Friday, December 30, 2011

Potty Training Joey

When I was pregnant with Joey the rabit hole of research introduced me to the world of ec (early communication) potty learning.  Briefly, in my own words: We are NOT designed to poo and pee on ourselves.  Other cultures realize this and live in a way that supports early potty training.  Our culture, not so much.  We have incredibly long road trips, long times away from a convenient place to take such a wee person, and an often judgmental uncertainty of the unknown instead of an inspired curiosity. 

Well, for me it was inspired curiosity for a number of reasons:  1) being the captain planet child at heart that I am and was, I didn't want to add more trash to the planet with dirty diapers if I could help it; 2) I didn't want to deal with dirty diapers longer than necessary, especially if there was something I could do about it, and 3) it's a whole lot cheaper, less frustrating, and less time-consuming to have your child potty trained as soon as possible.

First of all, when it comes to just about everything with Joey, the mantra was (and still is) "By the time he's 20."  So everything was approached as a learning experience that if we succeeded, great, and if not, no worries because he'd be on track by 20 lol.  In person you'd often hear me saying things like, "No worries, he'll be walking, talking, reading, potty trained and eating on his own by 20.  He may be in someone else's bed, but he'll be out of my bed and definitely off my breast by 20!" And it is with this approach that we've tackled the last couple years with Joey & now with Kaelie.

I didn't stress myself out!  I read about people who wake in the middle of the night to put their infants on potties.  While this works for them - I need ALL THE SLEEP I CAN GET in the beginning.  For the first 9-12 months Joey slept with me and weaned at night because I was informed by La Leche League that nighttime feeding is actually what babies are designed to do.  While this sacrifice I'm ok with making, attempting to catch pee in a potty that could spill is not my cup of tea. 

First step for us: I bought a little potty and put it on a table next to the rocking chair where I would typically feed Joey.  The logic: after he eats, he needs to excrete ;-)  Also, it's a lot easier for a post c-section momma to handle a moving baby at waist height instead of trying to bend down to the ground. And most importantly, I did this because it was in my face - a visual reminder to keep me on track.  And so, I proceeded to put Joey on as I thought of it and had the energy to do so.  I found it to be a bit frustrating yanking off his diaper and putting it back on, so then I realized that the important thing was to get him used to the act of sitting on the potty, especially while he was going - simple enough: keep the diaper on and change it after he's gone, which, in the beginning, could take some time of waiting.  Also, you have to be sure to give lots of positive rewards in the way of smiles, kisses, cheering, etc.

As Joey got bigger and was able to walk easily (9 mo), I put potties just about in every room .... sometimes more than one per area and let him walk around without a diaper at home.  In order for me to teach Joey to communicate with his body effectively, I had to learn his body habits too and be sure to give positive reinforcement immediately following.  So, he was allowed to watch his learning videos on the potty and play on the potty.  If he had an accident, he was put on the potty immediately so that he could understand that the potty was the appropriate place for this.  The older he got, the more consistent we became with this, and started to incorporate the bathroom toilet into the mix.  Joey wasn't scared of the toilet, and I think this was for two main reasons: 1) he was always around us and well aware of when we were in the bathroom and saw that we flushed the toilets, so the sound didn't startle him, and 2) we kept his flashcards by the toilet, so we played with him while he was on the toilet, as well as while he was in the bath.  As I've read of other parents who teach their children early, Joey too was a HUGE fan of flash cards and always begging for "cards! cards!" and asking for more.  It was always us who had to turn him down to finally leave lol. 

Often I wondered if this would make Joey have problems with going to the bathroom later on in life.  It probably has nothing to do with it because the result was a little boy who was potty trained well before his 2nd birthday.  Granted, his bladder couldn't handle certain things like naps, night time, and car trips, and his mom (yes, me), couldn't handle things like having to take him into a public bathroom, so he wore diapers while out and about, but right around the 24 mo mark he no longer needed them for naps, and shortly thereafter he graduated to not needing them in the car or at night.  Yes, I also graduated and have started taking him to the bathroom while out in public, but JUST IN CASE he still wears diapers at night.  What's interesting is that he knows that he's allowed to go in his diapers, so although he doesn't use it at night, if he's feeling too sluggish to go to the bathroom in the mornings, he'll go in his diaper.  Not a big deal because he takes it off, throws it in the trash, and gets in the shower first thing in the morning with Kaelie and me and we play.

Benefits of early potty training: ~ not having to change his diapers ... sometimes it's like WHOA in there! lol; ~ not having to buy diapers ... those things are expensive, especially with two kids ~ knowing it's better for the planet - yay; ~ i know it makes him feel better ... joey reasons with us, negotiates, etc.  if his hands are dirty, he doesn't like it, how would he like a dirty diaper? 

Neat aspects of teaching Joey early:  Joey understands his body!  If we're in the car, he'll say he needs to go pee, or poop, or both.  I'll tell him how far away from our destination we are and if he can wait ... and he tells me!  Once, the poor little guy held it more than 20 minutes.  I kept asking him if he needed me to stop and he kept telling me he was ok until we got home.  As soon as we got home and rushed him to the bathroom and sure enough he went - a lot! lol but I thinik it's amazing that he has that control at such a young age.  I know there are parents who do it even younger, but until you do it yourself, it seems unbelievable ... but it's real.

Some sites that I'd check out from time to time where the 'early communication' sites on yahoo groups.  They are quite active and although I never contributed, I read enough to have some questions answered before I had them.  Just knowing that there was a support group out there made it nice.

I would recommend it to ALL parents and definitely plan on having Kaelie on the same track.  Consistency and positive reinforcement are key, as with just about everything at this age, including reading, math, manners, etc. 

Feel free to comment about your own experiences or with questions.  I'm sure I'll post more as we move through the experience more with Kaelie.  Speaking of which, now that we finally started her on solids, I definitely think it's time!! Breastmilk diaper is much more tolerable than everything else!!!


  1. Thank you for posting this - I am currently in the process with my six month old. In the beginning I only tried to catch his poops on the potty, now whenever I put him on the potty he usually pees and/or poops, even if it is only a little bit he will alway try and empty his bladder or eliminate. It is amazing how simple it is. I just keep the potty on the changing table. Once he starts walking I plan to purchase more potties to place about the house and let him go diaper free.

    Another side benefit I have noticed of teaching him to be aware of his elimination is that I haven't been peed or pooped on since he was about one month old! I can't tell you how many times I was eliminated on with my oldest. It is nice not being peed on at diaper changes or pooped on in the bathtub.

    Thanks again for sharing.

  2. It's funny you mention that he tries to empty his bladder. I find the same to be true of Joey still. I don't get the impression that he strains to make it happen either, he just is connected with himself in a way that he can control it. I, for one, can't force myself like that (recalling visits to the doctor). It's funny: five years ago I never thought I would find such a topic so intriguing lol i love my kids!

    Liz, I'm curious: how frequently are you putting Damien on the potty and is that the same frequency for changing his diaper? Are you using any cues? I forgot to mention in the post, but with Joey, I started out with the sign and a simple sound that I thought he could communicate, and transitioned it to the trigger word. Sadly, I don't even remember what it is, and I have been so busy with Joey's high energy that I'm just now getting around to dedicating more attention to Kaelie, but I'm glad that I'll be picking it up again soon.

  3. It depends on the day, sometimes we do potty time a lot more than others, but ideally I will put him on the potty after waking up and after nursing, or occasionally when I think he needs to have a bowel movement (sometimes he will actually fuss when he needs to have a bowel movement, sometimes he will go in his diaper a little bit and then stop, and then when I put him on the potty he will finish).

    It is funny because of course I never "taught" him to hold it and wait for the potty (how could I?) but he does a lot of the time. I do really believe it is natural for babies to not want to soil themselves.

    I originally tried to look for cues from him but I am pretty bad at it so I mostly rely on timing, however like I said every once in a while I will know when he needs to go. Also I do use a cueing sound whenever he goes, I make a "pssss" sound or just "poo poo" for a bowel movement. I also use the signs for "toilet" and "poop" with him.