Early Start Potty Training

Posted by  | Thursday, August 28, 2008  at 10:23 AM  
Today's post is written by my friend, Anna. She has a very different experience with "potty learning" and started the process around 8 months old! Enjoy reading about her process and seeing the CUTE picture of her adorable little girl, Rachel! Also - in the picture, Rachel is wearing "babylegs" - a wonderful product for all babies, especially those who are potty training. We use our babylegs often when learning to crawl and on chilly days!

I switched my little girl from disposable diapers to cloth diapers when she was around 7 months old. What initially drove me to research the decision was an interest in early potty training, and I had read more than once that children in cloth diapers train an average of 6 months earlier than their paper-and-plastic diapered peers. Just after switching, I bought a Baby Bjorn Little Potty, made especially for the tiny bottoms of young babies. I sat Rachel on the potty two or three times a day in the beginning, and was happy to happen to catch whatever we happened to catch.

We had many successes, and I was amazed when we were catching more and more. Was she getting it?? Encouraged, I sat her on the potty more frequently, and had more successes. I reminded myself along the way that, even if she's not truly understanding, at least I'm saving diapers! By the time she was about 9 months old, I had to change very few poopy diapers, and she used the potty about half-time for peepee. I kept tabs on a "Potty Chart" on my blog, and considered it my science experiment of sorts. I remember having about a 10-week stretch during that time, when I changed ZERO poopy diapers--what bliss! I was anxious for Rachel to start telling me she needed to go. I taught her the sign for potty, and she started calling it "gngn," but she was forever unable to tell me when she needed to go. So we pressed on, and I continued to preempt her as much as I could. The biggest frustration I ran into at her young age is that she went peepee so often--I often logged a total of 10 or 11 separate peepees in one day! I'm still not sure whether most babies do that--maybe we just don't know it because we keep them wrapped up in diapers? Who knows, but I was determined to change her diaper each and every time she wet, even it it was just a little, even if she had gone only 20 minutes earlier. After all, if I ignored it, wouldn't she learn to do the same?

Even before becoming a parent, I cared for children often and in different capacities, and I thought through how I wanted to parent. Of course, some of that has changed with actual experience, but a lot hasn't. I am a very logical person, and somehow, child-led potty training always seemed inconsistent to me. We go to great lengths to teach the baby that the crib is where she sleeps and the high chair is where she eats. We start early saying it's not okay to stick fingers in outlets nor dive down stairs. Why don't we treat pottying like everything else? It made sense to me to start teaching Rachel as soon as she began to understand--that pants are not meant to hold peepee and poopy, but the potty is! The potty is made for that. It's not okay to go in your pants and keep it strapped to you. Ew!

So how long did it take for Rachel to be "potty trained?" FOREVER. In fact, right now, at 2 years and 2 months of age, she is tucked in her bed, sleeping soundly and wearing a diaper. She began wearing [cloth] training pants at 16 months (when the cheap Gerbers finally fit), but we had many frustrating, "accident"-filled days before I was confident to put her in true big girl undies. She's not quite got the motor skills to pull her pants down, sit herself on the potty, wipe, and reclothe, so we still have some time before I can rely on her to potty upon waking as well. I've learned to be patient, though, and I'll wait this one out, happy to be diaperless by day. I've called her "potty trained," always qualifying that with a "and we also use diapers some," for a long time--from the time when it was clear she knew what was going on. She knew the potty, knew what it was for, and used it--sometimes.

Would I recommend this method? Only to the mom with lots of patience. However, I would say we should be encouraged to consider that potty learning does not have to wait, even if the training does. There is no reason we can't talk to our babies about the potty and the bathroom, and the part those particulars play in our day-to-day lives. There is no reason to act like it's protocol to walk around with peepee in your pants, or to hide in a corner, standing, for a bowel movement. With plenty of conversation, children can understand a lot. If a child is expected to use his diaper for the first three years of his life, it is a big deal in his little world to suddenly change the expectation! Starting early certainly makes a long, frustrating, thankless process, but what parenting process isn't long, frustrating, and thankless?

Will I do it the same next time? I want to start even earlier and give EC a try with our next baby (due October 28!), although I am ever-so-skeptical. I do know that I will be much more patient and much less anxious as I step through the world of potty with baby number two, because I know that she will get it eventually. I cannot reverse my thinking, however, and will do what I can to catch what I can in the potty, at least so she knows that's what it's for and that's what we expect--eventually.

Thanks, Anna! The last paragraph mentions, "EC" also known as Elimination Communication. According to Wikipedia, "Elimination communication (EC) is a process by which a caregiver uses timing, signals, cues, and intuition to address an infant's excretive needs, partially or completely avoiding the use of diapers." For more information on EC - check out this link.


Shannon said...

This early potty training is so interesting. I used to work at a church with American-Chinese members. One mom I was really close to began potty-training all THREE of her BOYS when they were BABIES. Seriously, I was there to witness the last boy - he was younger than six months when they started putting him on the potty. She said that babies will start to make certain noises or faces when they are about to potty - and you can learn to recognize them.

Did you know in China babies don't wear diapers at all. They wear split-bottom pants with nothing underneath. Very early on, the moms start squatting, holding their babies over the ground, and making a "ssss" sound with their mouth, and babies start to connect that sound with going to the bathroom!

I LOVE the babylegs... I think I read somewhere that you can make your own pretty easily.

And one more note for those interested in this little potty made especially for small bottoms - I was recently at IKEA and saw some of these for (I think) around $5 or $8. So if you have an IKEA in your area, check it out!

Thanks for such an interesting post!

ChezDeshotels said...

I thought your post was so interesting and I am very familiar with the asian slit bottom pants my daughter (adopted from asia) was about to use those and many other kids at the oprhanage did.

THanks for sharing


Ruth Palmer said...

I am SO thankful for this post!! I completely agree with your thoughts on why in the world we've been taught to let our toddlers decide when they're ready to go on the potty. I am also a HUGE fan of training early, althought the earliest I started was 12 months. Anyways, I wholeheartedly agree that if we start them young, they CAN learn what the potty is all about, and that yes, they are supposed to go on it & not in their pants. Like you said, we have to teach them so many other things at a young age, why would potty training be any different?? And you are right that it definitely takes longer, but it is so worth it to not have to constantly change dirty diapers especially as they get older & stinkier!!!
Thank you again for sharing that it CAN be done YOUNG :)

Katie said...

Thanks for the potty training posts ladies. I read the blog all the time and have passed it on to many others. Just wondering if any of you cloth diapering mamas who are/have potty trained can recommend cloth trainers. You mentioned Gerber, do they really hold anything in, or just for around the house? Thanks!

marymstraits said...

This is quite interesting to me, especially since it seems like you are still potty training and have been for over a year! WOW!!! I truly admire your patience and resolve to stick this out. I do have a couple of questions, but I don't want to come across as rude AT ALL since I am really amazed by your dedication!

(1) It seems to me that potty training is a developmental process. Babies/children all develop at a different pace. My nephew (born the same day as my son) was walking at 13 months. As much as we wanted our son to walk, he just wasn't ready until he was ready at 18 months. My in-law's tried to entice him to walk all the time, but he really got frustrated with that and I think it actually impeded the process. What is your take on that? Do you think introducing something too early will lead to power struggles over the potty? If you saw this happening, would you revamp your potty training philosophy? To me sticking a finger in a socket and potty training are kind of not the same things since one is an issue of safety.

(2) What did you do about traveling, outings, etc.? 10/11 potty experiences a day is a lot of time with the potty. How did you fit other activities in? Did you take the potty with you?

(3) How do you feel about the potty-training-in-one-day method?

Just curious! You're a great woman for taking this on, and I imagine the small victories are what kept you going!


JCandA said...

I enjoy reading this blog! I actually have my own experience to add to this post :)
I have a seven and a half month old daughter that we have cloth diapered since birth and we part-time EC. We don't at night because sleep is very important to our family so that's not worth it to us. I think my husband summed it up well the other day when someone was questioning him on it. He said, we teach babies there are different options for drinking - the breast, bottle, sippy cup - why shouldn't we teach them there are other options for pottying too.
We started around five months because my daughter was having bad constipation issues and our awesome pediatrician suggested we try a little potty and do some reading on ECing. We waited till we saw her grunting and put her on the potty. She gave us a look of relief and we haven't looked back. Not long after that we started putting her on her potty after naptime and whenever we would change her diaper. She goes about 85% of the time. The past two weeks she has actually started waking up from her naps dry, which has been kinda neat.
In our house it isn't about getting her out of diapers sooner, it's about getting her comfortable going somewhere other than in her pants, and making her more aware of her bodily functions. If she is not out of diapers till she is three that's okay because that's not our goal. We don't try to entice her or reward her. We simply ask her if she needs to go, make the sign language sign for potty, put her on it and let her try. We have some toys that sit near her toilet and she enjoys playing with those and we have a song or two we sing. I'll ask her if she's all done and make the sign. If she wants to get up we will, if not we will sit there another minute or two until she's ready. I do tell her good job, but we don't want her to learn our praise is conditional, we want pottying to be a natural thing. I don't find that ECing is a huge time commitment. It really doesn't take much longer than changing a diaper and since I don't have to rinse the poopy out of the diaper it evens out to me :)
There are days where she uses her diaper all day (for everything except her poopy, she now refuses to do that), and that's okay. Being flexible and patient are important to us, and we hope to be modeling those qualities well for her. We also don't call them accidents, we call them misses (generally it happens when I am not paying attention to her cues), it also sounds less tragic to us.
My ultimate belief though is whatever works for your family. This just happens to be what works for us!

AnniePat said...

(This is blog author, Anna).

I love your comment, jcanda! you have a much better philosophy going into it than I did. I was very very optimistic that we could be RID of diapers by 12 months. But, to answer marymstraits, it IS a developmental thing--something that happens naturally! I let myself get frustrated often, and that was never a good thing. Like I said, I am much more prepared for the next baby--to let it happen as it happens, and I hope to tackle EC part time, too.

As far as the time it takes, I agree that it does not take any more time than diapering, especially if you're a mommy committed to changing dipes every time they are soiled; it's just a different thought process.

As for introducing the potty too early, I don't think that's possible. The potty is a normal part of everyday life. It seems like we are encouraged to almost hide the potty from our babies, which is what has always seemed so strange to me.

For traveling and outings, I usually took a potty with us, optimistically, because she did sometimes tell me when she needed to go (or, at least I thought she did), and I couldn't stand the thought of making her go in her pants if she didn't want to. But she wore diapers for outings for a long long time, even after switching to training pants at home. Oh, and on days when her peepees numbered in the double digits, I assure you we only caught half or fewer in the potty!

And finally, training in a day? I have two different friends whose two-year-old girls up and decided they would only use the potty just a couple weeks ago, and they haven't looked back! Amazing! And definitely possible. I don't fault anyone for waiting and doing it the American way, that's for sure. When people asked, I always said, "Ya know, I only have the one kid at home, so why not give it a try?" If nothing else, it promised to be a fun experiment for both of us.

katie, I bought three Bummis all-in-one pull up trainers, but they were much too big for a long time, but great for outings, etc, once they did fit. The Gerbers don't hold much at ALL, but it slowed it down enough to make me happy for home use, and I put Gerber vinyl covers on them for outings (for some reason, she eventually did better not wetting her pants in public than at home, so I didn't worry as much going out). Gerber also makes an inexpensive all-in-one pull up trainer that is decent, but always looked so uncomfortable to me! All the others were so expensive that I was not willing to give them a try. Oh, I also used some old stretched out Kissaluvs without covers in the beginning of training pant season, because I was able to pull them up and down without unsnapping.

Oh, and, jcanda, I can't BELIEVE your pediatrician recommended EC! That is amazing and AWESOME!

Keith said...

We also tried EC-ing with our daughter, and are now doing it with our son. I heard about it when Ana was about a year old, and thought it was worth a try. Within a couple of months, we were pretty much finished with #2's, as it was so easy to notice the grunts that came first. The #1's took a while. We used cloth diapers from the start, and sometimes let her feel a wet one and a dry one, to show the difference. She was completely finished, nights and all, by the time she was 2 and a half. (Of course, there is still an occasional accident because she waits till the last minute- curiously this is always at home.) The biggest boost in her consistency came when I started just leaving her panties off and letting her wear dresses, making it very easy for her to go sit on the potty. Of course there were accidents, but you get used to cleaning them up.

Her main cues for #1's were a shiver and a blank, phased-out stare. For #2's, the grunt.

We did use cloth trainers for a while, but I had to lay an infant-size prefold inside them to keep them from leaking. It was much easier to get them up and down than to take a diaper on and off a gazillion times a day.

With the little boy, now 7.5 months, I'm not as diligent, but try to hold him over a toilet or even a little bowl right after he wakes up and if I have time when changing diapers. Right now we catch about 1 a day. A friend of mine has 6 kids, and at least the last two of them (boys) were having dry NIGHTS with this method, very early on, maybe 8 or 9 months old.

Mainly I like it for the cleanliness and logic (not to train them to go in the diaper and then have to train them to go somewhere else). As somebody else commented, though, there's no one right way to potty-train your child. Do it in whatever way works for your family.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...