Sunday, March 21, 2010

Does a bear **** in the woods? What about your baby?

People are always shocked to learn that my 7 month old uses the toilet, and has been since she was about 3 months old.

It's shocking to me too most days that a tiny little baby will choose, and I do mean choose, to go poop in the toilet. What's our secret? A motivated baby and a little extra work on our part.

When Violet was first born, our midwife talked to us about Elimination Communication (EC), or "Natural Infant Hygiene." She said that her grandson didn't ever need diapers, but that took a lot of dedication on her daughter's part. Basically, she said a good start was to hold the baby over the toilet when she first woke up. That was the time when baby was likely to need to pee, and that would get the baby used to peeing in the toilet.

It seemed simple enough, but our baby didn't really love being held over the toilet when she first woke up. We gave up pretty quickly. We were tired, cranky, and it seemed easier to just change the diaper and move on. Things changed when she started getting diaper rashes. The final suggestion that worked for us was to not use any wipe (not even the natural ones, not even a wash cloth). We would wash her in the sink with warm water and no soap after every diaper change. EVERY DIAPER CHANGE. To accommodate this, we moved the changing table into the bathroom. I think for us, this was the key to our success.

Suddenly, Violet associated the bathroom with pee, poop, and getting clean. Now I look back on those days of changing her diaper in her bedroom and wonder what she thought about that, or what she would think about it now. She almost immediately began peeing on the changing table every time we changed her diaper. As soon as the diaper came off, even a soaked one, she would pee. We figured, she's trying to tell us something. So, we started holding her over the toilet after taking off her diaper. The rest, as they say, is history.

She still wets at least 8 diapers a day, but she pees in the toilet almost as many times. When we started the diaper change/ hold over the toilet routine, she began pooping in the toilet right away. For the first month and a half we were doing this, she didn't poop in a single diaper. We have had poopy diapers since then, but it's usually only about two a week that I don't catch, and even those I usually realize she's pooping midway and take her to the toilet to finish. Part of that is that she is mobile, so she's playing and grunting and not always facing me, and I don't see her look. She seems to be getting more communicative though, because the other day she crawled over to me and looked at me very pointedly and made her poop face. She still hasn't copied the sign for poop that I show her when she goes.

Now she is also able to sit on a trainer seat (pictured above) and that's nice because it's rough on the back to hold the baby over the toilet. I do the hold where she has her back to my chest and I hold her by her thighs. We still use this when we are out, but she just uses her seat at home.

While I completely respect the purists out there, I think our partial use of the EC strategies us best for us. I'm glad we weren't overly dedicated in the beginning, because I think it would have upset Violet to be forced into it, and when it was directed by her actions it came effortlessly and happily. People ask me how I "make" my daughter use the toilet at such a young age, and I'm really glad that that is not the case. I'm not potty training my daughter, I'm allowing her the option to choose not to go to the bathroom in her pants. No one likes sitting in their own filth, and given the choice you'd be surprised how quickly even a small baby will choose the cleaner option.

I hope our story helps if you are trying EC/NIH or interested in trying, or if you are someone struggling because it's just not working for you. I would suggest giving it a break and coming back to it when you are both ready. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. It doesn't have to be every day. It can just be giving your child a choice or recognizing that face once in a while.

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