— sojourning, us

motherhood monday: why we’re not into potty training

oh no, more crazy whacked out ramblings on a Monday? really, must it go on? you ask.

well, so far, i don’t think i’m crazy, but i do have a bad habit of rambling …

i’ve written about elimination communication twice before already (here and here), but now that we’ve got over half a year’s experience of it under our belts, i thought i’d share more about it for the curious (or for those who think we’re crazy, which is more likely the case).

when i first read about EC while researching and purchasing our first (used) cloth diapers from the cloth diapering community called diaperswappers (a great place to find used cloth diapers, by the way), i’ll admit i thought it sounded really crazy, too. at first, just getting into the rhythm of parenthood was more than enough of a struggle for the hubbs and i, first-time parents as we were. however, as we got to know little E better, as we got to learn more about how he communicated with us his needs—hungry, tired, and, eventually, wet or dirty—i began to wonder if there was actually something to that EC stuff after all. since Justin was already on board with cloth diapers from the moment we found out we were expecting, i decided to share about what i’d read and see what he thought.

we bought the book, the diaper free baby, by christine gross-loh. i did most of the reading, ahem, but i did talk to hubbs about what i read (all the time, often while i was reading it …) and the basic methodology of part-time elimination communication. because i was still working full time when Eli was 6 months old, we decided to only give EC a try while i was around so Justin just kept changing diapers and washing diaper laundry as usual.

so, for me, i began to notice how simple things were right away. we gave Elisha naked time and watched for his own cues (and occasionally had some messes). he’d get suddenly loud right before (or during) a pee. or, if he was already babbling or playing, he’d go really quiet and still. he was already a regular pooper. catching poops was the easiest part of EC—he’d go every morning after waking up for the day and sometimes a second time after his first nap or before bed after meals. occasionally, he’d go a day without going or decided he’d rather just go in the car, but eventually these things both faded and he’s able to hold it to poop on the potty all the time at 13 months (well, except for that week of diarrhea, but we won’t go there … ew).

we’re at the point now where he doesn’t actually like being wet. except when he’s playing, that is. when he’s involved in something exciting, he won’t let us know he has to go (he signs his own version of “potty,” which is pointing to his diaper area or tugging on his training pants). in the car, he lets us know he’s peed in his diaper (our stash of GroVia AIOs for going out of the house; he’s not quite ready for full-time training pants) by getting very loud.

my point is, however, we started small. (and there are so many things anyone can start small on!)

we didn’t have big expectations.

it was just something new.

a parental experiment—one that, yes, we were learning, too.

he peed on his potty after naps and then before/after meals. as Justin began to witness that Elisha did cue and actually liked the potty, he began to join in. since he could sit up, he sat on a little baby bjorn potty or we’d hold him in what’s called an in-arms position over the big potty at home or while we were out. eventually, once i was working from home, we suddenly realized we’d become full-time with EC. it just kind of happened. something casual and experimental became a part of our lives as we learned to communicate with each other. Elisha learned to sign for milk and for food right alongside the sign for potty, so it was just another part of his vocabulary. did he always tell us? no, especially when teething or hitting big milestones like walking. he spent those days mostly in diapers instead of the training pants he usually wears around the house. he’d still use the potty to poop, but he never had the time or the gumption to tell us he needed to pee when major things were going on in his mouth or in his brain.

and that’s okay with us. we’re not potty training here. we’re just communicating.

what? there’s a difference?

yes. i believe so.

i get uncomfortable when people ask me how potty training is going when they see me ask Elisha if he needs to go potty or if he’s wet. i get frustrated when people tell me they must be lazier parents than we are because we EC (or even because we use cloth diapers). i dislike it when people complain that we’re the ones being trained instead of our child(ren) when it comes to learning life skills such as going on the toilet.

yes, there are things we as parents must learn about our children. we need to learn how they tell us they’re hungry or tired and how they tell us about their elimination needs is just another part of the puzzle. i’ve learned that babies don’t necessarily like being left to sit in their own waste—they like being dry and clean just like adults do. in my opinion (please note that), the rise of a convenience-oriented disposable culture has encouraged us to lose touch with some of the amazing things God designed babies (and their parents) to do. babies quickly lose touch with the sensations of being wet or soiled in a diaper as a bad thing when they spend hours in the same one, sagging to their knees. then, once they’re two (or  later depending on the when they’re “ready” as today’s potty training standards go), we begin the process of attempting to reverse what they’ve been, uh, well, trained to do. we suddenly tell them diapers are bad and the potty is good. we bribe them to change their minds with songs and candy.

what i’ve discovered is that we can keep them aware the whole time. there are still accidents. we still spend days in diapers. but, seriously, we’re never going to have to untrain and retrain. the potty is normal, not something scary and new. being wet or dirty is not ideal, though tolerable when it happens (especially at night when he still doesn’t necessarily wake in time to go potty), and Elisha knows that. e

to me, i think it’s amazing. like crazy amazing.

babies are capable of so much more than i ever knew and becoming a parent has, indeed, taught me a lot. the difference i feel from the mainstream of our culture is that i actually enjoy being “trained” to listen to my baby, encouraged and thrilled by the bonds we build. that’s something i signed onto do when i became a parent—i signed on to wholly becoming a part of my children’s lives in order to raise them into healthy adults.

well, i turned out alright, you say.

so did i.

so did a lot of people who were raised in disposable diapers and with formula (not everyone can breastfeed, and i know that. but i also think a lot of women aren’t given enough support and information and end up giving up way too soon). we did grow up into adults just fine, as far as we can tell … so what’s the big deal?

i guess, in my mind, it all goes back to some of what i shared when i talked about why we chose to use cloth diapers as a family. to me, it’s about living sustainably, about being good stewards, about avoiding harmful chemicals that are completely unnecessary, and not just for our planet but for the lives entrusted into our care.

when it comes to elimination communication, i can totally understand that it’s not for everyone, but i really have my caveats about saying such things as “you do what’s good for you and i’ll do what’s good for me.” i do believe that kind of subjectivity isn’t healthy all the time, but i have learned that parenting is a rather touchy subject in which is currently better to pick your battles over than to see people get hurt. i just always want people to know that contrary to what we see around us, yes, there are options and yes, many of them work just as well if not better than the status quo.

i understand that it’s a commitment in both time and process. i do think there are definitely some interesting things to be learned, both in simply choosing cloth diapers or even giving EC a try.

not that i’m saying you (yes you) aren’t taking care of your child. i’m sure you are. well, i hope so. i just like the idea of really jumping in, and i think more people should consider other areas of their lives they could commit to making stewardly changes in, what with eating local or recycling or buying organic or wearing earth-conscious clothing … why not?

so, things are going awesome here, and none of you are a bad parent for not following the paths we’ve chosen. i just like providing some food for thought, and i hope that you’re all thinking. if you’re ever prompted to make changes, let me know, as i’m always excited to hear about other parenting adventures!

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  • http://twitter.com/ejfike Erin Fike ☮

    I’m just curious how you learned when he was peeing. Pooping is pretty obvious (at least Evelyn makes it pretty obvious, lol), but I have no idea when she pees. And how did you teach him signs? She knows “all done”, but hasn’t seemed interested in learning anything else.

    • http://niftysmith.wordpress.com/ niftysmith

      Ha! Um. Well, peeing isn’t an exact science, that’s for sure. For me, I started taking him to the potty on a regular basis—every 10-20 minutes at first—as well as watching for even the most minute of “cues.” Like I mentioned, Elisha would sometimes get REALLY LOUD and then have a wet diaper, as if he was announcing the act of peeing. Letting him run around coverless in the house (or even naked if you’re willing to have a towel ready for the floor) really helped. Eventually, through conversation (“You’re wet.” or “Did you just pee?” or “Would you like to go potty (while making the sign)?” started to get through to him, I think. Even while changing his diaper or training pants, I’d say, “Oh, it’s no fun to be wet, is it?” while at the same time, we’d make sure to sing and play games on the potty to have fun.

      Pooping is, well, yes, obvious. Although, Elisha has his ninja poop moments. Today, for example, he held it all day and then suddenly his training underwear was down to his knees. It was the first time he’d ever purposefully pooped in his trainers (I don’t count all of his diarrhea accidents while sick). I think he was hardcore teething today. He didn’t want anything to do with the potty.

      But, really, as far as pee goes, if you’d like to offer potty time, offer every time you take off her diaper. You’d be surprised how often they’ll go again. Just spend some time watching—she may get really quiet while playing or may get loud or, if she does nothing, then maybe just getting a bit of timing down will help. How often do you change a wet diaper a day?

      Hmm. Signing. Well, I try to sign whenever I say the word I want him to learn. Sometimes, I forget. All done was the one I always forgot, but Justin always remembered. For “more,” I’d do it at mealtime. I’d put down a piece of food and once he was finished, I’d say, “Do you want more?” with the sign and then lay down another piece. It wasn’t long before he caught on. Drink and food were the same—we just do the sign when we say the word or offer a sippy or a piece of food.

      Diaper/potty he made up on his own. He woke up in the mornings and would sometimes pointing to his wet diaper as if to tell me, “Hey, I want this off.” And eventually, that became his universal sign for “potty.” He does it now when he has to pee, even if he’s running around in underpants or about to fall asleep.

      I really didn’t think he’d ever sign. It just kind of happened—all at once after he started signing “milk.” For “milk,” we have a picture book with a jaguar nursing, and the word milk is in the story. Every time we read that, I’d do the sign. I also did the sign when it was time for him to nurse. Once he caught on to that one, I sort of “rewarded” him whenever he asked. Heh. He knows that one for sure now! He’ll even sign more and milk together, or, when he’s really needy, he’ll sign milk with both hands. So funny.

  • http://www.with2nsdesigns.com Dannielle

    thank you for sharing this. i’m not a parent yet, but i love that there are other options out there. i hadn’t heard of EC before reading your journey but i find it really interesting. thanks again.