My baby Levi was born August 13th, 2017. He was a week overdue and I was so anxious to meet him! I had been reading up about EC for months, eager to try it with my new baby. Part of me was skeptical. It all seemed too good to be true. Was it possible to actually potty your baby from birth? I got a copy of Go Diaper Free and read it cover to cover three times. Though I was excited, I had a few fears from the get-go.
I was afraid that I would do it all wrong.
I was afraid that my hopes would be crushed when EC was a complete failure.
I was afraid people would think I was weird for doing this with my son.
I was afraid I wouldn't have time to do it caring for two boys under two years old.
I think that the majority of mothers have some or all of these fears when starting out on their EC journey. In that postpartum time, you may be thinking, "How can I find time to take my baby potty when I don't even have time to go pee MYSELF!?" Girl, I hear you! It took me a month before I had the courage to jump in and start.
I started out by doing naked observation (almost) every day for about 2 weeks. During my toddler's afternoon nap, I spent time with Mr. Nudeybum on a cotton prefold watching to see 1) how often he was peeing and 2) what signals he was making before pees/poos. I learned his little smirks and grunts. I learned that he would poop during a nurse and pee 5 minutes later. Whenever he did his business, I'd make a sound association: "pssss" for pee and "mm mm" for poops.
I began offering "pottytunities" after our nursing sessions. I'd bring Levi over to the sink, say "pssss," and watch the magic unfold. He would usually pee within seconds of hearing my cue. It was incredible. I felt like I had been let in on a huge secret. Why weren't more people doing this with their babies? It came so easily to us and eventually it was second nature. I'd take Levi over to the sink about 6 times a day for practice and we were almost always successful. I loved the feeling of responding to my baby's needs, keeping him clean and dry whenever I could. It never felt like a chore to take him potty. It truly brought me joy. Oh, and saving dozens of diapers was also a huge plus ;)
This was definitely the most challenging period of our first year doing EC. Mom life was HARD. I'm pretty sure I had PPD but I didn't want to admit that was the case. I was in the throngs of sleep deprivation too. Levi was a terrible sleeper, night and day. He'd cry for hours during the night as I tried to soothe him. He was cranky all day because he wasn't sleeping at night. The cycle went on and on.
You'd think that because I was so exhausted, I wouldn't want to do EC. Oh, no. Not the case. Instead of giving myself grace and resting, I did the complete opposite. The perfectionist in me came out full force and I decided to give 100% of my effort to potty time. There were days that I tried to catch every. single. pee. There were days that I cried because I missed a poop while I was occupied with my toddler. There were days when it felt like the potty was consuming my life. I felt like I wasn't doing EC "right."
I've come so far since those days! Looking back on it now, I can see that this was very unhealthy behavior. Andrea Olson, creator of Go Diaper Free, said something that really resonated with me at the time. She said that it's sometimes easy to treat your baby like a pee and poo machine when you're first starting EC. A lightbulb finally had gone off in my head. EC is not supposed to be stressful and all-consuming. EC is supposed to be about the parent responding to the child's signals, honoring the child, helping them be hygienic, and allowing them to gain independence along the way. After this, I was determined to do better. I backed off, only put Levi on the potty once a day, and did a mini "reset" for a few weeks.
Through all of this, Levi was such a great little sport. He was super cooperative and peed on cue without resistance. Babies are so forgiving to their mamas! This period was when we started using a potty instead of the sink because Levi was eating solids now. It took a while for him to get used to it, but overall it was a smooth transition.
During this time, I was wrapping up my certification to be a potty training and Elimination Communication consultant. I was learning SO much and my attitude towards EC was shifting. I had gone from obsessing over catching everything to enjoying the process and enjoying my baby. No longer was I thinking about the potty each second, but instead, it just flowed into our daily routine.
At this point, Levi was a potty pro. He knew exactly what the potty was for and I no longer had to cue him to pee or poop. I'd just sit him on the toilet and he'd do his thing. At around 8 months, we transitioned him from using the little potty to using the big toilet. I was so done with washing that thing after every poop!
Our routine over the past few months has been pretty simple. After meals, Levi usually has to poop within 5 minutes. I simply take him to the toilet after eating, give him a little privacy, and he does his #2. It's fabulous! I'd say that 95% of all poops are in the toilet at this point *knock on wood*. Poops outside of mealtimes are rare, but they do happen. Levi seems to be subtly signaling to me whenever he has to go during the day. He just gives me the poop look saying, "Mom, take me potty!" Anybody else would miss it but I feel we are connected on a deeper level. This is just another reason I love EC. I love being able to communicate with him and respond to what he's telling me.
Oh, and another amazing development just happened this week! Levi actually crawled towards the potty before he gave me the signal that he had to poop! I'm not sure if it was a complete fluke but I'm hoping that this will become his new routine.
Our pee catches have been a bit random and all over the place. Because of those months where I spent so much of my day doing potty time with Levi, I've been nervous to get into a pee routine with him. I'm scared that if I start trying to catch the pees, I might begin obsessing again. At the moment, I only offer him the potty to pee in if it's been a while since he's gone or if I'm about to put a fresh diaper on him.
What backups are we using currently? For the past few months, we have had Levi in either Tiny Trainers or Tiny Ups for 50% of the day and either cloth or disposables the other 50%. Levi has always protested diaper changes and the training underwear are SO much easier to put on and take off.
What's next for us?
I'd love to be wrapped up with diapers within the next 6 months. Saying that out loud seems so crazy to me. Only 6 months more of diapers? That would be AMAZING! Once Levi starts walking, I think we are going to do more of a potty training experience, doing some more intensive daily teaching, and having him wear underwear more of the day. I'll make sure to post regular updates on our progress.
All the best,