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« Cloth Diapering: A New Daddy's Perspective | Main | Petite Perfection »

Can You Potty Train An Infant??

I have been studiously researching cloth diapers ever since I unintentionally disturbed the hornets nest known as the CD community. I'm still trying to pull all the options together for my one-month trial. Meanwhile, a Twitter friend sent me this article about going without diapers altogether and potty training an infant. Um....what!?

At the risk of offending yet another subset of parents, how in the world can this possibly work!?

In theory, infant potty training involves watching for your baby's signs of impending stool or urine and holding them over a receptacle of choice. They are eventually supposed to learn the cues and what? Ask for the toilet themselves? Wait for you to take them to the toilet? Hold it? At 6 months old? 

The article suggests that "the ideal time to start is anytime from birth to 4-5 months old. During this time, the first window for toilet learning is open."

I don't mean to be cynical but all of the books I have read about babies say that they are too immature to learn, manipulate, or retain information in the first 3 months. How can they be expected to draw a parallel between urinating and being in a particular place in the home?

And parents are supposed to watch them for signs that they have to use the bathroom? I can tell when Baby Mo has an impending poop but there are no visible signs for pee. I would basically have to count on him urinating in every single outfit. 

Further, what about undergarments in general? I don't go commando . Should I expect my baby to? Or is there such a thing as baby undies that are not diapers? 

As you can see, I'm terribly perplexed by this whole concept. No judgement of course but I'd love to hear from any parent who has successfully potty trained an infant. Or any parent who feels like me: this has to be a joke, right? 

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Reader Comments (48)

That's ridiculous!

November 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterClayton

That article would be right at home at

November 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRB

That's what I thought!!

November 7, 2010 | Registered CommenterNatali

I think this article better deals with the subject.

The key in non-western cultures is that the infant is normally held for long periods and so any discomfort can be detected by the mother before the baby voids. It doesn't say that the baby can be potty trained, but that the baby can learn to hold it temporarily until they are placed in the "potty location" It makes sense to me, but requires a very close relationship between the parent and the infant.

November 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephen

I never had to change messy diapers on my son past about 6 months. He and I both knew his signals that he needed to poop.

I actually got chastised by a social worker when he "announced" he needed to poop at about 9 months while I was in a meeting.

I turned to him and explained I could not find the bathroom right then and it was ok to use his diaper and I would change him as soon as I was done. He was disappointed. The case worker told me I was being cruel to expect him to control his bowels.

From that point on I took him to the restroom before we left home and upon arriving at a new location. He still wore cloth diapers in a velcro cover but he used the toilet regularly.

November 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGeri

Sigh...... here comes the haters. Please leave. Thank you.

November 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNancy

Real mature @Natalee where's the ban hammer?

November 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLex

I read about this while I was pregnant and actually thought it was pretty cool! Shaun thought I was nuts though and my OB thought it was a little nutty too. It's a really interesting concept though!

November 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNathalee

Thanks for the great link, @Stephen.

Amazing how many closed-minded and severely underinformed people are out there (seemingly just waiting to comment on subjects about which they know nothing).

November 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBee

It's not too crazy! I have friends who have successfully practiced Elimination Communication with their little ones. I think every child is different (obviously) and what might work with some, won't work with others. My little guy (#4) is sooo predictable that I joke that I could do EC with him - but I won't. Kudos to those that can. I work, we have two sitters, and daddy ... there isn't enough consistency in this house for it to work, but I can see how it could in some situations.

November 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErin

I'm not a hater at all but I thought I would share with you my unintentional venture into Elimination Communication.
My son was about 4 months old and (like a lot of babies) you could clearly tell when he needed to poop. One day I noticed it and thought it would be a fun/silly thing to see what would happen if I held him over the potty. Well, I got my older daughters potty seat out, put it on the toilet, and set my son on it. I could hardly believe it when he went ahead and did his business. I was so surprised, but also happy to have one less poopy diaper to change. This happened a few more times over the potty. I also started to notice that when I changed his (pee) diapers he would use the diaper-less opportunity to poop then as well. We kinda started to get into a routine (which surprised me to no end), I would take off his wet diaper and take him to the potty and he would poop. I got the feeling that he just didn't like the feel of poop next to his little bum.

This lasted about 5 months at which point he was hospitalized for a few days :( We got out of the routine and were never able to get back into it. It was never a big goal for me, so there was no disappointment to be had. Ever since this accidental experiment with E.C. I have viewed it with more accepting eyes...I guess you never know what your little ones are really capable of.

November 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEmily N.

That really is amazing! I tend to think they retain more than we know, it is just hard to predict. I am amazed at this concept, although I'm sure some people can make it work with determination!

I hope your son's hospitalization wasn't too serious!

November 7, 2010 | Registered CommenterNatali

I actually just wrote a post about this on my blog and how I've done this with both our son and daughter. Our daughter is 9 months old and I started putting her on the toilet at 4 months old. And it's more about being in tune with her bowel/bladder habits and not so much about her gaining control over them. At least this is how it has been for us. Really, if you would just read this posting, you'll see what I mean and you'll also read about the response I've received from others.

It really is amazingly surreal and I would not have believed it if I did not actually see it every day. I have had people applaud me and people who criticize me. But the truth is, the kids have done great and everyone is happy and smiling,.

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterT Rex Mom

People do it by putting thier baby on the toilet about every 10 minutes. its called elimination communication.... not my cup of tea

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulia

I've heard of EC but thought it would most likely be pretty difficult. I personally have no problem changing diapers and think a new parent has enough to worry about without adding something else. And with subsequent kids, you're just too busy. I'd be interested to find out the logistics and do they toilet train earlier.

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

I did elimination communication VERY part time and sporadic starting at 5 months old with my son... I eventually took a hiatus from it cause we were so busy with other life happenings. Around 19 months old I decided to pull out the potty again and see how he'd do. He's been using the potty ever since :) I still put a diaper on him when we go out.. but at home he is diaperless and uses the potty. He does go commando, can't quite get him to understand to pull up and down his undies yet... he usually pulls them off and keeps them off.
I am pregnant and due in Feb and I plan to EC full time from day 1... I'm very excited! My older kids never potty trained before 3 years old... so to see my son using the potty at 19 months old, totally on his own- it's just amazing to me! I am a believer!

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNichole

This is actually common place in non-western countries. Totally normal. You just learn your babies cues.

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi

You have likely poked a hornet's nest with this topic too- I too thought EC was a big fat joke! Even if it IS possible (and the jury is still out) who WANTS to run to the toilet w/ a kid every 10 minutes? I am a SAHM and do not have the time for that, cannot imagine if I was working outside the home and attempted to take on such a task....I mean c'mon, they make diapers for a reason!! Others have said it is a "non western" practice...blah, blah, blah- I do NOT live in a underdeveloped country that leaves me with no options! So this takes me back to WHY!?

I am part of the "subset" of cloth diapering parents and I know there are those out there who do not understand this practice either though I do not think it is as hard a pill to swallow as EC- We decided to CD when a major diaper manufacturer changed their diapers and it caused a HORRID rash on my 2 children still in diapers- After much research I am of the belief it is the best thing for my kids and would be great for most children if their parents gave it a shot- I see you have challenged yourself to 30 days of cloth with Miles. If you need any assistance feel free to ask for help- I am not a CD Nazi, nor are most of the moms I know who CD, though there are a few who are over the top this is not unique to the CD'ing community- mothers can be awful- whatever their beliefs. The sad thing about that is they are MOTHERS! Anywho- sorry for the tangent. I hope you will try cloth and REALLY give it a shot. You will ikely be very surprised how EASY it actually is- My husband was not a fan at the outset but is fully on board now and he too says he would NEVER go back to disposables and even shares w/ his best friend whose wife is expecting how economical and easy CD'ing really can be!

If you'd like a real perspective, not one of a diaper retailer feel free to use the email address provided!
Best of luck...just a small nugget of advice- I would quit poking those hornets nests- women can be far worse than a nest of bees!
(please do NOT post my email address for the public to view- I do not need hate mail!)

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

Think of EC this way: When your baby is born, they instinctively do NOT like to be in a wet or soiled diaper. They cry. You change them. If you're not changing them immediately, you're essentially "training" them to think it's okay to go in their diaper. Then suddenly at 2 years old you decide to "train" them to use the potty. What you've been telling them for the past two years (It's okay to go in your diaper. It's okay to wet, you're a baby), gets tossed out the window and they're told to learn a whole new system. How confusing does that seem to a child?

By using EC, you're showing your child from early on that using the potty is what everyone does. That the potty is the place for pee and poop, not a diaper. Much less confusion for a child in an already confusing world.

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

EC can be done, it doesn't make anyone crazy.
My DD would show signs of needing to poop and so I would take her to the potty and she would go and I would sign poop and potty to her.

We don't catch all of them, but we do catch a number of them.

Again, it's not something for everyone (like cloth diaperS) but I have a friend with an 18 mo old that is potty trained (except she wears a diaper at night just in case) because at about 6 mo she started to let her use the potty (NOT force her).

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Eh, I have friends who did it and it worked for them. Too time-intensive for me as a working mom. Besides, even when we are at home, I still have trouble getting my husband to pay attention to when the boy needs a change; watching him like a hawk for "potty signals" was right out.

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterrichenza

I thought it was a joke too when I read about it in a couple of books when I was pregnant. I figured it would be an interesting challenge during my 6 week maternity leave. Well 7 months later and I can actually recall the amount of times I have had to change a poopy diaper. ECing makes so much sense now. Who the heck wants to poop in their undies especially a diaper! My little lady is totally poop trained AND it wasn't it difficult AND my husband is better at it than I am! I would encourage anyone who is the slightest bit interested to give it a try with an open mind.

For a bit of perspective both my husband and I work full time we have 2 older kiddies (11 and 4) and our sitter for our 7m old daughter does not practice ECing with her so we are ECing only part time and it still works. In my opinion taking her to poop on the potty (she is super regular) is way easier than changing random poppy diapers. We take her to the potty when she wakes up in the morning (she almost always pees and sometimes poops), a couple times in the evening during the workweek (if she didn't poop in the a.m. she poops in the p.m.), and throughout the day on the weekend. It is pretty apparent on the weekend that she prefers the potty to peeing in her diaper. It makes me feel bad I can't respond to her elimination needs a bit better. I would hate having to rely on someone else to change my diaper.

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterangela

We've done EC (very) part time with my son. When he wakes up from a nap, I remove his diaper, let him sit on the potty and we read a book. If he wants to go, he does. If not, no worries, I just put on a fresh diaper. 90% of the time he goes. No extra work for me either way.

ECing was once explained to me in this way, and it made sense. "Potty training is teaching children how to hold it in, while ECing is teaching children how to let it out. We are born knowing how to let it out. Learning to hold it will come in it's own time."

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlison

Hi Natali!
I am so excited for your willingness to at least give CDing a try! I think you'll find it's not nearly as bad as it may seem at first, nor as bad as outsiders will make you feel it is.
As for ECing, we are one of those successful ECing stories!

I hadn't planned on it, but when my son was 4 months old, I realized I always knew when he was going to "go". I knew this, because I would always choose our worst diapers for him to poop in, and save the good ones for when I knew we were "safe" from any poo. I also noticed he would wait to pee until his diaper was off (reminds me of an above comment, where it seems like a natural instinct to keep oneself dry and not soil yourself). That did it, I was going to try it, on a whim. I bought a $12 potty at Target, and that night, took off his diaper, and sat him down. Well, what do you know! He pee'd and pooped! I was amazed, and delighted to have one less diaper to change and wash!

This continued daily, watching him for signs, and any time he was dry (after nursing, after naps, etc.) I would sit him down, read a book, sing, play, etc, and within a few minutes, he would pee and/or poop! There was no such thing as rushing him to the potty every ten minutes. For us, it was about being in tune with my baby, and knowing his cues. By 10 months, he could sign "Pee" and "poop", and so I put him in undies for daytime. Yes, 10 months! :D

I have not changed a poopy diaper since he was 6 months old (and still exclusively breastfed, so they were easy to wash!), and I am that much happier for it, haha! I have 2 other kids that I homeschool, and I run my own photography business, so any less changing and washing diapers for me is a wonderful thing!

Now, at almost 20 months, he is 90% potty trained, but still wears cloth diapers at night, just in case of an occasional accident. I also notice that if/when he does have an accident during the day, it is usually because I am the one that missed it. He told me, but I was too busy or didn't hear him tell me.

Baby #4 is now on the way, and I am planning on ECing him/her right from the get go.

Now, all of that being said, if you are not your child's only caretaker, and the other caretaker(s) are not on board, I cannot imagine how ECing could work. It does take time, and a lot of effort, but I think it is worth it, if you are willing. I also think there is nothing wrong with choosing to wait. It is simply the parents choice. My first two were not cloth diapered, nor EC'd, simply because I had not even heard of either of the two when they were babies. I sure wish I had though!

Good luck in your ventures, and know that you have a lot of support from the CDing community! :D

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMonica

Wow, kudos to you for exploring another rarely noticed territory.

To me, "infant potty training" doesn't usually go the way you described, especially in north America. But when I was little, people used to be diaper-free around 1 year old. There may be accidents after that but no more than many newly potty trained 3 years old here.

You said that you couldn't tell when your baby pee. I think the problem is that we didn't know we could expect cues from them when they were tiny. We were told to check if babies are hungry or sleep or too cold or too hot or diapers too wet or soilded when they cry. Never were we told to check if they needed to go. So, some parents ended up get sprayed on while checking the diaper!

Okay, it may not always go like that either. But the truth is, babies' cue are often very subtle, especially for new parents. If we don't even know the possibility, we don't look for them, it is harder to notice. Eventually, babies would learn that it is okay to pee whenever.

I start practicing "infant potty training" or more known as "elimination communication" with my daughter when she was a few days old. I found that her bottom was very difficult to clean after a poop because it went into her private that was so scary to touch (mind you, I already have 2 kids but they are boys)

So, I start to open up her diaper on the changing table when I felt that you was about to poop. After a couple of times, I started to open up a clean diaper - she waited for an opened diaper to poop. Then, I asked myself, why waste another diaper (I was using disposable then) and take her to poop in the bathroom. (Okay, I used the sink but when you get to potty training the conventional way, you may find yourself rinsing off poop over the sink anyways...) And yes, I took her, bare bottom, from the changing table in our bedroom, into the bathroom and she pooped in the sink and pee'd too.

So, my daughter is now 14 months. No, she is not "potty trained" yet. But she wear underwear at home and cloth diapered for naps and at night. Some days she could be in the same underwear the whole day, and even some dry naps and nights. But other days, we could have a couple of wet pants. Often time, I could back track and she did whine before but I thought she needed something else. So, we are still learning to communicate :)

Sorry that this is so long. I hope it helps a bit.

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVenus

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