“Want to take a bath?” I suggested to the baby, who’s 16 months old now. She rushed into the bathroom shrugging out of one sleeve of her red shirt.
“Psss! Psss!” The baby said a few minutes later, submerging a bowl to fill it with bath water.
“Psss” is the noise the baby makes when she has a wet diaper or needs to go pee. But she sometimes cries wolf, signaling she needs to go but refusing to pause in her play long enough to use the potty. Plus, I was busy writing in our family journal.
When I finally looked up, Leone was still saying, “psss,” almost singing the sound with good humor as she balanced the now full bowl on the edge of the tub.
“Do you need to go?” I asked. Then I saw something gray floating in the bath water. “Ut oh,” I said with a laugh. “Do you need to poop? Did you do some poopy in the tub?! Let’s do the rest on the potty.”
I held Leone on the toilet. The toilet is the only place she’ll go these days. She has no more interest in her green potty. Too babyish.
When we think she needs to poop, we make a soft grunt. I grunted. She strained a bit, and did a poop. She stayed on the potty, strained some more, and did another bowel movement.
“Poopy!” I said, kissing her on the forehead.
Then I looked again in the bathtub. The gray floating object was a hippo-shaped eraser that Leone had brought into the bath with her.
She hadn’t pooped in the tub!
She looked at me innocently out of her big gray eyes, blond curls wispy around her head, unaware or unconcerned that she’d been wrongly suspected.
We keep a bucket in the shower to catch gray water to flush the toilet or soak diapers. There hasn’t been a diaper in it for weeks. When Leone needs to poop she’ll either say “psss” or her eyes will get slightly red rimmed and she’ll become still, with a concentrated look on her face. We need to pay attention since she’s still too little to take her pants off herself (and it’s too cold in our house to go bottomless for long). But as long as we respond when she signals, the baby poops in the toilet every time.
I know theoretically that Leone’s behavior is totally natural, that human babies are born with the instinct not to soil the nest, and that as long as you communicate with them, they won’t lose that innate awareness. But I’m still amazed a baby this little can be so conscious of her body, and so able to communicate that awareness. Our culture, unlike many around the world, has lost the understanding that babies can–and want–to learn to use the potty.
This could all change tomorrow. We could be back to having more misses than catches or back to a potty pause. But right now I’m grateful that our EC adventure is going well. Why, oh why, wasn’t I open-minded enough to try this with my three other kids?
Have you tried EC (elimination communication aka infant pottying) with your children? I know many diaper-free parents recommend crotchless pants for toddlers but I haven’t tried them (mostly because all of Leone’s clothes are hand-me-downs but also, probably, because I’m not sure I get the concept). EC readers, do you have advice about crotchless pants or EC’ing a toddler to share?