Why Training Diapers Are Good For Sales and Bad For Toddlers

According to the Wall Street Journal, a major diaper brand has launched a campaign to promote earlier potty training, reportedly so parents will speed up the switch to their brand of underwear-like “up and down” training diapers, which cost twice as much as diapers.

From a medical perspective, this is a terrible idea. But from a marketing perspective, it’s genius.

In fact, this campaign will work better than the diaper brand ever imagined, because children trained earlier are more likely to develop enuresis (daytime pee accidents and bedwetting) and encopresis (poop accidents). And since kids who have accidents need daytime and nighttime protection, this diaper brand — and its parent company — will score big-time. More 5-year-olds will have to wear these “training diapers” to kindergarten. More 10-year-olds will wear have to wear “youth pants” to bed.

Meantime, kids will suffer — embarrassment, low self-esteem, discomfort, rectal damage, and all the rest.

Earlier Training Leads to Chronic Constipation

An inconvenient fact for this diaper brand is that kids trained earlier are more prone to developing chronic constipation. Constipation, in turn, is the cause of virtually all bedwetting and accidents.

As I explain in detail in my book The M.O.P. Book, when poop piles up in the rectum, it forms a large, hard mass that presses against and aggravates the bladder. The stretched rectum may also lose tone and sensation, so kids can’t sense when they need to poop, and stool falls out without the child noticing. Holding pee exacerbates the bladder problems created by holding poop.

Children trained before age 2 have triple the risk of developing constipation and daytime wetting problems down the road, as my published research shows. This doesn’t mean training a 26-month-old is a good idea — it’s not. It just means children trained before 2 are the most likely to land in continence clinics like mine.

Of course, not every child trained early will become constipated, but children trained as toddlers are more likely to become habitual holders than children trained around age 3. In our study, 60 percent of the children trained before age 2 were shown, via X-ray, to be severely constipated.

When you encourage children to train as toddlers, even when you do so “gently,” you’re asking for trouble. Yes, toddlers are physically capable of using the toilet; problem is, they lack the judgment to respond to nature’s call in a timely manner. Toddlers tend to become so engrossed in their fort building and finger painting that they ignore their body’s signals, holding their pee or poop until they absolutely can’t.

Steve Hodges, M.D.
Steve Hodges, M.D.
Steve Hodges, M.D., is an associate professor of pediatric urology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and co-author of Bedwetting And Accidents Aren’t Your FaultIt’s No Accident, and The M.O.P. Book: A guide to the only proven way to STOP bedwetting and accidents. His website is BedwettingAndAccidents.com.

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