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Pre-Potty Training - Start potty training your baby at 11 months

At 11-months, E was on four meals of solids and just around 6 milk feeds a day. My body was slowly becoming mine again, and I was excitedly learning the basics of steaming and puréeing fruit and veg for my baby with budding tastebuds. 

As with all food, what goes in must come out. I quickly learnt that the introduction of solids meant that her poop was no longer the lovely sunshine yellow, smell of fresh yoghurt that it used to be. It had began to smell and feel like human excrement. And when a child is in diapers, it just smooshes all over the posterior making the cleaning a long and smelly process. 

Up until now, the husband and I would coo over E's multiple times a day output, calling it our "golden treasure" and grinning through poop cleaning because we were convinced positive body image starts early (and also breastmilk poop is cute) but suddenly, we were finding it hard keeping it together.

My mother, as mothers are wont to do, helpfully informed me that I was potty-trained at six-months. I've always known she was a sorceress (how else do mothers find every thing that is lost?) but now I was convinced. Naturally, I decided to do a bit of research.

Elimination Communication

This is an ancient technique - what our grandmothers and their mothers used but is only now becoming known in the Western world and therefore, has a scientific-sounding term. 

Basically, baby is diaper-less and pees and poops on everything and everyone until the chief supervising adult or grandmother-who-has-raised-tens-of-babies figures out what baby does just before eliminating, anticipates, and puts baby outside on the earth or special rag. Eventually, the baby associates that special circumstance with peeing or pooping and lo and behold! baby is toilet-trained.

Convenient method. If three things hold true for you:
  1. The world is your toilet, as it is in India.
  2. You have help, specifically the grandmother-who-has-raised-tens-of-babies.
  3. You have mountains of patience, of which I have none.

As I read about this method, I'd realised I'd totally missed the boat on this because apparently, if the baby hasn't figured it out by 6-months, your next window of opportunity is when the child is between 2- to 2.5-years old (for girls, older for boys). 

So yeah, I was trained via elimination communication. But what about little E?

Naturally, I got a book on the subject.

The author of The No Cry Potty-Training Solution, Elizabeth Pantley, is a mother of four, and her books are filled with real, non-judgmental, and practical advice. You can read about how her books on sleep training have helped me, here and here.

At the beginning of this book is a quiz for parents to determine if baby is ready for potty training. If, after taking the quiz, your score is above 25 (on 35) then the author suggests that a parent can start potty training - breaking the process into pre-potty training and active potty training. 


We scored a 28 and 27 each I scored 28 and the husband scored 27, but this really isn't about winning or maybe it is and so we decided to commence with the first stage of potty training, which includes:
  1. Showing her pee and poop, and naming it;
  2. Showing and naming the body parts involved in elimination;
  3. Showing her where pee and poop are supposed to go; and
  4. Explaining diapers are a temporary solution to a permanent problem

We started off by showing E her diapers, getting her to touch the wetness and explaining that it was "pee-pee". If there was poop in there, we'd show it to her and call it, "poo-poo". We'd then her that while she goes pee-pee and poo-poo in her diapers for now, soon she'll use the potty. All of this explained in the happiest, brightest voice - as though the potty is the greatest invention mankind has ever discovered.

Occasionally, we'd dump the poop from her diapers into the toilet and flush it, showing her how the water swirled around and got rid of her poop. I'd also let her observe me while I peed or pooped (as if I had a choice with a newly mobile baby) and show her how the flush works and how my poo poo was in the potty and but it disappears when I flushed.

We also optimistically bought this potty seat:
Optimism - thy name is overenthusiastic first-time mother.
Once the potty arrived, we let her play with it for a bit, before seating her on it with her clothes. Obviously, she had no idea why she was placed there, scrambled to get off, and nearly smashed her nose on the floor.

For the next few weeks, I would place her on the potty in her bathroom, while I got her bath things ready. Eventually, I used the potty as a sort of oiling seat, because I just had to take advantage of the fact that she didn't mind sitting there while watching me ready her bath. Also, she hadn't figured out how to go from sitting to standing without support so if I placed the seat in the centre of the room, she was trapped.

But we had no luck. She wouldn't pee in the potty. However, she'd pee as soon as I placed her in her bath tub. This was fun, though. A kind of an adventure. I had ringside seats to seeing how it is that a baby figures out that a diaper is abnormal but eliminating in a pot is the norm. 

To this end, I made up lots of silly songs about how pee pee in her nappy is good enough for now but soon she'll be doing pee pee in her potty (the song will rhyme if you hold a gun to its head). The best part of this whole process was that we'd actually started studying her for signs of peeing and pooping. I hadn't figured out the face she makes when peeing but we soon realised that she goes quiet and a little squirmy when she needs to poop.

And then it happened.

One evening, after a big dinner of oatmeal+organic wheat and apple cereal and banana+pear+avocado purée plus a few cubes of cheese, I could see that E was getting ready to poop. Her face went serious and she seemed to be straining. Elimination communication, yo!

I rushed to get her clothes and diaper off and sat her on the seat. Sure enough, she pee'd and pooped in her potty for the first time, less than two weeks after we started seating her on the potty.

Once she got up, I turned her around to show her what was inside the potty, explaining that the liquid was "pee-pee" and the solid was "poo-poo" and that she was the best little girl in the whole world for doing that in her potty. She seemed nonchalant, maybe even doubtful, but happy that I was happy and she had her bath.

After that, I started to watch her carefully for signs of pooping (serious face, some straining, suddenly stopping play or babble) and place her on her potty seat while singing or giving her a toy or just cleaning up the room while she can hear or see me. Basically, anything to get her to relax and just eliminate.

Soon she learned how to stand up from a sitting position and all attempts to get her to sit on the potty were in vain. The potty seat was relegated to a corner of the bathroom where she'd pretend to sit and pee but stand up and run around naked because that's obviously more fun that sitting. I eventually ended up using a potty seat adaptor for the adult toilet seat but more on that later.

Which is not to say the entire process was a waste. E had learnt, before she turned one, the difference between pee and poo and that the diaper is not forever. That, one day, she too will use a toilet like us adults. She got the time to internalise this information before we started active potty training almost a year later.

You can start pre-potty training too, if your child can:
  • understand simple concepts like in/on/off/outside;
  • sit up unassisted (basically get herself to seated position from lying down on her back);
  • shows some interest in how a flush works or looks down to see the water go when flushing.
  • shows interest in the contents of her diaper;
  • understands the meaning of, 'no'.

A child will be completely potty trained only when she or he is physiologically ready and this is a process that can take up to 6-years (when you include nighttime bladder control). Until then, it's awesome to get excited about something as puerile as pee and poo in a pot.

Plus it beats having to clean up a bum with poop smeared all over it.