There is a lot to suggest that children in cloth diapers potty train earlier. While I was unable to find any sources that specifically state "cloth diapered children potty train earlier," some experts and parents have noted that cloth diapers can help to facilitate the process of potty training. Disposable diapers contain "super absorbent gel", which seems to absorb liquid instantaneously. Cloth diapers lack this gel, so when a child urinates in a cloth diaper, they will feel a wet sensation as moisture is absorbed. When a child determines they are wet, they usually end up deciding they don't like being wet and have incentive to learn to use the potty!
It seems like parents are starting to potty train their kids later and later. Three or four generations ago, parents often started potty training their children before the child was 18 months. Today children are usually between 21 and 36 months old before toilet training is started, but the training duration has stayed the same (1). Studies have also shown that the younger your child is when you begin potty training, the longer it will take for them to fully train. However, earlier potty training correlates to an earlier age at completion of toilet training (2). Additionally, starting toilet training early isn't bad for your child. Studies found that early toilet training resulted in earlier bladder control, and wasn't associated with any bladder dysfunction (3).
So how do you know when your child is ready to start potty training? This is a question that no researcher can seem to answer, and there has been a lot of conflicting information for parents (train early, train later, don't train before 27 months, etc). Researchers have recently compiled a list of "21 signs of readiness (1)" that can indicate your child is ready to start potty training. Some of these 21 signs were really informative, and a few are a bit humorous or obvious! I've paraphrased the 21 readiness signs in an understandable way below, with some side comments in parenthesis!
Signs a child is ready to start potty training
1. can imitate behavior of others
2. is capable of sitting easily without help
3. can walk without any help
4. has fine motor skills and can pick up small objects
5. can say "No!" and assert their independence!
6. has voluntary control over bowel and bladder function
7. can understand and follow simple directions
8. expresses a need to urinate/defecate by non-verbal communication or by words. Child will let you know if they have dirty pants.
9. enjoys putting things in containers (pee goes in a... container?)
10. has an awareness of bladder sensations and the need to urinate
11. has an adequate vocabulary and understands potty-related words
12. shows interest in potty training!
13. is older, and therefore has a bigger bladder
14. likes to complete tasks without help and is proud of new skills
15. is asking for the potty (hello obvious!)
16. wants to be clean and doesn't like to be in a soiled diaper
17. wants to wear "big kid" clothes
18. can pull clothes up and down
19. stays bowel movement free overnight
20. can put things where they belong (pee belongs in a toilet!)
21. can sit still on the potty for 5–10 min.
These signs of readiness emerge at different ages, and no one knows how many of these signs are needed before a child will potty train. While these 21 signs of readiness are a great guide for parents, I stress that you as parents are the true "experts" on your child. No researcher knows your child better than you do, and only you and your child can truly determine when and how to potty train!
Stay tuned for an upcoming post on cloth trainer pants.
This post was inspired by real science!1. Kaerts N, Van Hal G, Vermandel A, Wyndaele JJ. Readiness signs used to define the proper moment to start toilet training: A review of the literature. Neurourol Urodyn. 2012 Mar 6. doi: 10.1002/nau.21211.