Are you interested in Going Green Gradually? 
Sign up for my free email subscription to get each of my posts delivered to your inbox!

Potty Training a 4-month-old Baby



Yesterday I wrote about how early potty training turned out with my second child, now 2 1/2 years old. I first put her on the potty around 9 months. Today, I'm writing about how I'm starting even earlier with my third baby.

What does early potty training (or elimination communication) look like with a 4-month-old baby? Some folks try to "catch" a newborn's pee by holding a bowl between their knees or holding the baby over the sink or toilet when she needs to pee. I tried that once and decided it wasn't for me. I decided to wait until my baby could pretty comfortably sit on a Baby Bjorn little potty before I would try any pee/poop catching.

But here is what I have been doing since my baby was born. I use cloth diapers, and change my baby every time she pees. This means she and I both notice every time she pees, and I have also noticed that she holds it for long periods of time while asleep or in the baby carrier. I change my baby's diaper on a waterproof pad on top of my bed with a prefold diaper directly under her bottom. Whenever I have time, I let her lie on the pad for a while with her diaper off after taking off her wet diaper. She loves moving around with her diaper off and the air is good for her bum too. Sometimes I'll stay near her and interact with her, sometimes I do stuff around the room near her. Often times she pees while her diaper is off. 

Unlike most parents, who are dismayed if their baby pees with a diaper off, I am excited that she peed without her diaper on. If I catch her in the act of peeing, I make a "pssssss" sound while she is peeing. About a week ago, she pooped without her diaper on for the first time. It was a mess to clean up, but I was thrilled.  Why? Because I want my baby to be used to peeing and pooping with her diaper off.

At this point, I am trying to do two things:
  1. Using cue words/sounds when the baby goes pee or poop. I say "pssss" whenever I catch her peeing with her diaper off.  And whenever I see my baby straining or hear her pooping, I make an "uh uh uh" kind of groaning sound. Since infants are really dramatic poopers, I often have the chance use this pooping cue even though when she's wearing a diaper. (I usually don't notice when she's peeing unless her diaper is off.)
  2. Letting the baby go diaper-free when practical so that I get to know when she tends to pee and any signals she gives that she is going to pee, and so that I can make my cue sound while she is peeing to build that connection. This also keeps my baby from always and exclusively peeing in a diaper. 

I picked up these two strategies from the book Diaper-free Baby. I checked it out from the library after happening upon it in the parenting section. I thought it would be a strong argument for full-time elimination communication and never using diapers. It's not. It's probably the least didactic book about potty training I've read. The real point of the book and the concept of "diaper-free" is to give your baby the opportunity to go pee or poop somewhere else besides a diaper. The book has great tips for different ages from newborn up to toddler, whether you are a full-time EC (elimination communication) family, part-time EC family, or occasional EC family. Diaper-free Baby is so full of great tips for helping a child use the potty at any age that after checking it out several times from the library, I decided to purchase a used copy. It includes advice and stories from parents with widely different situations and very different experiences and outcomes using elimination communication. 

Another great book about early potty training is Diaper-free Before 3, written by a pediatrician and mother of two. Last year, I wrote a series of posts on the book Diaper-free Before 3. This book contains a history of potty training, the many benefits of early potty training, explanation of the problems with the AAP's concept of "readiness," as well as some practical information about how to potty train various ages (6 months to preschooler). If you are trying to convince a fellow caretaker to give early potty training a whirl, Diaper-free Before 3 is the book for you.  If you are already sold on early potty training and just looking for more of a how-to manual with lots of tips and testimonials from parents, or if you want to use elimination communication with a newborn, then read Diaper-free Baby.


For more tips, tricks, and tales from early potty training, visit my Early Potty Training page.


If you have tried early potty training, I'd love to hear about your experiences (good or bad)!


Photo credit: brooklyn skinny

This post is part of

25 comments:

  1. My baby is way older than this (17 months) but I've gotten our potties out and am starting to get her familiarized with everything. I like the ideas of making a noise, and also of course the diaperless times and getting to know when she pees. We waited till my son was 27 months to potty train him, but this time I want to do it sooner because they just get so much more opinionated and independent after age 2! Thanks for the ideas!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! Much more compliant before 2. You might like this post for good times to plop baby on the potty: http://www.eco-novice.com/2011/02/when-to-put-your-child-on-potty.html

      Delete
  2. My daughter pretty much trained herself at 2 (we use cloth diapers). I have a 10 m/o son and I've heard so many horror stories about training boys that I was dreading the potty training already. Well, I stumbled across your blog posts on early training and decided to try it. I bought a potty and within 24 hours he'd pooped and peed in it. It was so exciting! I kept doing it pretty regularly for about 4 days and nothing else happened. One time, he even pooped 5 minutes after I had taken him off the potty... Anyway, I've petered out at this point. I think I just need to find a routine that works for me so that it's not an extra thing to think about. And I need to get another potty for the upstairs so that there's always one close by.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My motivation to put my daughter on the potty was definitely related to the success rate. It's disheartening to put the baby on the potty and have nothing happen...repeatedly. If I were you, I would pick one time a day to put your boy on the potty, an easy time when it's not much trouble. Don't worry if he does anything, just think of it as him getting used to sitting on the potty and that's it. Maybe read him a book or let him play with a toy while he sits there. You definitely want to do something sustainable. Once your son can walk, you might also let him go naked waist-down outside, just so he's used to peeing with his diaper off. Here are some easy and/or strategic times to put your child on the potty: http://www.eco-novice.com/2011/02/when-to-put-your-child-on-potty.html

      Good luck!

      Delete
  3. Fabulous! We started at around 5-6 months, when my son could sit on his Little Potty unassisted. He peed the very first time sitting on it and we were sold instantly. It's crazy how far our society/culture has come from following instincts. Most parents I talk to don't realize that babies are actually trained TO pee in their diapers for the first year or two of life, making it that much harder to break that habit later on. I love that you encouraged your baby to pee on the pad without her diaper - Not only convenient for you, but so much more humane. Breaks my heart when parents don't change their babies until they're soaked, no matter what type of diapers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Janine, I was really hoping you'd comment on this one!

      Delete
  4. It is so encouraging to read this! My baby is 5 1/2 months and I really want her to be potty-trained by 1 year. I had earlier expectations/hopes, but my baby is pretty expressionless when she does her business :( I've read Diaper-Free Baby too. I cloth diaper and love it! I tell people my desires to potty-train by 1 year and they're so negative saying "well, that's nice, but she probably won't be ready for it by then"....umm Did the KID say "I'm ready to be born" or did nature run it's coarse?! lol We have the responsibility to train our kids and teach them how to be independent. If parents wait to potty train until 3, why do they allow them at 2 to play video games unattended??? Infants are a lot smarter than we give them credit. They know how to sympathize and love. They know where the TV is and how to put a spoon in their mouth.

    Thank you for being fellow moms who aren't taking the lazy way out and are being responsible for your children!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You've read Diaper-free Baby so you know not everyone (even full-time EC families) finish by 1, but I think it's a great goal. The Chinese seem to manage it. Good luck!

      Delete
  5. I've been interested in this idea for awhile, but then a friend asked me what the real benefit is. I suppose I'm still on the fence because I do not understand how this helps mom or baby, since before the baby can walk, the parent still has to help the child to the potty each time. Why have you chosen this route?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A very valid question. It's true that some children will "train themselves" around 2 or 3, and this is how all my nieces and nephews have potty trained. But that's not always how it goes. In fact, I have friends who have literally been potty training a child for YEARS and know children who were not potty trained until nearly 5. I never want to be in that situation.

      What got me thinking about it was my 2.5 yo sitting on the potty for 30 minutes and then pooping in his undies as soon as we put them back on. He was potty trained for #1 in a few days but it was so hard for him to shift from pooping in his diapers/pants to pooping in the potty. That did NOT seem normal biologically speaking to me, but it is a common experience of parents of preschoolers. I am also convinced that my son may not have shown the AAP's "signs of readiness" even by the age of 4. I'm not sure he ever would have self-initiated. In Diaper-free Before 3 the author/pediatrician writes about parents coming to her office with a 3yo or 4yo, frantic that their child still isn't showing signs of "readiness" for potty training, but needing to get the kid potty trained to enter preschool. And wondering why the heck they waited so long.

      Also, my first two kids got wicked, wicked diaper rashes from even a few seconds of contact with their poop, which convinced me that we aren't really supposed to sit on our own excrement. And, really, how fun can it be for a kid to be sitting in her own pee or poop? I also cloth diaper, so it's nice not to have to deal with poop in the wash.

      Finally, babies are much more compliant than preschoolers, so it's easier to establish a new habit, like sitting on the potty several times a day at that age.

      Here is a whole post on the benefits (medical, developmental, etc.):
      http://www.eco-novice.com/2011/01/benefits-of-early-potty-training.html

      I would also recommend reading the history of potty training for an eye-opening view on how much potty training has changed in the last few decades:
      http://www.eco-novice.com/2011/01/brief-history-of-potty-training-part-1.html

      Delete
    2. To put it more briefly, the benefit is that as soon as the kid CAN take himself to the potty, he WILL.

      I didn't start before my child could walk, but I started letting him go diaper-free at night when he was 18 months old and could walk to the potty but could not pull down his own clothes and diaper. He was not fully able (or willing?) to deal with his clothes until he was 3--many months after he was completely toilet-trained.

      Delete
    3. I started putting my daughter on the potty about one month after she began sitting well unsupported (7 months). I started because every time she pooed all of it would spread between her legs and I became afraid that she would get urinary tract infections no matter how fast I changed her (which was right away).

      I began by putting her on the potty right before bath time and after a week or two with about 50% pee-in-the-potty rate, I started putting her in the morning as well. Now I do it before and after every nap. She started pooing in the potty only about 1 month after I started but it's been about 90% poo-in-the-potty in the last two weeks. I'm very happy to be cleaning the potty instead of the diaper and needless to say it's much more hygienic for her as well. She's happy to sit on the potty and play with some bottle of shampoo or whatever else I find in the bathroom (but I should mention that she doesn't crawl yet. I'm sure once she discovers it, she'll take off mid-stream!). So far so good.

      In the long term I'm hoping she'll be out of diapers sooner rather than later. I use diapers but I'm contemplating switching to cloth diapers eventually to nudge her along.

      So, to answer your question, the benefit I saw was an immediate benefit to her health. Longterm I hope she'll be independent sooner, but there's no way to know that beforehand.

      Delete
  6. I am doing this with my three month old, holding her on the toilet every 18 minutes for 2 hours every morning. And thru out the day whenever I think she might need to poo. I love it -no cleaning stains out of clothing (most of the time)!
    The best part: I know she knows how to release intentionally! I don't think my 2 year old does. I wish I had heard of it earlier.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I felt this same sorrow of missing the boat with my first. I think my second child (at 9 months) pooped in the toilet before my first child (at 2.5 years).

      Delete
  7. For the first two weeks, I could tell she was getting ready to poop. After that, she just did it. So when I heard her go, I would take her to the toilet and let her finish there. Once she was 6 weeks old, I could tell she tried to release whenever I sat her on. Now, I take her when she grunts/farts. Sometimes she goes. 2 out of 3 times, tho, she will just pee and then arch her back to tell me she is done. Then I set the timer for 18 minutes and try again when it goes off. We are successful 85% of the time in catching poos.
    When she was a month old, I sat on a stool and held her over the toilet, with her back leaning against my stomach. After that, I used the potty ring and just held her. She sits really good with only a little support. She usually pees within 30 seconds. Poos take longer. I let her decide when she is finished. I trained her to tell me by taking her off every time she arched her back. If I knew she wasn't done, I'd put her back on after a few seconds.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, Paige! You are really being rewarded for your due diligence. I hope to start getting some poops in the potty very soon. I like the idea of dedicating a certain time during the day to frequent visits. Thanks for sharing your experience.

      Delete
  8. I started using a bowl with my first when he was 2 weeks old, and switched to the little potty when he was 4 months. By 8 months we were doing great, many days with only one wet and no dirty diapers. At 10 months he started walking, and refused to sit on the potty any more, except for the before bedtime pee. We kept trying, and after several months he started being willing to sit on the potty more, but all poops were in the diaper.

    I finally got him out of diapers a couple of months before his 3rd birthday just by refusing to give him a diaper any more (he had outgrown his one-size diapers, and I only bought enough XL diapers for overnight), and within a month or so I no longer needed to take a change of clothes when we left the house.

    I'm glad we did infant pottying because I think it's just more humane and hygienic than diapers. But it definitely didn't translate into early potty training for him.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, you'll never know. I know of SEVERAL children not fully potty trained by 4 or even 5. Without laying the groundwork early, you could have had one of those, esp. with a strong-willed kid. Maybe if you hadn't let him use diapers earlier? My 1st child pooped in underpants for MONTHS after being dry day and night(around 2 1/2 years). Who knows how long he would have kept that up if we'd had him in diapers still.

      Delete
  9. My daughter is 4 months and we just started to try it. She has already pooped on the toilet twice and peed once! I am not sure how "effective" it is, but my thinking is that every step in the right direction is a good one!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How did you get your baby to sit on the toilet? I tried to do that w my 4 months old and he looks so uncomfortable.. N i keep worrying he will fall into the toilet. I also bought a potty chair but he won't sit in it.. =[

      Delete
    2. Jen, I first tried around 2 months, and it was really awkward. I just put my baby on every couple of weeks or so until it wasn't ridiculously weird for her. I think around 4 months she was OK with it if I was super-animated and singing and stuff. You might need to try harder to sell it. It takes getting used to for sure, and I was completely supporting her upper body. I use the Baby Bjorn potty. The good news is that sitting on the potty has really helped develop her torso strength! Think of it as similar to getting your kid used to the high chair -- I can tell you that the first 10 times I put my baby in our chair, she was not pleased -- it took some getting used to. You could also wait a few more months to begin if you like that better. I would just put your baby on the pot once every couple of weeks to see how his anatomy (hip flexibility esp.) is working with the potty. Personally, I would not use a potty seat on top of the toilet with a baby -- my 9 month old (second child) dove off so fast she hit the tile even though I was sitting right next to her. Also, it's easier to pee and poop with your knees higher and feet on the floor. But then you have to clean the potty, I know. Easier than cleaning off a poopy bum though.

      Delete
    3. Jen, I use a ring on top of the toilet. I sit on a stool in front of the toilet. When my baby was small I held her with her back against my chest with my hands under her thighs. Her feet would rest on the other side of the ring. After she could sit, I turned her around so she would sit normal. Her feet can still rest on the larger toilet ring. I hold on to her, of course. Once you get used to it, it doesn't seem nearly as uncomfortable. I do have a babybojrn little potty, too, which works well. Most other potty chairs are too large for a 4 month old.

      Delete
  10. Since my daughter was six months she would sometimes wake up with a clean diaper. She is nine months and a half now. Today she woke up with a clean diaper and I finally decided to take her to the toilet to see her reaction. She has never seen me go. I took off her diaper, hold her in the toilet faicing me and started making the ssssssss sound, also I asked my husband to open the sink water to see if the running water would stimulate her peeing. It was amaizing to see her pee in less than a minute, as soon as she was done she started clapping. We were so excited. I was unsure if early potty training was right for us. Now I'm so looking forward to this adventure. Although I'm not sure what to do next. Any advice?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's about all there is to it! I would look for other times that are easy for you to put her on the toilet -- whenever she has been dry for a while is always a good choice, like if she wakes up dry from a nap. I also often put the baby on the toilet when I go to the bathroom, because if I don't, she almost always goes in her diaper while I have her in the infant seat. You can see other potty training posts (with the most recent first) here:
      http://www.eco-novice.com/search/label/potty%20training

      I just posted about my now 9m old

      Delete

Have something to say? Please leave a comment below.
I read all comments and try to respond to questions in a timely manner.
No more Anonymous comments due to spam overload : (