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When I was pregnant with our first baby and stressing TF out about its negative environmental impact, I announced to everyone we’d be using cloth diapers as one way to offset said impact. My girl Sarah sent me a laundry basket full of cloth diapers she used on her babes (that she had also received secondhand from a friend – score!) but cloth diapering is another post in itself. We’re here to talk about the latrine.
My girl Rio sent me an article written by Mayim Bialik entitled “No diapers, no potty training, no kidding: the practice of ‘elimination communication‘” and suggested I give *no* diapers a try instead of, or in addition to, cloth diapers. I read it and was like “WTAF that sounds amazing”.
My sister Katie sent ‘The Diaper Free Baby: The Natural Toilet Training Alternative’ by Christine Gross-Loh (affiliate link) to my Kindle and before baby was born I spent one of our many road trips between North Dakota and Oklahoma reading it out loud to Greg who was like “WTAF you sound like a lunatic”. Almost three years and a second baby later and I quote:
“You hit it out of the park with early potty training.” – Greg Warcken
Neither of our daughters were completely diaper-free, we just started them on the potty much, much sooner than is generally accepted by the American public as “normal”. Not the earliest I’ve ever heard of, but definitely earlier than anyone I personally know. The idea behind this is known by a few names – elimination communication (EC), natural infant hygiene, or infant potty training. But I think of what we do as more potty ‘associating’ than potty ‘training’.
Our first daughter, M, was sitting on the potty consistently at eight months, and in undies full time by 18 months. Now, almost three, she just takes herself to the bathroom and does her thing, *almost* always announcing when she needs to, or when she has pooped so we have a chance to wipe her before she pulls her pants up or leaves them down and sits on, say, the couch or our pillows.
We started sitting our second daughter, Baby J, on the potty before six months and may I point out it was Greg who first got her to pee, then first got her to poop on the potty, that old naysayer. Now at seven months she pees and poops on the potty multiple times a day, and rarely poops in her diaper anymore. She obviously knows what she’s doing as she has started letting us know she needs to go by getting all fuss fuss when she isn’t tired or hungry. Put her on the potty and she poops. “Out of diapers by one!” we like to shout.
Now… I can’t tell you what will work for your precious babes, but I feel it’s my civic duty to tell you what worked for ours. So have a seat (on the potty) and listen up!
If you want to skip all the mumbo jumbo, just follow these four basic steps:
Step 1: Starting today, or at birth (whichever comes first) make a sound when you catch your baby peeing or pooping. We chose the very basic ‘pssss’ for peeing and ‘pffffttttt’ for pooping.
Step 2: Buy a potty chair. Better yet, get a used one from your friends, or from a thrift or kid consignment store (this is why humans invented bleach wipes). We got the Babyloo Bambino 3-in-1 new, but super cheap from an Amazon return warehouse.
Step 3: Sit your baby on the aforementioned potty chair and make the pee and poop sounds. If/when they pee or poop on the potty (or anywhere else) make the noise until they stop, then cheer and tell them how awesome they are!! Or don’t. Personally we don’t believe in *not* congratulating our children when they are obviously such good girls and deserve the praise. You do you.
Step 4: Rinse (the potty) and repeat.
The mumbo jumbo
We are not experts, or even highly motivated or energetic. But I believed strongly in the obvious environmental, financial, physical, and mental benefits of getting our kids out of diapers as quickly and, most importantly, as painlessly as possible. Personally I cannot imagine peeing and pooping myself and waiting for someone to clean me up, so I wanted to limit that as much as possible with our little ones. Plus I’m an ICU nurse, elbow deep in liquid poo nearly every shift of the week so… I wanted to leave work at work. I think Americans don’t give tiny humans the credit (and dare I say respect?) they deserve. I mean, we expect kittens and even rabbits to use litter boxes, and puppies to go on a pad or outside, but the smartest brains on Earth need two or three years to figure out how to sit on a toilet? Lame.
When Baby M was born we started our sound cues just as soon as we were able to get our heads and hearts out of the clouds and focus on real life again. Anytime she peed on us during a diaper change, or in the bath, or we heard her obviously pooping, we made the sounds and later the American Sign Language (ASL) sign for poop to associate with the act. Like I said, potty ‘associating’. Like Pavlov’s dog. ‘When you do this, you hear this sound’ became ‘when you sit here and hear this sound, you do this’. This is super simple stuff.
Naturally it’s a lot harder to catch pees as it’s not obvious when a baby-babe is peeing in their diaper, but there is such a thing as a “phantom pee” where you feel your baby heat up like they’ve just peed only to find they haven’t, but are getting ready to. I relied on that one a lot in the early weeks. We weren’t sitting M on the potty as a newborn, but sometimes I would hold a small bowl under her butt or just tuck some burp cloths around her while I was nursing so I could witness pees or poops and make the sounds.
Having a toddler around now, we are definitely not giving Baby J the same undivided urinary attention, but at seven months we are actively trying to catch every poop. Because poops are super easy to catch, as anyone on the planet who has spent any time at all with any un-potty trained child knows exactly when that child is pooping in their pants. They grunt, they strain, they fart, they hide, or they sit and stare straight into your soul and you know. As we did with M, any time we notice Baby J pooping we never let her finish in her pants. Just the other day I had poop all over her, her clothes, the potty seat, and the floor, but I didn’t care. It’s super important to let our babes know we will do our part to ensure they don’t have to use their pantalones as a toilet, and the more frequently we can get them to go on the potty, the less frequently they’ll go in their pants. They basically potty train themselves.
M never had to wear a swim diaper (unless some public pool required them based solely on her age, the jerk offs), she never hid or pooped in her toys, she never took her diaper off and smeared poop on the wall (true stories from friends), and the only time she refused to sit on the potty was when she didn’t need to go. Baby J is on track to get there even sooner and painlesslier (of course that’s a word) than M. We aren’t perfect and neither is our potty training, but it is absolutely effective. Try it for yourself!
Winning Warcken Strategies for getting your kids out of diapers and onto the potty!
Make sitting on the potty part of the routine. Don’t wait until they’re old enough to have a say in the matter, and don’t make it abnormal. We started sitting M on the potty right after she started crawling and Baby J after she could hold her head up.
Try sitting on the potty at all the obvious times: after they wake up, before bed, before or after bath, between diaper changes, and/or especially when you catch them in the act.
Look for patterns. Baby J likes to poop during or just after her first bottle of the day. We watch/listen for the signs (she’ll start tooting or throw her bottle to the side) while she’s eating, or sit her on the potty as soon as she’s finished. Just catching that one poop is huge (sometimes literally). If you’re using disposable diapers that’s one less you have to use every day. 365 less every year. Not to mention, getting your babe to poop on the potty around the same time every day creates the habit of pooping on the potty, and habits are much stronger and much more reliable than us.
Give your babes a break from diapers, even if they aren’t sitting them on the potty. Naked time on a towel or blanket is a great time to catch pees (and sometimes poops!) and make the sound cues. I didn’t realize until I looked back at old pictures how much we let M run around naked after she started walking. Like, all day every day. These days when we’re at home she’s almost always running around in just her undies.
Make sitting on the potty convenient. Convenient times, convenient locations, convenient clothes… Put the potty chair in the kitchen, or in the living room, or next to their toys. Dress your kid in as little clothing as weather appropriate- in a shirt only, or a shirt and *your* socks if it’s cold, since paying for leg warmers is out of the question. Speaking from experience, I’m less likely to try sitting my kid on the potty multiple times a day if I have to completely undress them every time. But if they’re already half naked, that’s easy! That said, we stopped dressing M in onesies when she was about one. Eventually you have to make it convenient for them to take their own clothes off too. Looking at you, footed pajamas.
Get some tiny undies! Initially we used bloomers from M’s hand-me-downs because they were all that fit her. I couldn’t even find undies smaller than 2T at Walmart or Target. What a racket. If you don’t have any outfits that came with bloomers, check your local children’s consignment shop – I always see baskets of them. Eventually I bought M new grundies, some with Moana and some with zebras so we could use them as ammunition. “You wouldn’t want to pee on Maui or those cute little zebras, would you?”
Cut yourself some slack! We consider it a win every time we sit Baby J on the potty, whether she goes or not. Practice makes perfect! Try, try again.
Make sitting on the potty a good time! I made up songs to sing while they sit. Classics like “Can You Poop Poop Poop (or Pee Pee Pee) on the Potty?” and “Did You Poop Poop Poop (Poopy Doop)?”, and everyone’s favorite “Get Out of There, Poop!”
Give them something to play with/distract them while sitting there so they don’t try to get up right away. I leave Baby J, with supervision, as long as she’s content and her little feetsies aren’t turning purple.
Give up when they start crying. Sitting on the potty is not a punishment.
Try to get them to go any number of places – in the tub, over the sink, during a diaper change, or my personal favorite – while holding them over a hole in the ground. Associate the sound with the action and teach them they can go anywhere and (hopefully) you’ll never have that kid that flips out when they like, have to go in a porta-potty at the campground or something. Note: I would never put my child on a porta-potty because the thought of dropping a kid in one keeps me awake at night. Along with a multitude of other completely rational fears regarding their wellbeing. Greg made up a song for me too: “1000 Ways to Diiiiie”
Try different approaches. Sometimes we do potty chair, sometimes we do the potty seat on the big toilet, sometimes we just hold them on the big toilet without the potty seat. M went through a phase where she refused to go on her potty chair and would climb up on the big toilet and balance on the seat, all by herself (the babysitter was amazed when she discovered her sitting there like such a big girl). Then she started insisting we hold her the whole time she sat on the big toilet. I bribed her out of that one because convenience. It’s not convenient to drop what I’m doing and run to help a kid up onto the big toilet and hold them. A few handfuls of m&ms and she was back to going on her potty chair without any help.
Like all things related to tiny humans, don’t expect perfection! If you think Greg and I just sit around staring at our kids all day, waiting for them to need the bathroom, you’ve obviously never met us – we are farrrrr too A.D.D. for that. Now… where was I? While Baby J is already pooping on the potty more than she poops in her pants, we still miss most pees. And M peed her pants like five days ago. Hell, I peed mine like five months ago! Shut up, I was on a trampoline.
Getting our kids out of diapers quickly is definitely one of our biggest parenting wins. It’s been a year and a half since she went into undies, but I’m still so proud of M every time she takes herself to the bathroom, every time she pees on a tree at the park, every time she gets out of the hot tub to pee in the yard. Not to mention it was sooooo great having her out of diapers before Baby J came along. I tell everyone who’ll listen (like you fine people) that we’ve started sitting our infant on the potty already, and would love to see it become the norm for everyone’s sake – kids, parents, and our amazing planet. Don’t wait until your child is old enough to tell you no. Do your part and give them the opportunities and the credit they deserve. Your future self and your present children will thank you for it.