Infant Potty Training
by Laurie Boucke

...such a tiny being could be aware of peeing and pooping. It is even harder for us to believe that an infant has some control over elimination. With these preconceived and narrow views, we encourage and teach our babies to be unconcerned about. wetting and soiling diapers. In short, we teach our infants to use diapers as a toilet.

A normal, healthy infant is indeed aware of the bodily function of elimination and can learn to respond to it from infancy. By using diapers, we condition and thereby train baby to go in them. Later the child must unlearn this training. This can be confusing and a traumatic experience for the child.

An infant does his best to communicate his awareness to you, but if you don't listen, he will stop communicating and gradually lose touch with the elimination functions. He will be conditioned not to care
and learn that you want him to use his diaper as a toilet.

Not only is toilet training from infancy basically unheard of in the United States, it also strikes many as inconvenient. With relatively few exceptions, however, toilet training is by definition inconvenient no matter how you do it. If you wait for your baby to self-train at 2, 3, 4 or older, you are both subjected to years of diaper changes (not to mention laundry, baby wipes and other means of sanitation).

Diapers, especially disposable ones, are a temporary way to deal with toileting. We attempt to "plug up" our child's disposal system with diapers in the same way as we temporarily stop the flow from a leaking pipe. How many parents have pondered whether or not this is the most hygienic solution for the child? How many parents care about the effects of diapers on the environment? How many would care if they knew of an alternative to full-time diapers?

Who Can Use This Method?

Parents of infants, parents-to-be, grandparents, nannies and anyone else interested in lovingly and patiently working with an infant towards accomplishing potty training at the earliest possible age. "Infant" is the operative word here, as opposed to "toddler," in that a caregiver begins working as a team with an infant in the early months of life. Infant potty training is best used by:

a parent who spends at least the first 1 or 2 years caring for baby a working parent with one or more trustworthy and reliable helper(s) such as a family member, nanny or friend. 

What Does It Take?

Time, diligence and patience. If you cannot devote these qualities or arrange for any assistance you may need, this is not the method for you or your baby. But if this method makes sense, if it resonates, go for it! It canít hurt to try, and if it doesnít work out, you can go back to diapering.

When Do I Start?

The ideal time to start is anytime from birth to 4 months old. During this time, there is a window of learning open.

How Long Does It Take?

The average age of completion in the West is around 2 years, although babies have fairly good control of
elimination for *many* months before completion.

Is It Safe?

Of course, as long as parents have the right mind set. Parents must be relaxed and positive about working with their babies. Parents must exercise patience and gentleness; observe and respond to baby's signals on time whenever reasonably possible; and provide proper and loving support while holding their infants. This is a non-punitive method. Punishment, anger and control are NOT a part of this method. Note that this method is radically different from the harsh "early toilet training" method used in Western countries until the 1950s.

Does It Really Work?

Yes, but not without some effort. Success does not just happen on its own. It takes at least one committed adult and several months of perseverance to complete infant potty training. Right from the very start, there are fun and exciting daily rewards for both baby and caregiver. Baby's communication is acknowledged and encouraged. Parents are amazed at the degree of their infant's awareness and are thrilled when he signals and responds so easily and naturally.

Does My Baby Have To Be Naked?

This is not a requirement. Many parents keep a diaper or training pants on their baby in between potty visits, while others prefer to leave their baby bare-bottomed or naked most of the time. In short, it is a matter of preference.

A Wonderful Discovery (My Experience with IPT)

My first two children experienced conventional potty training. When my third son was born, I dreaded the thought of another bout of conventional toilet training which would entail additional years of diapers and began seeking a better means to accomplish this task.

I learned the basis for an alternative technique through a lady visiting us from India. She was horrified when I told her the way Westerners handle the "waste disposal issue" and explained to me the way things are done "back home" in her culture. I was skeptical when she told me that there is no need to use "the cloths" on an infant unless it is "ill of the stomach," feverish or wets the bed most nights. I had been to India several times and had noticed families peeing and pooping their babies around the countryside, but had not paid close attention. Like many others, I mistakenly assumed that Westerners could not use this technique.

I begged my new friend to tell me more and to teach me how to hold my son and get him to "go" for me,
which she gladly and effortlessly did. I was spellbound watching her communicate with my tiny 3-month-old son, who somehow instinctively knew what she wanted him to do. I can only describe the exchange and instant understanding between them--a stranger and an infant--as a wonderful discovery.

I used the technique she demonstrated, slightly modifying and adapting it to a Western lifestyle, and found it to be far superior to conventional diaper-to-potty-training. From the day I started working with my 3-month-old son, he rarely needed a diaper, day or night. He stayed dry during most of the day at age 18 months and was finished with all aspects of potty training at age 25 months.

Outlook and Source

The trickle treat method begins with conditioning and can be approached in a rational and scientific manner as well as an intuitive and spiritual one, or a combination of both depending on what works best for you and your baby. The rational approach involves timing and observation of elimination patterns and baby body language. The more spiritual approach involves intuition and "tuning in" to your baby in more subtle ways.

Remember, it is teamwork, something you do together via close and trusting communication. It is not something you are doing to your baby, and it is not something your baby can do without you. If you are willing and able, and if your baby is healthy, your baby is ready for you.

Infant potty training is based on an elimination training technique used in much of Asia and rural Sub-Saharan Africa. The method has been adapted to the Western lifestyle in various ways, including the use of a sink, potty, toilet or other container; variations in elimination positions; part-time use of the technique; and, where desired, part-time use of diapers.

© copyright 2000

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