There are two sides to every story and it’s no different with regards to potty training or toilet training in my case. I’m talking about elimination communication (EC) or baby led potty training (BLPT) as some may call it. This is my personal way of doing it, not necessarily by following a particular book or routine but my own natural instincts as a mother.
Nappies were not so readily available many decades ago, and even in many cultures today where potty training is encouraged even before a baby learns to walk and talk, perhaps early potty training was and is more of a necessity for some. Over time with the introduction of disposable nappies and perhaps with working parents not having the time, the average age of children being potty trained has increased over the years.
So will it work for you?
Only you will know. A lot of it all depends on how much time and effort you want to put into it and then knowing how your baby responds to it. All 3 of my children were toilet trained at what is considered to be ‘early’. My no.3 has hardly soiled his nappies since he was born. Of course, it’s only natural that they will wet and soil their nappies from time to time but they will slowly learn. Just as you would sing nursery rhymes over and over again or teach them how to say hello and goodbye by waving your hand, I feel it is a similar process in being consistent with your approach and your babies will slowly learn the signs. Yes, there are arguments that you should wait until your baby is physically and emotionally ready before you start potty training, yes I’ve read the warnings that if you start too early, it may lead to potential problems such as bladder infections, chronic constipation, anxiety over accidents, regression at school but I think if you know your baby and you learn how their ‘cycle’ works, by taking a relaxed approach and with a little patience and perseverance, I think it can work for anyone willing to try.
Why am I doing it?
Not because I necessarily want to save money on nappies (although of course, it all helps) but if I’m honest with you, I just hate wiping a dirty bottom so if I know my baby is about to do a potty, I would much rather that be done in a toilet and I can press a button to flush away rather than me having to wipe a dirty bottom! The thought of my babies sitting in their own mess makes me just as uncomfortable so I can only imagine what they must be feeling. And of course, the added benefits that come with all of this is that you are likely to use less nappies and therefore save money and the environment!
So what did I do?
Most of my friends are often surprised and amazed that my babies knew how to use the toilet at such an early age. They would often ask ‘how do you do it?’ and even some then went on to train their children earlier than when they were expecting to and thanked me for helping them. Referring to my youngest (as it did take a little longer with my firstborn - as you do, I had no idea what I was doing as a mother, let alone how to toilet train a baby), when my little one was around 2 weeks old, after each feed I would sit him up to wind him. One of the ways I was ‘taught’ to burp a baby was to do cycling motions with their legs by having baby facing away from you with their back against your front and holding their legs so they are knees bent, almost in a squatting position. All 3 of my children were not easy burpers! It took forever trying to burp them but I found this to be the most effective method. After each feed, when holding him in a position to burp him, I realised he would end up doing a poo in his nappy (as they so often do!) and so I would be talking to him and saying ‘oh you just did a poo’.
Making ‘hmmm hmmmm’ and ‘shhh shhh’ noises
Introducing sounds along the lines of ‘hmmmm hmmmm’ and ‘shhhh shhhhh’ so that he begins to familiarise the sound with the action of doing a poo or wee respectively, helps. The first week, I would practice this and purposely ‘let’ him poo in his nappies (yes it might sound contradictory given I am potty training my 2 week old but LO seemed far too little to be squatting over a toilet!). Of course, it didn’t always happen and of course, there’s only so much I can control the bowel movement of a 2 week old especially as little newborns poo at least every couple of hours so if it's going to happen, it will. So I added it to our routine of feeding and changing and more often than not, it worked. And so, I continued with this routine after each time I fed him. Then around 3-4 weeks old, it seemed to be consistent and so I would take baby to the toilet to do his no.2s. Firstly by holding him in a position where I would be knelt down by the toilet (not the most desired place to be but as far as being a parent goes, it’s one of the things you become accustomed to - spending a good part of your day in the toilet!) with his body resting against my front and holding his legs so they are bent. Then when he got a bit more stable around the 2-3 months mark, I held him sitting upright on a padded toilet training seat over the toilet. I never liked the idea of those standard potty that you can place in any room. As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, I dislike wiping my own childs bottom so I’m not going to like cleaning a dirty potty any more!
Giving you the ‘look’
As my baby gradually got older, I would watch for his facial expressions and when I see the ‘constipated/cstraining’ look, I would pick him up and run for the toilet, telling him to ‘wait wait’. Sometimes, at the beginning he would have started in his nappy but he would always finish off in the toilet. Eventually, he would find me and give me the ‘look’ or hold his nappy and that was his sign to tell me that he needed to go to the toilet.
Be patient and show praise
So this is how I toilet trained my kids. Some people might think I’m some ‘maniac’ mum forcing their kids to use the toilet. Yes there will be parents who do not agree with this approach and believe a child should learn at his or her own pace and that a child is simply not physically or mentally ready until they are around 3 years old but for me, it was simply adding an extra step to their feeding, burping and changing routine. I didn’t put any pressure on my children nor myself to have them toilet trained by a certain age. If it didn’t work, then fine, we try again but when it did, I got so excited and proud of my little babies that it made me want to continue with it more. It does take an effort, particularly when training for a wee as you would have to remind yourself to take LO every 20-30 minutes but with each try, it seemed my little baby was understanding the concept of going to the toilet. Definitely praise your LO if it is a successful, no matter how young they are, I personally believe babies are aware.
So are they too young to be toilet trained? Toilet training for me, was getting to know my child and listening out for what they needed and eventually, (this worked for all three of my children), they were able to communicate to me through signing or making distinct noises that they needed the toilet. Many people may not agree with my approach but for me, I don't think you can be too young to start toilet training. I came across the following quote and it sums up how I feel about toilet training my children earlier and why not show how much you value your children from an early age:
Baby gains self esteem. When she cries for help to potty and is responded to respectfully, she begins to understand that what she communicates has value and, therefore, she has value. (Mama Natural)