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Is Early Potty Training Harmful?

Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.) -- As soon as toddlers are able to walk and communicate their needs, many parents rush to get their kids potty trained.  But the hard and fast recommendation by many experts to get children out of diapers before age 3 is a myth and can even be dangerous for some children, according to one expert.

"Children under age 3 should not manage their own toileting habits any more than they should manage their college funds," wrote Dr. Steve Hodges, a pediatric urologist at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, in an article on the parenting website Babble.com.

Many mothers begin training because of a variety of life factors, including the need to have a child potty trained so they can go to day care programs or school.

But preschools and facilities that require children to be potty trained by age 3, "are harming kids," according to Hodges.

A child's bladder, which continues growing to its standard size until age 3, grows stronger and faster when it's filling and emptying uninhibited, said Hodges.

"When you train early, you're interrupting that process," he told ABC News.

Training a child too early can lead to toilet accidents because the bladder may not be strong enough.  It may also lead to constipation, kidney damage and even urinary tract infections, said Hodges.  Mainly children are holding in their bowel movements longer than they should, he said.

These conditions may also be signs of forced training, according to some experts.

To prevent medical complications, children should be allowed uninhibited elimination until they are ready, Hodges said.

Age doesn't matter when it comes to potty training, according to many experts.  Some children are ready earlier than others.

A child's social, cognitive, and physical skill sets should dictate whether a child is ready to train, said Dr. Stephanie Hines, pediatric developmental and behavioral specialist at Beaumont Hospital's Center for Human Development.  

"At their age, they have control over sleep, eating, and going to the bathroom," said Hines. "So this is one of the few areas of their life they have control over."

Hines said the control should stay with the child.  If the child is resisting potty training, parents shouldn't force it, she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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