By Nancy Da Silva
For most parents, they buckle themselves in for the rough road of potty training their child once they hit toddler age. Most recently however, a growing minority are starting even earlier.
Infant potty training is on the rise, and a main concept involved is a practice called ‘elimination communication’. Elimination communication involves the practice of potty training via not giving your child diapers in case of accidents. It’ll be a messy business, no doubt but could there be benefits to this practice? Will potty training come easier to your child if he’s ‘flying without a net’, as it were?
If a child is unable to even sit up alone, is it possible for them to even be toilet trained until they can? The thing to keep in mind is that elimination is a natural process for every living thing. Using animals as an example, how many dogs do you see walking around with diapers on? Yet they can be trained to not relieve themselves until they are either in a certain assigned place in the house or until they are outside. Once they are trained, accidents, if they do happen, are extremely rare.
Now applying this process to children, it may be a little easier to see how elimination communication can work in infant potty training.
Diapers are a parent’s security blanket. An expensive one, definitely but they protect babies from soiling their clothes. Some parents believe that diapers might actually hamper the toilet training process when parents finally decide to take that next step.
Up until that point, children are taught to simply go in the diaper, take the diaper away suddenly and they’ll simply ‘go’ anywhere, not exercising any control over their bladder because up until that point, they’ve never had to.
So what if you never introduce diapers at all? Besides the benefit to your wallet, will this help your child learn how to control their bladder from day one? A child who has soiled clothes against their skin will certainly not enjoy the feeling so by removing diapers from the equation, will they equate relieving themselves with the discomfort of having wet smelly clothes next to their sensitive skin? Some parents believe that if the child has this experience enough times, the discomfort will trigger a Pavlovian response wherein they will hold in their urine or feces until you set them on the potty. Practice this enough times and they child will quickly pick up that the only place they can relieve themselves comfortably is the potty.
So when we’re talking about infant potty training and elimination communication, how early is ‘early’? Well, for those who are practicing early potty training the general consensus is that anytime between birth and four months of age is ideal. This is the first level of any type of learning babies can retain and the sooner you can work in elimination communication, the more likely the concept will take hold.
If you’re serious about committing to the process you’ll need to be diligent. Things will get messy and you’ll be doing a LOT more laundry than usual for the first few months. While most toddler potty training can take well over a year, some parents have experienced ‘elimination communication’ trained babies to be able to control their bladders well before.
The most vital part of the ‘elimination communication’ method is the ‘communication’ part but how can this work if your baby probably won’t start talking until he’s well over a year old?
The easiest way to communicate with your baby in this process is to learn to read their ‘cues’. When they are relieving themselves do they shift around? Do they cringe? Are there specific facial expressions they make specific to the elimination? Are there certain times you notice that they regularly relieve themselves, like a few minutes after feedings or shortly after waking up? When you can pick up on these cues you should begin to give your child prompts. Pick a word or a sound (like water trickling or the word pee or poo) and every time you anticipate your child is about to relieve themselves, make that sound or say that word. As you become familiar with your baby’s elimination cues, start setting them over the toilet while you hold them and make the sound you have chosen to let them know this is their sign to ‘go’. Soon they will begin to pick up on your cues and every time they heard that sound from you, they’ll know they can go because you will only make that sound or say that word when they are on the toilet. In a few months, they will be able to repeat your cue back to you to let you know they need to go.
Besides the considerable savings on diapers, elimination communication also provides parents with an increased sense of bonding with their baby. You pay even closer attention to them because you’re watching for their cues and you’re sharing in their accomplishments when they are able to control their functions. You learn patience, which will certainly stand you in good stead as your baby grows and gives you more things to worry about than their potty training. Let’s not forget that besides the emotional benefits to you and your baby along with the financial benefits to you, the lack of need for diapers also benefits the environment! Even in the case of cloth diapers, you’re still wasting energy because of you’re having to launder them, even if they’re not filling landfills.
Most importantly, you’re teaching your baby to be self aware and to respect his body from a very early age by showing them how to be in tune with his body’s needs.
For more information on elimination communication, check out: http://www.diaperfreebaby.org/