Parents who pressurise their children to potty train before the age of three may be hurting them, a paediatric urologist has said.
Dr Steve Hodges, a professor at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, has said that training too early can lead to more toilet accidents because children’s the bladder may not be strong enough.
It can also lead to constipation, kidney damage and even urinary tract infections because the toddlers tend to hold in their bowel movements longer than they should.
“Children under age three should not manage their own toileting habits any more than they should manage their college funds,” the Daily Mail quoted Dr Hodges as telling Babble.com.
Dr Hodges penned the book, ‘It’s No Accident’, to debunk myths that parents should strive to get their children out of diapers and onto toilets as early as possible.
He says that babies need to experience ‘uninhibited voiding’, or elimination, in a manner that they can respond to their bodies urges in a judicious manner.
Once they can fully figure that out, then parents can bring them to the bathrooms.
When parents train too early, it can lead to devastating problems in the future.
“Virtually all toileting problems – pee and poop accidents, bedwetting, urinary frequency, and urinary tract infections – are related to chronically holding pee or poop or both,” he wrote.
“It’s typically the kids who trained earliest and most easily who develop the most serious problems,” he wrote.
Dr Hodges, who runs a clinic, said that half of his patients have toileting issues and they are the ones who were trained before the age of three.
But the numbers aren’t just anecdotal. Physician visits for children’s constipation have quadrupled in the last decade, according to the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility.
“Since parents tend to believe potty problems are normal, many don’t bother bringing their kids to the doctor,” he said.
“The bladder needs about three or four years to grow and develop, and uninhibited voiding (read: diapers) facilitates maximum growth,” he added.
He insists that parents who are too focused on ‘potty liberation’ need to give their children some breathing room.