Infant Potty Training (a.k.a. Elimination Communication)
You want me to what in the where now?!
The idea of infant potty training might make you think, "Potty training babies?! That's crazy!" You're not alone! While the idea of infant potty training, or elimination communication, is not new, it certainly is not the norm in the United States. Some may call it a growing trend, while others who use this practice refer to it as a return to the natural order. Either way, it can sound outright loony to those of us who only think of babies using diapers, not potties.
Those who practice infant potty training (IPT) insist that it isn't really training the baby at all. The term is used to describe the process so people who are unfamiliar may get a better picture of what is actually going on.
IPT involves two basic steps: (1) noticing your baby is about to "go" and (2) getting them to a potty in time to prevent them going in their diaper/pants. Pretty easy, right? Um... maybe.
Learning your baby's cues. If you want to try out IPT, you have to learn what your baby does right before he goes. Some babies get fussy, some get calmer. Some get a faraway look in their eyes, some get red in the face. What you have to do is spend some time getting to know what your baby does so you have some warning.
Because you are spending a lot of time listening and watching your baby for signals, some people refer to IPT as "elimination communication." This puts the focus on the communication part since ideally you want your baby to start intentionally notifying you that they are about to do their business.
Some parents couple IPT with sign language teaching. It is easier for a baby to figure out how to move their hands than their vocal chords, so after a lot of practice, it's possible they would be able to sign to you.
Getting them to use the potty. Because some parents start IPT from very early on (like within the first few weeks of life), the baby is not capable of really using the potty. Instead, these parents will hold the baby over the potty and hope he goes. There is much discussion on how to hold the baby and how to aim, but the short version is that it doesn't matter as long as the baby is supported and comfortable.
Now, once the baby is over the potty (some parents use the sink for the very little babies), parents "cue" the baby by making the same noise every time the baby pees and a different noise for number 2. The idea is that after a lot of practice, you will be able to get your baby to go on cue.
This serves two purposes. The first is that your child will know what they are supposed to do and associate the toilet with elimination. The second is that you can then have them go before you go out and right when you get back, possibly avoiding a wet diaper when you're out and about.
If you have decided to try IPT with your little one, there are a few more things you should consider.
What is your goal? Are you trying to make potty training easier later or are you just hoping that your baby will stay as dry as possible? Be realistic with your goal and recognize that you will probably not have a genius toddler who is potty trained just after walking.
It's important to recognize your goal so that you can know whether IPT is for you or not. If your goals don't align with the reality of your life, then perhaps it's a good idea to rethink. Additionally, IPT may not work for your baby. He may also go through phases where his signals change and there are a lot more accidents. Be prepared for that!
What type of IPT are you going to practice? Now, IPT may sound like a full-time gig, but there are plenty of parents who only do it part time. Working mothers, for example, often don't pressure their children's care taker to continue IPT, but only focus on it when they are at home with the baby. There are many different ways to go about it.
Fit your methods with your goal. If you want a dry baby, then you will likely want to do as much IPT as possible. If you just want baby to grow up being used to being over the potty, then occasional use may be sufficient.
When are you going to start? Just like there are all different ways to IPT, you can also start any time. Some prefer to start immediately and others like to wait until baby can sit up. Some notice that it is easier to start younger, but that their child stops signaling when they approach a new phase of life.
What is your approach? Most IPT websites are adamant that you treat your baby with respect and never force baby to stay on the potty when it's not working. How you do it is ultimately up to you, but keep in mind that your child's experiences early on may likely influence them later. If they hate IPT, they may hate regular potty training even more if IPT was a terrible experience for them.
In the end, it's all about what works for you and for your baby. Tailor your experience for your family and be sensitive to all who are involved.
If you are going to try IPT, there are many books and products out there that can help. As you search for more information, remember that there are many terms used for this idea including elimination communication, diaper-free baby and infant potty training.
While IPT may seem like a foreign concept in our high tech world, it really is as natural as breathing. Many other cultures currently deal with their babies' elimination needs in a similar fashion. In Asia, for example, parents outfit their toddlers in split pants. When the wee one has to go, the parents whistle and the child simply squats and goes. No training pants or pull-up diapers needed. It's an idea that has been lost in favor of more "civilized" diapers, but are diapers really more civilized? It's a question all parents can only answer for themselves.
Links on Infant Potty Training
- TLC Family "What is elimination communication?"
Elimination communication is the idea of potty training an infant almost from birth. Learn about elimination communication and infant potty training.
- Infant Potty Training: One Mom's Diary
One mom's attempt at potty training her 7-month-old.
- Infant Potty Training
Network of free support groups supporting the practice of elimination communication
- Infant potty training: What it is and how to do it | BabyCenter
Info on infant potty training methods and the average age at which children are potty trained, including info on the history and philosophy of infant potty training.