What is Early Potty Training?

Image Toddler Climbing on Toilet

Early Potty Training is only early by Western standards, but it’s really in line with what the rest of the world is doing – and what we used to do.

Back before diapers were invented, taking a baby to the “bathroom” was as natural as all other forms of caretaking (e.g. responding to baby’s needs for food, sleep, warmth, comfort). More than half the world still takes care of their babies’ pottying needs without diapers and kids are routinely potty independent by 12-18 months old, while the average age of potty training in the US is 30-36 months old.

So what happened here?

Life in the Western world has changed significantly in the last 300 years (since the invention of cloth diapers), but the major shift in our thinking about potty training took place in just the last 60 years due to the persistent and broad marketing by the disposable diaper industry. We currently live with a cultural myth that toddlers must show “readiness” to potty train, even though they are not physiologically different than other toddlers around the world who are potty independent by 12-18 months old.

What is readiness for potty training?

Readiness, for me, refers to the parents’ readiness to stop using diapers as a wearable toilet for their kiddos. By being “ready for potty training,” you’re saying that you no longer want your child to wear their waste products for any length of time. Since using a toilet is a social skill (different from learning to crawl or walk), readiness is saying, “I want to teach my child this very important life skill that they will use for the rest of their life,” and then making the commitment to see it through to completion.

Why start “early” or shortly after learning to walk?

  • There will be less human waste in landfills (did you know you’re supposed to flush the poop from disposable diapers?!)
  • You’ll need to spend less money on diapers.
  • You won’t have to use so much water and time to wash cloth diapers.
  • By teaching the child how to use the potty before they get to that toddler defiance stage, it remains part of the natural flow of life (rather than becoming a battle of wills).
  • Toddlers like to learn new tasks and want to be independent.
  • Toddlers are capable of learning this skill and do have bladder and bowel control.
  • Even if your toddler is not communicating verbally yet, they understand so much of what we say to them and are able to communicate their needs through sign language and body language — think about how your toddler tells you about their other needs!

Do I have to do both daytime and nighttime potty training at the same time?

No. It is not required to do both at the same time, although it is certainly possible. Many toddlers are successfully daytime potty trained many months (or even a year) before the parents start nighttime potty training. The answer to this question really depends on the parents’ readiness and ability. If sleep is a major issue for your family, then postpone nighttime potty training. But don’t wait too long, or there is a chance of reoccurring bed-wetting issues later in childhood.

What is the difference between Elimination Communication and Early Potty Training?

The primary difference between Elimination Communication and Early Potty Training is whether a diaper is used, either as a backup or as a learning tool. In EC, a diaper is used. In Early Potty Training, we say good bye to the diaper forever (at least while the child is awake). The other major difference has to do with the child’s mobility and motor skills. An EC baby relies more on their parent or caretaker to get them to the potty and remove their clothes, whereas the potty training toddler is working on the necessary skills to be fully independent.

Besides starting early, how else is this method different?

Besides starting earlier than what is “normal” for our culture, the method of potty training that I teach is gentle and non-coercive. This means that during potty training, we do not use bribes or punishments to get the toddler to do what we want. No stickers, no M&Ms, no bribes, and no punishments. Instead we break down the whole process of using the potty into small steps that we teach to our children through modeling, repetition, and consistent routines. We approach the process of potty learning with age-appropriate expectations (e.g. what is my child’s current level of verbal communication and fine motor skills?) and we understand that accidents are part of the learning process for both the parents/caretakers and the child.

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