"Are you f&@king kidding me, Kristen? Potty train a baby? So many LOL's...You can't potty train a baby and if you can, I am certain I do not have the time or patience it requires." <----------I know you're all thinking it.
Well...what if I told you that Africa, Latin America, Greenland, China, India and countless other countries do it? What if I told you that more than half the world does infant potty training and starts the day they're born? In fact, Pediatrics Magazine found that 50% of babies around the world are potty trained by the age of 1. Would you be surprised to know that in the early 1950's most AMERICAN babies were potty trained in the first few months and completely trained before their first birthday? Only AFTER the invention of the disposable diaper in 1959 did that change. In 1970 it shifted to 18 months...and now? In 2016, the average age an American child is potty trained is 3 years old ...accumulating 27.4 billion disposable diapers into landfills a year.
So I wrote this blog to tell you all of my voodoo poopoo secrets. I'm here to share the secret getting your baby out of diapers before 3...b/c honestly... who the hell wants to wear a diaper? Wearing that monstrosity of a maxi pad after giving birth was a not so gentle reminder of how nasty that feels.
Ready for the Secret?
- Observe your baby naked and look for his pee/poo cues
- When you see a cue, take your baby to the toilet.
Voila! It's not magic. There's no secret trick. You just respond to cues as you do every other cue. Here's an overview of the process and theory behind it all.
Elimination Communication is not potty training... well not in the conventional sense. And it's important to not treat it as potty training. This is not about rewarding your child for peeing in the potty or scolding him if he misses. If you try potty training a baby, you'll get stressed, frustrated and could end up doing more harm than good. Elimination Communication is simply...opening up another line of communication, being in tune with your baby's cues and responding naturally...as you do every other cue. That's it.
When your baby is hungry, he puts his hand in his mouth, cries, and you feed him. Tired? He rubs his eyes, yawns, and you put him down for a nap. Bored? He fusses, whines and you switch up the activity. Needs to pee or poo? Ignore him and let him go in his diaper... Wait what?
I'm not sure why we collectively believe that a baby can communicate things like..."I want to put that toy in my mouth, but it's too big... so I'm frustrated"...but can't communicate that he needs to take a giant shit. I'm to believe he's completely unaware of his bodily functions, and can only communicate he's uncomfortable AFTER he's wet or soiled himself?
This makes absolutely no sense. Of course he's aware he's pooping and peeing. So help him be in tune with that, learn to communicate it to you and build trust.
The truth of the matter is, its not instinctual to sit in your own excrement. A dog will never pee and sit in it. A dog will go elsewhere. This is why "crate training" works..they won't sit in their own mess...so they hold it. In fact, every animal will go elsewhere. Likewise, it is not my son's instinct to pee in a diaper. Diapers are a matter of convenience...not necessity. We train our babies to go in a diaper...and feel okay with that. So pray tell me...what is so weird about just changing the receptacle? Especially when it leads to a much more hygienic outcome. Is it not better to "potty train" instead of "diaper train"? Is it not better to give your child another option besides being comfortable sitting in their own mess?
Now I'm not judging anyone who goes that route, because...and I can't stress this enough...do whats right for you and your baby. If you're a working mom, have other kids or don't have the time to commit...that's ok. I just want you to know...this doesn't have to be hard and EC can fit every family's lifestyle. For us? Part time EC has been awesome, non stressful and incredibly rewarding.
Part time EC means...we aren't obsessed. We don't spend every waking moment trying to catch every dribble. Potty training him isn't our goal, its just a pleasant side effect. When we leave the house? He wears a diaper. When he goes to bed at night? He wears a diaper. In my opinion, some things are more important than going to the potty...like sleep. If anyone thinks I'm going to be up every hour trying to get my baby to go potty in the toilet in-between night feedings.... HA! haha! hahahahahaha In the words of Sweet Brown "Ain't nobody got time for that." I personally don't think he's old enough to comprehend night time potty training. So one thing at a time...and right now I prefer him to just sleep through the night. We'll try the night time EC later and I'll keep you posted on how that goes.
So Breath. Relax... and let go of any expectations. You will have catches. You will have misses. Move on. Its a baby. Sometimes I think Killian is tired, but it turns out he's hungry. Cues are not an exact science. Especially when a baby is in the driver's seat. To be honest, I think the term Elimination Communication has to be some kind of double entendre...b/c the only way I know his cues half the time is by eliminating the others. We aren't perfect and as much as you want to believe it...our babies aren't perfect. Do your best to listen and remember every pee that goes in the potty, is one less pee he has to sit in.
WHEN DO I GET STARTED?
Now!! Traditionally, parents start EC the day their baby is born. Its best if you can start before 6 months. By 6 months they have become accustomed to sitting in their own mess, so it doesn't bother them...so they may not cue. By then they've also learned to ignore their bodily functions for the most part. And lastly, around this time they're likely to be more concerned with moving, crawling, and exploring rather than stopping to pee or poo. So if you can start before 6 months, you're in good shape.
We started at 4 months. If I had to do it all over again with Killian, I'd start right away with poop, b/c the cue is so obvious and little work is necessary on your part. But for pee I would start at 2 months. Why?
- Because 2 months was when he was alert enough to start consistently cueing me he needed to pee.
- 2 months is when it started bothering him if he was sitting in it.
- More importantly before 2 months he peed and pooped waaaay too much for it to be realistic for our family. I'd of spent 75% of my day in the toilet. No thanks.
So for the first 2 months just focus on healing your body, bonding with your baby and getting as much sleep as you can....OR feel free to get started right away.
HOW DO I GET STARTED?
Step 1: Lay down a towel or waterproof mat.
Step 2: Take off the diaper
Step 3: Observe.
If you have the time to let him be completely diaper free for 2 full days, you'll catch on quick. If you don't have that kind of time, then 2-3 hours over the course of a few days should give you a good start. This step is vital. Don't skip it. Just observe and track it. Don't jump the gun without doing this step. Your baby might have several cues. Learn them all...and try not to make him feel like you're stalking his weiner in the meantime. lol
Poo cues are easy. We can all spot them a mile away. They unapologetically grunt and kick their legs, their faces turn red and sometimes they even make an O with their lips. Pee cues are a lot trickier. And what's even harder? Pee cues change. So watch...and listen. If you can have an hour of diaper free time every day, you'll always be aware of his current cues.
For example...when Killian was a newborn, when he was hungry he would cry. By the time he was 2 week old, he would turn his head to the side and do what I called "baby birding". When he was 2 months old, he would put his hand in his mouth. Now? Now he will thrust his tongue back and forth and sometimes grab my shirt and headbutt my boob. The cues change...so keep watching.
It's recommended that during the observation process when you see your baby pee or poo, even if they aren't on the toilet...or if you suspect they are going in their diaper and you missed their cue...that you respond with a "sssss" or whatever word you plan on prompting them with. In a nutshell it's Pavlov's Theory. They associate the "sssss" or "ugh" with going to the bathroom.
*Traditional EC-er's in other countries don't ever put diapers on their babies. I didn't think that was realistic for my life...or sanity.
COMMON TYPES OF CUES
- Fussy (A lot of parents think their kids are colicky or "just being fussy" when it's actually a pee cue)
- Mood Changes
- Being very active and suddenly being still
- Being still and suddenly being very active
- Pee Pee dance
- Latching/Unlatching/Latching/Unlatching while nursing
- Zoning out or going into a trance
- Rubbing face, eyes, nose
The older they get, the more obvious the cues will get. Some babies will head towards the toilet as soon as they can start crawling. Some learn the sign for bathroom and use that.
It's the letter "T" and you shake your hand from side to side a couple times facing away from you.
MY BABY DOESN'T GIVE CUES, WHAT NOW?
Ever seen a dog walk in a circle several times sniffing? Or seen a friend's dog suspiciously smelling the side of your couch? And just had a feeling they were gonna take a giant shit on your carpet? Well they probably were...and you should get better friends lol The point is...everyone cues. Marty does a slow waddle, Shelby runs around the yard barking and high stepping, Willow sniffs the perimeter very slowly...We all have our cues when we need to go potty. Your baby cues. Everyone cues.
There's 4 ways to know if your baby needs to poop or pee.
1. Watch for cues during naked time. (See what he does when he pees.)
2. Natural Timing (Some babies will relieve their bladder routinely after every nap, or every feeding. If you notice there's a pattern...let that be your guide.) - Killian goes 5 minutes after every nap...like clockwork.
3. Generic Timing (Do you take a poo at the same time every day? Well sometimes babies do too. If you find your baby poops every morning at 11AM...then help him to the toilet at 11AM. Some babies pee every 20 minutes..on the dot. Just find his rhythm and present the opportunity.)
4. Intuition (Does the thought come to your mind, "I think he has to pee"? I use to just feel warmth and think he peed on me, but then when I checked his diaper it was clean...and he'd pee on me while I was changing him. lol My intuition had been telling me he needed to go.)
HOW DO I MAKE HIM GO TO THE BATHROOM?
You're asking the wrong question. You should never have to make him go. If you're watching the right cues, learning patterns and following your intuition, he should go because he needs to...without any coaxing. Sometimes making a gentle "sssss" sound, singing a sweet tune, running water or gently blowing air can help relax and remind them why they are sat there, but they aren't necessary. I've found that just holding Killian in the squat position is a cue enough for him. Having a pee prompt can definitely be helpful...especially if you are outside the house or in a unfamiliar place and your baby can't relax. *If your baby ever cries, resists, arch's his back or seems stressed...it's time to put the diaper back on and try again next time. All you should be doing is giving him the option to go in the potty. Just be the arms that lift him to the toilet until he can do it on his own. So if you've done your part all that's left is to...
Step 1: Take off the diaper
Step 2: Hold him in the squat position in your arms.
Step 3: Hover him over the toilet, sink, mini potty, tub...wherever you want. (I wouldn't hover him for more than 2 minutes. If its been more than 2 minutes..it aint happening.)
Step 4: Make your pee/poo cue noise/prompt word. (Try and choose something that isn't a common sound lol)
Step 5: Blow your husband and relative's minds. lol
[HILARIOUS SIDE NOTE: the cue noise backfires...every time I do "ssssss", I find myself having to pee really bad hahaha ]
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO WORK?
The first time I put Killian on the potty, he peed. I was shocked. Honestly, I thought it was a fluke. But alas... 95% of the time I bring him to the toilet, he pees. 100% of the time I take him, he farts. LOL So the answer is, it shouldn't take any time at all. If you're following his cues, he should go right away... b/c he's indicated to you he has to go. However every baby is different and goes at their own pace. He's learning to communicate with you as much as you're learning to understand him.
CAN I TRY A DIFFERENT POSITION?
Sure. There's tons of positions. The squat is just my favorite b/c it works best. The squat position is so effective b/c its the natural position everyone should be pooping in. We are designed to squat. It's basic anatomy. Doctors have recommended for years that humans poop in this position as it's promotes a healthy colon. When you sit upright, you can kink your colon and stop the flow of poop. Sitting upright has been known to cause UTI's, hemorrhoids, constipation and even colon disease. If you're not squatting while you poo...I highly recommend you try it for yourself. I also ask that all of you try not to imagine me squatting on a toilet right now. :/
"I TOOK HIM, HE DID NOTHING AND PEED RIGHT AFTER"
That's ok. There will be misses. Sometimes my son will be preoccupied with my hair, his feet, the dogs barking...and forget he has to pee. The moment I put the diaper on...he remembers lol That's why it's important you hold him snug and make him feel relaxed with little distractions. With children its often, two steps forward, one step back. This is not about training your baby to hold it or release on demand.
WHEN HE GOES...DO I GIVE HIM A HIGH FIVE?
As hard as it is to not jump for joy, shout "Yay!", "good boy" or throw a freaking parade of the century...try not too. This isn't about positive or negative reinforcement. You are merely responding to a cue. You are letting him know that if he tells you...you will take him to the potty. I like to talk to him while he's peeing or pooping. I'll say things like, "Wow Killian, that's awesome that you're peeing in the potty. Thanks for telling me you had to go." I'm not a crazy lady. Obviously he has no clue what I'm saying...but one day he will. He'll know that I'm taking him b/c he asked me. But also...I totally freaked out and took pictures when he pooped, so what do I know. We danced around the bathroom and had a good ole time.
IT WON'T ALWAYS WORK
Right now it does, but they can regress at different points before reaching completion [100% potty trained]. Sometimes they get busy, preoccupied or care more about new milestones their achieving. The older they get and more mobile they get, the excitement of crawling or standing up, can overpower their desire to stop what their doing and go to the bathroom. That's ok. If you get to a point where they're peeing in the diaper, have stopped cuing and or it's become stressful for the both of you... It's recommended that you stop completely for 2 weeks, take a break and start again.
WHAT DID YOU DO, KRISTEN?
After observing, I had no clue what the hell Killian's cues were... besides he peed a lot ...and after every nap. So I started with that. I took him to the potty after every nap...and it worked. Additionally, any time he started grunting or turning red, I took him to the potty and he'd shit. I continued doing an hour of naked time every day. See I'd have the problem where...I would know 2 seconds before he was about to pee, but then it was too late. So I switched to generic timing. He tended to pee every 30 minutes...so I'd take him every 30 minutes. By doing that I caught most of his pees and poops. 2 weeks in I finally started picking up on his cues. I no longer had to rely on the "after nap" or "every 30 minutes" although those are great for busy days. Killian's cues? Suddenly fussing out of nowhere and kicking his legs AND when I'm nursing him he latches and unlatches and latches and unlatches. I think the biggest hurdle right now is trying to "un-diaper train" him and to retrain him to be aware of his pee and poop.
I never imagined how much of a hot topic this would be. On par with breastfeeding, vaccinations, co-sleeping, circumcision, and "cry it out". I'm in the forums...I've seen how ugly these debates can get. So I ask...if it's not for you, then don't do it, but don't tear another mom down for trying it. We're all just treading water...
So dive in...give it a try. <------That's the best advice I can give you. Maybe you get peed on...maybe you get pooped on, but diapers or not let's be honest, it's gonna happen to all of us. Give yourself more credit. Give your baby more credit. And enjoy finding another way to open the lines of communication with your little one. The way I see it, ANY communication about elimination is better than none. In the meantime, I'd like to think Ive started a healthy relationship with the toilet, so when he's ready to potty train, it won't be scary or uncomfortable...and we won't have any if the common problems people have training toddlers.
I'm not a doctor, a psychologist, or the jedi pee master. I'm just a mom. A first time mom at that! I got my Bachelors of Science in Communications...not "baby communication". I'm a newb and I'm learning as I go. I make mistakes, I change my mind and course several times throughout the day. What works for my son one day...doesn't the next. Being a mom is doing what's best for you and your baby...in a moment. What works for me, may not work for you. One size never fits all..and I'm glad for that... or it'd be a very boring world. That being said, I wanted to share my experience with you guys and tell you what I've learned about Elimination Communication...b/c it's awesome!
If you'd like to get a step by step and learn more about Elimination Communication, head over to GODIAPERFREE (my referral link) and have a field day. Andrea Olson has a book that breaks down EC for each age group. She's incredibly thorough and has way more experience than I do. She's a full time, very committed EC parent. I feel like my blog is basically a "cliff note" of the whole process 0-6 months. I'll do an update when we hit the next level. You can also check out Diaperfreebaby.org.