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What the hell?
I had never heard of potty training from birth and during my pregnancy I was really curious as to how people coped without nappies in other cultures and in ours in the olden days.
I also thought that kids here were potty trained by the time they were walking around 1 year old and was very surprised to find that most of my friends hadn’t potty trained their kids until 2-2.5 years old!
Watching a few of them struggle with disgusting smelly nappy changes on wriggling toddlers trying to run away made me think this was absolute madness. And a bad use of my time. Plus the landfill and expense of all those nappies! Yikes!
The hunt begins
Searching for answers online I discovered that in many cultures without nappies (eg in rural Africa & India) they hold their babies out in the bushes or on the dirt ground to poop and pee. In colder climates like Nepal and China tots wear chaps with bare bums for easy access. AND the mums know their babies so well they know when they need to go! I found this UNBELIEVABLE and also INCREDIBLE. I thought “Could I do this too? Why don’t more people do this here?”
Well, a few people do! Unfortunately with the mainstream in the UK being nappy / diaper wearing, A LOT of people think I am mad to attempt this, while I consider them mad (and kinda unhygienic!) not to. 🤣🤣🤣 A male doctor pretty much laughed at me but all the female nurses and health workers have been really interested as most have never heard of it before.
By the way, why do we use disposable nappies now? The nappy / diaper companies used clever marketing backed up by medical professionals (???) in the 1960’s saying that it was damaging for kids to learn to potty earlier… course they did. Mega bucks to be made keeping kids in their own poop!
The skills of pottying early were lost within a couple of generations. Ask your great granny or grandma. My Nani was born in India and raised my mum in Thailand so she did pottying but could not remember the details for me as it was over 60 years ago!
Why did we fall for this in the “more educated” West? Beggars belief really when you start looking into it.
How I started
Anyway my curiosity led me to several books on pottying (called Elimination Communication in the USA, what a mouthful!), and Andrea Olson’s Go Diaper Free website and Instagram tips have been fantastic. Definitely check her stuff out first of all.
I realised that although we have carpets, soft furnishings and nappies / diapers in our country, I could help the 8 week old Finley use the potty right away. Once you’ve got it nailed (took me 2 weeks to feel fully confident) it’s honestly faaaaaar less messy to wipe his bum after and I hated the thought of him sitting in his own excrement.
I started in earnest when he was 8 weeks old, focussed on observing his bowel and bladder movements for a whole weekend without going anywhere to get an idea of how his body was working.
Then from what I learned and tips in the books, for a fortnight I pottied him on waking from sleep/naps, during feeds and when he was very clearly pooping.
Ups and downs
There were definitely highs and lows during this time when I was unrealistic about how many times I’d be successful in catching pees & poops (poo way easier to tell!). However now we are ending week 3 at almost 11 weeks old and he is starting to hold until his regular potty times.
He already hardly ever does a poop in his nappy, saving it for potty time, and often tries to tell us with a cry or far away look when he needs to pee. His nappy is often clean throughout the whole night unless I don’t get up quick enough when he stirs and wakes.
I am beyond thrilled with how this is working for us. I’m not going to pretend it wasn’t hard work for the first 2 weeks, but so was breastfeeding when he was a newborn and I was determined to give that my best shot too. It was too overwhelming to start pottying with him then but for my next I will start from newborn.
I’m hoping to understand his pee cues more and more, and that as he gets older he will point to the potty and then crawl to it himself. It would be great if he was pretty much potty trained by walking. It will make it so much easier for other members of my family (especially the older ones) to look after him for the day.
For an in depth look at exactly how I started with and got comfortable with pottying please read on. Every baby is different so I really recommend getting the books and looking at the Go Diaper Free website for all the info as I’ve just logged what applies to me here.
How on earth do you even start this?
TIME AT START
Spent a couple of days at home with Finn with nappy off and old muslin as makeshift easy to remove nappy to learn his signals, cues and when he is likely to go using helpful tips from the books. In modern nappies and clothes on top you can’t tell immediately when, especially wees.
GOT A BIT OBSESSED
Made notes for next 3 days on when he fed & if I caught poo, pee or both. Lacked sleep and got worried about how to keep up this level of focus. Think he got a bit annoyed about being hoiked on to the potty a lot too when I misread his cues.
Realised I can’t catch everything, especially not the wees! Don’t understand his wee cue at all yet. Sometimes he holds for 3hrs like at night, other times wee every 20mins for 3 hours. Decided to use disposable nappies in between naps, at night and on outings. Amazingly after 2-3 weeks he started holding poops and most wees until potty times.
Has to be easy to remove clothing around bum. Best for us is long sleeved top with poppers under nappy. T-shirt rides up, onesie takes longer to get legs out and can dangle leg material in potty. Calf length socks for warmth and muslin skirt/blanket. Kilt/skirt would be good idea too. And chaps like in China. I often work with him in no nappy and a muslin so I can potty him easily as soon as he wakes up.
STARTING TO GET IT
Every baby is different. I decided not to worry about his many and random wees with no cue and focus on poos which are very easy to see from the farting and grunting! Finn (and many other babies) very often poops and pees during a feed. And usually needs to pee and sometimes also poop immediately after waking from a nap or in the night. Pottying him at both these times means I catch most of it (at 10weeks old).
LEARNING OUR WAY
1 Potty during feed – Started popping off nappy before feeding (even if crying) and feeding in cradle position bum over potty. First let him just go during feed, now I stop to let him focus on his business and give good praise. When fully finished, potty away, square of Terry towelling under bum (bum pretty clean, not like opening a nappy with it everywhere on legs and bum etc) and continue with nice comfy cuddled feed. Have to watch willy early on in feed as don’t know wee cue and I often miss the start – willy rises above potty and my shorts & pants catch it! I use a small bottle between his legs to catch it sometimes too. Biggest so far has been 60ml! Often 30-40ml.
2 Potty immediately after longish nap wake up – if he needs a wee every 20mins to 2hrs during the day he defo needs a pee after a longish nap, so when stirring awake quick to cot, undo clothing and nappy Velcro. Pick up and cradle as if for feed, whip nappy off as reach sofa, sit with pot between legs, cradle bum over potty. Try cues pss pss pss and uh uh uh grunts and “Do you need a poo/pee”. Sometimes he goes, sometimes cries to start feed first. In which case we do point 1 above.
3 Nappy free – I’ve noticed if I leave him nappy off playing on the changing mat he wees very very frequently with no apparent warning and it’s very hard atm for me to tell when that is going to happen. Sometimes he does a far away look, but that doesn’t always mean a wee, and sometimes starts crying suddenly seemingly from out of nowhere, but also that can mean he wants food or is tired.
It’s hard if you hoik him on to the potty each time he seems to do one of these things as he doesn’t always need a wee and you end up both being exasperated. So I use disposable nappies in between times 1 and 2 above which often don’t get soiled or have one pee in so he can wear again after pottying for most of the day.
4 Disposable & reusable nappies – Finn’s wees are so big (40ml at least usually), if I use reusables I’m changing them every hour or sooner. Good thing is it tells me v soon if he has weed and he can feel he is wet and doesn’t like it so that is good for his awareness. However it can be really wearing changing them every 20 mins at worst, so only using at home atm as makes me nervous about him being uncomfy and kicking off when out. Maybe will use more when he can go for longer and I’m more in tune with his wee cues.
Disposables will take about 3 of his giant wees before they are too swollen to fit comfy. They are still amazingly dry! So don’t feel bad about him being in it for a few hours. Have also noticed he doesn’t really like going in nappy so often dry between feeds and naps. If there’s a tiny bit of poo I wipe out with tissue and put a biodegradable liner from the reuseable nappies set up in there folded 4 times to cover the tiny bit of poo. I’ve started putting a folded liner in prior now so I can take out the tiny bit of poop rather than wipe and cover. Then I can use a non wet or only 1-2 wee disposable nappy and drastically reduce number per day.
5 Potty positions – I use the cradle feed position a lot and unlatch him and sit him up a bit to make him more aware when he is going and that he’s a good clever boy for going in the potty.
If I’m sure he doesn’t need to feed or is straining to poo in cradle position I move him to sit like in a chair, head between my boobs, one hand holding each thigh. This is harder as no eye contact, he often pukes up a bit of feed during straining as more upright, and it can annoy him to be hoiked into this position from cradle.
After pottying for just 10 days (plus going out and about with a disposable nappy on) I learned so much about what is feasible for us and our lifestyle. After 3 weeks I feel a lot more confident with it, and we have tried a few al fresco pees and poops without the potty.
At home we sometimes use reuseables if doing stuff or muslin if sleeping on lap, out and about and at night we use disposables. If I catch him at his stirrings at night the disposable is dry in the morning with only a tiny smear of poop so I reuse as explained above.
6 Potty types – am using a top hat potty from The Nappy Lady. I put elastic bands round it so it grips when between clothed legs as it used to shoot out very annoyingly!
I’d like to buy him a Tiny Potty and Tiny Undies and Nappies from Tiny Undies for his 3 month birthday as he can hold his head fine now and be supported to sit. But postage to the UK is $66! Time for some more research…
Since I wrote the above I decided to move him to the upstairs bathroom more as I’m fed up of always missing the first spurt of pee in the potty and getting it on my trousers. I held him over the sink three times and caught 3 pees and poos yesterday! Excellent! Then got a bit blaze, thought he’d done enough pooing for one day and didn’t potty him for a feed and he blasted out a bright orange baby slug on my leg just before bath time. Everyone in for a wash! Great work on the sink tho – is gross tho so am buying him a baby loo seat and we will gradually upgrade to that. Soon he’ll be able to sit by himself so that will be a lot easier to support him using the loo.
Over to you
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Good luck to you if you’d like to try this method and feel free to contact me for info or support. Despite my hubby, sister and close family being very supportive I felt very alone while starting out with this and had no one but the internet and my books to turn to to help. My Nani was born in India and raised my mum in Thailand so she did pottying but could not remember as it was over 60 years ago!
It didn’t help that friends with kids that I told about it mainly told me I was stark raving bonkers. Kinda annoying really since they’re the ones that have fallen for the whole nappy marketing thang, but who will be laughing when they’re running about after naughty toddlers with huge smelly poops! And buying so many nappies headed straight for landfill? They seemed to think this intense investment of time now is madness and too much to do. But how can you let your baby sit in poo until it’s two or more? So gross! And when do you ever get more time to be with your kid than maternity leave? I think they’re the mad ones!
UPDATE Mon 26 April 2021
Super pleased with how pottying is going for our Finny (born 19 Jan 2021). After about 3-4 weeks of us working on it together since he was 8 weeks old he really started to understand what the potty is for and is now at 14 weeks holding 99% of all poops until we pop him on the potty. Pees are still illusive and done on timing if I am spending time focussing on him, or in a nappy if out and about or with other people.
When we are at home (I work from home even not during covid) I use reusable nappies and regularly offer him the potty (every 30 mins in the morning as he always seems to go more then). I found that if I give him a lot of nappy free time he would just pee anytime from 10-20mins after the last pee with no cue that I could understand. I am looking forward to when his bladder is a bit bigger and also to when he is able to use signs or sounds to tell me. I really can’t read him atm!
This means that I now use a disposable nappy with a biodegradable liner when we go out (I don’t want him to be uncomfy cos our reusables only take one pee before they are soaked and not nice to be in). They can take a lot of pee and still feel dry so if he has done a small shart to alert me to a poop and I potty him, I simply change the liner and we continue using the disposable nappy. I think I have halved our disposable use doing this. And then it is maybe even only one per day if we do disposables and only have one trip out or one person takes him in the pram for a walk.
I am now progressing him to do his first poop of the day between my legs into the loo. And I often take him for his half hourly pee tries over the sink. This just saves me washing the potty constantly and teaches him about going in the bathroom – the proper place. I have also got him a small loo seat to put over ours so I’m looking forward to when he can sit up properly and we can have a go using that.
I’m also thinking about nappy alternatives so it’s easier to undress and re-dress him for his many pees. I’m thinking about a Buff (elasticated headband thing for running!) around his waist to keep a soft bamboo towelling with a waterproof back between his legs. My mum is hopefully going to make some for me. I’ll post some piccies when we’re there.
I thought I’d be a big sling user but he seems not to like them at all. He pukes up a lot generally and runs quite hot and seems not to like being squished up against me. I think he will prefer a backpack when he is older. He likes a cradle hold with the left hand but it is hard to do things one handed. So I pop him in a bouncy chair or let him stretch out on his mat a bit while I get jobs done. I sometimes set a timer to alert me to offer him the potty, but I don’t want all my attention to him to be focussed on being on the potty or he will think I’m obsessed with his bowel movements!
I’ve also joined a couple of FB groups – Cloth Nappies and Elimination Communication. So that is good for ideas and troubleshooting, and also inspiration. I’m really pleased I found this method, and now I’ve started I can’t really stop because he does fuss on the boob to be pottied and now I know it’s that I can’t ignore him. I’d feel bad for ignoring his needs. I feel like a nappy (especially a disposable) now makes me blind to this part of his needs so I’m looking forward to less clothing in the summer, us communicating more easily, and making the nappy alternative things. [Ha ha ha, as I wrote that he just did a massive pee on me with no warning as he wasn’t wearing a nappy! Just noticed the time and it had been 40mins, poor baby, silly mummy! Need to set the timer next time. Time to get those alternatives made!]
UPDATE 13 May 2021
Poop changes! It used to be quite liquidy, yellow and with bits in like liquidy crunchy peanut butter. He used to poop mid-boobing so I’d often have to have the potty under him while he fed which was GROSS, but now pottying is becoming a mid-feed or post-feed occasion and he is more aware of it and what we are trying to get him to do. Even if he doesn’t need to go he makes a big show of making all the pushing noises and grunting lol!
Now aged around 15 weeks / 3.5 months it has begun to be more like a paste, a smooth peanut butter! It’s quite massive too. But it’s quite easy to catch cos he strains to do it so we can easily respond to that. Pees are a whole nother thing. I still can’t tell his cue at all. Stealth pees!
I feel like the poops are the most important to catch tho cos wee is fine to get in cloth nappies. Poop would be disgusting, I did get one once with his old poop in and the liner made it go everywhere it was so gross. Thankfully only one time! We have stopped using liners in any of his nappies now cos he doesn’t seem to do the warning shart-dribbles anymore.
I’m so glad we started EC, I’m not sure how one of these mega paste poops would fare in a nappy, it would be absolutely gross for him to get that all over his bum and sit in it.
UPDATE 8 June 2021
Finny is almost 5 months old now and popping in the potty (and now outside on cardboard in the garden!) is VERY successful and I’m really pleased. Since he was 15 weeks old we have had one huge poop on the changing mat while I left the room to get something, and one small poop in a cloth nappy on a day when I was having a meltdown due to lack of sleep. Pees remained elusive until this week which is why I’d like to update the blog now – more of a routine has helped me catch way more.
I had a major meltdown last week due to increasing lack of sleep as he became more and more aware starting from turning 4 months old. He still wasn’t sleeping through the night, especially on my watch from 1am – 9am, waking every 2-3 hours which was exhausting. I didn’t realise he didn’t need to eat so I was just responding to his nighttime wakings by shoving the boob in his face until he fell back to sleep. He was a really sicky baby puking all the time and I possibly was just feeding him more than his little tummy could handle!
We thought that to get him sleeping more in the night we should keep him awake more in the day. This is true for older kiddies but not for babies! We did not know this! After contacting sleep expert Vanessa from Lullatime I found 4 month year old babies need around 3 naps a day and start to get tired and needing said naps every 2 hours max.
Poor Finny was sleeping in the pram (thank goodness I walked a lot with him!) and feeding for a whole hour on the boob and sleeping, then when he finally finished and I popped him down in the cot, whadya know – he was PING! AWAKE! His nap was complete! On me! I wasn’t getting any time away from him.
This was combined with Steve working Mon – Fri even though we said we would share the care 50:50. He does a lot as it is but I needed a more formal timetable and to stop every single working day being my ultimate responsibility. It took a massive row to get him to agree to be responsible for Finny on a Thurs & Fri because why is his work more important than mine just because he has a big project on that should have finished in Dec but hasn’t?
He has now agreed to just bring Finny to me for boobing on those days, and ask me if I’ll take him for an hour or whatever if he has to do something. And I will pop in when I feel like it to play with Finny. Basically what he was doing every work day. So we have swapped for those two days. I feel a lot better. I like the opportunity to miss Finny. I was with him so much and getting so sleep deprived I couldn’t even smile at him on the day I finally melted down – Fri 4 June.
I felt so terrible. Crying a lot, not coping, couldn’t smile at Finny, resenting him if I was finding his behaviour difficult, on the way to being rough with him. Time for mummy to reach out for help! I contacted my family saying I couldn’t cope with the sleep deprivation anymore and I felt like checking into a hotel for the weekend for respite.
Thankfully my amazing mum came to the rescue. She dropped everything and came that evening and spent the whole weekend teaching me and Steve how to get Finny to sleep well in the day and the night. I can’t express what a godsend this has been. If you are having sleep difficulties still at 4 months in, don’t waste ANY TIME. Contact an expert, or your family if they are good at this kind of thing.
I wasn’t sure how it would go with my mum as we don’t always see eye to eye! But she was the absolute best mum and granny in the world that weekend and I will always have so much love and respect for her for responding immediately and with such care.
So – long story short, I was too attentive to Finny’s every noise. At this age he can go 5-8 hours without feeding at night, and needs 3 ish naps per day with about 2hrs in between. Not being a great timings person I do find this routine a head-mash, but it has created islands of baby-free calm in the day, and got rid of my anxiety about “When is he going to sleep?” and once asleep, “How long have I got to do jobs / work / run”.
She showed me babies need a routine to ease them into easier sleep. I don’t let Finny fall asleep on the boob now, he has a burp and nappy change between boobs. Then we burp one final time, sway on the shoulder saying “Sleepy baby” in a calming voice, and go to close the curtains saying “Bye bye outside” then we say “Night night or nap time” to all the toys on his shelf.
Then he goes in the cot (he sleeps on his front now) and I pat his bum at 180bpm to match his heart rate and sing his sleep song (twinkle twinkle little star, with various other lyrics to communicate with anyone who comes up to peep at the process!). As he gets sleepier the patting slows and the song volume reduces. Eventually to nothing. If he stirs it starts up again. If he really isn’t settling sometimes you have to restart. Like today he was hungry and needed feeding. Then he went out like a light.
Anyway – why is this better for pottying? The routine has meant he has pooped at 2:30pm for 3 days almost consecutively. It used to be entirely at random day and night. If this continues this makes everything much easier to plan.
I’ve also started catching more pees because I’m able to offer him the potty before and after each nap or sleep period. Gradually he will get used to holding his pee until I offer him the potty soon after waking etc. He definitely knows what to do on the pss pss cue now. He tries to force a bit out even if he doesn’t need to go bless him, sometimes I feel him tense slightly and he just does a tiny trickle. Bless him!
He now goes in the loo at The Place after Diddy Signing too. I hope the signing will allow us to communicate earlier than talking. After his afternoon nap today he had a dry cloth nappy and did a big wee on the potty. Clever Finny!!!