Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Potty Training Gimmicks

On the local news tonight, there was a story about potty training your child in one day. They had my attention. My shortest attempt at this was 4 days. Four bad days, but then they were over.

Before I go on, let me remind you, the reader, that urinating and defecating are normal bodily functions that will happen no matter what you, the parent, do. Your child will learn to use the toilet and will not wear diapers forever.

Potty training is an interesting process. Some children will essentially do it themselves, as my husband seems to think ours did. Most will not. I have potty trained four children and they were all very different experiences and ages:

Child #1: 3 yrs., 3 mos. old
Child #2: 2 yrs., 7 mos. old
Child #3: 2 yrs., 6 mos. old
Child #4: Tried at 2 yrs., 4 mos., but after a month, gave up. Took an entire month to potty train at the age of 3.

Those were intense days with lots of frustration and tears from all parties (except my oblivious husband!), but we got through them. You will too.

Back to the story on the local news: A mom had attended a workshop put on by a woman who started a business to "help" parents potty train their child in just one day. The disclaimer was that it might take a week or more, and there's lots of prep time working up to the ONE BIG DAY. She sells a baby, a baby potty, and a bottle (grrrrr!) to give the baby so that it has to "pee." She charges a whopping $50! What a business woman -- playing on parents' fears and frustrations to make a buck. Think of all the human beings that have survived on the planet without paying $50 to teach their child to do something that they will do naturally. My husband says she is clever and she'll "make out like a bandit." I'm sure he's right.

Dr. William Sears advises letting your child run naked for a few days. He or she will figure out pretty quick where the pee is coming from and will start to recognize how it feels right before it comes out. I always made my kiddos help clean it up, which was a great deterrent from doing it again. Doesn't that sound cheaper?

And what about this "Elimination Communication" -- did I even call it the right thing?! I feel like John Stossel from 20/20: "Give me a break!" Do you want to enjoy your baby's babyhood, or spend it trying to potty train? The idea, apparently, is that if you read your baby's cues, you can put him or her on the toilet before they pee, or poop, in their diaper. Ok. But what if your 6-month-old has to pee and he actually knows it (which he doesn't!)? He can't get up, walk himself to the bathroom, undress, and situate himself so he can pee. Of course, I am exaggerating, but can you see how absurd this is? And what's the point? Do you care about not changing diapers that much to go through this? Do people who do this think their baby is smarter?

I could go on and on about this. It seems to be a new fad. One I think is totally lame. Changing diapers is part of being a parent. Your baby does not need this "pressure," if he's even old enough to understand that he's not doing what you want him to do. How much of a person's day must be spent doing this who buys into this crazy philosophy?

ENJOY YOUR BABY! POTTY TRAIN WHEN YOUR TODDLER IS READY. You cannot potty train a baby. Sorry.


KBH said...

Elimination communication could actually be called 'parent training.' :)

Dana said...

Just as you read your baby's cues of hunger and respond by feeding baby, with Elimination Communication you read your baby's elimination cues and respond by providing a toileting opportunity.

When I held my 4 month old baby over the toilet for the first time, he immediately peed and seemed to make a sigh of relief. From then on, any time I gave him a potty opportunity he would do something about 75% of the time. After he was about 6 months old I rarely had to change a dirty diaper. Babies don't like to sit in their own poop any more than you or I would. And I don't think I'm the only one who would rather hold my baby over the toilet or potty than deal with a giant diaper blow out.

EC doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing thing. Like so many things in parenting, it can be adapted to work in a particular family and situation.

Laureen said...

Hey Donna!

EC totally rocks. I've done it with all three of my kids. Once you know what you're doing (cause natch, there is a learning curve), it is so so so much easier, cheaper, cleaner, and simpler, than conventional diapering.

I know it sounds wacky at first, (so does homebirth, yeah?) but when you realize that people have been handling babies' elimination this way for the entirety of human history, it becomes just another thing you do.

Aurora, who you met at the conference in Dallas, is about 99% successful. She's had precisely 5 poopy diapers in her entire life, and two of those were meconium. She lets me know she has to go (usually by grunting a bit), and I take her to the bathroom, where she does her thing. Cleanup is easy, and she's never had so much as a thought of diaper rash in her life.

When I came to Dallas, I brought six cloth diapers with me, and that's all I had to use. Sure, I had to get up and take her when she needed to go, but I think it's a form of respect, and it keeps babies in touch with their body, so that there's never a "potty training" event... they just get better with time.

Lena said...

I "trained" Sarah and the others did it when they were good and ready and not a moment before. It's like so many things- I've learned it's much easier to just wait until they want to and are ready before trying to make them do it and have it be a struggle with lots of clean-up. I think Joseph is going to do it without me soon, lol.

Summer said...

I used to think that EC was crazy too, but once you try it, it's amazing!

You are right, you can't potty train a baby. EC isn't about potty training. It's about knowing when your baby needs to eliminate and taking them to a potty to do it. Most parents know when their baby is going to poop anyway.

It's not a big deal really. Just like changing a diaper, it's just a different way to care for your baby.

Babies can control their elimination. People have just been told so long that they can't, they just have to see it to believe it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Dana, Summer, and Laureen. I'm just curious as to how much research you've done on Elimination Communication? There are several great books on the subject. The Diaper Free Baby, Diaper Free! I was totally skeptical before I read The Diaper Free Baby. By the time I finished, I was truly inspired. I plan to practice Elimination Communication with all of my children.

I'd much rather spend the time to communicate with my child and hold them over a toilet than scrape poop off their butt for 2-3 years. To me, that's NOT enjoying your baby.

You could actually make the argument that you train your kids to eliminate in their diaper from birth, which is why it may be so hard to potty train your toddler. You've desensitized them so you have to spend a lot of extra time and effort to retrain them. So, to me it just makes sense to do it from the beginning.

April said...

I'm just curious. Those of you who are enjoying the Elimination Communication - how many children do you have? I would be willing to bet that it is 1. :)

Lena said...

Haha April! I know, I can hardly find time to remember to send them to the bathroom, let alone be there to always pay attention to whether they are about to poop or not! Joseph is determined to use the potty now with or without me. That's the way I like it!

Dana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dana said...

I did EC with my second, who is 2 years younger than my first. Expecting my third any day and planning to use it, at least part time, with this baby right from newborn.

Hannah Reasoner said...

EC is a new idea for me....mostly because my area is pregnancy and childbirth and not really parenting. When first hearing the idea, I thought it sounded crazy, but I have done no research on it to support any opinion. I read through all the above comments and can see that this idea looks to be widely accepted among mothers.

I was thinking more about it this morning. I usually revert back to my thoughts on maternal instincts. It has to feel right for you and your baby. I believe a mother "knows" when things aren't working if she is completely in tune with her baby's needs.

I had a friend growing up who was potty trained at nine months. Granted that was back in 1980 and I believe there are many new books on the subject out since then, but she developed serious urinary tract infections due to her early potty training because she knew to hold it and it caused her problems that she still deals with to this day.

Guess I will have to read up on this EC idea so I can get a better idea of the what is all involved with it!

Dana said...

Here is an excellent article written by Dr. Sarah Buckley, and Australian GP/family physician. She practiced EC with her fourth child:

Sarah said...

I see it as an issue of priorities. And frankly, there are a half-dozen other things I think are more important to devote my time to than watching for my baby's potty cues.

When I was prego w/my first, I read a book that did not use EC as a term, but spoke of (as KBH said) parent training in this matter. I decided right then that if it was not something I could see myself doing with two, three, or more children, I would not even start with the one. I have not regretted my decision in the least.

I have a friend who does this, and it does seem to work well. Her baby is able to "tell" her that she needs to go (by signing) and is only about 7 months old. But, it is her first baby. Again though, it's about priorities. My guess is that Mom will find a way to do it w/numbers 2, 3 and beyond if it continues to be important enough to her. It just isn't to me. For some, I think it's the novelty that's motivating.

I've only potty trained 2 so far, but it was not nearly as much of a stress or headache as I was prepared for it to be. Some of it may be because I waited for their self-motivation and initiation. And it didn't become a power struggle. There are just logical consequences to their choices (If you pee in your pants, you are not ready to wear panties. Back in the diaper you go. It doesn't matter to Mommy.) and both girls ended up wanting to do it themselves. Both of them went from total diaper-wearing to total panty-wearing (including nights) in a matter of 2-3 weeks with only a few accidents within that time and rarely thereafter.

Of course, I only have done two so far (and they are girls), but IMO, there really is something to waiting until they are *ready* and *motivated*. (And just to make it clear: I waited a long time for this--especially for girls: I didn't start "training" until after 2 1/2 years.)

One who choses this route needs to be okay with an "old" toddler who isn't "potty training" and take comfort in the fact that your child will most likely FINISH potty training around the same age as those who have taken 6 months or more. (Or a year or more for the EC'ers).
What can I say? I'm lazy.

Donna Ryan said...

I knew this post would get a lot of comments. If truth be told, I wrote it with a few people in mind. In my opinion, they are totally obsessed with potty training their babies and are missing the fun stuff. They are in the bathroom every 30 minutes for 15 minutes every time. If you dangle anyone over a toilet for 15 minutes, pee will come out. Despite some great comments here, I still cannot fathom potty training this way. Maybe I am like Sarah. Lazy. I want my babies to stay babies as long as possible. They will do all that grown-up stuff all their lives.

I like Dr. Sarah Buckley's birth stuff, but haven't read any of her parenting info. I had never heard of any of this Elimination Communication business until about 2 years ago. Just recently I've been hearing a lot more about it. Seems trendy to me.

And I still think there is this idea that your baby is smarter if he crawls early, walks early, even gets teeth early, and in this case, pees in a toilet. Moms get this idea with their first baby -- comparing their babies with other babies. The earlier a baby does something, surely this means that he is smarter, right? There is actually evidence that supports the other end of this spectrum -- the longer a baby waits to do "the milestones," the "smarter" he actually is. Another post for another day...

Donna Ryan said...

I keep sitting here, thinking about why this Elimination Communication bothers me. I think that if you are really reading your baby's cues -- like Summer said, most parents know when their baby is about to poop -- and take them to the toilet, I can respect that. It's the constant taking them to the toilet because you are watching a clock. That is not reading cues from your baby. This is how toddlers are potty trained, and in that sense, babies cannot be potty trained. Does that make sense?

Sarah C said...

I did the EC with my second and thought it sounded weird at first but I liked it. I stopped when she was around a year though. I just held her over the potty when she showed signs of pooping (she would obviously grunt) and I never really took her to the potty to pee. I thought it would be very high pressure on baby which is what I didn't like about it when I first learned about it but it doesn't have to be.
It may be trendy in this country but it is probably practiced all over the world and is very different from potty training. It really is more about parent training, just listening and watching your baby. It is not meant to be taking them to the potty every 30 minutes and keeping them there all the time.
When you do it it makes you think differently about potty training, just like when you have only bottle fed and you have a successful breastfeeding experience you realize kind of what everybody is talking about.
Honestly too- the way most kids are potty trained- even as toddlers, is much higher pressure and more traumatic than what EC is meant to be. We are then breaking the diaper training that we have been doing for 3 years. I have seen mothers switch to EC with later children for this reason, the toddler potty training was so difficult and traumatic and stressful for all involved.

Regina said...

I am totally going to go ahead and show my ignorance here. I have never heard of this before. Is this EC thing just for poopy diapers? I can tell every time my son (17 mos) is about to poop, but I don't have any idea when he is about to pee. In fact, I am pretty sure he is just constantly peeing. :)

But if you still have to change pee pee diapers, you might as well change the poopy ones too, right?

Do EC babies wear diapers? What if you are driving? Or what about when they are sleeping?
So you still buy diapers, you still change diapers, AND you have to hold your baby over a toilet and wipe them when they are done? I guess I just don't really understand it. Sounds interesting, but you could probably lump me in with the lazies. :)

Laureen said...

Hey April...

Three. Not one. Although it was one at a time.

It's how pottying is handled throughout the world, throughout human history. It's totally doable. Women with twins have done it successfully.

Sarah... Doing EC is faster than diapering. Pulling down trainers, holding the baby to pee, then pulling up, is much faster. We actually did trials, with mothers who had conventionally diapered at least one child, and EC'd another. You can find the story at the Yahoogroup for eliminationcommunication.

Donna... every 15-30 minutes is a baby having a food reaction. When my diet is clean, Aurora went every two hours or so as a newborn, and now at 13 months goes every 4-5 hours.

And lazy? Gang... diapering is tough. And expensive. And maddening. And finishes up with potty training. =)

You can find lots of good info at the yahoogroup I mentioned, and also at

Sarah said...

I inadvertently started EC with my first daughter (now 21 months) when she was about 11 months old. She had just started walking and we'd let her go around naked. I saw her squat to poop and picked her up and set her on the toilet. She went and my husband and I were so thrilled we started dancing and cheering. After that she became VERY excited about the pottying and I started learning her cues. I never put any pressure on her because 1) she was young 2) I had another baby on the way and didn't want to train her just to go through a regression once new baby arrived. Anyways, about 2 weeks ago we went full force with "potty training". So far things have gone flawlessly. We've had very few accidents and tons of success. Still, there is no pressure, but I contribute it all to EC. For us, having her start so early gave all of us a chance to learn and have fun as we went.

And one other thing - loads of other countries have their kiddos out of diapers at a super early age - under 2. Maybe Americans have it backwards? We are the first to stop nursing and the last to potty train.

Kristen's Raw said...

Such an interesting topic! Thank you for posting this. I'm TTC currently, but I had many people tell me that I should check out EC. I, like many others, laughed my ass off. Thinking... whatever! Crazy! BUT! More and more people started telling I thought, what the heck? I'll check it out, if only briefly so I know what they're all talking about. I had it on my list of things to research while TTC. When I saw this post, I became more interested in it and just swooped over to Amazon to buy the book recommended. Thanks everyone!


Donna Ryan said...

I must admit, that I, too, am glad I posted this. As you all know, I do not screen my posts. It's a free-for-all here at banned-from-baby-showers!

I have learned a lot about this technique and can see how and why it's done better than before. I think the women I have heard of EC were not doing it the way it is intended.

I am also glad that this stage of my life is over! I won't have to make the decision to try this method or not. I will direct anyone who asks about it, however, to all of these wonderful comments.

Thanks for the dialogue.

Hannah said...

I did VERY VERy part-time Elimination communication. My 6 month old would always wake from a nap with a dry diaper (we'd open it up to change him and he'd be dry), and then about 10 minutes later he'd always be really wet. We started putting him on the potty chair instead. He almost always peed immediately (never on the way to the potty chair or on us). I think he got it.

Violet said...

I love your approach to potty training, hilarious! Just made me feel so much better! Since you have now successfully potty trained 3 kids, any tips on nighttime training, I'm stuck!