BABY LED POTTY AND TOILET TRAINING
elimination communication/ natural infant hygiene
save money on nappies- spend many pennies in cafes so as to use their toilets
as featured by the Mush app and MumForce, and mentioned on Gateshead Mumbler
Like many aspects of childcare and life in general, ideas about potty training have varied around the world and through history (Amber Hatch). In the UK we are usually told to wait until a child is 2, but I was lucky enough to find out it can be done earlier. You can find infographics on the benefits of enabling babies to use the toilet here and here, and a blog addressing concerns here.
At first, my postpartum body and brain were too beaten up to consider more work. However, one nappy change, when baby was 9 weeks old, I had a sudden burst of confidence. This was coupled with a desire to protect the precious carpet we naively bought when I was pregnant. The plan was to hold baby over a bucket at nappy changes to prevent sprinkledge. After about three days it became apparent Baby was waiting to be held. This brought with it a sense of pride for all of us, but also the necessity to think about wees constantly and all the time from that point forward.
Most instructions tell you to let Baby run around the flat naked ('nappy free' time) and observe when they wee on the floor before you start. This advice did not chime with our carpet or the time of year, and so was ignored.
BABY LED POTTY AND TOILET TRAINING
How to hold baby
Sound to encourage wee
Below, I will explain the techniques Baby and I have used to communicate. I also recommend a simple infographics on when and how by ecpeesy.
I never criticise Baby for accidents or not needing to go. I try not to impart any shame around bodily functions or body parts, so as Baby feels safe to talk to me about them. I am grateful to Baby for communicating with me, and for their patience when getting dressed; but I don't feel they need to be told it is morally 'good' to hold a wee. I might say something like 'ahh that feels better'!
Initially, I found it hard to remember the instructions about how to hold a baby, and not to imagine dropping them down the toilet. Perhaps it would help to have a picture printed out when you start.
Images and videos for how to hold a baby can be found on the Born Ready website. A video also recommends teaching babies to sign when they want to go by slapping their shoulder. This hasn't caught on in our house. Baby Vegan is enthusiastic about actions in action songs, but not in general conversation.
Make a 'psss' wee sound to let baby know it is time to go. Nowadays this isn't usually necessary, but I still use it if we wait a while.
I first read that the best routine is to give baby a wee after a feed. I wasn't sure how this would work, since at the time life was just one long feed, where each feed started and ended with another feed. When I found out you can wee after a nap as well it was a revelation.
When changing the nappy (even if the nappy is wet Baby is likely to have held some of the wee)
After a sleep ('natural timing)
On arriving and leaving a place (transition)
When out and we happen to be near a toilet
Before and after the bath
After a feed (baby had a phase of wanting to feed on the toilet, and currently still finds it easier to concentrate there when out)
Before and after a meal
On the hour/ half hour if it's been a while since they asked
Convenient moment between busy things or the need to sit still
When I need to go myself
(Edit: Baby is now 2 and we don't need to bother with most of these).
Signs baby needs a wee
From time to time, baby changes the behaviour they have which show me they need to use the toilet, as kindly way to ensure I can't become bored. Here are Baby's signals, vaguely in the order we've used them:
Acting like they need a burp
Coming on and off the nipple
Staring at me
Making a sound
Leg wave and quiver
Tries to escape from buggy/ carrier
Comes over for milk and goes away again
Pulling at my trousers
Pulling at their trousers
Gets self out of bed
Hovers by the door (may get distracted on the way)
Hovers by the toilet (they've started to hover near cosy places for milk or the table for food too)
Wanders around looking for the exit in a new place
Leads me by the finger
Says wee (pee may have been and easier word to say, but it's too late to change now)
Insists they absolutely do not need a wee
Signs baby needs a poo
Look of concentration or seriousness
Still and quiet- lets me get on with housework
Appears strangely independent and focussed on an activity
Subtle bum wiggle
Stands holding furniture
Hasn't gone to sleep when expected
Had a feed recently
Has been distracted when out (Baby likes to go at home)
Has just been and you think they couldn't possibly need to go again
I view working out when Baby wants the toilet as a mindfulness practice which has brought us closer overall, but at times to tears.
When there is more wee
In the morning more potty opportunities were needed. When Baby was younger, they would lie on the changing mat beside the radiator. I would moved them on and off the bucket, as they kicked their legs and ate their toes.
Later, on waking, I might have given Baby a wee, stood them up, and then offered them another wee straight away. Or have a wee myself in between their two wees. They would need another one at least before breakfast.
Quick to change
Breaks, bad days, distractions
When baby says no
EC at nursery
We began with a bucket. At 4 months Baby decided they were too old for this and we got a toilet seat. They are now happy with either. Now that Baby is bigger, it can be more comfortable to hold them out as I sit on a chair.
We have a portable, foldable toilet seat thing called a Potette Plus. You can convert it into a potty by buying a silicon bowl or attaching a carrier bag. Baby used the potty in the summer when we weren't near a loo, but often held out until I took them to a tree.
There's something called a My Carry Potty with a lid, but I haven't tried this.
I also bought a radar key to open accessible toilets with, as I noticed baby changing facilities were often locked in the accessible toilet at train stations and in Planet Organic!
Baby mostly wears GroVia My Way padded pants. I chose these because they were smaller than other training pant options, are padded, and can be opened with poppers. For a while, we used the poppers to attach GroVia biodegradable liners. I find pants much easier than a nappy to put on the fidget bum. Some people use flap nappies, but they fell off. (edit: Baby's bum is not big enough to wear normal pants, which they are pleased about).
You could also try a nappy lending library, or local council real nappy voucher scheme.
The Bonds Wondersuit (buy from eBay or John Lewis) is a babygrow with a two way zip, which is much quicker than poppers, and feet which fold out for crawling and walking. You can get a one-way zip babygrow from Baby Mori at Scandiborn, Polarn o. Pyret, or Marks and Spencer.
Some people make split crotch trousers, or wear leggings with pants.
Baby is now at an age where their legs are long enough for trousers to stay round their ankles when they use the toilet, so we use these.
When they wore a rain suit, I would squat and lay Baby over my legs. This meant they could wee without taking their legs out.
Some days one or other of us is tired, or has sore teeth, or there is too much going on, and Baby and I fall out of sync. When Baby is having fun they would rather not think about stopping to go to the toilet. As they have grown up, Baby has had more things to say and I sometimes misinterpret the signal as asking for something else.
There have also been longer phases when we stopped understanding one another due to a developmental or lifestyle change. For example, when Baby learnt to crawl they were very busy and found it hard to multitask. I had to learn to spot the signs without being in physical contact with them, as I had been before. Other phases occurred were when baby started eating, and when we moved house.
There was another phase where Baby only wanted me to take them to the toilet, and would simply not go if someone else tried. They may have even sat there giggling.
Sometimes Baby isn't into it. At these times it is more common that they do need to go than that they don't. They sometimes get in a flap while waiting to be brought, as can be the case the leaving the house or getting milk. Here are some things I do to address this:
Offer a boob
Go myself to set an example
Change the position, ie toilet seat reducer or ec hold
Hold over a sink in front of a distracting mirror
Give up and suggest a nap instead
Accept that I misinterpreted the situation
If Baby struggles with a poo, the ec hold can be good to squeeze it out, or a tummy rub. I leave them to go in the nappy or the bath at their convenience. The bath has become Baby's prefered poo place. It is a relaxing place squat in warmth and comfort, and with ducks to play with.