training is over.
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