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


One Response to “Infant Potty Training—Er, Mommy Training”

  1. tribalbaby Says:

    I’d like to invite you to visit my new site on EC,

    It’s Part Time Diaper Free – to emphasize the flexibility of this gentle way of connecting with our babies.

    I have the site also

    I hope you find it a helpful resource!


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