Most of the things I do as a parent I try to follow my instincts or I’ll read about them and do what feels right and makes sense for me. There was never a question about breastfeeding, I was always going to do that. I changed my mind about how long for after I started doing it as I learned more about it and it felt right. Babywearing was something I did from the beginning and loved and still do, never questioned it. Bedsharing came in quite early on and again I never really questioned it was right for us. Most things I can look into gentle ways of doing them if I’m unsure. However potty training/toilet learning, whatever you want to call it is one thing that has completely confused me. On one end you have elimination communication. This is basically watching your baby’s cues for when they need the toilet and holding them over the potty. Some do this from birth, some start later on, some do it part time and some full time. In ways this makes a lot of sense to me as if you know your baby is going to do a wee or poo, why not let them do it on a potty? Why let them soil themselves? You basically “train” your baby to go in a nappy and then have to untrain them when it’s time for toilet training. Suddenly it’s “oh no you don’t go in your nappy, now you have to go on the toilet”. I can see how that can be confusing. Then on the other end of the spectrum you have the “wait until they’re ready” way of potty training which can mean leaving them in nappies until 3 years old or older. On the one hand, the child led way of doing things fits with most of the other things I do. But on the other hand, I personally don’t like the idea of my child being in nappies at 3, when I know they’re capable of going on the toilet.
I started with a bit of elimination communication when Tulip was about 11 months old. I’d sit her on the potty at nappy change times. Within the first two days she would often do a wee on the potty and within the first week she started pooing on it sometimes too. From what I have read, before 18 months they have a reflex that means when air hits the nappy area they automatically wee or poo. This is why many people believe it is good to start on the potty before 18 months. I found it hard to read the signs that Tulip was going to do a wee but I started to figure out when she was going to do a poo and was able to take her to the potty a lot of the time. We were going along like this quite happily for a few months. I taught her a sign for toilet by doing it every time she was sitting on the potty. She soon learned it and started doing it when she was on the potty too. By about 15 months she was sometimes doing the sign when not on the potty, so I would take her and she would often go. It wasn’t very consistent though. By about 16 or 17 months I got really lazy with the pottying. I got very busy with other things and would often not put her on the potty because I was in a rush. This is something I really regret. I truly believe that if I had kept it up as I was, she would have been out of nappies by about 18-20 months. I am really very annoyed at myself for stopping as I did. Now we’re at that in between age where it’s not as easy to just put them on the potty because they have more of a mind of their own! And we’re at the age where most people will say “wait until they are ready” or start a sticker chart or something, which is not something I do as parent. We started her back on the potty more consistently at about 20 months. She was sometimes cooperative with it and sometimes didn’t really want to sit on it. There was one day when she was about 21 months where we were out all day and her nappy was dry all day because she kept telling me she needed to go to the toilet! I was so excited and thought this was it, it was happening. But then she didn’t really do it again. At one point a couple weeks later I just decided to stop the nappies and put her in pants. I kept getting so frustrated because she kept wetting herself. I knew she could use the potty and tell me she needed it so I didn’t understand why she wasn’t! It wasn’t good for either of us as I just kept getting annoyed which is definitely NOT the right way to go about things. One day I asked her if she wanted to wear pants or a nappy and she said nappy. It was hard to be consistent with the pants as well because if we were going on a long journey or going to be out all day it was really difficult that she wouldn’t always tell me if she needed to go.
I asked in an Elimination Communication facebook group what I should do since I messed up a bit with EC. I knew if I asked in any other group they would tell me to wait until she was ready and this isn’t what I wanted to hear. They recommended I read book called “Oh Crap! Potty Training”. I got the book straight away and started reading it.
A lot of it made a lot of sense to me. So much so that I started highlighting bits in the book. I wanted to remember and be able to explain why I didn’t want to “wait until she’s ready”. And I wanted to be able to go back to the things I liked about the book to talk about in this blog post! So I will go through the bits I highlighted now.
- “Did you give her stickers or M&Ms for learning to walk?” This was just about the reason I won’t give rewards for learning how to use the toilet. It sounds ridiculous when you put it to other things they learn how to do!
- “It also turns out that he was a paid spokesperson for pampers.” This refers to a pediatrician called Dr. T. Berry Brazelton who was an advocate for late potty training. He aggressively promoted “wait until they’re ready” since the 1960s. This was clearly about Pampers wanting to make more money! This really annoyed me and I compare this to the aggressive marketing by formula companies making mums think their milk isn’t good enough just so they can make more money.
- “You want to do it before they have a choice in the matter”. This may sound harsh but to me the idea of introducing a potty very early means that just becomes normal to the child. That is where wees and poos go. Introducing it later is a sudden change from the comfort of always going in their nappy to needing to go on the potty or toilet.
- “Do not underestimate what your child is capable of”. The author of the book says rather than deciding if your child is “ready”, decide if they are “capable”. I knew my child was capable because she had told me in the past when she needed to use the toilet and she was aware.
- “The potty just becomes another thing the child is learning”. The author is saying that if you start potty training between 18-22 months (which is what was normal a generation ago) there is more success.
- “If you are ‘trying’ you are giving yourself an out”. The author quotes Yoda “do or do not. There is no try”. This resonated a lot with me because this is how I feel about breastfeeding. Don’t try breastfeeding, just decide you are going to do it and do it.
- “Psychologists have found that blindly praising a child can actually limit them into doing only that at which they excel.” Pretty self explanatory. Another reason why I don’t over praise or use sticker charts or rewards.
- “You used the potty chair to pee in. Thank you.” What I have been doing instead. I want her to know she has done the ‘right’ thing by going on the potty but not get too excited about simple bodily functions!
- “They will feel your vibe.” I felt so bad when I was getting frustrated with Tulip as I knew she was feeling it and I was probably making things worse. I really had to keep reminding myself to be calm and patient.
- “Remember the timeline. We are talking your child’s awareness from Clueless to I Peed to I’m Peeing to I Have to Go Pee.” I have observed this timeline in Tulip, more on this later.
- “Don’t slip into bribery. You will end up with a power struggle.” Again, using the toilet is just a normal part of life, not something you should need bribes or rewards to do.
As I said, these were all things I did like about the book. However, I didn’t quite follow the plan in the book which starts with staying at home doing absolutely nothing but watching your child (with no pants on) and getting them on the potty when they start to wee/poo. Then it moves on to taking short trips out with trousers on but no pants etc etc. Maybe it was selfish of me but I wasn’t prepared to cancel all my plans for days or weeks in order to do this. I also didn’t feel this would be good for my mental health. I did however keep Tulip bottomless at home most of the time. I would tell her that the potty was there if she needed it and would sometimes take her to it. It was quite hit and miss. She’d often wee on the floor but then say “uh oh pipí” (she says it in Spanish after hearing her bilingual friend say it a lot). In the timeline from point 10 above, this was “I peed”. She seemed to move on quite quickly to “I’m peeing” and would tell me while she was going. If we were near the potty I could sometimes get her on it before she was finished. No matter what I would always take her to the potty straight away, even if she was completely done and I would say “you wee on the potty not on the floor”. So I was not punishing her, just reminding her where she was supposed to go. Whenever she would go on the potty I would say “Thank you for doing a wee/poo on the potty” or if she had been the one to initiate going to the potty I would say “You did a wee/poo on the potty. Thank you for telling me you needed to go”.
When we’d go out I would always put a nappy on her as it was too stressful for me to take her out without and me being stressed about it would just make things worse. A few weeks before her second birthday she started telling me more and more she needed to go. I’d sometimes use potty training pants (reusable of course!) but I found these were often too much like a nappy for her. I bought her normal pants and I don’t know if it was a coincidence and she was getting there anyway or if they made a difference but she started to more often tell us she needed to go. She had moved on in the timeline to “I have to go pee”. But it was “I have to go pee RIGHT NOW” so if I didn’t manage to get her to the toilet very quickly she would wet herself. Still, it was progress and getting more an more consistent!
This past weekend Tulip was out of nappies all weekend, even when we went out. There have been a couple of accidents but mostly she’s gone to the potty. If she hasn’t been in a while and/or we’re about to get in the car, I will put her on the potty and she mostly goes then. I wouldn’t say she is fully potty trained yet but she is so close and we won’t backtrack to nappies again. Now when she gets up off the potty she looks in it and says “oh! pee!”. There are no pictures on this blog post. Even though there have been times I have wanted to take pictures of her on the potty because she looked really cute or I was feeling really proud, I haven’t because I don’t think it is respectful to take pictures of anyone on the toilet.
To be honest I’m still confused about potty training and if I did it “right”. I think with our next baby I will do more elimination communication, probably from the time they sit but maybe earlier if I see their cues. And be more consistent! I’m sure I’ll do lots more reading before then!