Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

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!

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4 Responses to “June is Potty-Training Awareness Month!”

  1. sierramom Says:

    Rebecca…congrats! I have a 17mo old son named Grayson who we started with the Baby Signs Potty Training Kit about 5 weeks ago. He’s got all the signs (he started signing at 12 mo. with the other Baby Signs kits) and he knows to tell us when it’s happening (most of the time), knows where the potty is and has fun practicing. We haven’t yet had the successful moment! We are always after the fact. I am trying to be brave enough to really leave him bare bottomed all the time [that after finding a treasure in our living room 🙂 that had my husband a bit wary]. We are hopeful, diligent and ever proud so Gray knows where the loves come from! He also loves the DVD, reads the actual packaging and points to all the kids and the signs – we are looking to close in on the finish line some day soon.

    Cheers to you and your boys!

  2. rjlacko Says:

    How wonderful! I’m so glad to hear how committed you are to your son and his new “potty adventure.” Your words speak volumes of love.
    It’s so interesting how the whole thing unfolds, isn’t it? Something we as adults take for granted (who really thinks about their bathroom habits?) is such an intricate and mysterious journey at Grayson’s age.
    I know what you mean about the “treasures.” We are just about to embark on a 2-week period of going bare-bottom, and I’m a little nervous about it. Please keep me posted on Grayson’s success!

  3. sierramom Says:

    We had a great moment yesterday! He actually went #2 on the potty yesterday! I showered him with praise and loves…so did grandma and dad. Now whether he totally got it is questionable. But one more milestone down!
    Good luck on your 2-week adventure! I am not quite that brave yet. Maybe soon!

  4. rjlacko Says:

    Let me congratulate you on your potty success! Until you’re a mom and are elbows-deep in potty-training, there is just no explaining how serious and consuming the whole process can be. The outside world has no idea… It’s really rewarding, however, and the bonding that you will experience with Grayson will make it worth the effort. What I’m finding is that, for me to be really successful at showing Noah when to get on the potty, I need to be fully connected with him, watching and learning his cues. Interestingly, educators are always saying that during the 0-6 age range, the quality of time and attention the child receives from his/her parent is what will ultimately make the difference when the child finally enters school–a confident, loved. listened and attended to person is much happier to socialize, learn, and be open to new experiences.


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