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Potty Training a Boy IS Different May 29, 2009

Filed under: Family Culture — Rachel @ 4:56 pm
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Fast forward a few years and my second child, my son, is nearing his 2nd birthday.  We unearthed the requisit potty chair and crossed our fingers.  At first he LOVED the potty.  He’d easily potty while on the toilet while his sister cheered for him.  We thought, hmm… could we get lucky this time with an easy boy!?!

Moving to a new home prevented us from potty training right then and there.  But, just as he turned two years old we decided to make the big switch.  Starting on a Friday I put my son in underwear and gave him the potty-training talk.  I dutifully brought him to the toilet every 30 minutes… and he went every time.  It was easy for him to potty on the toilet, the problem was he only went a little bit.  And, he was still managing to have accidents even just 15 minutes after he’d peed on the potty.  As for going #2, no luck there – it was always in the underwear.  Grrr. 

My son also started resisting these frequent potty trips right from Day 1 of potty training.  Occasionally, he’d say he didn’t want to go, but I’d insist.  He was in underwear, after all.  By Day 2 and 3, he was all out against potty training.  He did NOT want to enter the bathroom, even to the point of tears.   On Day 3, when he had an accident just 15 minutes after going on the potty for the second time, we decided to call it quits.  1 unwilling toddler + 1 unready bladder = time to back off.  We felt a little like failures.  But, moreso, realized that we had given it a try and he was so clearly not ready.  No need for guilt there.

About 4 months later, my son seems to have forgotten potty training attempt #1.  I began to take him to the potty, at first 1-2 times a day and then 3-4 times a day since he wasn’t resisting.  Why this pleasant agreeableness?  I tricked him, of course.  I decided to sing a very short song each time I picked him up to bring him to the potty.  Since it was spring, I chose:

Little Johnny Jump-up said, “Now it must be spring!

I just saw a ladybug and heard a robin sing.”

This upbeat little number distracted him, set a positive emotional tone, and signaled to him what we were going to do without actually giving him a choice to reject.  No mention of pottying in this song – just a mood, a tone, something to say as I was carrying him to the bathroom.  We practiced this routine for 2-3 weeks and then…

Potty Training attempt #2.  Last Friday we pulled out the underwear again.  I brought him to the toilet avery 30 mintues amist continual song.  And he went.  And he didn’t complain.  And he didn’t have many accidents!  So, that’s how we spent the holiday weekend – potty training.  Now his scheduled potty trip is every 45 minutes.  Within the next week or so, we hope to get it to every hour and then onwards and upwards from there.

Potty training my son was different than potty training my daughter.  He was not physically ready until about 6 months later than she.  And, he was more defiant and resistant despite the fact that he had an older sister as a cheerleader and example.  On the other hand, he is having less accidents than she did at this point in the potty training sequence.  This may be simple because he is 6 months older than she was.  At any rate, we were very glad that we cloth diapered him, so waiting an extra 6 months to start potty training didn’t cost us a penny!


Potty Training: How I Did it the “Hard” Way May 28, 2009

Filed under: Family Culture — Rachel @ 3:55 pm
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Potty Training is one of those unexpected, HUGE parenting challenges.  How do you know when to start?  Grandma says you were potty trained by 2 years old, but today’s average child potty trains at 3 1/2!  What approach  do you use?  Do you base it off of your child’s interest in pottying on the toilet or on your desire to be diaper-free? 

I started to potty train my first child, a girl, when she was 22 months.  Sure, she was showing some “signs’ of being ready, but really we started potty training because we knew another child her age that had just gone diaper-free.  Isn’t there a good bit of peer-pressure when it comes to potty training?  What parent doesn’t wish to ditch the diaper, saving money, the environment and avoiding the YUCK factor all at once?

Months before I had casually introducing my daughter to her potty chair.  After occasionally having some pottying success, I targeted a specific weekend for the big switch.  I put her in underwear that day and explained my hopes and expectations.  We also used a potty doll that my daughter would “train” – the idea being that she would enjoy teaching the doll, while learning herself.  I had done some reading on various potty training approaches.  Here was my plan:  be positive,  reward a successful potty with one M & M,  expect accidents and respond by coaching her to practice running from the location of the accident to the potty several times for a positive, yet practical learning experience.  We also sat down on the potty just to “try” throughout the day, every few hours or so.  Sounds good on paper, right?

Well, it didn’t go so well.  After the first few accidents (which were constant) my daughter and I were both hating the experience.  It’s hard to be upbeat while cleaning up repeated messes.  It’s hard for such a little child to continue seeing the run-to-the-potty learning experience as a positive learning game.  It got old and we both got frustrated – fast!  At the beginning of the day, my daughter felt positive and excited about potty training, but by the day’s end she was hiding under the table to pee-pee.  Learning from having accidents sounds logical, but for her it was just discouraging. 

On Day 2 I took a completely different approach, which I call “Learning by Succcess.”  You may call it parent-training, rather than potty training… but it worked for us.  I took her to the potty every 30 minutes like clockwork.  As you would expect, she began to have very few accidents and pottying success after success, each celebrated with the an M&M in the color of her choice.  Granted, I was a little exhausted.   I felt chained to the toilet or timer… but it was working.  Over the week, I stretched her scheduled potty time to every 45 minutes and then to every hour.  Every hour was MUCH more doable, but still kept us watching the clock.  2-3 weeks into it, I was taking her every 2 hours, with few if any accidents. 

Sounds like a lot of work?  Honestly, it was!  I believe that the “easier” route would have been to wait another 9-12 months to start at all.  However, one has to decide if it’s easier to remember to sit your child on the potty every few hours, or to change a diaper every few hours.  I decided for the potty.  After a little over a month of potty training in this way, my daughter began to initiate – to say she had to go potty.  At about 2.5 months, she was initiating, so that I no longer watched the clock at all, and counted on her to take care of her needs.  It was a long 2.5 months, but going diaper free at 2 years, instead of at 3 years, was worth it for us.  And, when my second child was born, I was even MORE happy to have potty trained my first child the “hard” way.


Elimination Communication: Two Moms Share their Story April 21, 2009

Filed under: Baby & Toddler — Rachel @ 3:14 pm

What does it take to implement Elimination Communication (EC), and how practical is this approach for today’s mom?  I spoke with Miranda and Bethany, two moms who desired to use EC with their infants.

Miranda’s Story

Miranda is a mother-of-three, a stay at home mom who just birthed her youngest this past December.  With a four-year-old, two-year-old and new baby at home, her house is a lively place!  Miranda has breastfed all of her children, birthed naturally and enjoys baby-wearing.  She discovered cloth diapering with her second baby and researched ECing while pregnant with her third. 

When I asked Miranda why she was interested in EC, she said, “I wanted to be free of diapers and also to accomplish potty-training, real potty-training, in an easier way.”  As an experienced mother, she knows that potty-training a toddler or preschooler can be VERY difficult, to say the least. 

During her pregnancy, Miranda googled “Elimination Communication” and found tons of very helpful info online.  Her reading trained her to be able to recognize an infant’s cues for elimination.  She learned that the ideal time to begin EC is between 3 weeks and a few months, with early always being better. 

But, things didn’t quite work out as she’d hoped when her son was born.  Yes, she was able to identify her son’s cues for both urination and bowel movements!  Yes, she still wanted to give ECing a try.  But, Miranda found that it was just not practical for her to constantly observe her infant for cues and/or act upon her observations, all the while taking care of two other young children.  As a result, best intentions aside, Miranda never did try ECing.  A good mom knows her limits.

When asked if she might try ECing with her son in the future or with future children, Miranda thought not.  With young children always underfoot, she just doesn’t see having the energy to EC.  She would say that, for her, ECing would really only make sense with a first or second baby. 

Bethany’s Story

Bethany has a 3-year-old at home, along with a her son of 8 months.  Like Miranda, Bethany breastfeeds her children and births naturally, but she’s a part-time working mom. 

Bethany didn’t expect to EC from the get go.  She had converted to cloth diapers during her first child’s toddler years.  While pregnant with her second, she purchased beautiful organic cotton and wool diapers for her newborn, excited to pamper him in this way.  But, as life has it, things didn’t go as planned.  Her little one rashed terribly in any kind of cloth diaper (and we tried several).  His little bum seems insistent on wearing those pricey and only relatively eco-friendly 7th Generation disposable diapers.  Mom and dad weren’t too happy with the bill!

When she was pregnant, Bethany had read Christine Gross-Loh’s “The Diaper-Free Baby” cover to cover.  Bethany is a self-described “slow reader”, but she said the book was easy-to-read and full of common sense.   She felt that there wasn’t too much required to get started.  She had planned to introduce EC at three months, but the distractions of life kept her preoccupied until her son was 6 months old.

Starting at 6 months, she practiced signing to him about elimination and tried to offer him the potty when possible.  Being busy with her preschooler and a working mom too, Bethany found it difficult to recognize and anticipate her son’s need to eliminate.    He went once or twice on the potty, but nothing much happened for quite awhile. 

But, this past week, things changed!  At 8 months old, he’s made huge strides in his ability to communicate in general.   Putting two and two together, he’s suddenly using the potty whenever she brings him!  Many times Bethany is able to recognize his signs when he’s almost ready to go and take him to the potty in time.  She’s just so excited, imagining all the money she’ll save, the waste she’ll avoid and the ease of potty-training when he’s older, as opposed to the struggles most moms experience with sons. 

When Bethany’s at work, she hasn’t asked her mom (who cares for her children) to attempt to EC.  But, that doesn’t seem to impair her sons ability to pick it up again when she’s home.  In fact, it’s a comfortable part-time practice, not an all-or-nothing skill. 

When asked if she foresees ECing consistently, Bethany says, “Absolutely!  We’re not going backwards from here!”  Bethany says they only use about 2 diapers a day now, and even her mom is going to start practicing EC with him when mama’s at work.  “I expect that he’s going to be completely potty trained by 12 months,”  Bethany shares.  Her confidence is bolstered by another friend who introduced EC to her 6-month-old and celebrated the completion of potty training at 12 months.


Elimination Communication – What? Why? And, Seriously??? April 18, 2009

Filed under: Baby & Toddler — Rachel @ 5:26 pm

Have you heard of EC (Elimination Communication)?  It’s a fancy term for learning to communicate with your infant about elmininating, with the goal of potty training or at least greatly reducing the use of diapers.  Sound shocking?  Actually, it’s not a new idea.  Many traditional cultures in both Africa and Asia (who also practice baby-wearing) do potty train their infants as a matter of course. 

One might wonder, is a baby really able to communicate in this way?  Is the child being “trained” or the parent?  And, also what’s the point?  Aren’t diapers easier?

Successful ECers answer that their choice is driven by more than the joy of ditching the diaper.  Parents report that their potty-trained infant cries less and seems more comfortable and happy.  They believe that no baby enjoys sitting in a soiled diaper.  They believe that the child has an intrinsic awareness of his or her need to eliminate, and that communicating that need fosters confidence, while building the parent-child relationship.  Here are two quotes from

” By the time Simon was three and a half months old he had proven to us that EC is more than just ‘parent training.’ He started signaling his need to pee by making his own imitation of our ‘sss’ cue! We were delighted to be in such two way communication with him.”

– Rachel, mom to Simon, began EC at birth

“Doing EC with Ben has completely changed our relationship for the better. Before we started EC, it seemed like he often cried for no reason. With EC, I finally have an important tool to help meet his needs, and he is 100% happier.”

– Sarabeth, mom to Ben, began EC at 2 1/2 months 

EC has received a lot of press in the past 3-4years, and with mixed reactions from American parents.  Christine Gross-Loh’s “The Diaper-Free Baby” is the most well-respected how-to book for parents.  The curious and those ready to give EC a try can also look for support on, a non-profit organization.

Ok, but really?  I didn’t hear about EC until I was pregnant with my second baby.  At the time, I was only marginally interested.  Quite frankly, it sounded like a lot of work.  Since switching to cloth diapers and running with an increasingly “hippie” (my husband’s words…) crowd, I’ve ran into more moms who are practicing, want to practice or are trying to practice EC.  And, then, I came across Pregnancy & Newborn’s article “Infant Potty Training” in their current Green issue.  They claim that “today’s Ec’ing families foster a practical approach toward bonding with their babies and doing their part for the environment.”  So, I decided to make some calls to real moms I know who planned to EC.

To be continued…