Infant Potty Training {Yes, Really}

Okay, Mamas.

It feels totally weird and funny and a heap of other adjectives to be writing on this topic. I would much rather be writing about the Lord — and perhaps somehow that subject will tie in, as I believe it does with pretty much everything — but I have had a number of questions about this rather unusual subject… So! Let’s dive in with a backstory, shall we? Never hurts to know where you’re coming from before you know where you’re going.

Ugh. What?

Some of you have been reading around here long enough to know that I had the privilege of spending a couple of years living in Hero Hubs’ territory, our beautiful and beloved South Africa. My heart pines for those distant shores… a story for another day. Now, while I was in South Africa, more specifically near Cape Town in Gordon’s Bay, I had the privilege of making some pretty awesome friends. One of those friends was named Lucy.

Lucy had a little girl who was just about the same age as the Bear. These were the days when I still just had one kidlet running around (same for Lucy). Lucy often came over for coffee and we’d go for a walk around the neighborhood and talk about faith and parenting and budgeting and planning and all those wonderful Mom-topics that inevitably make their way into conversation almost every time you speak with another Mom for more than thirty-seven seconds.

So in one of those coffee-and-chat moments, Lucy mentioned that she’d been taking her little one to the potty on a regular basis since she was, like, super-young. This was four years ago, so forgive me for not remembering tons of details. Her little girl was used to the idea of sitting on the potty and going, like before she was a year old. But when winter came to SA, she stopped wanting to go because the toilet seat was cold, and Lucy was trying to decide what to do.

bellepottygraphic Suddenly this lightbulb went off in my brain… something like, Wait!!! You’re telling me there’s another way, besides just doing diapers until your kid is old enough to fight with you and you reward him with M&Ms for six months and eventually he ‘gets it’ and goes? I considered the possibility of working with the Bear some more, but didn’t feel like I knew enough to make any changes, didn’t ask enough questions, promptly allowed life to carry right on, and eventually potty-trained the Bear when he was a respectable bit-less-than-two-and-a-half, because I wanted him to be out of diapers before the Tank steamrolled into our lives and got into them.

Fast forward one country and two kids later. We’re in the States, and expecting the Belle. And I suddenly get the itch to consider cloth diapering again. Because picturing a third kid coming into our lives and filling trash can after trash can with diapers was an idea that was just making me more and more uncomfortable. After doing some research, I connected with another local Mama on Facebook (named Michelle) who was getting rid of a cloth diaper stash. A hop, skip and a jump later Michelle was in my living room, explaining a bit about cloth diapering to me, and mentioning the fact that her diapers were exceptionally clean because she did infant potty training. And wait! Said my brain. I’ve had some thoughts about that before! She shared a little bit more in detail about how she went about with the process of infant potty training, and my brain spun for about thirty minutes afterwards with thoughts like:

  • Wait! It’s actually natural for a child to get used to going when they’re held in a position that relieves their pelvic muscles. This makes a lot of sense. 
  • Hey! That’s what Lucy back in South Africa was talking about.
  • Whoa, wait a minute! What do people who live in poverty and can’t afford disposable diapers do anyway? 
  • Hmmmmmmm. Is this a giant diaper-pilfering conspiracy, spear-headed by people who don’t mind trashing the planet as long as they can line their pockets?
  • Why does everyone think we have to wait until our kids are three to potty-train anyway?

A feverish frenzy of googling ensued, and while I couldn’t find a lot of the information I was looking for, I made a couple of good discoveries, like:

  • Infants can be potty-trained.

Belle Potty 002

Baby-center commented, “While the notion of potty training a very young infant seems radical to many American parents, it’s not a new idea. Before 1950, most children in the United States were toilet trained by 18 months. And today, most African, Asian, and European babies are trained well before their second birthday.” Source

So, with my brain spinning with a myriad of confusing concepts, the American Academy of Pediatrics telling me that babies are physically unable to control their bladder or bowels much before 18 months, and a ton of anecdotal evidence to the contrary, I decided, well, little Belle, my darling girl. You’re here, and I’m about to start cloth diapering you. And you know what? Cloth diapering would be a lot cooler if your poops went in the potty.

So, when she was about three months old, (maybe a little younger) there was a particular day where I knew she hadn’t pooped for a while, and I could tell she was irritated about that. I had a froggy potty (borrowed from my sister) hanging out in my bathroom and I said, What the heck.

Feel free to skip off to another website because you now think I’m a complete liar, but I sat the baby on the potty and she pooped immediately. Not five minutes later. Not two minutes later. Immediately.

So I felt there was some credence to the notion that certain muscles are being relieved when we relieve ourselves, and it seemed natural for my little one, when placed in a position on a potty which relieved those muscles, to relieve herself.

Because she did.

Belle Potty 003

At the time it felt like SUCH a big deal. Suddenly, there was this whole new option for dealing with the fact that kids need to potty, and I didn’t even know it existed!! I didn’t have grandiose ideas of any proportion — I just made one simple goal at that point: pay enough attention to the Belle that most of the time she poopies in the potty.

Over the next few weeks I began to pay attention to timing and signals (often facial signals) that said, “Take the Belle to the potty” and she quickly got used to pooping there. I dabbled in going further and regularly taking her pee pee as well. She often pee peed when I took her potty, but I just wasn’t as consistent about taking her, so we were using cloth diapers for that.

But the main thing I was hoping for, I was able to quickly achieve: By around four months of age, I was catching about 90% of little Belle’s poops in the potty.

For the past sixteen months or so, the Belle has been using the potty for poopies. She rarely has an accident, and if she does, it is usually when I’m not around and I forget to mention to someone else “the signal” — which she developed herself. A while ago, she started patting herself on the behind, while murmuring something unintelligible. After the pat, she walks to the bathroom, and I follow, and help her up onto the potty to do her business.

Honesty box opening up here: I have been totally lazy about the pee pee thing. I’ve dabbled in trying to take her very consistently, so that we could move towards skipping out on diapers altogether. When I pay attention, we do have some great success, but inevitably I decide to take the diaper off and let her run free, I forget to take her potty, we have an accident or two, and I say, WHY AM I DOING THIS TO MAHSELLLF! (It’s never a poop accident, mind you.) And then I go back to just making sure she poops in the potty.

The fact that we are very successful on the pee pee front, when I’m consistent, indicates to me that fully potty training a little one by twelve months or so has to be possible. Michelle’s little one was fully potty-trained around then. We are still in progress, and we have made it through at least a half a day without a pee pee accident, but, if you think about it, we kind of train our kids to get used to going in diapers, and then we have to go about the business of un-training that when they’re older.

Might as well blame mahself.

If we are fortunate enough to welcome a fourth Collie kid into our family at some stage, I will aim at much more faithfully attempting the potty training right from the start. (Well around the first or second month maybe).

If you are interested in learning more about Infant Potty Training (and I do highly recommend trying it) Babycenter has a pretty good overview on the topic with some good How-To’s to get you started. I imagine you can find the subject in a number of online forums as well, to find out more about what has worked for other parents. Google “infant potty training” or “elimination communication” and let your head spin!!

Two major things worked for me, especially getting started:

  1. Consistent Timing – Aim to take baby to the potty at the same times each day, perhaps always before a nap, always after a nap, always before a meal, always 20 minutes after a meal… you get the idea. Once you start to observe what the timing is for your kid doing their business, you can help them work toward getting used to going when you take them, around those times.
  2. Distraction, Distraction, Distraction – I imagine hanging your tiny wee bare bum over the edge of a toilet seat that is cooler than room temperature isn’t particularly exciting. Especially at the beginning, I had a few interesting toys I’d let the Belle hold when I sat her on the potty. I also sang particular songs, that I only sang at potty time. I humbly ask forgiveness to the people of Scotland, I turned the Ally Bally Bee nursery rhyme into a song about Arabella Bee going potty. But it worked.

Belle Potty 001

Imagine how many diapers wouldn’t end up in landfills if we returned to the art of infant potty training! I know it’s not a possibility for everybody, but, if it is a possibility for you, it’s worth considering! Less throwing away trash, less throwing away cash… win, win!

Any Mamas out there who’ve tried or succeeded at infant potty training? Or are you a Mama willing to consider it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!