Potty-training at 6 months? The lowdown on the latest potty-training advice

As a parent, the words ‘potty-training’ can make you feel hopeful for a world where you aren’t constantly shelling out for nappies (they aren’t cheap!) but can also fill you with dread. How do you actually go from your child using nappies to going to the loo? It can sound like hard work to anyone, let alone a tired parent. 

For a start, you might find your parents’ or family members’ experience of potty-training was different from how your friends approach it. 

On top of that, potty-training advice for parents from ERIC (the UK’s children’s bladder and bowel charity) has recently been updated based on clinical evidence and research compiled by ERIC and their partners, and it’s now recommended to start the process at a younger age. We feel strongly that this approach reflects good levels of research and evidence, which is why we’re sharing it with you. 

What’s new?  

The latest advice from ERIC incorporates the idea of starting ‘potty-learning’ with your baby as soon as they are able to sit up independently, making the transition to potty-training (when they are around 18-24 months old) less of a ‘new and scary thought’.   

This means you start to slowly introduce some of the skills needed for potty training at a young age, so that your baby has plenty of time to practise and build on the individual skills (like balancing on a potty, feeling movement without a nappy, and so on), but you don’t actively expect your baby to use a potty independently until they are a much older toddler.   

This is different from the approach that has, for many years, been advocated in the UK, and what you (and the people around you) will probably be familiar with.   

The approach previously recommended by ERIC, and still often recommended by other organisations, was heavily based on waiting for your child to show you that they are ready for potty-training by looking out for ‘readiness signs’, and then introducing a potty.   

ERIC’s research has shown that these signs of readiness are not easy to understand, or always consistent, resulting in confusion for parents trying to decide when to start potty-training[2] and potential delays to potty-training,[3] which are not so good for bladder and bowel health.   

Because this advice is new, and different, you might find that you feel conflicted about what to do. 

The new advice is that most children will be ready to start potty-training around 18 months old.[4,5] It will be a process, though, and your toddler won’t be fully independent when going to the toilet until they’re older and have had time to practise all the skills involved.    

It’s important to note that age is not everything here. If you reach 18 months, you don’t have to press a switch and go! It might be that this age comes at a time of change for your toddler, or you have other big life events happening that might make it more stressful, which mean it is probably not a good time to start potty-training right then, and this is ok. ERIC’s advice says to start between 18 and 24 months; starting earlier simply gives your child more time to practise. 

Should I worry if I haven’t potty-trained this way? 

Firstly, this advice is not designed to make anyone feel guilty. As with so many aspects of parenting, the most important thing is that you do what is best for your unique child and your family. All children are different, and you know your child best, so how you approach potty-training will be informed by your child. This is only advice which you can implement as you see fit and find helpful.  

Don’t feel bad if you’ve already potty-trained your child later than ERIC’s new recommendations, or if you haven’t started yet and are worrying you’ve left it too late.  

Writing as a parent, I have potty-trained three children from age two onwards, with the best information I had at the time. Other than spending a small fortune for the Peppa Pig knickers one of my children decided were a vital part of the process and a few accidents here and there (which are to be expected), it was all fairly straightforward. It’s not an overnight process at any age, so patience and perseverance are required, but with your support and encouragement it will happen. 

To hear more about ERIC’s new advice, you can listen to our potty-training podcast special where My First Five Years founders Jennie Johnson and Alistair Bryce-Clegg are joined by Rebecca Mottram, Children's Nurse and Potty Training Consultant at ERIC, who shares tips on when to start potty-training, the lowdown on being dry at night, and how to put your child at the centre of the process and engage them in it. Find it here https://podfollow.com/my-first-five-years. 

We also have plenty of information about potty-training in the My First Five Years app, which is available at My First Five Years on the App Store (apple.com). 

At My First Five Years, we are committed to bringing families the latest, science-backed research, so that you can be sure you have the latest information to help to support your child as they grow. This means we review the latest advice across all areas of children’s development, so we will bring you any further updates as soon as they’re available. 




[1] ‘Potty training: how to start & best age to potty train’ by ERIC: the children’s bowel & bladder charity (undated). Published online, available here: Potty training: how to start & best age to potty train  

[2] Kaerts, N., Van Hal, G., Vermandel, A., Wyndaele, J.J. (2012). ‘Readiness signs used to define the proper moment to start toilet training: a review of the literature’. Neurourol Urodyn. 31. 4:437-40.  

[3] van Nunen, K., Kaerts, N., Wyndaele, J.J., Vermandel, A., Hal, G.V. (2015). ‘Parents' views on toilet training: A quantitative study to identify the beliefs and attitudes of parents concerning TT’. J Child Health Care. 19. 2:265-74. 

[4] ‘Potty training: how to start & best age to potty train’ by ERIC: the children’s bowel & bladder charity (undated). Published online, available here: Potty training: how to start & best age to potty train  

[5] ‘Children’s bladder and bowel issues: Some fables and facts’ by Davina Richardson (children's specialist nurse) for Bladder & Bowel UK. (2020). Published online, available here: Children's bladder and bowel issues: Some fables and facts