This month's progress has been super-interesting to me, because I began doing EC with my daughter when she was this age. The contrast between starting at 7 months with her and starting at 4 days old with my son has been huge. For my son, this month brought about an increased ability to hold-in urine and to release it at will. Signalling by signing is quite rare, however we are still managing to catch a lot of pee and I am finding that I can go up to 4 days between washes of my cloth diapers (not sure how good that is for the diapers though?!?!). In contrast, starting at 7 months with my daughter I found naked observation time a real trial as she would sometimes pee every 10 to 15 minutes, especially in the morning. I never did find any signals or timing that made sense and she never caught on to the ASL sign for potty. Eventually we did have a successful EC experience, but no where near the catch-rate I am achieving with my son.
After last month's poop roller-coaster, this month has brought about new changes and we are catching almost all the poops now. His bowel movements are now about every two days and since they are much thicker now, it is very obvious when he needs to "go". All of the classic signs are there, the grunting, a serious or red face etc... And catches in the toilet have been a dream; little to no clean-up! We were doing so well in fact that one day Alek began to grunt in the car. I knew right-away that it was a poop, but I hoped it wasn't! I considered pulling the car over, but with two car seats in the back and a trunk full of groceries and a stroller, I was worried about the logistics of it all. So I continued on. Well... upon arriving home, I was met with a stinky, sticky mess in his diaper which is especially bad in cloth when you have to scrape it all off and rinse (for the record all poop in disposables is supposed to be dumped into the toilet too).
I cannot imagine NOT trying to catch all the poops in the potty.... EC makes my life sooooooo much better.
Two weekends ago the four of us attended Folk Fest and I brought my top hat potty (the Tiny Baby Potty) along. I chose to use disposable diapers at the event, just to minimize what I needed to lug around, and to keep the little guy comfortable and dry-feeling in case I could not change diapers as often as usual. My plan was to pour any pee into my wet-bag, lined with a cloth or a used disposable diaper inside to absorb the wetness. It would have worked well... we tried, but we didn't catch any pees while out and about that day :(
For anyone reading this blog post who is interested in doing EC but has not started yet, just go for it! You have nothing to lose. As long as you always approach pottying with love and respect for your baby, you cannot go wrong. And if you are looking for help or support, check out the Go Diaper Free of Edmonton group on Facebook!
So... what are we wearing for EC this month? At home I am loving being "diaper-free" more and more. That doesn't mean naked, most of the time it means having Alek in a diaper without a cover. Easy to change, easy to potty and easy to see/feel when he is wet. The diaper belt/prefold is becoming a favourite for its ease but we seem to have the most success at staying dry in the fitted cloth diapers for some reason.
The photo on the left shows my super-mobile 7-month old climbing the stairs in his wool Flaparap. Up until now I did not like the way these EC diapers fit, and found changing them to be a real challenge. At 7 months and over 20 lbs I do find them a bit better but for at-home use I still prefer the simpler (and much cheaper) diaper-belt solution. Part of the challenge of these is the way that you install the pad, you kind of scoop it in from behind - which is ideal for a crawling baby, but not so simple on a non-mobile back-laying baby. I do think that Flaparaps will come in handy for trips out of the house when Alek is wearing pants, since the cover is waterproof and yet really easy to open for pottytunities wherever you are. I'll have to give that a go soon!
Curious about EC and early potty learning? Check out these books and get started today!
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7 months already! Where has the time gone? This month marked many milestones for us, Alek got 4 new teeth (8 altogether now!), he learned to crawl and to pull himself up on things. Suddenly things have gotten very busy in our household!
My goal at the end of last month was to catch more poops, as he was consistently pooping in his car seat or as soon as he wakes up from a nap! I am happy to report that we have made some gains in that area, but many of them are still ending up in his diaper. We spent two weeks in early-July at our family's lake cabin. I was hoping that this would be a good chance to focus on catching poops, especially since I knew we wouldn't be using the car much. I also had to switch from cloth to disposable diapers on the trip, as doing a ton of laundry out there is not possible. So, in addition to a supply of disposables, I took along a few large prefold diapers and a diaper belt, intending to use them for "naked time", and if he peed in them, it would be pretty simple to rinse or hand-wash them. Unexpectedly, every time I put Alek in a cloth prefold he would poop in it! p.s. washing poopy cloth in the sink is not fun.
There was one evening where he was being a bit fussy, so I stood him up on the couch beside me, as he likes to play with the blinds and look out the window. The moment I stood him up he did a huge poop in the prefold. Urgh! I suppose the fussiness was a sign, but how can you tell poop fussiness from teething, sleepiness, boredom or another kind of fussiness?
With watching timing, I was able to catch a few poops about 20 minutes after waking in the morning, but then the timing changed again. I caught a few others on the grass outside. Because his poop is still pretty runny/creamy I just cleaned the grass off with a papertowel and poured some water on it. Speaking of grass, Alek LOVES to pee in the grass. If I potty him over the grass I will get a pee about 95% of the time. There were many, many instances this month that I suspected he needed to pee but he did not go in the potty or sink, so I took him outdoors and caught a pee in the grass!
Signalling by sign-language completely stopped this month. At first I thought it would return as soon as that 8th tooth came through, but he has only signed one time for "potty" since then. I have been noticing some other things, however. Like when he is not wearing a diaper he seems to crawl off the carpet and pee on the hardwood floor (thank-you Alek!). He also looks at you a second before he begins to pee.
Overall month 6-7 has been full of changes. With eating more solids and teething, his BM's have been inconsistent and there has been a huge variety of consistency from really runny, to runny with chunks of food, to really creamy and difficult to wipe. In addition, I know that more tummy time and crawling can lead to more pee accidents because of all of the additional pressure on the bladder. New teeth, standing, an inconsistent summer schedule... there have been a fair share of misses for sure. But I am not too hard on myself. EC has always been fun for me, and although I try to catch as much as I can every day, I'm not overly serious about it, I just hope that overall we succeed at communication and over the months we are able to increase our success rate.
Alek is a really big boy for his age, and weighs more than 20lbs. This month his preferred potty spots have been the sink or over the grass, but I am finding it difficult to hold him in the classic EC pose for a long time. In addition, his creamier poops are difficult to clean from the cloth diaper before putting in the wash, and now must be cleaned from the sink too (exclusively breastfed poops can easily be washed down the sink). So I have tried to introduce the Baby Bjorn Potty Chair as his main potty in the livingroom, as well as an IKEA toilet seat reducer in the main bathroom. Although he sits on both of these very comfortably, he has refused to eliminate on either one. I have managed to catch a few pees in the bowl of the chair potty when placed between my legs like a Top Hat potty but that is all. The Top Hat potties on the other hand, are getting less comfortable to use as he gets larger and heavier. I am phasing out using the one I have at home, but will continue with it as a car/travel potty in my diaper-bag.
Are you doing EC or interested in starting it with your baby or baby-to-be? It would be great if you wanted to comment below about how it is going, and be sure to join the Go Diaper Free of Edmonton Group on Facebook if you are in the area. If not, find a group in your area at http://godiaperfree.com/find-a-local-group/
Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on some of the links above and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thank you so much for your support.
In Alek's 6th month, something amazing happened. Ok wait, we're talking about a baby here... something amazing is always happening! But seriously people; Alek learned to sign. When he was 4 months old, I began teaching him the sign for potty. Usually when I was holding him on the tophat potty, I would cue him with the "pssss" noise that I use for pee, and then when he started to actually go, I would hold up my right fist and show him the ASL sign for potty, saying something like "pee-pee in the potty". Sometimes I would do the sign in other places while he was peeing but it was generally easiest on the little potty. About two weeks after introducing the sign for potty, I also introduced the sign for "milk" in a similar manner. While he was nursing I would say "milk" while showing him the sign. Sometimes I would ask, would you like some milk? Showing the sign when I said the word milk. On May 27th (I know the date, because we were celebrating my daughter's birthday party), I was in the kitchen preparing supper when I heard Alek begin to shout in the living room. His grandmother was holding him, so I let it continue for a little bit while I finished whatever I was doing. By that time, Alek was nearly frantic. I walked into the living room and he looked me right in the eyes and did something with his fist. I couldn't tell if it was intentional though, and no one else seemed to have noticed. I picked him up from his grandma's arms, sat down on the couch and opened my shirt to nurse, he latched on quickly and then held up his hand, looked at me and started making the sign for "milk". It was one of the most incredible things ever!
Soon after that he also began to sign for potty. Generally he will look right at me, and hold up his fist in a very deliberate way, rotating it back and forth slowly, it is quite unmistakable. If I potty him right at that time, I will usually catch a pee, although sometimes I think he is signing while peeing, or to ask me to please change his diaper! One day, we were visiting my grandparents (who are in their mid-80's). As we were talking, Alek looked at me and made the potty sign. My grandmother had to ask what that was about, as I said... the sign is very intentional. I told her that it means he needs to use the toilet! Then I went ahead and let him pee in their bathroom (sink). Boy were they impressed! And this from a grandmother who says all 7 of her kids were potty-trained before they were 18 months old!
A day or two after that impressive signing at my grandparents, all signing stopped. It was noticeable to me because Alek had gotten into the habit of signing "milk" at every opportunity. Tired? "milk"... Bored? "milk"... Upset? "milk"... you get the picture. So it was quite an abrupt change that there was no more signing at all. That's when I realized that his two front top teeth were coming in. Miraculously about a day after they popped through, the signing started-up as abruptly as it had ended! We had another 2 weeks or so of awesome communication and signing, then bam! About 3 days ago signing stopped and I see the next-to-middle bottom AND top teeth coming in.
Another big change this month has been introducing Alek to food. We are doing baby-led-weaning this time, so basically just sitting him at the table with us and letting him eat whatever we eat (so long as it is not dangerous or unhealthy for him, of course). He is not eating a ton, but is loving meal-times! And his poop has already started to change. Unfortunately we are in the peanut-butter poop phase and it keeps ending up in the diaper. Alek's favourite poop spot is still the car-seat, so this is something I would like to work on changing this month. I think now that school is over for the year and we no longer have to do the twice-daily kindergarten run, it should get much easier to catch poops.
Earlier in the month I gave night pottying a good try. I found it really tough and unpredictable, especially because Alek is very resistant to the potty when he wakes (and is crying!), so the only way to catch a pee is to nurse at the same time. If he is going to pee, it seems to come at the very second that he calms and begins to nurse. No time for adjustments! When I tried this with the top hat potty it was really awkward, I couldn't see well, and pee went everywhere :( At this moment in time, I am content catching the last pee before bed (which we are having success with again!), and leaving it at that. He wakes quite often in the night and I am way too tired to be alert enough for pottying. Plus, he is nursing quite a bit at night, which means he pees A LOT too. My focus for now will be to reduce night-waking (thereby reducing night feeding), and then I will give night pottying another shot. A friend swears by the Baby Bjorn potty insert for night pottying, so I will have to give that a try!
One final development this month has been that when I potty him in the sink (in front of the bathroom mirror), Alek pees in spurts. Sometimes little pees come out three to eight times before he is done. He looks down at his penis and watches as each squirt comes out, and seems to be controlling them! If I give-up and take him away from the sink too early, he lets me know using the potty sign, and I return him to the sink to finish.
Gear that we are using this month:
Still using the top hat potty at home and when out, its still seems a bit small but does the trick.
Pottying in nature is working great! Just pee on a tree :) This will be trickier now that I should start thinking about cleaning up after him if he poops.
The little green IKEA potty (pictured above). This is the perfect size for my chunky guy!
I'm using a small Peapod Mat as an on-the-go change pad and the larger sizes as waterproofing anywhere and everywhere!
As a reference, the Go Diaper Free book is the best resource around for EC.
For clothing I have been lazy and have not changed a thing.
It has been said that the best and easiest time to start EC is when your child is between 0 to 4 months old. I have to say that I agree! The first 4 months were wonderful, and quite a different experience than starting at 7 months like I did with my daughter. It has been a great bonding experience, as I have mentioned in past posts, and I felt really in-tune with my babies needs in those early months. This past month however, was quite frustrating. There were many more wet diapers, pants and mats than there were catches in the potty and if anything, I felt very out of sync with him, no matter what I tried.
I do not think that the most frustrating thing was realizing that I had missed a pee and his diaper was wet, it was the consistent misses as I was removing his diaper, or less than 5 minutes after offering him the potty. For example, at the beginning of the month Alek and I met up with some friends for coffee. He had nursed right before leaving the house, then went into the car seat and fell asleep there on the way to the café. I transferred him into the carrier upon arriving, and he slept for nearly an hour there. When he woke I waited several minutes before taking him to the bathroom. And when I opened his diaper it was dry – so I was confident that it was indeed “potty time”. The café had private washrooms, so I held him over the sink and cued him. I waited quite a while but no pee came, so I put his diaper back on. After I used the toilet, I thought I would try pottying him again (less than 2 minutes after the first try), but his diaper was already soaked.
Many other times this month, I would take him to the sink or offer the tophat potty with no luck but then he would pee just a few minutes later. For about 3 weeks our unfortunate routine was the following: I would offer the potty (no pee/poop), then lay him down naked on a waterproof mat. He would very quickly roll on to his belly, and within minutes would be lying in a big wet spot of pee. Alternatively, I would offer the potty (no pee/poo), replace his diaper or training pants and then put him in his bouncy chair. Again, within a few minutes he would pee or very commonly, poop. Signals were pretty much non-existent. Often he would be in my lap or my arms and would pee (in training pants), the wetness being the only clue that it had happened.
It did occur to me during all this that I could possibly improve my catch-success by offering the potty once and then again 5 minutes later (if there was no pee yet), but this was often hard to do since I was typically making a meal or helping my older child with something and would miss the chance. Also, unless I knew that a pee was imminent, I did not want to get into the habit of over-offering, and possibly creating resistance to pottying (this is definitely a concern as children get older). Another thing that I realized is that Alek’s timing is changing and he is also peeing less frequently than he used to - especially during this heat wave that we are having.
After quite a lot of observation, I am at a loss for discovering with any accuracy a certain timing for pees after eating and/or sleeping. Sometimes he pees almost immediately after the event, and other times needs ten minutes or more before he pees. In the morning, I have noticed that he pees quite frequently. In the evening, however, he pees much less often, and I can no longer catch a pee right before his nighttime sleep, which had been our habit for so many months. Because of these inconsistencies I am realizing that it is time for me to “get out of my head” and rely less on timing, hopefully becoming more in-tune with whatever subtle signals that Alek might be giving out.
For the last 5 weeks Alek and I were fortunate enough to be able to participate in an infant massage course from Pure Love Infant Massage. The course was excellent. I learned a lot and enjoyed the chance to spend some quiet, focused one-on-one time with Alek. In terms of EC, the course, and practicing at home too, helped me to hone-in on the more subtle and physical aspects of Alek's cues. For example, while practicing the tummy massage one afternoon, Alek became quite fussy, attempting to roll over while I was massaging him. Then I felt his tummy flex right before he began to pee! Because I usually massage him while he's naked, I am hyper-aware of any signals, and of course pottying a naked baby is super-easy! While in the past I have not enjoyed "passive" naked observation time so much, I think that more "active" observation, while massaging or bathing, or playing with him is very worthwhile and enjoyable.
As a more positive end to this month, we are getting back on track with EC! This past week we caught a lot more pees in the potty and I have discovered that Alek likes to pee outdoors. I think my catch rate is around 100% when I am squatting, holding him in the classic EC pose, over grass. At this point, even if he poops a little in the grass, I am just covering it up with some grass or leaves, or even dumping a bit of water on it - as his bowel movements are still liquid and completely water soluble at this point. I have also introduced the American Sign Language sign for "Toilet", generally when we actually catch something (whether in the potty, grass, sink or wherever he is going) in the hopes that soon he will begin signing to let me know that it is potty-time. My hope is to introduce a few other signs next month as well.
We've had our ups and downs this month for sure, but overall the first 4 months of EC have been wonderful. In the busyness of family life, especially when you have older children to tend to, it is a gift to practice EC. It is a reminder to pause and give your focused attention on your baby, even for only a few minutes. But these pauses are fairly frequent (compared to the routine of regular, non-EC diapering) - and allow parents to check-in with baby regularly to consider his or her needs beyond hunger, boredom and sleepiness. I have definitely been blessed with a calm and content baby - but I also really believe that a part of his contentedness is because of EC.
Alek is nearly always in a dry diaper (or no diaper at all) and because of that, aside from a bit of redness, he doesn't have a diaper rash, so he is dry and comfortable. Secondly, he is never gassy or constipated - this may not be entirely due to EC - but because I am holding him in a deep squat position (the easiest and best position for humans to poop in) dozen's of times per day, any gas or poop comes out frequently. Finally, when he's crying and there is no "obvious" reason why (ie. he's not hungry, tired, bored or hurt), I know that his diaper is either wet or dirty or he needs to use the potty. Either way, after a change and a potty, he's usually back to his contented self again.
A week after Alek turned 3 months old, I had to strip all my cloth diapers; a lengthy process that involves washing, soaking, sterilizing and the washing them again a few more times. I had just purchased some second-hand diapers and many of my old ones must have had build-up remaining from when my daughter used them, because they were beginning to stink! It took over 12 hours to complete the process, and the diapers weren't quite dry for bed time. I ended-up having my most successful EC day ever, and managed to go a whole day using only 1 large prefold diaper, 1 pair of training pants and 3 disposables (including the one he wore to bed). Considering that both the training pants and 1 disposable were retired because of some drips of runny baby poop (but no pee) in them, I think that's pretty incredible! Amazing what one can accomplish when the need (and challenge) arises.
Despite that super-successful day with lots of catches, we have also had a number of "off" days where it seems that Alek and I are just not in-sync EC-wise. Those days when he begins to pee as I am taking off this diaper, or I catch nothing in the potty but he pees 2 minutes later on the floor, or even some days where almost every diaper was wet and very few pees ended-up in the potty.
Last month I talked a bit about Alek's emerging signals - mainly crying out uncomfortably - and was looking forward to building on that this month. Unfortunately, his signals have retreated for the most part this month, even for poops which I find surprising! I wonder if this could be a natural part of his development, as I have been following the "Wonder Weeks" and these last 5 weeks he has been progressing through mental leap 4. Perhaps as his world rights itself, his signals will return or become more overt. I've also just noticed his two bottom front teeth starting to break through, so its possible he is a little preoccupied at the moment!
A funny example about this lack of signals happened yesterday... I had taken off Alek's poopy diaper, offered him the potty (too hastily perhaps), and then just placed a prefold diaper under his naked bum so that I could carry him to the kitchen. I was standing at the computer that lives on our kitchen island, holding Alek in my left arm, controlling the mouse with my right. Then suddenly, with not a wiggle nor a peep, a huge gush of poop flew out of Alek's bum and onto the floor, completely bypassing the prefold somehow! What the heck???
In another unfortunate turn of events this month, Alek has developed Eczema on his torso and a bit on the sides of his head. When moisturizing didn't help, I decided to get him some baby probiotics which we started one week ago. Ever since his first dose I have noticed a big increase in the number of poops he takes in a day, sometimes he will poop 4-5 times in one morning! With this increase in poops, my catch rate has gone way down. Even if I'm catching several poops per day, several more are ending up in a diaper.
Another interesting development this month is Alek's increased dexterity and ability to move! By his 4-month birthday he can roll both ways and somehow manages to turn in circles as well. Sadly, his grabby little hands have discovered his genitals and every time I have him naked he is grabbing them so hard I am worried that he is going to hurt himself! Therefore, clothing-wise I am trying to keep him in something for the most part. Generally a cloth fitted with no cover, training pants or a cloth prefold with or without a cover.
Alek's dad is finally getting a little more comfortable trying EC and has made a few catches. Although he is not as enthusiastic about it as I am, I know that he sees the value in it and is amazed by our successes!
This week is the 6th Annual Go Diaper Free Week and all about helping you begin a diaper-free reality with your little one - at any age. There are contests, free on-line classes and more being offered by Andrea Olson over at Go Diaper Free, so check it out! In honour of this week, I am also going to hold a contest and the winner will receive a copy of the tiny potty board book (including shipping anywhere in Canada)! All you need to do to enter is to "like" the pinned post on Wee Potty's Facebook Page and comment on this or any one of my blog posts between now and Saturday April 28th, 2018. The winner will be tagged in a Facebook post and sent a personal message on Sunday April 29th, 2018.
Our EC practice is still going really well! At 3 months I am beginning to see/sense more 2-way communication than I was in previous months, which gives me a lot of hope for the future! The first thing I did this month was to download and try two (free) baby-care apps, Feed Baby and Baby Manager. Neither of these apps are specifically intended for EC, but can be super-helpful and more convenient than pen and paper for tracking your baby's elimination in relation to when she is eating or sleeping and the intervals thereafter. Personally, I preferred the interface on Baby Manager, but Feed Baby has the option of recording a "dry diaper" which can be helpful too. I used Baby Manager for 3 days at the beginning of this month to track Alek's habits and it definitely gave me more confidence to know when its time to "go". I would NOT however, recommend obsessively tracking every feed and diaper every day of your EC practice. Its best used for short-term information gathering and not to evaluate your "success".
Regarding communication, I have still not recognized any standard signals from Alek, but there have certainly been times when I heard a little cry from the other room and ran in to see that he had just peed, or a certain look or stillness that I acted upon and made a successful catch! On the other-hand, there have also been plenty of times that I took him to the sink or potty but nothing came out, only to have him pee on himself, the change table, floor or on me (!) minutes later. I do find that misses like those come in waves though, so who knows what was really going on. For about a week last month, each time I held Alek in the "classic EC position" to potty, he would stretch out his legs and hold them there (so much for the deep squat position!). So I tried holding him in a standing position next to the sink (with his feet resting on the bathroom counter but holding him so he wasn't supporting his weight on them), and cueing him to pee. No success. Next I tried holding him in the classic position and singing (usually the Itsy Bitsy Spider), this typically calms and relaxes him and sometimes results in a pee! I have also found this month that he can get very distracted by his own adorable reflection in the bathroom mirror, so I have been pottying in other environments more and more (including the shower, toilet, or potty in the livingroom or bedrooms).
Case in point: A couple of weeks ago I tried to potty Alek but no pee or poop came. So I returned with him to the bedroom and laid him on the change table. As my bookshelf is right there, I took out my copy of Go Diaper Free to look up some EC information. As I was perusing my book, Alek began to pee all over the change table! I made the cue noise, changed the wet pad under him, and continued reading. Then I noticed him making a funny cry/squawk noise, so I looked at him and he was staring straight at me. I got the overwhelming feeling that he needed to poop, put him on the potty right there, and he did!
We've been out-and-about A LOT since Alek was born, and I am trying as often as I can to potty him in public places. Unfortunately, despite major success at home, we have a dismal success rate when we're out. Partly this is because pottying on-the-go is not as convenient as it is at home. I think that the biggest barrier to our success is that he doesn't feel comfortable in the way that I am holding him over public toilets... I just cannot support his body the way I can when I am standing and holding him over a sink. And besides that, I tried pottying him over a public sink last week and he still wouldn't go. I have noticed in the last week or so that he is getting a lot more engaged with his environment and therefore a lot more distracted, so that is likely becoming an additional challenge to public bathroom pottying. I am itching for warm Spring and Summer temperatures that will make pottying in the car or outdoors a viable alternative!
Nighttime EC is not something that I am really interested in at this point, but I am willing to do anything to get more sleep! There were a few nights at the beginning of last month where Alek had a big poop in his diaper while I was nursing him in the middle of the night. One of these resulted in poop on his clothing and I had to change everything he was wearing. This was, of course, very disturbing to his sleep. The next night, I pottyied him before nursing and caught a big poop and a pee! After that, he has started holding his poop all night and he usually does a big poop in the potty first thing in the morning. Score!
My biggest takeaway this month has been that the more I offer the potty, the more Alek seems to save his elimination for the potty. Catches lead to more catches! But also that clothing (or lack thereof) matters. If Alek does signal (squawk.... ---- just as I wrote that, I clued in to the fact that Alek was indeed making an uncomfortable sort of squawk noise. I went into the living room where he was sitting with his dad, checked his diaper (dry), and put him on the potty where I caught a huge pee! He is definitely starting to signal more and it is SO COOL. ---- as I was about to say... it seems that he is more likely to alert us to his need to eliminate when he is either naked, or in training pants or a cloth diaper with no waterproof cover. Then again, it is also likely that I am just more aware of his signals or sounds at those times because there is a bigger chance of a mess if I miss it!
Are you practicing EC with your baby or toddler? If so, I'd love to know how its been going for you. Be sure to leave me a comment on this post to let me know :)
We're getting into a good groove with EC now. At the beginning of this month I really wanted to focus on doing more diaper-free time, and figuring out Alek's signals (of an impending pee or poop), so I was pushing myself to have him naked at any opportunity - typically first thing in the morning or for the couple hours in the afternoon when my daughter is at school. After many hours of observation, I still have no clue what his signals might be - it all still seems pretty random to me - but I did have a key realization that has made this last week a big success.
What I realized is that I don't like naked (observation) time! I love EC, but I'm not loving having my under 2-month old diaperless for extended periods. I think that every book written on the subject will tell you to start EC with several hours of waiting and watching your baby/child to see whether he or she makes any signals before eliminating AND to start making a cue noise while your child is eliminating (in order to be able to use that noise later to prompt him to pee at the appropriate time), but spending hours waiting for your child to eliminate is BORING. I tried to make it work... I watched and waited, waited and watched.
Then my mind wandered... (what are we having for supper tonight? I wonder if the broccoli is still good. Perhaps I should thaw some... ahhhh!!! he's peeing! Make the cue noise!) "Pssssssss" (Crap. What was he doing right before he peed? I have no idea, I was thinking about supper. Argh.) Or... my baby is naked, and I am supposed to be watching him, but the kitchen is a mess/I have bills to pay/he's happy and I would like to shower now etc... There is no purpose of having your baby naked if you're not paying any attention!
Once I couldn't stand passive observation anymore, I decided to change my tactic and try diaper-free on-the-go (while at home, I haven't completely lost my mind!!!). "Diaper-free" doesn't always mean naked, your child is "diaper-free" anytime that he is not wearing a waterproof diaper as a back-up, such as wearing training pants, a diaper-belt with fabric tucked-in, a fitted cloth diaper with no cover, etc... While there are many benefits to this (the ability to see immediately when baby pees in the back-up, to cue during pee or change a diaper right away, heightening your awareness of his signals, lessening mess if you have a miss, easy access for potty-time etc...), unless you already have a good grasp on your child's signals and timing, you're just going to get peed on.
My goal was to do some diaper-free baby-wearing to see if I could get a better grasp on Alek's signals. I first had him wearing a diaper-belt with a prefold (Bummies infant-size). The prefold seemed a bit too short to fit comfortably in the belt, and too bulky. So instead I used a Flapawrap insert (a big square of cotton jersey material) folded like a long pad. This was a much more comfortable fit in the diaper belt. However, when he peed it soaked through easily and got everywhere! The first two times I tried the diaper-belt/baby-wearing combo, Alek took a nice long nap in the carrier, and didn't pee until I took him out of the carrier after the nap. The third time, however, he was fussy going into the carrier and I ended-up getting peed on twice in a row and that was the end of that. And I STILL didn't notice any signals.
Having him "diaper-free" was theoretically a good learning exercise, but I found it really stressful. Here he is, napping peacefully in the carrier and at each squirm I'm wondering, is that a signal? Does he need to pee? Can I potty him while he's sleeping? Will he cry if I try it? etc... etc... At this point in our journey, I think that his sleep and my sanity trump EC. I will give diaper-free babywearing another go, but would like to have a better grasp on his timing (and signals, if possible) before I do. I'm still doing little bits of naked time here and there when its convenient, but most of the time, Alek is diapered and clothed, and I am ok with that!
On to the good parts, and whats working for us right now. Alek doesn't like being in a wet diaper. We're using cloth, so he feels the wetness more than if he were in a disposable and he let's us know about it! On that note, we've gotten into a great routine for changing and pottying that has resulted in a lot of dry diapers! I've noticed that Alek is consistently dry when he naps. Even if his nap is 2+ hours, he is dry upon waking. Once he wakes, I can wait a good ten minutes and find his diaper dry. Sometimes there will be a little dribble of poop, so I know he needs to do that too! Nine times out of ten I'll catch both a pee and a poop if I potty him at that time. Also, each time he eliminates in a receptacle, I have a chance to teach him the cue noises ("psssss, pssss" for pee, a grunting noise for poop) without doing any sustained naked time (bonus!!!).
I also love offering the potty to him before we leave the house and before he takes a nap. I know that if he eliminates at that time, he'll be dry for awhile, and if he's tired he'll be able to sleep comfortably in a dry diaper.
When I offer a place for him to go pee or poop, be it a potty, sink, toilet or other place, it doesn't always happen right away. Sometimes it takes a few minutes before anything happens, so patience is key. However, it also gives me another chance to watch for those elusive signals, and also to teach Alek another key phrase, "All Done?". Basically, if I have been holding him over a receptacle for a couple of minutes and nothing has happened, we'll take a break by holding him in a different position. Then I will offer the receptacle again. If nothing has happened after another minute or so, I will say to him "All Done?" as a signal to him that potty time is almost over. Often he does pee or poop at that time. Other times I begin to walk away and he cries out, so we go back to the receptacle and he will pee or poop. Sometimes he just didn't need to "go", and that's fine too.
Since I have not been able to observe any signals from him yet, I am very content to continue basing our EC practice on timing and intuition, as well as using a diaper back-up (with waterproof cover) most of the time - its working well for us so far! My goal for next month is to do a better job of recording his feedings, pees and poops to get a better idea of timing and how many times he "goes" in a day.
Signal: a physical movement, noise or change in behaviour that act as a clue that your baby needs to eliminate
Cue noise: a sound that the caregiver makes while the baby eliminates, later this sound will act as a cue that its potty-time.
Back-up: a diaper or other cloth material on your baby's bottom just in case you don't get to the potty in time.
Miss: when pee or poop end up anywhere other than your intended receptacle.
My second child was born about 5 weeks ago, and Elimination Communication (EC), or infant potty training, is off to a good, albeit very part-time start! Since the practice of EC changes so much as babies grow and develop, I thought it would be fun to write a month-by-month account of how its going for us... through catches, misses, and full-on potty pauses.
I will also admit, that while I am a coach and EC educator, this is my first time practicing EC from birth. My daughter was about 7 months old before I finally got up the courage to try it, and by then - like most babies - her innate desire not to soil herself was long gone. She did not show any visible signals that she was about to 'go' and in addition, she seemed to pee small amounts every 10-15 minutes; my 5-week old can hold it longer than that already!
My second child, Alek, was born on December 20th, healthy and full-term. While he has peed almost immediately after birth, and again one other time, on his third day of life he was showing the beginning signs of jaundice and had not peed in over 30 hours (eliminating helps to clear the bilirubin that causes jaundice). We were told to take him to the hospital if he did not pee in the next 10 hours. EC to the rescue! I took my 4-day old baby to the bathroom sink, and held him in the "classic EC position"... waiting. I blew some cold air into his genital area, and he began to pee! After that, he began consistently wetting diapers for the rest of the day. I also caught another pee and a poop!
In the first two weeks of his life, I wasn't focusing much on EC. However, I was loving how it helped me to tune into his little being... developing an awareness of his cries and his elimination habits. I did find some unique challenges during this period though, for example, his legs were all curled-up like frogs legs. Each time he peed into the potty or sink, one of those feet or legs was in the way and got soaked! Also, it was nearly impossible to hold him up and hold down his penis with a finger in order to point it towards the sink or potty... it would often spray as high as the mirror above the sink!
Though those two particular challenges eased in the next couple of weeks, there are a few things that generally make EC a bit more challenging with a newborn. For one, they sleep ALL THE TIME, but not necessarily while they are laying down on a waterproof mat! My new baby for example, almost never sleeps unless he's in someone's arms or a carrier, making it tougher to observe his timing an signals while he's asleep. If he happens to be happy and awake - or asleep and not in my arms - it's usually a time I use to shower, make lunch or empty the dishwasher... not to be focusing 100% of my attention on waiting for a pee to come. A further complication for us EC-ers with multiple children is... the other children! There are so many other demands on our time compared to a first-time-mom, from giving the other children our attention, to feeding them, to taking them places etc... its hard to keep your focus on your naked baby for any significant amount of time. Also, my daughter often wants to be in Alek's face when I'm pottying him, and then he just won't go.
I was super-excited to receive my first top hat potty, The Baby Potty when Alek was 3 weeks old. I try to potty him at most diaper-changes, and having a portable potty was a game-changer as I no longer had to walk him all the way to the bathroom. However, with a newborn, you can't predict whether you're going to catch some pee or poop - or both - and I am finding it quite challenging to get both ends pointing into the little opening at the same time!
In the last couple of weeks, Alek has had many DRY diapers when I've checked them.... even after 1-2 hours! This is certainly the exception to the rule, but really cool to see. He definitely has awareness of his elimination, as well as some control. One time, when he was 4-weeks old, I had taken him into the bathroom to potty in the sink. He started to pee, but then stopped because I jostled him a bit when it started coming out. A few seconds later, he pooped, but no more pee came out. I said to him "all done?" then wiped his bum and began to walk away. Alek started screaming - which was really odd. So I took him back to the bathroom sink and held him in position. He quickly got really calm and completed his pee, with no more crying after that!
Although I have talked a lot about the challenges we've faced this month, EC has never been hard. It is, as it should be... fun, rewarding and not stressful. I have not been working terribly hard at it, just pottying when its convenient. Sometimes he "goes" and sometimes he doesn't and that's just fine with me! In the next month my goal is to find more uninterrupted time to do naked observation, and see if I can detect any signals from him at this stage.
Want to learn more about how to start potty learning in your child's first year? Check out the book Go Diaper Free by Andrea Olson to learn more.
I get asked "What's the deal with training pants?" at every class I teach. Today I'm going to tell you exactly what the deal is, and why you might want to get a few pairs (yep... its time to learn from one of my personal potty training faux pas!). One thing I want to make clear is that Pull-Ups are NOT training pants. They are advertised as such, but they are really just diapers that go on like underwear. They are not recommended for potty training, unless perhaps you are still using diapers at night, then by all means...
So, what exactly ARE training pants. When my daughter was potty training, I could not figure their purpose out for the life of me. I had read that going commando (a.k.a. pants with no underwear or training pants) was the clearest and best signal to a child that they are not wearing diapers, helping them to stay dry and let you know when they need to go! So that's what I did, and it worked extremely well for us until one day...
We were on Step 3 (Phase 1) of potty training "The Tiny Potty Training Book" way, so it was time to venture out into public for some longer diaper-free outings. I decided that it would be fun to go to one of the library's daytime kids programs that day, and I had it all figured-out... My daughter could pee right before we left the house, we take a short drive to the library, the program is about 25 mins long, another pee right afterwards and then we drive back home. A foolproof plan, I thought! To make a long story short, she would not pee before leaving the house, nor upon arrival at the library. So we went to the program regardless, and let me remind you... she is not wearing any training pants. Just a pair of jeans. JEANS!! (Somebody should have told me to use absorbent outer pants, at least). She was having a blast at the program, the most fun she had ever had at one... and I didn't want to break it up for a potty-break. I was sweating, I was watching the clock... every time she came near me I would ask "do you need to use the potty?" A MAJOR mistake I now know, because of course she just looked at me like I had 2 heads and kept playing.
Finally the program was over. We had made it! Until I started putting her boots back on and "WHOOSH" the worlds biggest pee came flooding out of her pant legs, into her boots and all over the floor. The *ahem* carpeted library floor. I did my best to clean it up with the cloth pre-folds I was still carrying me, and had to call over the library staff to let them know, and all the other parents were still their getting their kids into their winter gear. Embarrassing!!! Obviously there were a lot of things I could have done differently, but barring the alternatives, if she had at least been wearing training pants I could have avoided a big puddle on the floor!
There are two main types of cloth training pants available:
The thinner, padded underwear type. These are great for everyday wear if your child is doing well in trainers/undies (as opposed to going commando). An accident in this type will result in wet pants for sure, but they will absorb a lot of the wetness, reducing the chance of a puddle. And the pants being wet is a good thing! Your child will receive appropriate feedback and discomfort, and you will be able to tell immediately if your child has wet his or her trainers.
The thicker waterproof type. This type of training pant has more absorbency and has a PUL layer sewn in. They are designed to hold one (small) pee. The advantage of this type is, of course, less mess! But it is likely that pants get a bit wet. You would probably not want to use this type on a daily basis if possible, as they are more diaper-like. These are best used for specific situations where you would not want a big mess, like church or a long car ride, or situations where you will not be paying a lot of attention to your child, like a big family party. This type is typically made by cloth diaper companies.
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For most parents these days, some type of childcare is part of their child’s week. Whether its grandma’s house, a dayhome, full or part-time daycare or even a drop-in at the gym… so how do you potty-train while your child is in someone else’s care?
There was a time, not so long ago that daycares took some responsibility over potty-training, or even lead the process completely. Unfortunately, today’s “wait till they’re ready message” and ever larger diaper sizes has given daycares the opportunity to shirk this responsibility, and many now ask parents to keep their child in pull-ups WHILE they work on potty-training. The situation in dayhomes is not necessarily better, each providers own experiences and prejudice’s will certainly effect their willingness to assist. You might believe that your 20 month old is capable of potty-training, but does your daycare provider even think potty-training at that age is possible?
First and foremost, don’t let your daycare’s potty-training policy come as a surprise to you. I hear from SO MANY parents who say, “We potty-trained over the last week, and things have gone well. But I don’t think my daycare will let my child go commando, and he’s due back tomorrow… what should I do?” If this is you, please find a time machine and have a conversation about potty-training with your daycare well before you actually begin. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of good communication between yourself and your daycare provider on this. I would go so far as to enquire about their policy as part of your daycare interviews when choosing a provider. The potty-training policy should also be included in the agreement you sign when you register your child, read it carefully and be sure to ask questions about it. Second, if the children at your daycare are segregated into different rooms based on age, be sure to ask whether they can offer the potty in the younger-age room – or at what age your child will be able to move to the older-age room if toilets are only available in that area.
Having just read the Alberta Health Services “Health and Safety Guidelines for Child Care Facilities”, I can tell you that there is nothing in there about potty-training. It does not say that your child needs to be in diapers or pull-ups or even underwear to attend daycare, so any policies to this effect will be those of the individual care center or dayhome. At the same time, daycares are responsible for maintaining a clean and safe facility and may feel that having your child in diapers will minimize the risk of children being in contact with another’s bodily fluids. It’s a fair point, but I think that there are other opportunities for keeping the childcare spaces clean, while maintaining the potty-training progress of the child. For example, having flooring surfaces that are easy to clean, paying special attention to the potty-training child for the first week or two, initiating frequent potty breaks, asking parents to provide many changes of clothes and finally, allowing children to use CLOTH training pants, if that is working well for the child (some kids really need to have nothing but pants on their bums “commando” for the first 2 to 4 weeks of potty-training in order to get the hang of it).
Some children do really well with potty-training at daycare. Others struggle a lot. This is mainly due to their individual personalities, as well as the daycare provider’s commitment to helping. In order to ensure the smoothest transition from at-home potty-training to daycare-training, I generally recommend that parents speak to BOTH their child and the daycare provider about how potty-training should be managed. For example, if there is a caregiver that your child generally responds well to, ask this person to be “in charge” of the potty training responsibilities for your child at daycare, as much as possible. This person should be the one to take your child to the potty each time, should be the one watching for your childs signals, and also paying attention to your child in case there is an accident, then calmly helping your child to potty and get cleaned-up. After your potty-training experience at home, you should have a good idea of the regular intervals that your child needs to pee, as well as any unique signals that your child gives before going. Write these down and give them to the caregiver! Once the caregiver is on-board, let your child know that all the daycare workers are there to help him stay dry, but that if he needs to “go”, he should let “Miss X” know right away, and she will take him to the bathroom. This takes away any confusion about what your child should do in this new situation.
Hi! I'm Danielle, your friendly neighbourhood potty specialist.