Infant potty training

Save Big on Diapers and Laundry

by Laurie Boucke

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Want to save a minimum of $1,000 and possibly as much as $3,000 on diapers and laundry? It takes time, practice, patience, and the desire to use an age-old and fun method of toilet learning. There are lots of places in the world where no one has, or uses, diapers. Just think about it. What did people do before there were diapers in the world? They pottied their babies from birth or early infancy, while holding them gently and lovingly in-arms. Today, millions of new mothers continue the tradition by learning their infants' elimination body language, timing and patterns, or else by instinctively knowing when their babies need to go. It's called infant potty training.

This type of infant toilet training is making a comeback in Western countries. By using diapers mainly as a backup rather than relying on them full-time, parents gradually reduce the number of diaper changes and associated dirty laundry (sheets, wet or soiled clothes, etc.) until their babies complete toilet learning. The ideal time to start is between birth and 4 to 5 months. Around age 9 to 12 months, babies who started with this method in infancy have reasonable control of elimination but, of course, still need assistance getting onto the potty or toilet on time. For example, your baby might crawl to the bathroom but will need your help to do the rest. Around 15 months, they have relatively few "accidents" but still need reminders and some assistance. The average age of completion in the West is around 2 years, although many finish sooner.

The basis of this infant potty training is that there is a window of learning (sensitive period) open from birth until about 4 to 5 months. Small babies are aware of elimination and signal to us, but we don't watch and listen. Instead, we teach them to use their diaper as a toilet. Later, they have to unlearn this behavior. This tends to keep them in diapers for years and is costly.

It's fun to be a tightwad. And for many, it's a necessity. If you take the time to respond to your baby's elimination timing and signals in infancy, you will reap not only the monetary benefits by saving on diapers and laundry, but you will gain much, much more, such as enhanced communication and bonding.

What about working families? Trusted friends, relatives and nannies can help. If you use daycare and are reasonably consistent the rest of the time at home (mornings, evenings, weekends), this will not "confuse" your baby. And some daycare providers will potty your baby along with the older kids, or else you can request them to change diapers often so your baby doesn't grow comfortable with feeling wet.

For "older babies" (over 6 months), although the first and most effective window of learning generally closes around age 6 months, some babies remain receptive beyond this. And other windows of opportunity open at different times during a child's development. You can use a combination of infant potty training and the positive aspects of traditional toilet teaching. At whatever age you first learn about infant pottying, it is fine to give it a try (despite all the scare tactics to the contrary) as long as you are gentle and do not use any punishment or pressure.

The key to infant potty training is to stay relaxed. This is a non-punitive approach and is not about "rushing" toilet learning. It's about teamwork, responsiveness and progressing at your baby's natural pace. Infant potty training enhances bonding by opening up new channels of communication. If it resonates and makes sense (cents) to you, there is no harm in giving it a try. It's great for baby, parents, the budget and the environment.

Book: Infant Potty Basics: With or Without Diapers ... the Natural Way by Laurie Boucke.

Laurie Boucke is Phi Beta Kappa, University of California and has authored eight books, including three on the topic of this article: Infant Potty Training and Infant Potty Basics are the most recent.

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