There are so many different ways to parent that chances are, part of your experience will involve explaining your parenting choices to someone else. Due to the power of advertising by nappy companies, helping your baby to use the potty before they are well into their toddler years is no longer the norm in our culture. As a result, you might encounter at best curiosity and at worst concern from your partner, friends or family. (or if you are a celebrity – from the mainstream media!) Don’t worry – we can help you to navigate this.
I was sad to see that comedian, writer, presenter, and actress Katherine Ryan suffered a backlash in the media recently for being an advocate for Baby Pottying (aka Elimination Communication). As a potty learning coach and parent of two children who used the potty from birth, I think it’s fair to say that over the years I have had every kind of conversation that it’s possible to have about helping a baby to use a potty! I appreciate that I have the benefit of being a children’s research nurse, author and consultant who specialises in Potty Learning which does give me more credibility to speak on this subject, but I do believe that it’s possible for anyone to easily address the most common misconceptions or reservations that people have.
Why should babies use a potty from birth instead of a nappy?
This is the easiest question to answer because there are so many benefits. Let’s start with nature. Using a potty is the most natural approach to our hygiene and elimination needs as humans. For thousands of years of human history, we have done it this way because voiding whilst in a squatting position is what’s best for our bowel health. Doing so in a potty instead of a nappy is better for babies delicate skin which can be prone to nappy rash.
Helping your baby to use the potty from birth even part of the time also means when it’s time for them to do the process independently (potty training) it’s a much easier and gentler learning curve, rather than expecting them to break the habit of a lifetime. Nappies feel dry so using them denies your child the opportunity to be aware of what their body is doing from birth so nappies do not support their natural development arc.
Want two extra reasons that make sense to everybody? Nappies are expensive and bad for the planet. Assuming you potty train at age 2, you’ll easily get through 5,000 nappies. That’s 5,000 nappies that you are buying with your hard-earned money and literally just throwing away again. Plus, in case you haven’t heard – there is no away! Nappies go into landfill where they do not biodegrade, they just wind up in our oceans or they get incinerated, releasing harmful gases into the air.
OK but shouldn’t you just let them be babies?
Yes! 100% yes and this is exactly what you are doing by helping your child to use the potty. Babies are born ready to learn all sorts of things that other human beings do from walking to talking to eating. There is a wonderful quote by Barbara Gablehouse in her video The Potty Project For Babies; “what if we thought of it like learning that the bathtub was for bathing, the high chair was for eating and the car seat was for travelling. We don’t wait until our children ask or give clues that they are ready for a bath or a ride in the car. We teach them that these activities, which are part of everyone’s daily life, occur in a specific place. We don’t make a big deal out of these places; bathtubs, car seats, high chairs. Why in the world do we make such a big deal about using the toilet? Why do we wait until the more difficult toddler years?”
Why does being a baby have to involve being wrapped in your own faeces? The truth is, it doesn’t. We don’t choose to empty our bowels into a nappy as adults and there is no reason why we should choose for our children to do this either. There is another way and it involves not having to change nappies, which surely no parent enjoys doing!
OK, I get the why, but how is it even possible for a baby to use a potty?
Mostly I find that as soon as somebody sees it in practice, they quickly realise that it doesn’t involve coercing your child to do something they don’t want to do, are not capable of doing or that will harm them in any way and that you don’t actually spend your life watching them obsessively and hovering nearby with a potty.
As a parent, you already learn your child’s signals for when they are hungry, tired, too hot or cold, ill or otherwise need comfort. Learning their signals for when they need to wee or poo is just an extension of what you already do. Many parents find they are already aware of their child’s expressions (the “I’m about to poo” face!) or their behaviour (the “I need a wee” dance) so it’s not too big a leap to learn how to anticipate when they need to go and to help them to sit on the potty.
You can learn everything you need to know about how to do it from my Baby Pottying Guide.
Here are my 5 golden rules for talking to other parents about Elimination Communication:
1. Do talk about it!
Don’t be afraid to be doing something different from other parents. Every person is unique and all of our circumstances are different so we can’t all do it the same way. When making friends with other parents it’s very tempting to look for common ground or to want to fit in with the group, but if more parents knew about the benefits to parents, babies, the planet and their finances, then baby pottying would soon become common practice again. Can you think of any times when learning about something made your life better? Baby Pottying is the ULTIMATE life hack for parents and you could be the person that makes a difference to other people by sharing helpful knowledge that most parents aren’t aware of.
2. Be matter of fact
Whatever your reasons for choosing baby pottying, like most life choices you might be quite emotionally invested in what you are doing or enthusiastic about it. When we know something that will save us money, help the planet, is good for our babies bodies and even helps us to bond with them, we might be tempted to go into more detail than is needed about why we do it. A simple “it works for us, and I really love not having to change stinky nappies/saving money I don’t need to spend” might be an effective starting off point if someone is sceptical. If they want more information they will ask. Don’t try to convert them on the spot.
3. Understand where resistance comes from
Social conditioning through years of marketing by profit-seeking nappy companies who can fund bogus research studies, pay experts to talk up their products, influence documentaries or pay for product placement and editorial in magazines, television programs and films means that our cultural norm for the last 70+ years has been that using nappies is normal. Unlearning this kind of deeply rooted belief can be hard and not everyone will be comfortable or willing to do it.
4. Let go of the need to defend or justify your choices
This is usually a sign that the conversation is going somewhere negative so it’s ok to let it go and move on. If someone is resistant to what you are doing or unwilling to let go of their beliefs, remember that’s their stuff and it doesn’t make a difference to you. It’s not healthy to live our lives according to what other people expect of us. You can make your parenting choices and they can make theirs. It’s enough to just be the change you want to see in the world.
5. Let us do the hard work for you
Unlike you, it IS our job to correct the misinformation we see and to help parents and carers to make the best choices they can for the children in their care. We have created SO many resources that can help you to do this and that you can share with other parents that you encounter along your journey. So send them our way, we’ve got you covered!
- If they are pregnant or have a newborn, recommend my eBook The Baby Pottying Guide
- If their child is between 12-18 months and they want to know more about introducing the potty but aren’t sure about letting go of nappies yet, recommend my free Get That Bot On The Pot course
- If their child is older than 18 months, they need our Advanced Potty Training Course
- Plus at any time they can follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest where I share lots of amazing tips and challenge misinformation about potty learning or join our incredible Potty Learning Support Group and find the answers to our most frequently asked questions in the free Group Guides.
Thank you for being an advocate!