Potty Training and Bottle Weaning Woes

Little Boy Sitting on Potty Chair
Dave King/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

When I learned that I was finally going to be a mother, I was determined to be the best mom ever. I wasn't going to just "wing it," waiting to deal with issues when they arose. I read all I could about parenting. I had quite a collection of parenting books long before I really needed them. It wasn't easy for me, though, because my son was born six weeks early, and it can be difficult to guage the development of a preemie.

Still, I felt I was quite prepared to be a parent in spite of the occasional problems adjusting what I learned in order to apply it to my preemie. From those first days, my approach to all parenting issues was to read what I could so I would make all the right decisions.  For example, I knew when kids should be potty trained and when they should be weaned off the bottle.

Unfortunately, none of what I read seemed to apply to my child! I knew most kids were potty trained by age two, but some weren't potty trained until age three. My son belonged to the latter group. I didn't see a big problem there because I knew that preemies often were a little behind in development, although I did think that by age three, it shouldn't matter so much anymore. When my son turned three, he was supposed to start preschool, but he had to be potty trained to attend. I took my son to visit his potential preschool, and he really liked it.

It didn't matter, though. He just wasn't interested in potty training. I'm sure he was ready, just not interested. It was too much bother to quit what he was doing and go to the bathroom. A diaper was so much more convenient!  When the time came to go to preschool, though, he was instantly potty trained.

I just told him that if he had to wear a diaper, he couldn't go to the preschool that he liked so much. That was it. He stopped needing diapers.

And giving up the bottle? Ha! My son's favorite night-time activity was to read a good book, fondle the lumps in seams of old cloth diapers (never used for their original purpose), and drink from a bottle. He made the daytime progression from bottles to sippy cups to glasses right on schedule, but giving up the night time bottle? Absolutely not. He could have only water, but he still wanted it. I could reason with him (he was a smart kid) and he would agree that it was time to give up the bottle.  But at night, he'd decide he wasn't quite ready to give it up. It was just too comforting. I suspect now that it was part of his sensual overexcitability. The feeling of the lumps in the seams in the cloth diapers, the sensation of sucking on the bottle - it just all felt so good.

I finally decided that as long as his teeth and his health were in good shape, he could have the bottle.

I had never heard of a kid going to college with baby bottles, so I was sure he'd give them up at some point. Fortunately, his preschool teacher felt the same way. She was absolutely wonderful. She knew he liked to read, liked a bottle, and didn't need a nap. So when the other kids were sleeping, she allowed him to lie quietly on his mat on the floor, read a book, fondle the seams on a cloth diaper, and drink from his bottle. He did eventually give up the bottle -- when he was five. We had made a deal that he would give up the bottle on his fifth birthday. I would periodically remind him of that deal so that he would be prepared for it. He was able to convince himself that giving up that night time bottle was a big five-year-old thing to do.

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Read more about my experiences as the parent of a gifted child.

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