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!