The Straight Poop
March 29, 2010 1:55 PM   Subscribe

Body function filter: early potty training. If he can sit, he can poop there. Right?

Our older child was potty trained at 2.5 yrs. Worked fine, but I came away from the process feeling like there had to be a speedier & less landfill-y/thousands of poopy diapers-washing way to go. I'd lived in Asia and seen very young children trained to squat and do their business, so I know it can be done, though the weather and toilet styles over there seemed to be a vast advantage in the process. Canada's weather + carpeting + societal attitudes are complications, but there must be a way. Or even several ways. If you can teach cats to use the toilet, you must be able to train an infant human. Right?

I purchased our older child's first potty at a garage sale from a woman whose child was 15 months old and hadn't needed the potty since she'd turned a year. I didn't believe it - I actually surreptitiously patted the child's bum to confirm that she wasn't wearing a diaper (and she wasn't). I should have asked more about the process at the time, but I walked away with the potty only. The sole known friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend who trained her children very early became known as a control freak nutcase, and the general assumption by uninvolved bystanders (with no kids themselves, natch) was that the process basically trains the parents rather than the children, and now you can't leave the house because you're always watching for Junior's little grunty face and sprinting to the bathroom in the nick of time.

Enter Hilksom kid #2, and thoughts of training this child early have surfaced again. A neighbour adopted her daughter from China, and in that orphanage all the children were "whistle trained" - put on the potty from birth and trained to urinate and defecate on command. Fascinating. I have not (yet) purchased a Fox 40 for the bathroom, but obviously this early potty training thing can be accomplished in a variety of ways.

Online searches bring up books about potty training of course, and I'll pull some of those out the library. But I'm interested in your experience, the hearsay in your circles, the story about how your neighbour's friend managed to train their kid prior to, let's say, 18 months. I'm at home full time now, let's do this thing.
posted by Mrs Hilksom to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I believe the phrase you're looking for is Elimination Communication! The reference links at the bottom should be a good start for sources. I'm mostly aware of it via this ex-suicide girl's blog, where she's been mostly pretty successful with using it with her two kids.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:58 PM on March 29, 2010

On the one hand, kids are ready at really different ages. I have a friend whose daughter was fully trained at 15 months, and she felt like the Best. Mom. Ever., until her son came along and didn't finish toilet training until he was 4.

On the other hand, have you read anything about Elimination Communication? I haven't tried it, but it's what my friend did with her daughter. It does focus on parents learning their kids' signals, but also things like using a pssst-psst sound the baby can associate with peeing and that then can become a trigger so the baby/toddler can pee when it's convenient. (I will say that one reason I didn't try it was that I spent some time on mailing lists for people doing it and they seemed to have all the same problems anybody else might have, so I decided it was a little too woo-woo and not worth the trouble for me and mine. But I know people who swear by it.)
posted by not that girl at 2:03 PM on March 29, 2010

My best friend is Chinese, and her kid was in fact out of diapers by her first birthday.

Rather than training anyone it was more about communication. As a baby, it's pretty easy to tell when they're going to 'go'. First thing when they wake up, right after feeding, that sort of thing. My friend would take her baby to the bathroom at those times, hold her over the sink and then let out a little whistle. (She held the baby with the baby's back against her chest holding her legs out as if the baby was squatting or sitting on a potty.) If the baby went there was lots of praise, if the baby didn't do anything then she just got a fresh diaper put on. It may seem crazy to praise a newborn, but by about four months old that little girl was peeing on command. (At least that's how it looked to me!) For b.m.'s my friend would do the same thing except that instead of whistling she made a little grunting noise and a funny face. It worked the same way. As her baby got bigger (and b.m.'s more firm) she moved to the toilet. The baby still wore diapers until she was big enough to communicate when she needed to go, that saved on accidents in the house and out traveling. My friend still had to buy diapers, but not very often. (She also wore diapers at night until she was big enough to wake up dry.)

Apparently they temperament of the kid can also have something to do with it. She tried helping me train my son (who is the same age as her little girl) but he would just look at you funny in the mirror while you held him over the sink and then happily wet his diaper as soon as you put it on him. So I am still in the diaper zone. I am also much lazier and not culturally tied to the system.

You don't say how old the new one is, but in my opinion the earlier you get started the more likely you're going to be successful. Trying to do this with a six month old will be a lot harder than a newborn.
posted by TooFewShoes at 2:21 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Elimination Communication worked for us, and it was totally my wife's idea and research project. I thought it was crazy at first, but hey, it worked.

I got punched on the arm for calling it "scat chat".
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:36 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Okay, I'll be the lone dissenter here and say EC is not toilet training. To be independently toilet trained, a child has to be able to get him or herself to the toilet, take off clothing, use the toilet, wipe, dress again, and flush (and then ideally wash hands). If the parents are involved in every aspect of that act, it's clearly not an independent thing. It puts a lot of pressure on the primary caregiver to know what the signals are and to "catch" (that's the term they use) the movements.

Am I telling you not to do it? Of course not. But it really seems to me to make more sense to wait until the child is fully cognizant of the steps required to successfully use the toilet. And many ECers do say they only do EC at home because they can't always "catch" movements.
posted by cooker girl at 2:52 PM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

Like others have said it all depends on the child. To really toilet train it depends on the child being able to talk.

My parents got me toilet trained at about 2 .

All it took is sitting me on one of those small plastic pottys infront of the tv and then leaving me there till i went. eventually i learned my self when i had to go./

I also start to wonder with the ec method if accidents become common because somebody whistled.
posted by majortom1981 at 3:16 PM on March 29, 2010

We've been trying to do elimination communication with our 3-week old. We started off holding him over a bucket and grunting while nursing because this is when he most frequently BMs. We've since downgraded the process to merely grunting when he has a BM. Hopefully, in the near future, we'll get back in to taking his diaper off and holding him over something when we think he's going to defecate but for now it's too challenging.
posted by surfgator at 3:17 PM on March 29, 2010

My sister did EC and I just have to say that it takes a big, big, BIG commitment. It is literally 24/7, and that includes when you're driving, or riding on a subway, or out for a walk in the park, or running errands. Go for it, if you have the energy. I sure didn't.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:25 PM on March 29, 2010

Yeah, Elimination Communication is what you're looking to Google. I have a good friend who has used it with great results for both her children.

However, it really won't work if you're not a stay-at-home parent. You need to be able to give the constant feedback, and practice looking for the cues. Its as much about training you as it is about training the baby. Does seem to really work, though.
posted by anastasiav at 3:25 PM on March 29, 2010

In Armenia, they EC but as I understand it, you need to start EARLY and be a very involved caretaker.

My SIL's husband is Chinese and they use a Chinese nanny and their now-10-month-old EC's just fine.
posted by k8t at 5:40 PM on March 29, 2010

We are doing a less-intensive EC approach: poop only. I didn't want to have to be alert to "catch" stuff all day long. Plus I am out quite a bit and didn't want to have to use potted plants throughout the city. So we're using just as many diapers as any other baby does, but because poop is always in the potty, I frequently use cloth diapers to save on landfill waste.

The poop/potty thing has been very easy for us. Once he was past the newborn stage, he got into a pattern of "going" at a particular point in the day. Having noticed that, we started making a sound each time to create an audio cue, and showing him the ASL for toilet as a visual cue. We did that till he was six months old -- just associating the cue sound and sign. (We waited that long till he was a steady sitter so that it wouldn't be physically uncomfortable for him.) At six months we started putting him on the potty at his usual time, and within 15 minutes, he does his business. If he doesn't have to go, he just sits there and plays with small toys and after 15 minutes he gets a new diaper.

Pretty much we put him on the potty first thing in the morning and after each of his two naps. Occasionally again in the evening if his eating patterns seem to indicate he may need another go. I don't want to jinx myself, but I haven't had to clean up after a poopy diaper in months. It's soooo much easier to just put him on the seat (since we're home at that time anyway) -- he goes, one swipe with one wipe, and into a clean diaper. A definite recommend.
posted by xo at 6:17 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can definitely do EC part-time. Once my son was able to sit up unassisted we put him on the potty every morning and he pretty much got it from day one. He regularly went on the potty until about two and then decided the potty was not his thing any more. We're hoping he comes around again soon (he is 27 months now). Even if it didn't mean he trained any earlier we saved lots of money/time on diapers and he knows how to do it - he just has to want to now.

Good Luck!
posted by a22lamia at 6:19 PM on March 29, 2010

My mother had both my brother and me, along with several cousins, trained at 14 months and will soon be working her magic on her first grandchild. My brother and I are at the weird adult portion of our lives where we are studying our mother's parenting techniques with newfound alacrity. We talk about poop and vomit a lot.

Anyway, my mom is a patient lady who gets results. She used a little plastic child's potty that started in the living room and placed a little tray in front of it, sort of like a desk, but used as a play surface. She would sit the child in question on the little toilet and feed them cheerios one by one or give them toys to keep them from getting bored. After any evacuation, my mom would give them lots of praise and a treat, usually a few m&ms. She never did this for more than an hour per day, though sometimes split over several sessions, and would re-diaper once it was over.

After a few weeks, the child would learn to place his or herself on the potty at and do their business with expectation of a treat. After this happens consistently enough the rewards are tapered off and replaced with just praise. At the same time, the potty would start to inch its way toward a bathroom. Eventually, it found its place next to the toilet.

If there were no hitches, a few months later there was graduation to the real toilet, aided by a specially painted step stool. My brother and I each had our own with our names painted on them and we were very proud to use them with the grown up toilet.
posted by Alison at 8:06 PM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

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