Early Potty Training

Infant potty training, potty whispering, elimination communication – call it what you will.  There are many names for this practice which seems to be a growing trend… and yet… this is the way things were done before the convenience of disposable diapers. 

I cloth diapered my first baby on and off, and have done so exclusively with my second since he was a few months old, so I’m familiar with many of the more natural methods surrounding all things potty-related.  I became especially interested in elimination communication (EC) when I discovered that one of my cousins was practicing this with her baby.  When they came to visit, her baby was maybe six or seven months old, and her diaper was already staying dry for a large portion of the day.  Of course, this sounded wonderful to me!  Using cloth diapers provides an extra parental incentive for wanting to catch those nasty diapers before they occur.  But wait till you read about the many other benefits of EC.

I decided to start Josiah on the potty around the same time I started him on cloth diapers, and it just so happened to be when it started getting warmer so I was able to keep him diaper-free at times.  I didn’t stress myself out with rigid schedules, just put him on the potty at specific times – before and after nursing or meals, before and after nap- and bedtimes, before going out and upon returning home.  He never really gave me any specific signals that he was going potty or about to go potty in his diaper, so that provided an extra challenge.  If Gwen or I used the potty, I would put him on as well.  In fact, it was the start of Josiah’s potty-training that motivated Gwendolyn to get out of her diapers once and for all.  If Josiah could use the potty, so could she!  A definite win-win in my book.

In the beginning, I employed a cueing sound when putting Josiah on the potty, which not only provides a verbal correlation to what he was doing or was supposed to be doing on the potty, but also makes it more fun when they get older.  Potty songs are da bomb for an older baby as well.  High praise was given when successful – much clapping and rejoicing (and perhaps some dancing) ensued.  These all help to affirm the correct responses.  I practice simple baby signing with both kiddos, and now that Josiah’s spoken vocabulary is expanding, we now communicate in this way rather than cueing (although we often revert to it for the sole purpose of silliness – c’mon, just try not to smile when making pooping noises).

I wish I had started earlier with EC, and if we have another I will attempt to start from birth.  The idea of going diaper-free is exciting – imagine not having to buy all those diapering supplies and do all that laundry??  Recently Josiah got a yeast infection, and one of the ways of treating it was just letting him air out, go without a diaper for as much as possible.  It got me thinking – why not let him stay that way all the time, at least while we’re at home?  Once again, this has been more easily accomplished since the weather has gotten nicer, especially when the kiddos are outside a lot. 

I was putting pants on him without a diaper, and was thrilled to realize all of his poops were going into the potty!  I decided to look for some baby undies online, since it’s hard to find small sizes in stores, and found a comprehensive listing of websites that offer undies and training pants specifically for EC- families – but man, are they expensive!  I finally went to Diaper Swappers, one of my old standbys, and found a listing for a whole bunch of 18-month undies.  I got so excited over tiny toddler undies!  Now, during the day I keep Josiah in his big-boy undies, and use his cloth diapers for going out and bedtime.  The next step will be trying to forego diapers at naptime – wish me luck! 

Just like walking, talking, and other things your baby learns over time, it takes patience, guidance, and consistency.  And don’t get discouraged when you’re not “successful” overnight!  This is one of the biggest things I see when people attempt sign language with their babies – they may keep at it for a couple weeks, but then they give up because they’re not getting a response.  Even if you don’t get an immediate reaction, it doesn’t mean you’re not making progress!  Those little brains are making connections.  Do you stop speaking to your baby because he or she can’t speak by 3 months?  Of course not – you realize that some things take time to develop, and your baby often understands a lot more before he or she can effectively communicate.   

There isn’t any one way to practice EC and you see variety all across the board – from those whose babies are completely diaper-free to those part-timers who perhaps utilize disposables but put their babies on the potty.  Though it may be best to start from birth and employ specific methods, it’s never too late to start!  Here are some excellent tips for those starting with an older baby.

EDIT: I found a copy of Diaper Free Baby at a consignment shop and snatched it up.  It makes for an excellent, informative read.  It also lists some great resources for finding cloth diapers, small trainers, potties, and other EC gear.  Many cloth diapering and online retailers of baby items have jumped on the CD and EC bandwagon, so some of these items aren’t hard to come by if you go looking around.  Here are some they cite, in addition to others that I’ve come across and those listed in my cloth diapering post:
The EC Store
Gap – small undies
Hanes – toddler undies