More on Infant Pottying

Today Baby Leone, 6-year-old Etani, and I walked downtown in search of a haircut.

James started to cut Etani’s hair a month ago but made the mistake of letting Etani look in the mirror before he was done. Etani let out a howl of misery, “It’s too short,” he wailed. “I hate it. I hate it.” He refused to let James finish and has been going around with uneven hair–a cross between an unruly shag and a Dutch boy cut–ever since. No amount of cajoling, begging, or even bribery would convince Etani to let James near his head with a pair of scissors.

Leone, who is two months old today, slept soundly in the front pack until we finally found a hair salon with a slot available. When the stylist, Bruce, called Etani sit on the booster seat atop the chair, Leone started fidgeting.

Her diaper was dry. I took her to the bathroom.

We haven’t been going diaper free but we have been trying to learn Leone’s signals and hold her over the chamber pot when she needs to go.

Last week for two days in a row Leone did not wet a single diaper until the afternoon. Every time I “catch” a pee or a poop, I feel giddy that it actually works, that I have one less diaper to wash, and that this is a way I can respond to my baby’s needs.

The idea behind infant pottying is that you, as a parent or baby’s caregiver, learn to read a baby’s signals that it is time to pee or poop. Some people call this “Elimination Communication” or EC. It’s also called Natural Infant Hygiene.

At the same time as you learn to read a baby’s signals, you teach the baby to associate a sound with going potty. We are saying “PSSS” for pee and making a soft grunt for poop.

From a surprisingly young age a baby can learn to relax her sphincter muscles and pee or poop–provided her bladder or bowels are ready–on cue.

It still seems amazing to me. I’m still not sure how the whole thing works but I figure if Leone is diaper free a fraction of the time, the savings to the environment will be profound.

Diaper free also means rash free.

So I took her into the bathroom at the hair salon. She’d been dry for two hours and I figured she was probably ready to pee. Timing is one way to know when a baby has to go. Their signals to you (it turns out most, if not all, infants will give a sign–fussing, flailing, looking away, grunting–that they need to urinate or defecate) is another. Making a cueing sound so the baby pees on cue is a third way for parents to practice infant pottying. And some parents say they just rely on intuition.

We’re so new at this I’m not sure which of these methods we’re practicing but I figured I’d hold Leone over the toilet and see what happened. But squatting there hurt my back so I decided to stand and hold her over the sink instead. We smiled at each other in the mirror and then Leone peed in the sink. “PSSS,” I remembered to say.

Bruce got Etani’s hair all neatened up. Now you can see his handsome face.

But Etani was uncharacteristically quiet as we walked home.

“I hate my stupid idiot haircut,” he finally blurted out.

“I think it’s adorable. I think you look like a rock star,” I said.

“Should I be a dancer or an artist when I grow up?” I overheard Etani ask his 8-year-old sister Athena as they were brushing their teeth at bedtime.

Maybe Etani and Leone will start a band together: The Chamber Pots.

Etani, Athena, and Hesperus with chopsticks on their noses (are mine the only kids who act like this at dinnertime?). Note Etani's new haircut!

Etani, Athena, and Hesperus with chopsticks on their noses (are mine the only kids who act like this at dinnertime?). Note Etani’s new haircut!

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15 thoughts on “More on Infant Pottying”

  1. handsome haircut on etani! amazing story on Leone’s diaper free potty adventure. wish i had known this when gg was a baby.

  2. My dissertation advisor adopted a baby girl from China years ago. When the baby came to the States, she was entirely used to using a chamber pot of some sort. Though this meant for some difficulties with constipation when my professor and her partner started using diapers, I was sort of amazed that the baby was so used to behavior that seemed so advanced. Seeing it work with Leone is fascinating!

  3. Thank you for introducing so many topics that I otherwise would not know enough about to be open minded. Until I’d read your series about this, I thought the idea of infant pottying was nuts. But now that I read your first person account, it totally makes sense.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..How to Accept Defeat, part 2 =-.

  4. Never knew this existed. Not everyone would have the patience that you have to take the time to listen for her cues! I’d be interested to know how it works out in the long-run.

  5. I love hearing about your experiences with Leone’s Natural Infant Hygiene. It really is mind-blowing. . .

    Regarding the haircut, I probably shouldn’t tell you this (don’t want to give anybody ideas), but when Reeve was 6, he asked Tim, “why do you always get to cut my hair but I never get to cut yours?” So Tim let Reeve cut his hair. . .

  6. Interesting about infant pottying. I’d be wary of doing psychological damage by encouraging such early control, but I have a feeling the way you are doing it ,with love and intuition (not forced control) couldn’t do any harm. We have a friend who adopted a child from Kazakhstan at 9 mos–already chamber pot-trained. They let him go back to diapers, and he gleefully stayed in them til four years old. I am aware, of course that Leone’s experience in your family is worlds away from an orphanage in Kazakhstan. She is one LOVED baby.

  7. I’ll be honest with you. The only time I’ve seen this done is in an airport bathroom when a woman was holding a baby over a sink — saying “psst” in a public (multi-stall) restroom. I am hoping (guessing) this was a private bathroom at the hair salon?! Really don’t think it’s appropriate for someone to walk into this action in a public place. My 2 cents!
    .-= Kara´s last blog ..Chasing down the Best Chile Relleno in Las Vegas =-.

  8. I wish I’d heard about this when my children were younger. I’ve read about many mothers who’ve successfully potty trained their infants. With patience–and it sounds like you have it–I think it is possible. And frankly, I don’t think trying to teach your baby how to pee, even in a public restroom, is any, well, stinkier/offensive than seeing children having their diapers changed there.
    .-= Kristen J. Gough´s last blog ..3 Kid-friendly New Year

  9. I am new to this so please don’t take me as an authority but I think it’s important to remember that this is really NOT about potty training (in the same way nursing an infant is not about weaning). It’s about communicating with your baby and taking care of their intimate needs. No mammal wants to soil its nest and there is fascinating evidence that humans–even infants–do not want to either. Instead of teaching a baby to ignore that instinct and use his clothing/diapers as a toilet, infant pottying (not potty training) allows a baby to evacuate elsewhere, stay dry, be rash-free, and really communicate with his parents and other caregivers. It’s not coercive because it’s not about any goal of early independent pottying. I hope this makes sense…
    .-= Jennifer Margulis´s last blog ..Peter Ferry Offering Fiction Writing Workshop on January 19 =-.

  10. For moms who are trying this, like me, I also want to add something that Christine Gross-Loh, author of The Diaper-Free Baby, and a mother of four, told me the other day. Infant pottying does not have to be all or nothing. You can do it just a little (catch one pee a day in the morning, for instance) or a lot. She also said that being diaper-free does not mean your baby doesn’t wear diapers–especially at this stage–it’s more about a shift in your mindset…
    .-= Jennifer Margulis´s last blog ..Peter Ferry Offering Fiction Writing Workshop on January 19 =-.

  11. Hi Jennifer,

    I am SOOO glad you decided to try it with Leone and that you are keeping us posted about the evolution of the process. Your blog is read by so many people and it’s great that hence, they can get in contact with his so unknown and fantastic practice.

    Practicing Elimination Communication with my son since he was born (he is now 11 months and totally diaper free since 6 months), I also expermiment is as totally NOT potty TRAINING. It is not about training, it’s about communicating, respect and tenderness.

    The book “Diaper free baby” by Ingrid Bauer is just so beautifull written and so informative, you can FEEL through her words how this all makes sense if you want to “tune-in” to your child’s needs.

    YES it takes a lot of energy, especially in the beginning, and it takes a way of parenting that is very proximal: if you want to know when your baby has to pee/poop, you actually have to always SEE him or even better, carry him and sleep with him at night.

    At this moment, our EC (elimination communication) adventure is going GREAT and I am sooo happy that we are doing this. It’s so easy and “second nature” now. Matteo will always pee in the 5 seconds after we offer him or he will very clearly signal he doesn’t want to go.

    But this hasn’t always been so easy. The hardest time was when he started crawling at 6 months and he always refused to go and then, a few minutes later would pee on the floor. I was getting very frustrated and angry after a week or two of changing 6 times pants a day… Then, I decided to “let go” and just relax. As Ingrid Bauer says “wipe it out matter-of-factly”. And it changed everything! It’s all about Love, not coercition! You have to remember:

    1) it’s easier to clean a small pee on the floor when there is an accident than changing diapers all the time anyway. Bonus: instead of changing diapers for 2 years, the whole communication can be really smooth before a year! The best thing about this : I NEVER have had to change a poopy stinky diaper of a baby that eats solids.

    2) it’s just a “phase” when they are crawling and learn something new that takes all their attention. Once the crawling business is integrated, he was just great with the potty/sink/toilet again!

    I am looking forward to reading more about Leone’s EC adventure!

    Thanks again for sharing this with us!


    ps: if one day you want to write an article about EC, I would LOVE to share my experience!!!

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