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What I've been Reading [Feb. 16th, 2007|01:52 am]
Pregnant Liberals


Early Potty Training (aka Elimination Communication, Natural Infant Hygiene, etc.)

'Early-Start Potty Training' by Linda Sonna
'Infant Potty Basics' by Laurie Boucke
'Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene' by Ingrid Bauer
'The Diaper Free Baby' by Christine Gross-Loh

'Early-Start Potty Training' was the best of the four, with lots of information and history. 'The Diaper Free Baby' was the worst. It was rather repetitive and didn't seem to contain much information which wasn't in the other books. 'Diaper Free: etc.' was good, but very on the Granola-side of things--it might scare off parents who are unfamiliar with the subject, and may not be as effective for most parents as the techniques in Early-Start (even though they're very similar.) If you are a total hippie, though, you might want to read this one first. 'Infant Potty Basics' is a much shorter book, more of a companion book to a much longer work by the same author. It makes a good supplement to the others, but by itself feels rather incomplete.

Potty Training History (as told by the books):

Back in the day, (around 1900,) Westerners had very stupid notions about potty training. They'd do things like beat their kids or chain them for hours to the potty. Quite obviously, this caused kids to be fucked up. And also quite obviously, the more anal parents tended to be the ones who who tried to potty train their kids the earliest, and so their kids ended up the most fucked-up.

Time went on, and people started realizing that maybe this was stupid. Doctors did studies and found that the younger kids were potty trained, the more issues they had, and concluded that early potty training caused problems for kids.

The emerging disposable diaper industry picked up these findings and began promoting them, along with the notion that kids should wait until they're 'ready' to potty train, generally around their second or third year, but occasionally longer. Today, the average kid goes through about 5000 diaper changes/disposable diapers.

The important thing the authors of these books (and other books similar) would point out, though, is that it wasn't early potty training itself which hurt the kids, but the manner in which it was done. The methods used in and around the Victorian age were bad. Not all early potty training methods are.

International Perspective:
You can bet your panties that people in rural China or India or wherever do not keep their kids in diapers until 3 or 4, do not buy thousands of disposable diapers, etc. On the contrary, many of these people manage to get their kids effectively potty trained at much younger ages than American kids, but without great distress.

How does it work:
The trick behind Early Infant Potty Training, Elimination Communication, Diaper Free Babies, what people in the third world are doing, or whatever you want to call it, is simple operant conditioning.

Basically, whenever you note your baby peeing or pooping, (much easier to do if you're baby-wearing) you make a noise. You can make a different noise for poop and pee, or use the same noise for both, so long as you're consistent. The sound 'Pssst' or 'Peepee' is recommended for pee, and grunting or 'poop' for poops, but it doesn't really matter. After a few weeks of making the sound every time you notice your baby peeing or pooping, the baby will come to associate that sound with peeing and pooping. You can then hold the baby over the potty (or an infant potty, or a bowl, or really wherever, so long as they feel safe,) make the noise, and if they need to pee or poop, they will.

Pretty soon, the baby will be potty trained, although teaching the kid to recognize by themselves when they need to go to the potty and getting them to signal this to you (for babies who can't walk yet/still need help) or getting themselves to the potty (particularly when they're distracted by something fun) takes a lot longer.

Why Potty Train Early?
The environmental costs of thousands of disposables goes without saying. Even cloth diapers have a high cost in terms of laundering. Many pre-schools and the like won't accept kids who aren't potty trained, and other kids don't like being around a kid who stinks of shit. Neither do I. For that matter, babies aren't all that fond of sitting in piles of their own poop.

But most importantly, these authors argue, delaying potty training as done typically in America these days actually makes it more difficult for kids to learn how to use the bathroom later on. We are, as it were, training them first to pee and poop in their diapers, and then expect them to learn to pee and poop in potties. Their pelvic floor muscles, important for keeping waste in while 'holding it' and releasing it on cue, simply do not develop/atrophy over the course of the years, which also makes potty training difficult, and after so many years of sitting in their own waste, they are often no longer even aware of the act of peeing and pooping when it occurs. This is especially so with the extra-absorbent disposables, which wick away urine so quickly that babies often do not even feel 'wet'.

The authors offer more good reasons for early training, such as ease of movement for a child not constrained by diapers, freedom from diaper rashes, and increased communication and connection between parent and child. Therefore, the authors propose that early potty training is more convenient and healthy for both baby, parents, and the environment. For the parent who already believes in attachment parenting, these potty training methods may seem like a natural choice.

Internet links for those eager for more information: Wikipedia Article on EC and Article on EC