Potty learned

As I mentioned in my “Deceived by EC” post, we’ve made lots of progress with the potty since the 16-month update.  I’m sure I’ve already forgotten some of the details, but better late than never!

Months 17-21
Sir’s ability to climb onto the potty by himself, which developed right around the 16-month mark, did indeed prove to be a big step in his potty-learning journey.

To diaper or not to diaper:

  • No diapers (i.e., bare bottom) around the house when awake
  • Thin cloth diaper under his bottom in the booster chair for eating
  • Diapers when out and about, with potty along also
  • Diapers for nap time (pinned prefolds with Thirsties covers)
  • Diapers for overnight (pocket diaper, once we discovered that their “feel-dry” material helped him sleep longer)

Despite our consistent use of the ASL sign for toilet, he never picked communicated potty needs in that way.  That, along with his continued [slight] speech delay meant he did not have a great way to let us know when he needed to use the toilet.

He rather quickly reached a point where almost all of his at-home, pants- and diaper-free-time pees happened in the potty.  Having the time to be home with him and offer all of the bare-bottom time definitely helped.

There were a few challenges.  He had a hard time staying dry while eating, perhaps because he didn’t have free access to the potty.

Bowel movement timing was often such that he would use his diaper right before waking up in the morning and/or right before waking up from his nap in the afternoon.  In addition to the frustration of this happening in the diaper rather than in the toilet, the timing often led to shortened sleep.

Month 22
By this point, Sir was staying dry at most meals, in addition to his regular success when around the house.  So I started getting brave . . . .

To diaper or not to diaper:

  • Same as above, but halfway through the month, we started to go out wearing underwear (not training pants) instead of diapers

I figured that at some point in all potty-training processes, you call it good enough and just start venturing out in underwear and pants, bringing along a spare in case of an accident.  This went well overall, with very few wet “unders.”

Also around this time, bowel movement timing shifted just enough to give Sir time to wake up and get to the potty, which meant almost zero poopy diapers — awesome, though we still had to clean his little potty.

Month 23
I decided it was time for Sir to verbalize his need to use the potty.  Since his vocabulary was still limited to one-syllable sounds, mostly a few consanants followed by a short “a” (e.g., Mama, Dada, Papa, Baba), we didn’t have much to work with.

Though a “p” sound for “pee” and “poop” would have been intuitive, it was already taken (Papa).  Instead I picked “t” (for “toilet” and “tinkle”), and emphasized that he was going “ttt, ttt” every time he climbed on the potty.

In less than a week, Sir added “ttt, ttt” to his repertoire, and he finally had a way to let us know that he needed to go.

He learned this just in time to take advantage of it on the road trip to Florida, quickly realizing that uttering “ttt, ttt” was a way to make the car stop.  Eventually, in the interest of ever getting to Florida, Matthew had to hold his hand and encourage him to “use his diaper” when in the car seat.

To diaper or not to diaper:

  • No diapers when awake, either at home, others’ homes, and in public
  • Diapers for nap time (pinned prefolds with Thirsties covers)
  • Diapers for overnight (pocket diaper, once we discovered that their “feel-dry” material helped him sleep longer)
  • Diaper in the car for road trips

Despite our using simple, not-to-tight, elastic-waist underwear and pants, Sir cannot pull his pants down on his own, so he still very much needs our assistance in the potty process.  For this reason (as well as habit), we continue to do mostly bare-bottom at home.


Month 24 — Present
More of the same, with the added twist of Sir starting part-time daycare.  I feared that he would regress in the using-the-toilet department when in a new setting, with a new caregiver, and other kids around.  Not so.

I informed Mrs. L about the meaning of “ttt, ttt,” and my little dude handled the transition like a champ.  In two-and-a-half months there, he’s wet his pants only twice, and neither time was in the first few weeks.

In July, we took another long road trip, employing the same method of encouraging him to use his diaper in the car, though of course we offered the potty when we did stop (and we were stopping at least every two hours due to Matthew’s blood clot).

Naps and Nighttime Sleep
I really didn’t/don’t have a plan for this.  For me, Gabriel sleeping well is MUCH more important than him staying dry during those times.  Plus, I really have no idea how you teach a child not to pee while sleeping.

However, several weeks ago, he started waking up from some naps with a dry diaper.  At this point, we’re close to 100% dry at nap time.

Two or three weeks ago, he woke up dry in the morning.  Since then, I’d say we’re over 50% for dry nights.  I find this particularly amazing since he sleeps for ten to eleven hours at night.

We’re still using diapers for both naps and overnights, and I’m not sure when I’ll feel comfortable giving it up, especially at night.  I really dislike the idea of a middle-of-the-night bed sheet change.

At both sleep times, offering the potty immediately before putting on the diaper seems to increase likelihood of waking dry.

We are exclusively a Baby Bjorn potty family.  We received the Little Potty (now with a slightly different design and called the Smart Potty) as a gift (one of the few items on our very, very small baby registry), and I purchased their potty chair and toilet trainer insert from Craigslist.

Due to the low profile, Gabriel could easily climb onto (think, walking over it from the back and sitting down) the Little Potty by himself, long before he was able to stand in front of either potty and sit down on it from that position.

He doesn’t seem particularly interested in the toilet insert, and, since he can’t climb onto the big toilet unassisted yet anyway, I am perfectly happy with him continuing to use the small potties (though I won’t miss emptying the poops).


Psst, psst: Deceived by EC

I last wrote about our “Elimination Communication journey” in November 2012.  We’ve made huge progress in the nine intervening months, which I want to share, but I also became thoroughly disillusioned by the promises made in the Elimination Communication (EC) literature, which feature anecdotes from the very rare (at least in the United States) families that achieve freedom from diapers before or very shortly after the one-year-of-age mark.

The EC literature creates unrealistic expectations, especially in the cultural context of the United States, where EC practice is very rare, and where many infants spend time in daycare facilities where pee and poop free-for-alls from undiapered bottoms would create serious sanitation and health problems, and where caregivers do not possibly have the time to put each and every baby on the potty every time the infant might be showing some need.

After thirteen months of largely wasted time and effort, followed by five months of one step forward, two steps back, I was coming to this realization for myself this past February, when I read the chapter on “natural parenting” in Jessica Valenti’s Why Have Kids?

She raised good questions and provided this thought-provoking critique of EC:

. . . EC also represents the white middle-class phenomenon of fetishizing a largely imaginary “third world” motherhood that’s supposedly more pure and natural than Western parenting practices.  A common refrain from EC advocates, for example, is that mothers in India or Africa don’t use or need diapers.  Never mind that there isn’t a monolithic “Indian” or “African” parenting experience (or that Africa isn’t a country), or that the mothers they’re referring to could be very happy to have diapers, were they available.  It’s easy to appropriate a condescending fixation on “underdeveloped” motherhood when you have the financial means and leisure time to pick whatever kind of parenting works for you at the moment.  This clueless racism is captured perfectly on Krista Cornish Scott’s website, where she assures readers that “EC is not just for African bush-women” (p. 20-21).

I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time as I read that chapter.  If I had actually owned any EC books (I checked them out from the library, of course), I might have planned a book burning.

Unfortunately, my epiphany came too late, long after I’d been sucked into the myth of a diaper-free baby.

Looking back on my EC experience
Feeling frustrated (with yourself and your baby) and discouraged with every wet diaper, like you must be doing something wrong, is not a healthy or fulfilling introduction to motherhood.

Between the normal first-year-with-a-baby, sleep deprived, what-the-hell-am-I-doing haze, plus my postpartum depression haze, I failed to recognize this for many, many months.  Many months when I could, and should, have been enjoying a cute little [cloth] diapered baby butt.  Though I don’t dwell on it, I resent the extra strain and stress I put  on myself (and Matthew), as well as the normal, cuddling with a tiny baby time that I lost to potty efforts and naked-baby-on-the-floor time.

If I had a do-over . . .
I would not even attempt to take my baby anywhere near a potty until at least six months.  Even that is probably crazy early.

For Sir, things really clicked shortly after he began walking and was able to get on and off the [little] potty by himself.  This age will differ for every infant, of course, but in Sir’s case, the walking happened at about 12 1/2 months, with the independent on and off the potty about a month later (this is not to say that he was “diaper-free” at this point).

While there’s no way to know for sure, I have a strong suspicion that the “potty work” and any small progress we made during the first thirteen months of Sir’s life could have been condensed into a single month when he was thirteen- or fourteen-months-old.

One month of effort vs. thirteen months of effort — which would you choose?

I’ve concluded (though again, every child is unique) that there is probably middle ground between the very early potty learning espoused by EC advocates and the much-later, don’t even think about it until the child is at least two-years-old position held by most Western child-rearing “experts.”

I’ll share more about that in an upcoming post on our experience with potty learning from months fourteen through twenty-four, by which point we were diaper-free except for naps and overnights.