by Mirta Desir
Trust me, potty training (“elimination communication”) your infant or toddler should not be difficult or stressful. Even as a new mom who puts in an average of 9-12 hours a day at work, I had my daughter “trained” by the time she was two months old. She was sitting and going on cue on her potty at five months. At six months, she went through the night without soiling (“pee” or “poop”) her cloth diaper. At seven months, she would signal “potty” to me when she needed to go and we were not at home. I managed to “train” her in three days and reiterate those lessons daily. You can too.
Everyone asked me how I trained her at such an early age, so here it is —the video on How to Potty Train Your Infant in Three Days ( it’ll be available in the upcoming weeks). In the interim, I will share my method to potty training, my simple philosophy about life and babies and how I’m certain you can potty train your child with minimal difficulty and stress through effective communication.
My method to life (and potty training)
Start the way I want to finish – in raising my child and in life. I start with a goal and I take daily steps (some days really little steps) to reach it. I practice persistence, consistency, and patience. When I fail, I forgive myself, and learn from it. My lesson may involve me changing my approach or the goal.
I applied the same method to potty training my daughter. At nearly four weeks old my daughter had a diaper rash. It was unacceptable for me. The next day I started potty training her or to be more accurate I started “listening” and paying very close attention to her physical behavior. No diapers or diaper rash since that day. She would let me know when she needed to “potty” and I took her. That was it.
My philosophy and some important facts
If your infant can signal she is hungry, sleepy or distressed – then she can signal to you she needs to “pee” or “poop.” Through trial and error, like all parents, I learned which “cries” or behavior signaled hunger, sleep, distress and just as importantly “I need to use the potty, NOW!” in my little one. When your child communicates her desires to you, acknowledge it and then act on it. When we are at grandma’s house and she signals “potty,” I confirm with a sign of my own, and we go. Communication is a two way street. I have not changed a poopy diaper since she was 14 weeks.
2. Basic facts about the body functions of infants.
- The muscles of the bladder walls are stable and contract only around the time of urination. (Yeung, et al. 1995; Wen and Tong, 1998).
- Infant urination never occurs during quiet sleep. (Yeung, et al. 1995; Wen and Tong, 1998). Infants only pee when they are in the process of waking or are awake. In a pre-term infant, the bladder function may be different (Sillén, 2001).
- Infants’ bladders do not leak easily nor do infants empty their bladders due to external physical pressure. (Yeung, et al. 1995; Gladh, et al. 2000).
3. Babies in some cultures are potty trained by one year of age.
In some countries – such as Haiti, India, Kenya, Greenland – children are toilet trained well before the age of 1 year. According to Contemporary Pediatrics magazine, more than 50% of the world’s children are toilet trained by the time they turn 1. In those cultures, understanding an infants cue to use the potty is the same as feeding her when she’s hungry, comforting her when she’s distressed or performing her bed time routine when she’s sleepy. Generally, it’s best to begin before they are six months old.
4. This is for the benefit of your child. Take pride in your efforts. It is not a contest.
I potty trained my infant for two reasons: the thought of her getting another diaper rash was unacceptable for me and I wanted to give her more “independence” as she got older. Learning to read her signals was a process. Some days I failed miserably. But each day, I learned a little more about her. Like the fact that when she needs to go “potty,” she sticks her tongue out just a little bit. Once dad understood her cues as well, we were like a well oiled potty machine – and we took pride in the fact that we understood even one of her cues.
Some people expressed their reservations at us for “training” her so early. However, for me it was just another element in communicating with her, acknowledging her needs and responding to them appropriately.
Most importantly, if you know you are easily frustrated at yourself and will express that frustration to your child, do not do it. The goal is for you and your child to reach another level of understanding through effective communication.
How to Potty Train Your Infant (the video provides step-by-step instructions)
1. Communicate early. Your baby communicates to you in her own tongue. Learn her language and respond accordingly with signs and your spoken language. This journey begins on her birth day. The same applies to communicating with her about “pee” and “poop.”
2. Know the signs. When your baby is in extreme pain (think vaccinations), her body language and cries differ significantly from when she is sleepy. The same may be said from when she needs to “poop” or after she “poops.” Learn the signs (it will take some work), but you’ll be rewarded in knowing that you are able to effectively understand your child’s needs.
3. Positive reinforcement (always!) Every time you catch a “pee” or a “poop” – you win the lottery – let you baby know it. If you miss a”pee” or a “poop” – so what? It’s just another day.
4. Know thyself. If you cannot deal with infant “poops” and “pees,” unless they are in a diaper at all times, early potty training is not for you.
If you get irritated, frustrated, or annoyed at the process, your baby knows it and will react to it – negatively. The key is to know yourself and if you have any negative reactions – check it at the door. If you cannot contain your negative emotions about potty training – early potty training is not for you.
5. Repeat daily. Once you and your baby can communicate about “poop” and “pee” effectively, establish a routine and repeat. There will be accidents and that’s ok too.
If you wait to train your infant until he is a toddler, beware of the pitfalls
1. A toddler has to relearn to be aware of his body signals. When a toddler starts potty training, it may be more difficult because the child has learn to ignore body signals and may have to relearn them.
2. It’s hard to change old habits. It is difficult to change old habits, even for a toddler. A toddler is used to wearing a soiled diaper and continuing with a certain activity uninterrupted. The toddler may resist change.
3. Accidents are even less pleasant from toddlers. Toddlers’ bowel movements are “messier” than infants. A toddler’s urine is also “stinkier” than an infant’s. If a parent is hesitant about infant potty training because of the “mess” — potty training a toddler will be “messier.”
4. A toddler’s inherent right to test authority. Toddlers, by their very nature, are more likely to test authority. This may mean resisting potty training, just for the sake of it.
Let me know your story — I would love to hear it! The video How to Potty Train Your Infant in Three Days provides a step-by-step guide to potty training your infant.