Friday, August 1, 2008

Mum goes potty (I)

For some weeks now, Mum has been on a mission to teach Sonny to mind his pees and poops, as mentioned a while back in 'The Eviction Adventure'. But three months is way too early to start a baby on the potty, you cry. We thought so too, when some well-meaning relatives suggested in Sonny's first month that, as a first step, we 'cue' him to prep him for the toilet. But not long after Mum took to making experimental grunts in the mornings to encourage Sonny’s bowel movements, the young fella hit on the correlation between noise and poop. Now he occasionally make the self-same grunts when his sphincter moves.

Then a friend recently shared that she had weaned her son off diapers by four months. Inspired, Mum did some research. Turns out that, while most mainstream experts believe toilet training should start only when your child is old and mobile enough to tell you when he wants to go (usually around three) there’s a whole community of parents out there who prefer to raise their kids sans diapers. There's a wealth of literature advocating what is called ‘Elimination Communication’ (EC): Developing an understanding with your baby so you can read the signs when he tries to tell you he needs the loo.

For those interested, or who just want to save money and the environment by cutting diaper use, Mum here reviews the most interesting of the three books she read as part of her research. She reviews the other two (the most academic and most useful, respectively) in tomorrow's post.

1) The most interesting read
Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene (by Ingrid Bauer)

This is the classic EC book: Indeed Ms Bauer, an early proponent of the diaper-free movement, was the one who coined the phrase ‘Elimination Communication’. This mother of three encourages you to have your baby go au naturel as soon as he arrives, if possible. While the end result is to break free of diapers, she stresses that EC is more about the process of fostering a connection with your child and bringing up baby without having him endure long periods in a soiled diaper. The idea is to at least offer the potty on a regular basis so he can begin (and then not forget) to control his eliminations. Still, even with efforts from birth, don’t expect miracles: Your child is likely to completely graduate from toilet training only after a year at the earliest.

Ms Bauer also spends a fair bit covering the background of potty training, presenting the information in an engaging manner and often bringing in her point of view. She points out, interestingly, that scientist T Brazelton's famous paper advocating late-start toilet training - on which current US pediatric guidelines are based - came out the same year disposable diapers first hit the market. Hmmm.

Taking from her own experiences, she shares tips on how to start: Cueing the baby, offering the potty at opportune times and reading their body language. The book is also filled with helpful pictures on, for instance, the different ways to hold your baby over the toilet/bowl/potty/sink as well as survival tips for outings and making it through the night with a diaper-free baby. If you wish to follow in her footsteps, you might even take your naked child outdoors when needed so he can relieve himself the way nature intended (it helped that, on Ms Bauer's organic family farm, there was always a thirsty tree or handy bush in need of fertilisation).

Of course, you don’t have to go the whole hog immediately. It’s always possible to focus on EC for just a few hours a day or try cloth diapers and build from there. But you get the feeling Ms Bauer would rather you do so earlier rather than later.
[To go to Part II of 'Mum goes potty', click here].


Rachel said...

I have some friends that successfully did EC with their baby. Good luck!

Thanks for stopping by.

Cloudsters said...

Thanks, Rachel. It's a whole subfield of parenting we never knew existed.

TJACK said...

My 11-month-old uses her potty regularly. My first child was using the potty before her 1st birthday. It's amazing how much they understand at such a young age!

Cloudsters said...

Yep, and they're terribly cunning too... Our Sonny knows Pa doesn't like it when he suckles his thumb, so he'll actually roll himself away from where Pa is, to conceal the digit-sucking. Unreal!