Infant Potty Training/Elimination Communication: What It Is and How to Eliminate Diapers at Only a Few Months Old


The who/what/when/where/why/how of Infant Potty Training/ Elimination Communication

So several months ago I shared a post and a video about stocking up on toilet paper and larger rolls because we’d tried our hand at infant potty training and our little guy was regularly using the toilet! He was eight months old at the time and I couldn’t believe the amount of questions, shares, traffic, and YouTube views we had from that little blurb. I guess I thought it was a little more common than it is, and it’s such a cool concept that when I first heard of it I was in awe too, and how could any parent in the thwarts of diaper changes not have their eyebrow raise and ear perk up when they hear there’s a theory that may involve cutting out diaper changes? When to start potty training is a huge question on the mind of many parents, and I’m here to tell you today that starting potty training at only a few months old is a real thing and very doable!

Let me start by saying I’m not an expert, and I’m merely going to share what we did and our experiences and the books that were recommended to us. We ended up reading zero books and still had success, so it may be simpler than you think! I also feel the need to state that yes this is real, and yes it actually does work for many children! I was a skeptic and never would have believed it had I not seen it with my own eyes, but when we met friends to go to dinner and their daughter communicated with dad it was time to go, they left for a minute and took their nine month old to the toilet to do her business and came back with a diaper still dry and a happy child. I was floored and they told us everything they had read and learned and the premise for infant potty training.

And that’s how I’m going to cue talking about the what of infant potty training, also known as elimination communication, with all the details for anyone interested in replicating this practice and getting their infant comfortable with the potty early on!

What: Infant Potty Training: the practice of having an infant use a toilet to relieve him/herself and feeling comfortable with toilet use at a very young age. It includes a communication between the baby and the parent to understand when the baby is ready to go, and the parent uses that communication to hold the infant over the toilet and eliminate the use of a diaper. It’s a common Eastern practice and very common in parts of Asia.

Why: Fewer diaper changes, easier transition to toddler-lead potty training, not having to change stinky diapers, savings lots of time and money, and ease going out in public places that may not have changing stations. Also diaper rash is basically eliminated, and they baby feels a lot more comfortable.

Who: Infants! So a lot of the theories say you should start at a few weeks old, but we weren’t so sure it would work for us. Our friends had a girl, who they started a few weeks after birth, and we looked at our little newborn and decided it just wasn’t going to work the same for a boy. However, we were totally wrong! Potty training a boy is different, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it as an infant and do it just as early as a girl! However, out of our own ignorance and not planning to make it a part of parenting originally, we ended up starting a few months later.

When: I’d recommend when they can hold their head up. You can do it earlier if you’re comfortable, but this worked really well for us to have him sit on the toilet instead of just hover over. We actually started this business on accident. One night there was a lot of constipation and we just knew he was so uncomfortable. Jacob remarked that maybe a squatting position would help. He took our four-month-old to the toilet and helped him get into a squatting position hovering over the opening. Low and behold, that position helped and worked like a charm! He did the same thing for a few days and our infant started to know when his body was squatting it was time to go.

How: Here’s the trick, you probably know when your kid is preparing or in the process of relieving him/herself. They typically make a face before it happens, they have a specific cue they give, or they make a noise. We get a very distinct grunt followed by a very specific look. Once we knew he was capable of holding his head up and going while in a squatting position, we started to watch for his cues. Once we knew the sound and face, it was so easy to see! It’s a little different for every kid, but trust me, if you start watching when they are only a few months old you’ll see it and know!

From there it’s a race to the toilet and helping them sit up in the right position to go.

And here’s one more tip on the how, just like adults, children’s bodies get into routines and habits. They may go every morning around the same time, they may go twice a day. You really do learn roughly when to expect it, and most days you can predict when it’s coming and watch even closer.

So here’s some FAQ’s we’ve had on the matter:

Do they always go in the toilet?

I’d say most of the time. Occasionally they still get distracted, you miss their cues, or you’re out of your routine. Sometimes I just can’t get the diaper off fast enough. But for the most part, it’s a regular occurrence at least for when they poop.

Do you still change diapers?

Yes we do. We never fully mastered peeing in the toilet, so we often have one to change each day. I’m serious on that, instead of going through 4-5 we go through 1-2 on good days. But let me brag on my child, when he was 9 months old I changed one poopy diaper. He went an entire month going on the toilet, and most days he’s only been a little wet because we’d make it once or twice a day. It was a glorious time to have such a long track record!

We’re definitely part-time practice enthusiasts. I know if we were more intense we could be full-time. However, part-time just cutting any stinky diapers and diaper rash has been enough for us at this phase.

Does it stick around when they become toddlers?

This is the hard part, it’s different for every parent. Our friends found their daughter getting better at it with age. We’ve had retrogression and some days even rebellion with refusal to sit on the toilet now that our one-year-old thinks the terrible two’s should start early. We change more than we used to these days, but that only started when he learned to walk. We had a really solid 7-8 months of very few diaper changes and rarely a soiled diaper. We’re re-training every time we mess up his schedule and he’s retrogressed, and we’re still communicating and aware when he needs to go and still have a lot of successful bathroom trips!

What are the books you were recommended?

Go Diaper Free: A Simple Handbook for Elimination Communication

The Diaper-Free Baby: The Natural Toilet-Training Alternative

Infant Potty Training: A Gentle and Primeval Method Adapted to Modern Living

As mentioned, we never fully read any, we got the concept of watching for cues and were able to master it pretty quickly just using that information.

What if you work and have a daycare/nanny?

This is going to depend on the caregiver. We originally decided we wouldn’t do this because I had every intention to work full-time and we didn’t want to put a busy caregiver through this. However, if you have the right fit your family and they are open to it and sensitive to cues, I’d say go for it! You have to weigh out your situation and their willingness. I do think being home most the time and me learning his cue was our biggest factor to success, so weigh out if you can do it with the hours you’re away or if your nanny can handle this request.

Would you recommend it? 

Absolutely! It may take some moments of us sitting on the floor in the bathroom, we’ve both been peed on while he’s learned to sit on a toilet, and it’s a little time-consuming up front for many. However, the payoff has been amazing! If we’re blessed with more kids we fully plan to do this again!

And Finally, Here’s a Few Of Our Tips for Success: 

1. Decide you’re going to do this as a couple/family. They will need consistency, particularly in the beginning.

2. Don’t give up even if you have a few rough days or even weeks. They do learn and get the hang of it!

3. Praise up and down and clap and be positive whenever it happens. Help them learn it’s a great thing and you’re proud of them. They can pick this up even as an infant!

4. If your toddler starts to rebel stick with it but don’t push it too much. We’ve found ours always finds his way back eventually.

5. A YouTube video can be your best friend. We currently have funny dog movies on constant repeat, because it keeps our toddler occupied for a few minutes while he relaxes enough to go after he lets us know he’s ready.

6. If it doesn’t happen in a few minutes try again later. You’re working with their timing, not so much your own (unfortunately).

7. Decide if you want to be all in or part time and how it looks in advance. Split pants can be purchased, small toilets too, and heaven only knows we wish we’d bought more two-piece top and bottom pajamas in the early days.

8. If you can, try to be home more often around their normal times, particularly early on or during some regression. Helping them feel comfortable in the right place makes all the difference!

Have other questions? Have other tips if you’ve practised elimination communication/infant toilet training? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

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