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Taking a Break from Potty Learning

At 20-months-old Teddy is an active little ball of snuggly love. He is really is just the cutest. He spends his days mostly engaged in gross motor play, using some materials, practical life and potty learning. I've talked a little about his potty learning journey before, but for us it really is a journey. And this means it really does have it's ups and downs. And in this post, I want to normalize some of the downs. These are the times when maybe potty learning feels too hard or too much, or seems to not be working. 

When can we take a break from potty learning? 

Over the last week and half, Teddy has been in diapers 100 percent of the time. Prior to this we were in a down slump of using the potty. I don't want to share too many details, but just know it was a lot of awareness of needing/going but also all misses. So I decided I needed a break. We have been recovering from the stomach flu and just lots going on and we needed to step back. Here are some reasons that I think it's alright to consider a potty learning break. 

I will say I only recommend these breaks for newer learners who are still needing a lot of support using the potty. It could be very confusing for a child that has been successful in this process for awhile (even if they are currently in a bit of a regression.) 


If you or your child are feeling really frustrated by the potty learning process, it might be time for a break. It might be time to take a step back, focus on some connection, and come back to potty learning after you've had a little time for self care. Remember so much of potty learning is about your own attitude toward the process and if you're not able to remain calm, and surrender to that process, give yourself that time.

This is part of where I was at with Teddy. His journey has been slower than my other children and I was feeling myself get a little frustrated by that. I needed to take a hot minute to back up, think about why I'm doing this, and recenter before continuing. 

But the same goes for your child. If you see that your child is really fighting the process or is really anxious about it, it might be time to take a step back, let go of that pressure and try in a little bit. 


For the first time in over a year, so basically in his entire life, Teddy recently got sick. This isn't the time to try and work in undies. Again, I'm going to skip the gross details but stomach bugs and learning to get to the potty quickly, don't mix. Hard pass, go back to diapering. 

And in my experience, especially if sickness lingers, it can be a little too much to add to the routine. Again, same goes for you if you are feeling sick. I know there were times when I was super nauseous during my pregnancy that Gus went into diapers too. And, you know what, the break was not that big of a deal. 


Going on a long trip in the car? Going on a vacation? Going somewhere without accessible bathrooms? Take a break, put on a diaper and enjoy your time. We had to do this during Gus' potty learning process. We took a week long break and then went back to undies. There were some misses as he transitioned back but it wasn't a huge deal. 


Things come up, family emergencies, busy days, stressful situations. I think it's important that we give ourselves grace in this process and know that if sometimes we go back into diapers for a little bit, we aren't failing. The foundational learning is still there, it's still happening, and our child will be ok. The process might take a little longer, but for me that's worth it if we are taking a respectful, child-led pace. 

What does a potty learning break look like? 

For us, it looks like simply going back into diapers full time. There's no conversation (and this might change if you had an older child who was more verbal and aware of the process,) shame, or snippy comments about why. In our case, we are going back to diapers for 2 weeks. I've set a limit for myself so that I take a proper break and don't just feel pressured to get back to it after a couple days. But if you are doing it because of sickness or vacation or some other reason, the exact time might vary. 

Following the break I expect some misses and a little backslide in learning. That's ok, I know it's part of the process and in my experience it's really a day or two and then they are back in the routine. 

I hope this is helpful in knowing that Montessori potty learning isn't just a straight line from point A to point B. And, it's alright for it to look and feel a little frustrating at times. It doesn't mean it doesn't work, or that you or your child is failing. It's part of the process. And, you'll get there in time. 


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