One thing I wish I’d tried sooner

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Discussions about potty training are nothing new in the world wide web of moms! I can’t even count how many times I’ve been asked about this topic! However, after our sixth child, my advice has probably become quite a bit different than what most moms expect to hear. No worries, though! This isn’t an attempt to rally every young mom on the internet! This is just one mom’s journey!

In spite of our larger-than-average (six kids) family and our homeschooling-not-public-school-at-home lifestyle, this just may have been my most radical move yet. With our sixth child, I decided to practice what–in our modern society–is called ‘elimination communication.’ Here’s the scoop—I “potty trained” our infant (term used loosely). No charts, rewards or pleas to a toddler to change his preferred method of pottying–this is more like conditioning (you remember Pavlov and his dogs, of course). If you are a young mom it’s most likely that you’ve been part of a discussion about potty training…when? how? This is my journey and my effort to share about something that I really wish I’d tried sooner!

Without embarrassing our older children, let me say that they were not the fastest potty trainers–though we did get better with the fourth and fifth. Potty training was not easy for them or me and boy did I have to go through hoops to train them. I had only read a little about EC and it seemed like more than I wanted to do, even when re-thinking it for our fifth child.

Our sixth child came along seven years after the fifth, providing this mom plenty of time to read in between. The internet is filled with information on elimination communication (sometimes called infant potty training or going diaper free). The main idea is that disposables are relatively new and for centuries in various cultures, mothers have been watching signs and allowing their infants to potty in something other than a diaper. This made good sense to me!

We did not have to wander the plains naked to make this work (a real plus for me). Nor did I have to let my baby sit around naked (something that I have never been known to do). I simply watched him and looked for signs of need. It required lots of trips to the bathroom instead of trips to a changing table (but it is not more difficult!). It was just a matter of conditioning him to use the toilet as opposed to the diaper. I was not naive enough to think we would get lucky with every little potty trip–and that’s not really the point anyway. Not how many hits or misses you have, but the conditioning you are doing.

On to my success (or is this Josh’s success?). When Josh was just four months old, I attempted what I had only read about and our first try was a success! Amazing! I was way too excited, I’m sure, and a little too proud. I had been reading all about EC and wanted to try it, but I just hate to fail so I was a bit nervous. Well, Josh finished one of his evening nursings and was a bit fussy and wiggly—pulling away from the breast (some of the signs I read about). So, I took him to the bathroom, sat his tiny little body on the edge of the toilet seat, and sang a made up potty song with a big smile on my face. He thought this was wonderful. He smiled adoringly at me and proceeded to use the potty! I was so excited I called everyone in to see. They could not believe that I did not just tell them. My husband assured me he would have been just as impressed if I had not called him into the bathroom to see. The kids were amused at me–what’s the big deal? I replied without thinking, “You all never used the potty!” Imagine the responses I got to this! I was ready for lots of praise and I really don’t think they were as impressed as they should have been! It began a fun journey.

Over the next few months, we went from dangling Josh over a sink (disinfected afterwards, of course) or potty to using a little tiny potty (baby bjorn). It was small enough to carry in the car if necessary. If we did not have a potty nearby or it was not convenient to bring one, I simply counteracted the infant wobbliness by cradling Josh against my chest and holding him over a sink or potty with his legs in a froggy position. After a few months of EC, Josh rarely or never dirtied his diaper, even with a horrible bout of rotavirus at about ten months. It was truly amazing. He probably had less than four dirty diapers in our first year of EC. He wet in the potty on and off all day and also had some wet diapers. Since little boys who nurse a lot also have a lot of output, it was not uncommon for him to go to the potty every hour or so and still have a slightly wet diaper in between. He did not have one diaper rash. We continued while camping, while visiting, while traveling. It became a part of our lifestyle and we were amazed that it worked so well.

I set up a little area with toys and books and his little potty. We started with a padded one, then moved to a smaller plastic model (the baby bjorn). When I wasn’t sure if I’d read the signs correctly or if I though he might need to sit for a bit, we sang songs, read books or tossed a ball! This made the potty area a fun spot and made his time on the potty absolutely stress free!

When he became mobile, he would often toddle over and sit on the potty (fully dressed) when he had to go. He’d also sit in a little chair and look at me–both ways he ‘sent’ the “I have to go now” message. It worked, but I kept waiting for the time when he’d begin to realize that he had to wait to sit down until we took off his pants. When he was about 16 months he began this wonderful new way of communicating that he needed to use the potty. He pulled his shirt up and started looking around for the potty. He also came over and tapped me to get my attention. I was so excited. You could see that Josh was just as excited with his successes!

At twenty months he was such a little pro. It was truly amazing. I still had him in cloth diapers; they looked like training pants with snaps on the side and I could control the inserts to control thickness. When he had to go potty, he just looked at one of us and pulled up his shirt with a cute little expression on his face or ran to the potty. If we asked him, “Do you need to use the potty?” He nodded his head “Yes!” This family was definitely sold on EC!

Category: Reminiscings
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