Can You Really Potty Train an Infant?

When I was a younger mom, I was at the birthday party of my friend’s daughter, and some crazy dad took his newborn baby into bathroom and held her over the toilet where the baby supposedly either peed or pooped or both. I remember thinking that the whole thing was ridiculous.

“He’s not potty training that baby,” we whispered to each other, “he’s just making himself a slave. Babies can’t control that.”

Diaper Free at Three Months?

But then, after having already gone through diapers and potty training with five kids, while I was pregnant with my sixth, I met someone who changed my thinking. I was at the park with a group of moms, and my friend Tanya was trying out one of her new slings on another mom’s baby. The baby began to squirm, and Tanya said, “Your baby has to pee.”

The mom chuckled and replied, “Oh no, she’s not potty trained.”

“Yes, but if you take her now, she will pee on the potty.”

The mom dismissed Tanya, but I was intrigued, and I asked Tanya how she knew that and what made her so sure. She told me that it’s called Elimination Communication and that she had learned how to read the signals of her babies and take them to a potty when they needed to go. She said her youngest daughter had been in underwear since she was three months old! (She had to special order those because they don’t sell such little panties in regular stores in the U.S.)

Frankly, the whole idea of this is totally foreign (and absurd) to most Americans. But that day in the park, I was intrigued. I think I was most captivated by Tanya’s comments about women in other countries who wear their babies for most of the day.

It’s Normal in Other Countries

These women, she told us, are very tuned in to their babies. Babies in many African, South American and Asian countries don’t wear diapers at all, and it’s shameful, she told us, if a mother allows her baby to pee or poop on her. So they learn to understand their baby’s cues, and when the baby needs to go, they unwrap and hold the infant in position to allow her to eliminate on the ground.

For some reason, that made perfect sense to me, and if those moms can do it, I thought, maybe I could too. I still had some time left in my pregnancy, and I used that time to read all about it. One of the best resources I found was Andrea Olsen of Go Diaper Free (formerly of EC Simplified). She’s going to be a guest on our radio show, Parenting on Purpose, this Saturday at 10AM (EDT). If you’re local to Sarasota, tune in live to 1220AM or 106.9FM or 98.9FM. If you’re not local, just go to the WSRQ website and listen live streaming or download the mobile app and listen on the go (they use Tune In Radio for that).

But Aren’t You a Slave to Your Baby?

As I was researching this whole thing, I contacted a friend who I thought could help. She’s a super cool, crunchy mom who raises her own chickens and distills her family’s water and cloth diapers her babies — I thought she’d be in on all this EC stuff and have some advice for me. But I was wrong.

She said that EC is not infant potty training, it’s parent training, and she had no interest in being a slave to her baby, and besides, she loved her cloth diapers.

Well, she was right. EC is not about potty training your baby. I like the name Elimination Communication because it’s really about communicating with your baby. And my friend was also right that it is parent training. It’s training parents to understand just another of their baby’s needs. We are familiar with the hunger cry, and we can usually interpret the sleepy cry — the poop cry isn’t much harder to spot, once you know what to listen for.

But she was wrong about being a slave to your baby, and she wouldn’t have had to give up her cloth diapers. When my sixth baby was born we used cloth, but at every diaper change, I held him over a little potty chair before putting on the new diaper, and I learned to listen for his cues. The poop cry is pretty easy to spot, and he pooped on the potty almost exclusively for the first year of his life. It was AWESOME to not have to clean up poopy explosions!

By the time he was walking, he lost interest in the whole potty thing, and that was okay with me because it was never really about potty training, it was more about communicating.

Newborns Don’t Like to Poop on Themselves

I did learn something interesting — in the first three months, it was obvious to me that my baby did not want to poop in his diaper, and I was blown away at how long he could hold it. He would cry the “poop cry” and sometimes, I just couldn’t get him to a bathroom for a while. He was wearing a cloth diaper, so I figured we’d be covered if he didn’t make it to the toilet. That baby would arch his back, and his little face turned bright red, and it was obvious that he was uncomfortable. As soon as I’d get him to a toilet, he’d breathe an obvious sigh of relief, relax and let it go! There was no mistaking it — this newborn baby had been holding it in.

When it was time to really potty train the baby, I turned to Oh Crap! Potty Training. I’ll tell you more about that later in the week, and you’ll hear from the book’s author on Saturday’s radio show after we talk about EC. Don’t forget to tune in.

potty

And by the way…today’s featured blog picture was actually my little guy! Can’t wait to do it again with our next baby. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts — the good, the bad and the freaked out!

 

 

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

3 thoughts on “Can You Really Potty Train an Infant?

  1. So glad to see ec getting some press. I first heard about it when my third was born nine months ago and thought it was crazy. Then at six months we tried it and it is amazing. She will hold it and wait till I get her to the potty. Not cleaning poopy cloth diapers is great too!

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