Back in 2008 we published an article that provoked a lot of interest with our readers, and opened up a whole new world for me as the mother of a new baby. The article (written by Neelam Misra) was entitled ‘Elimination Communication: Skip Diapers Alltogether’ — and it chronicled the growing movement of moms in the U.S. who are starting to potty train their babies from birth and forgoing diapers entirely. Inspired by this article, I started putting my first son on the toilet around age 6 months, and I’m about to start infant potty training with my second son as well. After all, the greenest approach to the whole diaper-debate is to do without (or do with less in my case). According to a recent story in The New York Times, Elimination Communication is also “finding an audience in the hipper precincts of New York City.” Read on to learn more about the logic behind putting your infant on the potty.
Happily, my son took to the potty like a fish to water (loves playing with toilet paper and flushing the toilet), and I’d like to believe that we are well on our way to potty training. However, most of my parenting books and even the American Academy of Pediatrics website caution against early potty training – insisting in some weird Freudian way that this move to get feces away from my child’s skin will cause some sort of psychological damage. I personally believe that this is an ignorant, ill-considered, and just-plain-wrong view to take. Besides, how can millions of moms, and millions of children around the world who are practicing elimination communication be wrong? The majority of the world’s children are raised this way and don’t turn out to be bed-wetting psychopaths. Yet, I find it very weird that almost no pediatrician seems to have even heard of infant potty training/ elimination communication — let alone endorses it. So I started a ‘Momversation‘ with some other moms about potty training, and recorded the video above. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
The logic of the Elimination Communication (or EC) movement goes something like this: babies become aware of their bodily function a lot earlier than most of us think, and by going diaperless and starting with the potty early, you train your kid to listen to his bodily urges and communicate them to you — instead of learning to ignore them (an unfortunate side effect of super-absorbent disposable diapers). Parents in the U.S. potty train their kids very late in terms of world standards. The majority of children around the world (we’re talking rural village kids in developing countries) make do without diapers — and because of this, the majority are potty trained by the age of one.
This was actually even common practice in the U.S. as well, until the 1950s. Then a pediatrician who was on the Pampers payroll named Dr. Brazelton showed up (I’m not kidding) and scared moms into waiting a lot longer to start the potty training process.
Brazelton’s recommendations were incorporated into the American Academy of Pediatrics Toilet Training Guidelines in the 1960s. They state, “Children younger than 12 months have no control over bladder or bowel movements and little control for 6 months or so after that.” Yet toilet training research indicates that children meet the physical criteria for readiness during the first year of life.
Because of Dr. Brazelton and his Pampers-paid proselytizing, in just two generations, knowledge about teaching babies how to control their bowels has been pretty much lost in the U.S. The current popular wisdom seems to think that early training is impossible or cruel, but in Early-Start Potty Training, author Dr. Linda Sonna, a professor of multicultural psychology at Yorkville University, states that babies are much easier to work with than older children. Toddlers have a hard time sitting still long enough to learn, are attached to their diapers, and many resist putting aside their toys for potty trips.
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