Today we begin a weekly mini series on potty training as part of the ongoing “The First Years” series on Fridays. I’m delighted to have Alina Joy from Happy Unconventional Life guest posting today on infant potty training!
Guest Post by Alina Joy of Happy Unconventional Life
My first baby was exactly 90 days old when I stumbled across the idea of “Infant Potty Training” (or “Elimination Communication” as it is sometimes called). The basic concept (whether you agree with it or not) is that our babies know when they need to go to the toilet.
Image by jencu
They don’t want to sit in their own waste any more than you or I would and so they can be trained to go potty when you place them over a toilet and cue them with a “Psssst!” sound.
Image by The Wu’s Photo Land
“A puppy can be house trained. If your baby is at least as smart as the average puppy,” one article that I read reasoned, “then he or she can be trained to go potty.”
Well! My baby was certainly smarter than the average puppy! I decided I would give it a try! After all, mothers and babies in other countries have been potty training this way for generations!
So, I took my baby, undressed her from the waist down, held her over the potty and said, “Pssst! Go Potty!” And then it happened! There was a little tinkle, tinkle in the toilet! I excitedly called my husband into the bathroom and told him what had just happened!
Image by Manish Bansal
“Good Girl!” he said. This particular baby had been Daddy’s Girl from Day One so for him to come in the bathroom and applaud her efforts sealed the deal. For the rest of the week, every time baby repeated her performance, Daddy came in and said, “Good Girl!” By the end of the week she was regularly using the potty and going diaper-free throughout the day.
By now she was 97 days old. We took her to church and excitedly told our friends, “We’re potty training the baby now.” Our friends laughed at what they assumed to be an over-eager, first-time parent.
“You can laugh now,” I told them, “but I’ll be the one laughing a year from now!” And I was right. By the time the baby was 18 months old, she would come to me and verbally ask to be taken to the toilet. We were finished potty training.
Image by Michael Bentley
Contrary to that magazine article I read, I’m not suggesting that if your 3-month-old baby isn’t potty trained, he or she is not as smart as the family dog. (Come back and read my next post in a few weeks for proof!) What I am suggesting here is that for some families, Infant Potty Training is a great option!
The fact of the matter is that each family needs to consider their own circumstances. The “right” decision for one family will be different from the “right” decision for another family. Even within the same family, the potty training approach used with one baby may not be practical with the next baby.
Image by nicolas.boullosa
So, what is Elimination Communication and how is it done?
Essentially, Elimination Communication is learning to read your child’s physical cues that indicate he or she has to use the bathroom. With one of my babies, she always had to empty her bladder about 10 minutes after she had nursed. My son (who has always been less scheduled than his sister!) would stiffen and hold his body a certain way when he needed to relieve himself.
Does it sound impossible to recognize your child’s signals? Think about it! How many times have you seen your baby (or even someone else’s baby) make a certain facial expression or give a certain grunt that you know means, “Oh, he’s about to do something in his pants!” When you are in close proximity to your baby it’s not hard to pick up on these cues.
(It’s not a coincidence that a lot of the cultures that toilet their babies this way also practice baby-wearing!)
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When the baby indicates that they need to empty their bladder, the parent simply holds the child over an appropriate receptacle (usually a potty or a toilet) and cues them with a particular sound. I used to hold my babies over a regular toilet and say “Pssssst!” and the baby would potty into the toilet. When the babies could sit up I would sit them on a little potty on the floor.
Elimination Communication is Not the Same as Toilet Training!
“You’re baby isn’t trained, you’re the one who’s trained!” some critics said. To that I would say, “You are absolutely correct!” All parents are trained in some way or another to deal with their child’s urine and bowel movements. Most Americans are trained to change a dirty diaper.
Parents who practice elimination communication are simply trained to deal with it a few minutes earlier than parents who change diapers! My experience was that although I was the one who was trained to take my baby to the potty, by the time she reached traditional toilet-training age, she clearly understood the connection between the need to empty her bladder and the toilet. I took her to the potty until she became mobile, and once she learned to crawl and then walk she seamlessly transitioned to going potty by herself.
Related: How to Clean Urine from a Mattress (for those times when accidents happen!)
Image by abbybatchelder
“Wow, that sounds like a lot of work!” other people said to me. On the contrary, I found that toileting my baby this way saved me a lot of work! I didn’t have to change diapers or clean messy bottoms. I didn’t have to carry a diaper bag around with me everywhere I went. I not only saved a ton of money on diapers, but I also saved money on creams and lotions since my baby never got diaper rashes!
In other countries (such as India and China) it is common to see mothers wearing their babies and practicing Elimination Communication. Baby clothes in these countries are designed to be easier to get the baby undressed to go potty than baby clothes here. Also, people in these countries are accustomed to seeing toddlers going potty in public and even extended family helps the little ones go potty.
Without a doubt, practicing Elimination Communication in Western Culture presents unique challenges (such as finding clothes that lend themselves to this approach)! It’s also an approach that may raise a few eyebrows.
No, it’s not an approach for everybody and if you think this approach is not for you, be sure to check back in a few weeks for my post about Potty Training in a more traditional manner. For our family, this was an approach to toilet training that was simple, it made sense for us at that time and it strengthened the bond between my baby and me.
Have I piqued your interest? You may wish to check out these more detailed posts about Infant Potty Training:
I also highly recommend the book Infant Potty Training: A Gentle and Primeval Method Adapted to Modern Living by Laurie Boucke. In 380 pages, she is able to cover a lot more than I can cover in a single blog post!
For more posts in this potty training series, click here!
Alina Joy Dubois writes the Happy Unconventional Life which is the story of what happens when a software engineer (her husband!) comes home one night and out of the blue says, “I wanna be a farmer!” then actually quits his career and takes up farming! You can follow her family’s adventures in homesteading, vegan & gluten-free cooking and nature study.