Tag Archives: potty

Why Toilet Learning at 1 Year

By Carrie

I hope you’ve enjoyed following our journey of toilet learning this week from Cloth Diapers and EC, to Standing Diaper Changes and Underwear.  To wrap up the week I wanted to share some of the reasons why I chose this route for toilet learning.

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Power struggles are more common when toilet learning/training occurs at age 2-3.  Ever heard of the “terrible two’s?”  It’s common that two year olds have an increased desire to make their own choices and assert themselves.  I want to take toileting out of the equation while A. goes through this.  There will be more than enough other ways for her to assert herself and things to tantrum about.  I hope that toileting is just a natural part of the day and that by age 2/3 A. will be ready for more responsibility and control of her own toileting.

Sensitive Period for Toileting

“The myelination of neurons necessary to ready the body for control of the bowels and bladder is completed by the time children are approximately twelve months old.” ~Montessori From the Start.   

Between 12-18 Months children go through a Sensitive Period for toileting.  This means that a child is gaining an awareness of their toileting needs during this time and if we take the steps to accommodate this developing awareness, then a child will more naturally learn to use the toilet than if we take efforts at a later stage.  From my experience working with children at my preschool and seeing various Sensitive Periods in action, when children are in a Sensitive Period they have intense interest and learn the concept quite quickly.  I want to devote my time to aiding my daughter during this Sensitive Period for toileting.  I believe it will be more of a natural, gradual development towards toileting independence.

Decreased Constipation and UTIs

Many children who have joined my preschool and have recently been toilet trained experience constipation.  While I’m not a medical doctor, I wonder if holding in poo (or pee) is related to the psychological development of asserting control which is typically stronger at age 2/3.  (I also know it is important to keep up fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and whole-grains in a child’s diet to decrease constipation at any age)  Dr. Jill Lekovic in Diaper Free Before 3 indicates that earlier toilet learning decreases the risks for urinary tract infections and constipation.  So does Gwen Dewar at Parenting Science.

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Wiping a poopy bottom is not fun.  Wiping a bottom that has pooped in the potty, not so bad.  While the process may take longer than 3 days, typically the child who begins earlier is out of diapers at a younger age.  Decreased time and money spent on (washing) diapers sounds good to me.  There are also many who believe the increased use of disposable diapers has led to a later age for toilet training, when historically, and currently internationally, many children stop using diapers before age 2.  I think that wearing underwear and eliminating in a toilet is more comfortable than diapers and I want to help my daughter experience greater comfort by being in underwear sooner.

Because a Child is Capable of it 

I want to demonstrate to my daughter that I have faith in her abilities.  I have heard from so many friends that their children, and many Montessori toddler teachers that the children in their programs, are successful wearing underwear by age 2.  My early EC joys lead me to believe that my daughter does have the capacity to connect to her elimination and I want to support her in this.

“If parents remember that their mission is not a child in “dry pants” but a child successful in her formation of independence, coordinated movement, language, and will, they will know that their hard work on their child’s behalf is worth the effort.” ~Montessori From the Start  

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Nature furnishes special protection for the young.  For instance, the child is born amidst love; his very origin is by love, and once born he is surrounded by the love of father and mother, a love which is not artificial or enforced by reason.  ~Maria Montessori, Education For a New World  

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Filed under 12-18 Months, 18-24 Months, Carrie, Diapers/Toileting

1 Year Old – Bring on the Underwear

By Carrie

And multiple trips to the potty.  And multiple times of wet underwear every day.  And some amazing joys of a toddler learning to use the potty.

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I seem to get the raised eyebrow when I mention that A. is wearing underwear and using the potty.  “How old is she??? ” I’m asked incredulously.  She is currently 15 months.  When she was 12 months I started putting her in underwear at home during awake times.  Why would I put my “baby” in underwear?  She’s just going to go pee in it!

At first yes.  As I mentioned in Cloth Diapers – Go For It! one of my reasons for using cloth diapers was so that A. would learn wet/dry.  I’m not really sure this worked for her as she never fussed with a wet diaper.  So my hope was that by wearing underwear A. would start the process of learning:

  1. I’m Wet
  2. I’m Going
  3. I Need to Go

Wet underwear certainly helps the child learn that they have gone pee/poo.  My attempts at EC (Elimination Communication) didn’t pan out as successfully as I envisioned, despite gleaning all the little tips from my Montessori AtoI trainers of timing and glassy eyes.  I figured if I was to step up my ability to help A. be successful at getting to the potty in time, I needed to figure out when she was naturally going pee.  With wet underwear, this would certainly help me.  I also wanted to catch the Sensitive Period for toileting (12-18 Months).  I know from my Montessori training that underwear would aid in her motor development by not having a bulky diaper to impede her movement.  It is recommended to switch to underwear once the child is crawling.

To start off I read Diaper Free Before 3 (about 3 times!).  Super helpful book!  I purchased some training underwear.  I put extra cloths downstairs to clean up any extra messes that might occur.  I already had a potty upstairs and downstairs that she was fairly comfortable using.  I added some low stools for her to sit on so that she could become more involved in the undressing/dressing.  We were ready to go!

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I was already putting her on the potty at every diaper change so I just increased the number of times a day I was offering her an opportunity to use it.  “It’s time to use the potty.”  (I sign potty and say it verbally)  I started putting her on the potty upon waking, before & after eating, before going out & upon the return home, and before bath.  Or if we were at home for a long time I would keep an eye on her about 45 minutes – 1 hour after she had previously used the potty.  By wearing underwear I quickly figured out some nuances.  After breakfast means right away, do not even attempt to clean up.  After lunch means after cleaning up and playing for a bit (about 15 minutes later).  I learned that she doesn’t urinate a whole lot in the mornings but late afternoons/evenings she urinates quite frequently so I need to offer her more opportunities.

I was definitely gaining an awareness of her toileting needs by using underwear.  I keep a neutral attitude towards wet pants.  “Oh we need to go potty and change your wet pants.”  I keep a neutral attitude, as much as possible, when she pees/poops or doesn’t pee/poop on the potty.  “Oh you went pee.” “No pee this time.”  Of course there are times when there have been a lot of wet pants that day and when she does go I’ll be so happy so I share with her “I am so proud of you for peeing in the potty.”  I don’t give her any rewards or praise for going.  I don’t give her any punishments, disappointment, or shame her for soiling her pants, nor do I refer to it as “having an accident.”  I may give her encouragement such as “It must feel so good to have dry underwear and go pee in the potty.”  As much as possible, I keep toilet learning matter-of-fact.

As I’ve previously shared, spending time together doing diaper changes is an important part of our bond.  Changing that to toileting hasn’t been too big of an issue.  We are in the washroom a whole lot more frequently.  This route of toilet learning is exactly that – learning.  It doesn’t happen overnight and I committed to spending a lot of time with A. to help her in this process.  I really feel this is an important part of her development and giving her my time is important.  I also feel like it is modeling that spending time on toileting is important.  I don’t want her to ignore any urges she has to eliminate.  I want to help her become successful at getting to the potty/toilet when she needs to eliminate.

Success

Struggles.  Yes underwear on my 1 year old has been filled with struggles.  6 wet sets of underwear and pants some days.  Poopy underwear.  More poopy underwear.  [I’m quite thankful for purchasing Blueberry Trainers which not only contained the poop (including a getting over a gastrointestinal illness poop) but also have been easy to clean.  Oh and cute, gender neutral patterns too!  Because they have cotton interior and exterior, they allow the child to feel the wetness but due to the PUL in the middle, there are never any puddles.]   There have been set-backs such as illness, immunizations, and a developmental leap.  I figured there would be a set-back once she learned to walk (and there still may be as she’s not walking yet) but I didn’t think it would come when she learned to stand independently.  A sudden resistance to using the potty was a surprise but by focusing on our relationship for a few days instead of focusing on the potty, we were back on track.  There are constant surprises with this toilet learning journey.

“It is clear that toilet awareness is more than a matter of “dry pants” for the child.” ~Montessori  From the Start

Surprises  – and joys – that keep me motivated to stay on track.  A.’s pooping habits have changed.  Previously I would change a poopy diaper first thing in the morning.  Occasionally I still do but it is becoming more frequent that she poops, most often in the potty, after breakfast.  I’m thrilled that she seems to be gaining an awareness of her toileting needs.  While not a lot, there have been a few times where she will come to me and fuss until I take her to the potty and then she immediately has a big pee.  This is a huge step towards understanding her own urges to eliminate and I am so excited that she is gaining this awareness.  There have also been days when her underwear has stayed dry all day.  I think this is a combination of A. understanding that she is offered the potty at fairly regular intervals so will hold it or use it at those times and that I’ve figured out when she naturally needs to go.  Long-term success is still a ways off but the short-term successes keep my heart warm that we’re on the right track.  A huge joy for me is when A. pulls up her underwear.  It is just adorable!

pulling up underwear“The child’s nature is to aim directly and energetically at functional independence.  Development takes the form of a drive toward an ever-greater independence.  It is like an arrow released from the bow, which flies straight, swift and sure. …. While he is developing, he perfects himself and overcomes every obstacle that he finds in his path.  

~ Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind


Want to read more?  Check out Melissa’s journey with her daughter at Vibrant Wanderings

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Filed under 12-18 Months, 18-24 Months, Carrie, Diapers/Toileting

Honestly, How do you do a Standing Diaper Change?

By Carrie

Around 10 months A. started fighting me on diaper changes.  All my patience and loving words from Time for a Diaper Change didn’t prevent me from getting kicked on multiple occasions.  It wasn’t until I had a huge bruise on my chest about the shape of her foot that I admitted something had to change.

A. was able to stand by holding onto furniture by this time.  She wasn’t very steady but had been pulling up on everything since 8 months.  My Montessori training had said to transition to doing standing diaper changes once the child was able to stand.  This embraced the child’s changing development and didn’t continue to put the child in an infantile state that they were physically past.  By doing diaper changes while the child is standing the adult sends a strong psychological message that they are affirming the child’s new abilities.  I understood Montessori infant/toddler centres did standing diaper changes.  But I couldn’t figure out how to actually do a standing diaper change!

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I changed my diapering supplies to the bathroom itself in the little cupboard beside the toilet for easy access and put my changing mat on the floor in the bathroom.  It was another step towards toilet learning by changing all things elimination to the bathroom.  I figured that A. would need to hold onto something and the toilet seemed quite logical to me.

I was all set to go!  Day 1 – a complete fail!  It was an awful day!  I was ready to give up.  That night I reflected upon A.’s reaction.  She had been so much happier.  And cooperative.  So I turned to the internet for more advice.  Daicia’s post1 and post2 completely restored my sanity and determination to give it a try for a second day.  A huge thank you for these two posts!  I was onto Day 2.

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Sitting behind A. so I could support her if she became unsteady and started to topple over (yes this happened many times), I took off her pants.  Pants down, left leg out, right leg out.  I would roll up her shirt or if she was wearing a onesie I would unsnap it and snap it over her shoulder.  Undo the snaps (or velcro) of her diaper, keeping my arms wrapped around her for stability, and placed it to the side.  If it was just a pee it was easy but poops were definitely more difficult.  Wipe front to back, lift right leg, wipe, lift left leg, wipe, and another centre wipe for good measure.  I wanted to ensure she was completely clean so I laid her down on the changing mat.  She was never completely clean.  Still to this day I lay her down for one last wipe.  She doesn’t fight that last wipe (very cooperative actually) and I feel better knowing there won’t be any poop irritating her.  I still don’t know how others do a fully standing diaper change for messy poops.  Perhaps it’s easier when the child is steady on their feet and can bend over a bit more.  Or when poops are solid logs and don’t get mashed in all the crevices.  This solution has worked for us.

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She would sit on her potty as I dealt with her soiled diaper.  Putting on her diaper wasn’t easy at first but didn’t take too long for me to figure out.  Position the diaper on, do up the right side, do up the left side, and “fix” the diaper to ensure it was on properly.  Keeping my arms around her for stability was key.  She definitely gained a better awareness of the process of pulling pants up and down for diaper changes.

No more fights.  Increased awareness for A. of the toileting process.  Diapering was completely moved to where toileting happens (the bathroom).  We were one step closer to toilet learning.

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Filed under 12-18 Months, 6-12 Months, Carrie, Diapers/Toileting

Time for a Diaper Change

By Carrie

Developing a strong bond with my daughter is very important to me.  While I shared with you the importance of allowing babies to develop independence in this post, time together is also very important.  Rubi’s post on language development stimulated me to share with you an important part of fostering that strong bond: changing her diaper.  Rubi shared that times of caring for your child’s physical needs, such as bathing, can be times for language development.  These can also be strong moments of togetherness for you and your child.

According to Dr. Silvana Montanaro, there are 3 aspects of togetherness that are important in the mother-child bond: holding, handling, and feeding.  By handling she is referring to when we care for the infant’s physical needs such as changing a diaper, dressing, or bathing.  While she specifically refers to maternal care in her book, the same principle applies for all adults who interact with a baby.  Perhaps it seems odd that changing my daughter’s diaper is one of the most important ways I have fostered our bond but it is an important time of togetherness for us.

 Too many parents and adults still miss this point and handle a child solely with the aim of accomplishing, as soon as possible, the more obvious, physical tasks: changing, dressing, bathing, etc.  The parents may be well-trained, efficient and capable of doing good work but they fail to use this time to have an encounter.  To use it as an occasion for meeting and expressing feelings.  There is not much personal involvement, because the idea is solely to accomplish an unemotional routine.  ~Dr. Silvana Montanaro, Understanding the Human Being

Speaking with a friend she boasted about her infant’s bottom never seeing the light of day as she could change a diaper so quickly.  Many adults approach changing a diaper with disdain, they keep “score” between mom & dad, desperately try to distract the infant from what is happening to them, or assign a lack of importance to it saying to their child “you can go back to playing soon” and thinking for themselves what they would rather be doing.

 So we tend to do these routines quickly instead of slowly.  We tend to avoid the movements instead of repeating then in order to let the child try to understand what is happening.  What we should do is to explain our actions to the infant, in a simple and short way, touch the different parts of his body gently, name them and ask him to collaborate with us.  This collaboration can begin from the moment of birth, but it requires a little more time and the basic trust of the child, who is an intelligent human being, eager to interact with us.  Only when we become able to give maternal care with the child’s collaboration are we really doing things “with the child” and not “to the child.” ~Dr. Silvana Montanaro, Understanding the Human Being

When A. finishes one activity and I am not interrupting her (often after she finishes eating), I’ll sing a little ditty “Time for a diaper change, time for a diaper change, time for a diaper, diaper change.”  I wait for her to respond to me.  She gets a smile on her face and I tell her “Up you get” as I pick her up.  (I always try to tell her what I am doing to her, even simple things like picking her up)  Recently she has started stretching out her arms for me.  As I carry her to the change table I might continue singing the ditty or talk to her about what she was just doing.  I tell her, “Down you go” or “Lay down” as I lay her down on the change table so that I am directly facing her and she can properly see me while we connect.  “Let’s take off your pants,” I say as I take off her pants.  This “let’s” begins the routine of doing it together and not doing things to her.  “Undo your onesie,” as I unsnap her fitted bodysuit.  “Let’s see what’s inside,” as I unsnap/undo her diaper.  “Oh it’s a poop” and really try not to make a disgusted face or sound if the smell is bad or the poo is quite large, although I may acknowledge “Oh my, it’s a big one!”  Or I’ll say “Just a pee” depending on what the occasion calls for.  She lifts her bottom for me to wipe.  I take out a wipe and tell her “wipe, wipe, wipe” as I do so.

I put a clean dry cloth under her bottom and pick her up “Time to use the potty.”  I place her on her potty and give her some time.  Sometimes I just let her be, sometimes I sing another ditty “she goes pee pee in the potty, pee pee in the potty, pee pee in the potty: A!”, sometimes I’ll use the toilet to model for her, and sometimes I’ll use the cue sound we used when we started doing EC (Elimination Communcation) with “psssss.”  After a short period of time I’ll give her a pat/wipe dry with the cloth (if she urinated) and carry her back to the change table.
“Down you go” as I lay her down.  “Let’s put on a clean, dry diaper” as I choose which diaper to put on.  (We use cloth diapers but during this photo shoot we had to temporarily switch to disposables)  Sometimes she will lay there watching me and listening to me, and sometimes she will roll over and now sometimes sit up.  I keep a hand gently on her for safety and talk to her about the diaper I’m choosing, “It’s your pretty, pink diaper.  You look so beautiful in this shade of pink.”  If she is on her stomach or sitting up I lay her down again, “You need to lie down so I can put your diaper on.”  Sometimes she is squirmy and sometimes she lays there watching me.  I talk to her as I put on her diaper, “This diaper matches the pink sweater you’re wearing today.  Your great-grandma made that sweater.  Let’s do up the snaps on your diaper: ooonnne, twwooo.”

Usually she watches me as I talk to her and she coos back but sometimes she is very squirmy.  She is often very squirmy if she has just reached a new stage of development, such as now when she often tries to climb off of the change table.  If she is very squirmy I place my hand on her stomach and lean right over to place my face very close to her face to focus on our connection.  “A., I need to put your diaper on now.  I love you very much.”  Sometimes I kiss her tummy and this usually puts a smile on her face and helps to reconnect her to what we’re doing and remind her that this is our time together.  “Time to put your pants back on.”  She sticks out her leg, “One leg.  The other leg.” (or right leg and left leg if I’m really on the ball)  “We’re all done” as I pick her up and give her a cuddle.

“Ah booo” says A., “Ah booo” I respond. I try to mimic the sounds she makes to encourage her language development.

Does this take a long time?  You bet it does!  It is an important relationship to spend time on.  Do I honestly say all this absolutely every time?  No.  Sometimes my mind is elsewhere or I’m so tired, but by talking to her like this for the majority of diaper changes I usually realize when I’ve gone silent and snap out of it.  I certainly wouldn’t want you to think this is an exact script to follow as it is important your bonding come from your heart.  Do I call my husband to change diapers?  Of course.  I really enjoy listening to him interact with our daughter during diaper changes.

Why did I just spend so long writing about changing a diaper?  Changing a diaper, dressing/undressing, and bathing are very important parts of living life together with a baby.  For adults we enjoy spending time together talking, sharing a meal, going for a walk, or reconnecting at the end of our work days.  This is what living life together means for adults.  For a baby these moments of “handling” are often over-looked as important times to bond with a baby and for language development.  In reality, diaper changes is what living life together means for an adult and baby.  I encourage you to re-think how you approach that next diaper change, outfit change, or bath to really connect with your child.

What is a good social life if not the joy of passing the time with others, accepting them in our environment, talking and smiling together and sharing each other’s company and activities?  In a sense, we invited the child to our house when we decided to give it life and he must feel how glad we are to have him with us.  “Handling” in maternal care is the right moment for a happy social interaction that teaches the child the great benefits of social life.  ~Dr. Silvana Montanaro, Understanding the Human Being 

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Filed under 0-3 Months, 12-18 Months, 18-24 Months, 3-6 Months, 6-12 Months, Carrie, Diapers/Toileting