How to help a toddler use a public bathroom

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Our kiddo has recently potty trained. Before he did, I was really worried and confused about how we were going to travel with him when he was done with diapers but still too small to use an adult-sized toilet. At home we have little potties which he uses in dependently and toilet seat reducers, but those aren’t practical for many travel situations. During a day out in a city, I don’t want to be carrying even the most convenient of toilet seat reducers. Fortunately there is an easy technique that works on most toilets and solves several problems at once. 

Here’s a short video demonstrating the technique:

Easiest way to help your toddler use a public restroom without a toilet reducer

Basically, you (the adult) sit down (with your pants on, if that’s not obvious) on the back half of the toilet. Leave a toddler-butt sized spot in front of you. Address your little one’s lower-half clothing situation, then hoist ‘em up. Hold him or her either under each thigh behind the knee with one hand on each leg, or with one hand under the armpits and one hand under the legs. Your kiddo will go toodles, you help kiddo hop down, and you’re ready to clean up and go. This technique has been a lifesaver on airplanes, when it’s hard enough juggling myself and a toddler down the narrow aisle and into that teensy bathroom without juggling a seat reducer too.

Toddlers and automatic toilet flushers

If there is an automatic toilet flusher and you use this technique, your body will thoroughly block the sensor until your kiddo is off the potty and away from the flusher. You have much more control over the flush situation than in any other configuration. Which means your kiddo is less likely to get scared half to death by a monster toilet flush. Hooray!

What about germs?

If the bathroom is TOO dirty

Hopefully the bathroom you’re using with your toddler is not filthy. If it is, you are likely better off standing in front of the toilet facing the bowl. Hold you kiddo in a squat position by the thighs in a similar way as described/shown above, with his or her back leaning against your tummy. Be sure that your collective aim is accurate, and get done and out of that gross bathroom ASAP.

If the bathroom is a passably clean public restroom

Most of our experiences in US public bathrooms have been decently clean. Something that Andrea from GoDiaperFree.com said in one of her videos has stuck with me, and that is that she’s not afraid of germs. Obviously bathrooms are yucky and we have rules in place (“Do Not Touch ANYTHING” is our rule) and wash up afterwards. But understanding that we don’t have to be afraid of germs, that your kiddo’s bum is going to touch a toilet seat sometimes, that your pants can touch the back of the toilet, and it’s all going to be okay, was liberating for me. So I’d like to pass that message on to you. Mamas and daddys, it’s okay not to be afraid of germs in the bathroom. Do the business, sit where you need to, wash your hands, and go out and have fun.

Can you potty your toddler like this in a dress?

Yes. I have done this in a short dress but not a long dress, although I think I would do the same thing. I gather my dress in the front and tuck it into the shoulder/bra strap area. I always have some sort of shorts situation going on under my dresses, and thus am not at risk of sitting my bare cheeks down on the back of the public toilet. If you are bare-cheeking it, or if your dress brings to mind some of Cardi B’s Met Gala outfits, this is not something to try

Notes on toilet types and people types

Most public toilets we’ve encountered in the US are the kind that are very long front-to-back, and will accommodate both an average sized adult and a toddler easily. I’ve used this technique in hotel rooms that have smaller, more round toilet bowls, and it was a tighter fit for us. I had to sort of squish myself to the side so only my leg was behind my son and I was half-squatting to one side. This was considerably less comfortable, though still easier than holding the kid with just my arms. And I’m not sure I’ll be able to do this if I’m extremely pregnant. So moral of the story is this doesn’t work for all people on all toilets, but is a pretty flexible technique overall, and don’t forget a toilet reducer to use in the hotel room. I hope you find it helpful! Please share with any mamas or papas who you think might also find it helpful.

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