My oldest was fully potty trained by 17 months. Here’s a little article I wrote, while working on training him:

“What?”- all of my Euro friends say, “Your nine month-old is still in diapers???”  Well, no. He is 14 months old and naked. And peeing all over the house.

Oups, I didn’t really say that.  In America, potty training is supposed to be this big, possibly traumatic event, taking place sometime after the child’s second birthday. Oftentimes, even after the child’s third one.  Quite possibly, because the diaper companies sponsored all of this research that claims early potty training to be traumatic for the child.  In Europe, where disposables are less readily available and more expensive, children are potty trained around one. To see a two year-old in diapers is more freaky than normal, so early potty training is considered to be routine. In America, it’s considered to be crunchy, like carrying your baby in a sling, breastfeeding for two years and making your own baby puree.

The select few granola mommies, however, are practicing early potty training. Their system is called EC, short for “elimination communication.”

I heard about it from my  friend Noel, whose baby girl was completely out of diapers by six months old. That really got me going. The same exact day that Noel told me about her daughter’s potty success, Mr. Baby has permanently lost his pants, while at home. See, the first step to EC is to figure out your baby’s elimination patterns, so that you know when to potty him or her.  After a week of diaperless living and free peeing and pooping on the floor, I knew one thing: he pees and poops all the time. It didn’t really help. I bought a wonderful book, Diaper Free Baby and read it cover to cover. The floors still needed to be washed eight times a day.

I introduced the potty. Mr. Baby grabbed it and crawled away, thankful for the new toy. I wasn’t sure where he took it to. Over the next few months he played with the potty, he put it on his head, he moved it to different locations, he put all of his toys in it, one by one, but he never actually did what he was supposed to do on it.

At nine months of age, he started peeing in the toilet every morning on cue, while I held him between my legs.  Sometimes, he pooped in the toilet, if I managed to catch him beforehand. But the potty was not his friend. He simply could not sit still on it. I was about to put the diapers back on, discouraged. But the book on EC said to not get upset and to  just wait. I waited and waited, while the floors in the house were being peed on. Mr. Baby started to be very aware of his elimination, though, and every time he went on the floor, he’d come to me, enthusiastically screaming: “Mama, poop!”, pointing at what he’d made.

At thirteen months-old, he started bringing me the potty after making a mess on the floor, understanding that I connected the potty to elimination, but not being exactly sure how. He also started going on the potty once in a while, usually about three times a day. But overall, I felt like a failure, because my mother told me I was out of diapers at one. That, and I couldn’t make Mr. Baby do what I wanted him to do.

So, when a group I was a member of  invited us to the EC party, I was very excited. Perhaps, I could learn something new, to make this baby go on the potty all the time? When  we walked in, we saw about 8 babies, from six to 18 monhs old, surrounded by about ten colorful potties. All babies were bare-bottomed  and they all were peeing on the floor! Occasionally, one of the babies would go on the potty, but it certainly wasn’t the rule. When Mr. Baby made a huge puddle on the floor, I felt like part of the group. Why was I so afraid to see a meetup of perfectly behaved little babies, always going on their little potties? The ec’ing moms were sitting on the couch and saying that potty training is a process, not a goal. I happily agreed. It was easier than admitting your total failure.

Visiting the “potty party” was empowering. I saw that there were other “potty failures,” besides me, in the world. And we continued to pee on the floor, with an occasional potty break for yet another month. Then, the potty breaks multiplied and Mr. Baby started to alert me about his pees ahead of time, so that I have time to put him on the potty. I finally saw some progress. And then, like magic, in one more month he was fully trained.

EC is, indeed, a process….

Read this post for more information.