By Angie Donnelson
The Forgotten Joy of Infant Potty Training--or Did you know your baby can be diaper free?
Did you know your baby can be diaper free? I didn't, but I always wondered how those Eskimo mamas carried their babies in their parkas all day without smelling like a potty. I wondered in the back of my mind what in the world moms in tribal villages did for diapers. I struggled with a daughter who withheld her bowel movements and wet her bed, and with boys who soiled their underpants and I wondered if there was a different way. I'm not a very commanding presence, and all the potty training books said not to pressure your kids to go potty. So I didn't. I had 3 kids who finished their potty training at around three or four years old. And that was that. Potty training was a necessary uphill battle for softy mommies like me: a rite of passage.
But one day I read an article. It said that babies could go potty from birth...that you could actually communicate with your sweet new baby about their elimination needs. I was shocked! I vaguely remembered hearing of a mom who had potty trained her babies, but I always thought it would be too much work. I had a 4 month old baby at the time, and a 3 year old boy right in the midst of potty training, so I was open to any ideas I could get. Skeptically, I borrowed from my local library the book mentioned in the article. It had the very cutesy title,"Trickle Treat," and I wasn't prepared to take it very seriously. I had to satisfy my curiosity, however, and the night I got the book, I read it from cover to cover. It sounded like something I could actually do! Normally, I don't do well with any sort of regimented training. I'm an anti-scheduling, attachment parenting mama, and that's why trying any "method" intimidated me.
The next day I secretly set out to try what the book said to do. I didn't tell any friends or even my husband, because I thought they'd tell me it was too much work, or just think I was trying another crazy idea. I canceled all homeschooling for the day, and set my baby, without diaper, on a waterproof pad and set to work. We cooed at each other and smiled and generally enjoyed ourselves. She nursed and slept and did all her baby things, and I wrote down all the times she peed or pooped. As soon as she did either one, I'd cheerfully clean it up right away, and let Saraiah enjoy herself some more.
The book had told me that babies generally go potty very soon after waking, and about a half hour after nursing. When I looked at all the times I had written down, I found that the book was indeed correct. I was getting a little more confident in the whole idea of getting to know when Saraiah needed to go, so a half hour after her next nursing, I took her, held her in a little squatting position against my chest and over our bathroom sink and said "ssss." Saraiah flared her nostrils a little, got a very serious look on her face and lo and behold, the pee flowed! Saraiah relaxed, and then grinned at herself and her mommy in the mirror. I squealed with delight, told all my kids, and excitedly demonstrated Saraiah's amazing peeing powers when my husband came home that evening. My best friend, who's pregnant, came over and as she watched, her jaw dropped. She now is using the method with her one year old and plans on using it with her newborn!
Two and a half months later, Saraiah is going without diapers and occasionally wetting when I don't catch her. Pooping is the easiest part...that happens once a day, usually when she gets up in the morning. I've cleaned up poop I haven't caught about ten times. How does this work? The book I read said that babies are born with the ability to control the muscles that release urine and stool on cue. When a mama holds her baby in a squatting position when baby's bladder or bowels need relieving, and says "ssss," baby releases those muscles and lets it out. The position and the sound help to cue the baby to do her duty. Babies forget how to control those muscles when we let them go in a diaper over the course of several years, so it's harder to figure it all out again, thus the myriad potty training problems I experienced. This method can be used with babies from birth and can be adapted for older babies as well.
I feel like I can be a more relaxed and low pressure mom now that I don't have to stress about potty training, and I am excited to share that with whoever wants to know! We can bond with our babies on such a sweet level when we are in tune with their basic bodily needs. We breastfeed them when they ask, and we can even help them to let out whatever their body doesn't use! What an beautiful thing, to be designed to be so in touch with our babies!
Ed. Note: The book Angie read is called "Trickle-Treat" by Laurie Boucke. Other books on EC by Laurie Bouke are available at the DiaperFreeShop on our website.