Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

Infant Potty Training—Er, Mommy Training June 25, 2008

Today was the toughest day yet in our effort to become a diaper-free household. It has been exactly 20 days since we started, and if you’ve been reading along, you know how thrilled I’ve been with our success with the Baby Signs Potty Training Kit. Noah has taken quite easily to the potty and while I was nervous about embarking on a two-week “bare-bottom” period last Thursday, we said a prayer and leaped. And boy, have we learned, oh how we’ve learned.

It is important that I reiterate that this adventure is coinciding with weaning. I cannot imagine a more powerful and dramatic substitute for the inherent bonding breastfeeding allows. And for all you mommies who weren’t able or chose not to breastfeed for whatever reason, I absolutely must impress upon you that if you’d like a taste of the fairytale bonding of which nursing mothers always sing the praises, by all means try early potty training. It is bonding to the nth degree, my lovelies. And the end result may be comparable in the long run, especially at school; I argue that babies who are extremely well-tended-to are more confident and comfortable with themselves and their immediate world, and therefore more willing and eager to be open to new challenges, socializing and learning experiences.

Perhaps that’s why I’m so exhausted today (the “extremely well-tended-to” part), or it could be the hormonal roller-coaster I’ve been on since I stopped breastfeeding. I’m also wrestling with some recent comments from my neighbor and the pediatrician I mentioned in June is Potty-Training Awareness Month.  My neighbor is a good and trusted friend who has two kids roughly the same ages as Noah and Joseph. She is eager and excited to hear all the details about how to potty train her 9-month-old infant, but she wants to wait to see if “it’s really worth all the trouble.” An environmentalist, she does use cloth diapers, and is happy to do so until her little guy gets old enough to pull down his own pants to use the potty. So I keep asking myself: is it worth it? (and my answer remains the same. Yes! It took 15 months to complete potty-training with my toddler Joseph and never once was it easy. Training Noah, for the most part, is as simple as putting him on the potty when it’s time to go.) The pediatrician, on the other hand, insists on calling early training an “alternative to diapering.” What she means, in general, is that an infant is too young to understand the concept of potty training and so it is actually the caretaker who is trained, watching the baby’s cues and offering the potty at the appropriate time. However, there is a hole in her theory; Noah is holding his number two’s until he can get to the potty! Maybe it’s time for a Potty-Training Report Card:

  • The obvious worry about going bare-bottom is cleaning up accidents. What I was amazed to find is that Noah is already aware when his diaper is off and will stay dry for an hour or longer. I make sure to place him on the potty about 2 or 3 times an hour, and he will sit there as long as we are engaged in something fun: a song with hand gestures, reading a book, practicing our American sign language, playing with stacking cups, etc., usually 3-5 minutes is all that’s necessary.
  • As I mentioned, Noah is holding his poops until he gets to the potty. This is the heart-breaking part for me—there have been two times (and two is plenty, I can assure you) when I misread his cries for something else (e.g.: he was tired or hungry) when really he was desperate to get to the potty. When I finally figured it out and placed him on it, he did his business successfully, but I felt horrible for not understanding. Looking back, he had been frantically gesturing a crude interpretation of the ASL sign for potty and I didn’t recognize it. The child is working so hard to communicate with me, he is trying to put his two’s in the right place, and I’m this blind dolt. The worst-case scenario is that he becomes afraid of not having his potty needs met and becomes a chronic “holder.” Bad mommy!
  • To repeat myself, yes, he is now doing more signs. He really likes “more”, especially as it applies to milk. He also does the “milk” sign, and–ta da!–the “potty” sign! He is saying the word potty, too. Oh, and “choo choo!” like in the kit’s DVD. However, he also has a special cry for having to use the potty, thanks to those two occasions listed above. But I know it now and I promise to do better!
  • I must never leave the house without the potty. He is not interested in using a big toilet. If I have the potty with me, he will stay dry through the car/stroller ride; I take him to the bathroom as soon as we arrive at our destination.
  • He has not yet stayed dry during naps or overnight, and the resulting laundry is nothing short of depressing. It doesn’t help that he likes to have a bottle just before bed, either. At this point, we are keeping him in a diaper for sleep. I don’t want to confuse him, but I also want him/us to get some sleep!

I have to say again that the closeness between my son and I as a result of this program is awe-inspiring. To be successful, I really must be at his side at all times. I watch his cues, listening to his sounds, interpreting his hand gestures, keeping tabs on what and when he eats and drinks—we are connected at every level. He depends on me in a way he never has; as a newborn, he nursed for all his sustenance and we were inseparable. This is so much more intense bonding because our trust is already established and now he communicates with me, he seeks my help to accomplish a shared goal. We are partners, yet I am his guide. During our many, many potty visits throughout the day (he uses the potty about 4-10x daily), those visits are periods of complete and uninterrupted interaction. He has more quality time with me than I even thought humanly possible.

So, as I began, today was our hardest day yet. For whatever reason, little Noah wet himself (and the floor) all day long. Typically, we might (might!) have one accident a day. What happened? It could have been the pesky hormones, but in the middle of the afternoon, I actually cried because I just wanted to put him in a diaper for the rest of the day and start again tomorrow. He was miserable being wet, I was miserable cleaning it up. He still did all his number two’s in the potty, however. We’d been making such wonderful progress, getting better and better every day, I really hadn’t seen this coming. I wonder if it was just a random blip? Tomorrow, we will start fresh.

If you are willing to teach your little one to become diaper-free (and help the environment by decreasing the impact of disposable diapers on landfills!) please purchase your Baby Signs Potty Training Kit through my “Motherhood Must-Haves” Amazon Store. The wee kickback I get pays for the environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies I use for cleaning up Noah’s “accidents” along the way. Thank you! If you have attempted (or succeeded!) at early potty-training, I would love to hear from you!

Curious about how we’re doing? Read about it in the next installment: Potty Baby–Almost Trained at 14 Months


Is There a Fungus Among Us? June 21, 2008

My sister-in-law and her new husband are building a new addition to their Kansas City home. Along the dusty path to home renovation, they have encountered a possible mold issue. I wrote this piece a few years ago for San Diego Family magazine; This one’s for you, sista!

When Linda Coffman developed hay fever-like symptoms including sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis), she treated her symptoms like any allergy. During a renovation of the Coffman family’s out-dated bathroom, the contractor discovered hidden water damage on the back side of the bathroom’s wallpaper, dry wall and paneling, and advised the family to seek medical attention for any cases of irritated eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs which are commonly a result of exposure to mold.

Household mold, a type of fungi similar to mushrooms and yeasts, is no laughing matter. After floods or major leaks, mold spores may land on a damp spot indoors and begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on in order to survive. There are at least 1,000 species of mold in the United States which grow on wood, paper, carpet, tile grout, and foods. Molds have the potential to cause health problems by producing allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions), irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances.

“There’s one reason why someone should be concerned about mold,” Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) engineer Bob Thompson says, “and you can sum it up in one word: damage.”

Thompson sees firsthand what mold can do to both your home and your health; “Mold can grow on most of the materials that are used in building a home the top side of ceiling tiles, the underside of carpets and pads, or areas inside walls around pipes (with leaking or condensing pipes), the surface of walls behind furniture (where condensation forms), inside ductwork, and in roof materials above ceiling tiles (due to roof leaks or insufficient insulation). It can use it as a food source,” he reports. “Mold will actually cause a physical change and sometimes chemical changes in these materials, rendering them worthless.”

The EPA advises that investigating hidden mold problems may be difficult and will require caution when the investigation involves disturbing potential sites of mold growth. The removal of wallpaper can lead to a massive release of spores if there is mold growing on the underside. If you believe you may have a hidden mold problem, an experienced professional can help.

Where Are Most of the Common Moisture Spots in a Home? Blame it on Moisture!
Molds can be found on virtually any substance, providing moisture is present. This list is courtesy

  • Bathrooms—This room is a major source for moisture in any home, which is why ventilation is vital. Without a vent and fan, the moisture can’t be pulled up and out of the room.
  • Windows—Most windows sweat, so it’s important to wipe the moisture from the windows with a mixture of detergent and water.
  • Attics—Dark patches of mold can spread under the insulation in an attic when humidity is high outside the home.
  • Kitchens—Steam from cooking can produce excessive moisture.
  • Soffit Vents—These vents attract moisture from outside the home.
  • Small Holes in Walls—Outside moisture can reach the inside of your home through small holes in the walls.
  • Light Fixtures—If your ceiling light fixtures aren’t sealed well, moisture and humidity can penetrate your home.
  • Vinyl Wallpaper—This type of wallpaper will not let moisture come through the wall as it should normally. It traps the moisture in the coldest part of the wall, which is the surface. This is where the moist air condenses, fueling the growth of mold.
  • Leaking Air-Conditioner Systems—A typical air-conditioning system is only designed to do 30 percent of the work in moisture removal. Air conditioners can harbor dirt and moisture, which can lead to mold problems. Tip: Be sure to have your air-conditioning system serviced twice a year—in fall and spring.
  • Roofs—If the structure of your roofing system doesn’t eliminate moisture and rain properly, you cannot only see major damage to your roof, but the excessive moisture can lead to mold problems.
  • Crawl Spaces—If you have missing downspouts nearby, a crawl space can develop a major moisture and mold problem. Faulty duct work can be the culprit here. This can become a breeding ground for problems right under your house.
  • Basements—Usually the most damp room in the house.

How do I get rid of mold?
The EPA recommends that homeowners don’t attempt to clean a mold problem larger than a three-foot by three-foot patch (just less than 10 square feet). Anything larger requires professional assistance.

The key to mold control is moisture control. Mold can grow on wet or damp surfaces within 24-48 hours—dry water-damaged areas immediately to prevent mold growth. If mold is a problem in your home, you must clean up the mold and eliminate sources of moisture. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture. Fix leaky plumbing or other sources of water. Absorbent materials (such as ceiling tiles and carpet) that become moldy may have to be replaced. Wash mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water, and dry completely. Clean and dry all damp or wet building materials and furnishings within two days to prevent mold growth.

The use of a chemical or biocide (such as chlorine bleach) to kill mold organisms is not recommended because bleach can be dangerous when mixed with some other chemicals, and potentially harmful to the environment. The EPA now recommends a mixture of mild detergent and water. The EPA also notes that dead mold may still cause allergic reactions in some people. If you or a family members suffers from an allergy, it is not enough to simply kill the mold, it must be removed.

Tools–And Important Safety Information!

  • Rubber gloves that extend to the middle of the forearm (select gloves made from natural rubber, neoprene, nitrile, polyurethane or PVC)—It’s important to have sturdy gloves that have no rips because even the smallest amount of exposure to mold can cause skin irritations or rashes. And be sure to throw the gloves away once you’re through. Don’t reuse!
  • Goggles without air holes—The EPA suggests wearing sealed goggles without holes to guard against mold spores coming in contact with your eyes.
  • Filter mask (rated N-95 or higher)—To keep from inhaling the spores, it’s vital that you wear a filter mask. The rating of N-95 stands for the percentage of particles that will be captured and stopped from coming through the mask. For example, with the N-95 filter mask, it will capture 95 percent of the particles released when removing the mold. Make sure the mask is comfortable but tight enough to eliminate any air leakage.
  • Scraper or sponge—To clean mold from a hard surface such as metal, the EPA recommends a scraper or sponge and a mixture of water and detergent.
  • Small drywall saw for removing material that can’t be cleaned—For a porous surface such as drywall or wood, there’s no easy cleanup method. Cut away and replace the material.

If you suspect a larger mold problem lurking behind your cleanup, call a professional. Avoid household mold by reducing indoor humidity (to 30-60%) to decrease mold growth. Use air conditioners and de-humidifiers, increase ventilation in the bathroom, and use exhaust fans when cooking, dishwashing, or cleaning. In areas where there is a perpetual moisture problem, do not install carpeting. Simply put, anything you can do to help prevent moisture in and around you home, the better chance you’ll have to eliminate mold problem.

Who should do the cleanup?
According to the EPA, if there has been a lot of water damage, and/or mold growth covers more than 10 square feet:

  1. Consult the Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings guide. Although focused on schools and commercial buildings, this document is applicable to other building types.
  2. If you choose to hire a contractor (or other professional service provider) to do the cleanup, make sure the contractor has experience cleaning up mold. Check references and ask the contractor to follow the recommendations in EPA’s Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings, the guidelines of the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygenists (ACGIH), or other guidelines from professional or government organizations.
  3. If you suspect that the heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) system may be contaminated with mold (it is part of an identified moisture problem, for instance, or there is mold near the intake to the system), consult EPA’s guide Should You Have the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned? before taking further action. Do not run the HVAC system if you know or suspect that it is contaminated with mold.
  4. If the water and/or mold damage was caused by sewage or other contaminated water, then call in a professional who has experience cleaning and fixing buildings damaged by contaminated water.
  5. If you have health concerns, consult a health professional before starting cleanup.

Additional Resources:
Get Mold Tips from the National Association of Home Builders

For more information on mold related issues including mold cleanup and moisture control/condensation/humidity issues, write to:
U.S. EPA, Office of Air and Radiation
Indoor Environments Division (6609J)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC  20460

Ask for EPA Publication #402-K-02-003. This Guide provides information and guidance for homeowners and renters on how to clean up residential mold problems and how to prevent mold growth. 


June is Potty-Training Awareness Month! June 17, 2008

The potty party keeps on rolling! My 13-Month-Old Noah is now on Day 10 of his potty-training adventure with Baby Signs Potty Training Kit. He has happily made a “deposit” in his potty between 1-5 times each day from the first day. (If you would like to read about our auspicious start, please refer to 1. Potty-Training at 13 Months; 2. Potty-Training = Green Baby; and 3. Early Potty-Training Success.) I believe he would do it more frequently if we were more diligent during outings.

Co-creator of the Baby Signs program, Dr. Linda Acredolo, Professor Emeritus, UC Davis, has kindly lent her expertise to our efforts.

Rebecca: Currently, I’m offering the potty at times when I know or can guess when Noah will need it (after meals, etc.) Should I transition to offering it at regular intervals, gently teaching him when he can expect it? My goal is that he will hold it until the time he knows he can relieve himself. He is entering an age where he is learning to anticipate routines; it seems like that would be the appropriate thing to do. 

Linda Acredolo, PhD:You make an excellent point about the increasing salience of routines at this age. What I might suggest is a compromise between the two approaches; That is, by maintaining the most obvious times (upon waking, after meals)—but perhaps gradually lengthening the time span a bit before you take him, and adding visits at other times that make sense in another way (e.g.: for your convenience, such as before leaving the house and before bed.)

Rebecca: I’ve still got him in disposable diapers, and my landfill guilt is mounting. Would it speed the process if I put him in cloth diapers, so he can feel when he is wet and be impelled to use the potty to ease his discomfort? 

Linda Acredolo, PhD:  Yes, that’s an excellent idea. Now that the weather’s warm, you might try even letting him spend some time naked. That’s one reason children train more easily in the summertime.

For Noah, the process of potty-training has produced a disdain for diapers. He will gladly cruise about in his birthday-suit and puts up quite a fuss when I try to diaper him after a potty visit. So far, however, this has meant that mommy has to remain on standby with the environmentally-friendly disinfectant. I’ve begun to wonder if and when Noah will begin to “hold it” between visits. He hasn’t yet performed the American Sign Language gesture for potty, so I don’t get a lot of fore-warning. It’s really amazing; the child can say a handful of words and phrases including “good morning”, “backpack”, and “garden”—but he won’t say or sign “potty” even once?! I guess I’ll just have to wait.

*We were recently playing at a local learning center for children aged 0-5 years when I questioned the teaching staff about early training. They were startled to hear that little Noah is potty-training (which I chalk up to a limited “Western” view), suggesting it may be a hopeless venture—a point I politely ignored. The proof is in the potty, after all. Interestingly, they also assured me that it is “physiologically impossible” for a child Noah’s age to hold or control his ones and twos.* I brought it up with Linda, and this is what she offered:

Linda Acredolo, PhD: The fact that before the invention of the disposable diaper in the 1960s, children in the United States were routinely potty trained by 18 months is clear evidence that these abilities are available at least by early in the second year. Moreover, even today, parents in over 50 other countries seem to have no trouble figuring out how to potty-train their children by 18 months. American children simply can’t be that biologically immature in comparison to children from other countries. Of course, there’s great variability in when children develop the ability to hold their pee for a reasonable length of time, but, like any physical skill, acquiring a sense of what muscles are involved helps—and that’s what gradually happens as children use the potty. They begin to assume that pee belongs in the potty and the stronger that assumption, the more automatic it becomes to work on holding in the pee until they are in the right place. It’s clear that there’s still a very strong prejudice out there against early training. It will probably take word of mouth between successful parents (via blogs these days!) to gradually shake those old assumptions. You’re certainly doing your part!

*At our next visit to the learning center, the head teacher had discussed the topic with the learning program’s pediatrician. The pediatrician made it clear that we should call this an “alternative to diapering”, not potty-training, because kids under two “can’t” potty train. (Sheesh! Come to my house already!) What I find ironic is that the pediatrician also noted that her friend recently adopted a baby from China who is already potty-trained (or shall we say, chooses a “diaper-alternative lifestyle”), noting that the window for potty-training in China is between 0-6 months. Even more puzzling, the adopting mother has opted to put the infant in diapers rather than continue with using the potty. (Even as I write this, I feel saddened; a) the baby now has to sit in her own pee and poo for the first time in her life, and b) she’ll have to potty-train all over again with someone who isn’t willing to learn how to manage a child’s toilet habits.) Is this progress?

Read the next installment, Early Potty Ttaining—Er, Mommy Training, click here.

If you are willing to teach your little one to become diaper-free (and help the environment by decreasing the impact of disposable diapers on landfills!) please purchase your Baby Signs Potty Training Kit through my “Motherhood Must-Haves” Amazon Store. The wee kickback I get pays for the environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies I use for cleaning up Noah’s “accidents” along the way. Thank you! If you have attempted (or succeeded!) at early potty-training, I would love to hear from you!


A Few of My Best Recipes June 10, 2008

Filed under: Food & Recipes,health — rjlacko @ 9:20 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

My other blog, Unassuming Foodie, is really coming together! My husband has been kind enough to photograph some of the dishes I’ve been coming up with, and I hope the photos help encourage people to give these recipes a try. Honestly, I am only posting the most wonderful dishes I come across or create from scratch–but if I were to whittle it down to just a few spectacular ones, it might be these:

Three Pepper Salad: This fresh, inspiring salad is an unusual fusion of flavors. Rice vinegar and sesame oil is unexpectedly paired with Mediterranean staples of fresh basil and goat cheese. I found a beautiful organic goat cheese with roasted portobello mushrooms at my local Mother’s Market, but I’ve located a few nice ones for you, which are available through my Amazon store.

Crusty Herbed Chicken: While this gluten-free recipe calls for baking skinless chicken thighs, the result is similar to a breaded and spiced, fried chicken dish—without the fat and flour! The idea for this flavorful recipe came when I was first exploring food-pairing and the low-glycemic diet. Newly married, my husband was so enraptured by this dish, he pronounced it our “House Special” and I felt very encouraged in our burgeoning roles as food-experimenter and appreciative-tester.

Roast Chicken with Smoked Paprika and Fresh Thyme: This recipe is fast becoming a favorite at our house. It is the one dish that my one-year-old Noah and preschooler Joseph actually eat in silence, their pleasure whisking words of whining far, far away. But make no mistake–this is no kiddie recipe. I’ve served this deceptively easy and elegant dish at dinner parties with great success. The flavor is exceptional.



Early Potty-Training Success!

We are on Day 6 of using the Baby Signs Potty Training Kit, and my 13-month-old son has used his potty faithfully at least once every single day from the day we received it. Today, in fact, he used it four times! Over the weekend, he even did his twosies on the full-size toilet, supported by my husband. I am not just typing this post, I am gushing it. Honestly, I can’t stop talking about it. (You can read my first impressions in these posts: Potty-Training at 13 Months, Early Potty-Training = Green Baby.)

The reason I’m so thrilled is because we just finished training my older son, and this new experience is roughly, oh, 100x easier. Beginning a few months shy of his second birthday, Joseph was trained in the “generally-accepted” method (pull-ups until the child shows signs of being “ready”, then stickers and rewards). He only used his potty sporadically for nine whole months, and wasn’t out of pull-ups until a few months past his THIRD birthday. Consider the expense and landfill impact of that potty-training experience–let alone the frustration for all parties involved. We consistently smiled and cheered him on, however, and I believe I am a better mommy for this extended lesson in patience. 

There are several reasons why the Baby Signs program is working so well for us:

  • While we have always showered Noah with love and attention, our baby is glowing from all the additional interaction and praise
  • Learning when to offer the potty was similar to learning when my baby is hungry, or how  he likes to be put to sleep
  • I’m weaning him right now, and potty-training seems to be replacing nursing as a bonding activity between us. We are very interconnected: watching each other’s signals and making plenty of eye-contact and cuddling. Potty-training is most assuredly a trust-building activity.
  • He isn’t frustrated by unmanageable emotions, like a two-year-old who typically reacts with tantrums 
  • He loves to mimic whatever we say and do
  • When I say, “where is the pee-pee?” and look into the potty, Noah smiles at me and climbs on the potty, finishes, and then looks back in and then at me, as if to say, “there it is!”
  • There is no need for stickers or other rewards. Hugs, cheers and dancing about together are prize enough for him.
  • While he hasn’t yet made the recommended sign language gestures, he does try to speak the related words (“potty” (Noah says “paw-ee”), “all done”, etc.)

The consistent success of this adventure has motivated me to try to complete the process as quickly—yet painlessly—as possible. I cannot wait to have my little guy in big-kid undies–he’ll be the toast of the playground! (Sippycup toast, that is.) In order to do this, I have a few questions:

  • Currently, I’m offering the potty at times when I know or can guess when he’ll need it (after meals, etc.) Should I transition to offering it at regular intervals, gently teaching him when he can expect it? My goal is that he will hold it until the time he knows he can relieve himself. He is entering an age where he is learning to anticipate routines; it seems like that would be the appropriate thing to do.
  • I’ve still got him in disposable diapers, and my landfill guilt is mounting. Would it speed the process if I put him in cloth diapers, so he can feel when he is wet and be impelled to use the potty to ease his discomfort?Want to see answers to these questions and read more about our early-training adventure? Read the next installment at June is Potty-Training Awareness Month!

If you are willing to teach your little one to become diaper-free (and help the environment by decreasing the impact of disposable diapers on landfills!) please purchase your Baby Signs Potty Training Kit through my “Motherhood Must-Haves” Amazon Store. The wee kickback I get pays for the environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies I use for cleaning up Noah’s “accidents” along the way. Thank you! If you have attempted (or succeeded!) at early potty-training, I would love to hear from you!


Early Potty Training = Green Baby June 6, 2008

The funny thing about potty-training: either a lot happens very quickly, or nothing happens for days… weeks… or months, sadly.

We are only on Day 3 of our adventure with the Baby Signs Potty Training Kit, (read about our triumphs and struggles of day 1 and 2 here!) and I’ll admit it’s been an eye-opening experience.

Yes, Noah used the potty again today, and while good parents don’t compare their children, our success rate this time around is, ahem, noticeable. I’ll give the credit to Baby Signs for even convincing me to start at 13 months, and also to Big Brother Joseph’s help. Not only has Joseph asserted himself as household spokesmodel for potty-training, he is poised and ready to demonstrate the American sign language taught on the kit’s DVD. While only yesterday he was determined not to share his old potty with Noah, today he insists Noah use it.

As you can see, toilet activities are on everyone’s mind at our house. In my previous blog entry, I nicknamed this program, “antique potty-training” because never in history have mothers trained their children so late. With many countries beginning the first month, and several others completing the process by 18 months, it would seem the biggest obstacle barring cherub’s little tushie from big-kid underwear was the advent of disposable diapers. This, in turn, causes me to ponder whether the whole process might go faster if Baby Noah were wearing old-fashioned cloth diapers: the discomfort of wetting himself would encourage his use of the potty, and the poopy laundry would keep me consistent with my support of him.  

I can confidently say we are greener than most households, yet I’m embarrassed to admit we’ve always used disposables. This potty program has made it glaringly clear to me that the sooner Noah is out of diapers, the less impact we’ll make on landfills. According to John A. Shiffert, executive director of the National Association of Diaper Services, the average baby goes through 5,000 diapers before being potty-trained. The EPA reported nearly 3.4 million tons of diaper waste, or 2.1 percent of U.S. garbage, in landfills in 1998. Diapers in landfills in underdeveloped countries are especially problematic because they often aren’t properly disposed, and excrement leaks into the local water supply. 

However, no one can say definitively whether cloth diapers are better for the environment. A new study released in England by London-based Environmental Agency concluded that disposable diapers have the same environmental impact as reusable diapers when the effect of laundering cloth diapers is taken into account. (Not to mention washing extra outfits, and laundering bedding more frequently.) 

Before I calculate wasted water, environmentally-friendly detergent, and electricity from using cloth diapers, I still have to wonder if it might be the right path. My son uses approximately 5 diapers a day currently. That’s 35 a week, or 1820 yearly. If he finishes training by 2.75 years old, he will have used 5,000 diapers. Gasp!

If I can complete his training by 18 months, as Baby Signs contends is possible, we would only use 700. (That still seems outrageous.) Perhaps it would be worth it? Is our biggest obstacle to getting him out of diapers merely the comfort of a stay-dry lining?

Read more about our adventure: Early Potty-Training Success!

If you have attempted (or succeeded!) at early potty-training, I would love to hear from you!

If you are willing to teach your little one to become diaper-free (and help the environment by decreasing the impact of disposable diapers on landfills!) please purchase your Baby Signs Potty Training Kit through my “Motherhood Must-Haves” Amazon Store. The wee kickback I get pays for the environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies I use for cleaning up Noah’s “accidents” along the way. Thank you! If you have attempted (or succeeded!) at early potty-training, I would love to hear from you!

Potty-Training at 13 Months June 4, 2008

Filed under: Potty-training,product reviews — rjlacko @ 3:30 am
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That title was enough to grab your attention? Yes, it’s true. Having just completed potty-training my 3-year-old son only this Spring, you would think I must be crazy to take up the mop and (environmentally-friendly) disinfectant yet again for my baby Noah. I like to think of it as “Antique Potty-Training,” thanks to the Baby Signs Potty Training Kit, which takes a global, historical, environmental and developmental perspective on early training. The more I learn about the program, the more I feel like I would be doing my son a disservice to wait until he’s older.

The kit, which includes a highly-informative and engaging manual, a DVD to watch with your child, reward stickers, a short storybook about riding the “potty train”, and a train whistle to round out the train theme (unfortunately, the attractive wooden whistle in my kit did not work at all. I may have to hunt one down, because both the kids are quite excited about it.) The concept purports that the one-year mark is the ideal time to begin potty-training. I’ll admit that while we were potty-training big-brother Joseph, baby Noah greatly enjoyed observing the process and wanted very much to be part of potty-world. We smiled wistfully (if only!) and held him aside, allowing Joseph his time to shine. However, according to Baby Signs:

  • up until the 1960s, 95% of all children were potty-trained by age 18 months. It was a matter of sanity and practicality, I’m sure, for many moms. Consider that until the 1960s, there were no disposable diapers, and before the 1950s, moms didn’t have washing machines. So, you’ve got 5-15 dirty cloth diapers every single day to hand-wash? And what about, only a few decades before that, homes without running water and proper sewage? Those conditions would certainly make early training a no-brainer.
  • Baby Signs lists 50 countries worldwide where babies are trained to do their ones and two’s “when prompted” beginning as early as 2-3 weeks of age, who remain mostly dry night and day by 4-6 months. Their mothers help them to relieve themselves in the appropriate place, taking nonverbal cues from baby—just like we Western mothers very quickly learn which sound or gesture means tired, and which means hungry, etc., we can also attune ourselves to baby’s evacuation habits.
  • Today, with children in diapers until 37 months on average, the impact of disposables on landfills is enormous–approximately 2000 diapers per child, per year!
  • Significantly, the emotional stress of training is greater as the child gets older. In our experience, potty-training during the “terrible two’s” made the issue an ongoing source of control for my son. His relationship with the potty fell alongside the arrival of his brother, beginning nursery school, and the onset of discovering himself as an individual apart from us. Baby Signs points out that a one-year-old, meanwhile, is happy to do whatever brings a smile, isn’t as mobile and therefore less likely to run off the second he or she sets booty upon potty, and hasn’t discovered the Total Meltdown parents of two’s are so familiar with. It’s also important to note that an infant hasn’t yet learned shame or embarrassment, the two things we would never want to impart to our child, even if by accident. (Sorry for the pun!)

OK, so I’ve already put the manual down and swung into action. Day 1: We began teaching Noah the recommended American sign language to establish communication about the potty. He loves itsy-bitsy spider and such, so he is game. We watched the DVD and I sat him on Joseph’s old potty and he was thrilled. I mean, he thought this was the best thing in the world. When Joseph arrived home from preschool and saw his old potty had returned to the bathroom, he was puzzled. I asked him if he would help me teach Noah to use the toilet and he agreed.

Day 2: Joseph loves the potty DVD and wants to see it again and again. Noah doesn’t care and would rather play with his toys or snuggle. When I was about to give Noah his first diaper change after breakfast, I set him on the potty and he went pee-pee!! He didn’t know what he was doing , but he did it!

The rest of the day, Joseph refused the toilet and did all his business in the potty. I tried to capitalize on it by making sure Noah was watching and making sure Joseph understood that he was “helping.” We went out to get a smaller potty, because Noah is only a baby, and then the trouble started. Joseph did not like that Noah was getting something and he was not. He wouldn’t let Noah near it and was screaming to be able to do his business in it. Maybe I shouldn’t make such a big deal, but I think Noah should be the first to, well, christen it. However, every time I tried to let Noah sit on it, Joseph would start howling to use it, and start pushing and shoving. I finally had to give him a timeout, only to have him come out and do it again. So, Noah was stressed out, and Joseph is having a negative experience with –what? Not training, because he’s already trained. With not having enough attention? I’m not sure what to do about this.

Tomorrow is another day. I think that if Noah can learn the sign language for potty, we will go straight to putting him on the toilet and take the new little potty back. I think he was more interested in using Joseph’s old potty anyway, because of what it represents to him–his adored older brother.

I’m very hopeful about this method and promise to be consistent, cheerful and supportive. For some reason, I also need to remind myself that now is the perfect time; I wonder why that is? I guess because with older children, we can tell them to walk over and sit down, we can negotiate. Training Noah is also going to involve a lot more messes because, at his age, he is much more wobbly and he doesn’t realize yet about what’s going on down below. So basically, I guess my parental urge to wait comes from wanting to put more of the potty-training responsibility in the child’s hands. Well, I can redirect that thought right now. This is a great opportunity for my son and I to work together as a team, just like we did when we began nursing. We paid attention to one another’s signals, we occasionally made mistakes, and even when it was 4am and I was exhausted and it was our hundredth feeding that night, it was worth it and we were connected and love was our goal.

Keep track of our success! Read Early Potty Training = Green Baby.

If you are willing to teach your little one to become diaper-free (and help the environment by decreasing the impact of disposable diapers on landfills!) please purchase your Baby Signs Potty Training Kit through my “Motherhood Must-Haves” Amazon Store. The wee kickback I get pays for the environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies I use for cleaning up Noah’s “accidents” along the way. Thank you! If you have attempted (or succeeded!) at early potty-training, I would love to hear from you!