BABY LED POTTY AND TOILET TRAINING
elimination communication/ natural infant hygiene
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.
At first, my postpartum body and brain were too beaten up to consider it. However, one nappy change, when baby was 9 weeks old; I had a sudden burst of confidence, 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. Once you start they then don't always wear nappies. 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
Initially I found it hard to remember the instructions about how to hold 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 baby can be found on the Born Ready website. A video also recommends teaching baby to sign by slapping their shoulder. This hasn't caught on in our house. Baby 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.
Below, I will list the routines I have used, and the signs Baby has given me. I also recommend a simple infographic on the topic 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'!
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
On arriving and leaving a place
When out and we happen to be near one
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 you need to go yourself
Signs baby needs a wee
From time to time, baby changes their signal. A kindly way to ensure I can't become bored.
Acting like they need a burp
Coming on and off the nipple
Staring at you
Making a sound
Tries to escape from buggy
Comes over for milk and goes away again
Pulling at your trousers
Pulling at their trousers
Gets self out of bed
Hovers by the door (may get distracted on the way)
Hovers by the toilet
Leads you by the finger
Says wee (pee may have been and easier word to say, but it's too late to change now)
Signs baby needs a poo
Look of concentration or seriousness
Still and quiet- lets you get on with housework
Appears strangely independent and focussed on an activity
Subtle bum wiggle
Stands holding something
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.
In the morning more potty opportunities are needed. On waking, I might give Baby a wee, stand them up, and then offer them another wee straight away. Or have a wee myself in between their two wees. They will need another one at least before breakfast.
When Baby was younger, they would lie on the changing mat beside the radiator. I would moved them on and off the bucket, and they kicked their legs and eat their toes.
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.
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 has used the potty in the summer when we weren't near a loo, but has at times held out until I take them to a tree.
There's also 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.
Breaks and bad days
Some days there is too much going on, or one of us is tired, and Baby and I fall out of sync. There have also been longer phases when we stopped understanding one another. For example, when Baby learnt to crawl they were very busy and found it hard to multi task. I had to learn to spot the signs without being in physical contact. Other phases were when baby started eating, and when we moved house.
As they have got older, Baby has had more things to say and I sometimes misinterpret the signal as asking for something else.
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. 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 I leave them to go in the nappy at their convenience.