Toilet training a baby: is it possible?
Although not recommended by most experts, infant toilet training (or elimination communication as it's often called) has been around in some countries for thousands of years and can be used for early toilet training.
What's the idea?
It's strict, structured and there isn't an easy, or quick way to toilet train a baby. However, some parents see it as a natural and green alternative approach to toilet training: you're rejecting the hassle and cost of buying nappies and reading your child's body language to see when they need to go.
When do you start?
For infant toilet training, you usually begin the toilet training process between birth and the age of six months, with the idea that the perfect time to start is four to five months old. However, supporters of the method do say that even slightly older children can learn what to do easily, too.
How does it work?
Basically, the idea is that you can often anticipate when your child needs to use the potty/toilet by learning to read his cues. Usually that's noises, changes in body language, different behaviour or facial expressions.
Then, when you think he's about to do a wee, for example, you make a special sound, like a long 'sssss' sound to signal that it’s wee-time. You do this while holding your baby over a toilet or sink.
Or if he has a wee unprompted, you make that same sound again as he does it. The idea is that your baby comes to associate the sound with having a wee or a poo.
How long does it take?
Brace yourself: it's not a quick method. Although some children can get the hang of controlling their bowels and bladders fairly quickly, most children aren't fully toilet-trained until they're two. That’s a lot of months of mess and a lot of stress. If your baby isn't using nappies, what do you do in public? On a bus? At the park? It could be hard to find childcare too - trying to find a sympathetic daycare centre could be very tough.
What are the advantages?
Supporters of infant toilet training, or elimination communication (EC), say that if a baby is toilet trained in this way, rather than the traditional toilet training technique, you avoid the expense of nappies and nappy rash. They also believe you'll build up a strong bond with your baby and it's certainly stood the test of time, particularly in non-Western cultures. In some areas of China, some babies and young children wear pants with a hole around the bottom to allow for easy on-the-go potty/toilet breaks.
What are the drawbacks?
It's a huge commitment from you and, let's face it, it's not exactly socially acceptable. Experts also questions if it's adding yet another burden onto the mother so soon after giving birth.
But is this method all or nothing?
No, not if you don't want to. Some parents use the EC method part-time, and find it easier to use nappies overnight or when their child is in the car or unwell.
Read more about toilet training
- How do I know when my child is ready for toilet training?
- How do I deal with set-backs and accidents?
- To read more about toddler hygiene
This article was written for Kidspot, New Zealand's leading pregnancy and parenting resource.
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