Infant potty training from birth

Some call it elimination communication - others may call it madness - but some babies really can use a potty when they're only a few months old. Intrigued? Read on...

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Sounds like the impossible dream, doesn’t it? But potty training from birth is a thing and can be done – but it’s rare in the UK and is usually found in outside the Western world and is often the norm in China, India, parts of Africa, Latin America, SouthEast Asia and Eastern Europe.

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However, while it means you can start training from birth, it doesn’t mean that your baby will be dry from birth – or within a few weeks or even a few months. Don’t expect your 12-week old to start pointing at her potty every time she feels she needs a wee. It’s a good technique, but not that good! It’s more about you anticipating her needs and then moving her to the right place.

So, when’s the best time to start potty training from birth? Basically from birth and then within the first few weeks. It’s not something that you can suddenly start doing at 8 months.

And what’s the philosophy behind it? If parents can condition a baby to go in his nappy in the very early months, he must later ‘unlearn’ this. So the idea is you start your baby learning how to use a potty (sans nappy) from the off. ‘Infant pottying’ or ‘elimination communication’ is about parents listening and responding to their baby’s signals. It requires patience and gentleness but we’re told can be very rewarding for both you and your baby.

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How long does it take? About two years, but most babies will have reasonable control by 12-18 months.

What do I have to do, then? 

  1. Closely watch your baby’s weeing and pooing patterns and body language
  2. Once you’ve started to understand your baby’s signs and habits, start following your baby’s cues and when a wee is likely, hold your baby over a potty or your loo
  3. At the same time, give an audible signal, such as ‘sssss’
  4. After a while your baby will learn to relax their muscles on receiving these cues, and will start to remain dry and clean between potty sessions

Wow! Tell me more about the pros Proponents of EC claim that potty training from birth enhances child-parent bonding through early communication, but there don’t appear to be any scientific studies that prove this. More obvious, is the fact that cutting out the need for nappies not only saves money, it helps the environment too. There’s no scientific evidence, that early toilet training has any long-term development impact on a baby or child – either positive or negative.

What about the cons, though? Potty training from birth is less suited to those living in a colder climate, since being aware of your baby’s bodily functions is easier if your baby’s bare-bottomed or in minimal clothes. Oh, and it requires a lot of hands-on attention and patience. It can easily take a year before your baby is generally hitting the potty all the time.

Who is it best suited to? A parent or carer who will be the primary carer for at least two years and anyone who has the patience of a saint.

Is potty training from birth the new trend?

No, potty training early is not a new thing. Many mums on our forum reveal that their mothers potty trained them as early as possible, certainly by the age of one.

“My mum had me fully potty trained by 1.5 years old,” says MFM forum user Denise007. “We were travelling to Canada for my uncle’s wedding and she thought it would be easier not to have me in nappies and it worked. She used to sit me on the potty from around 6 months old and I think it was learned behaviour but she had to stick at it.”

“My mum used to sit me on the potty from 6 months old. As soon as mine could sit up unaided I would sit them on the potty, and of course the summer is a great time to do it, out in the garden, no nappy on and a couple of potties dotted around,” advises CarolynB3.

And of course, sometimes your child will decide for you. “My eldest was potty trained and totally out of nappies by 18 months,” says Malakin. “My next daughter was 2.5 before she was potty trained and I did nothing different.

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