Learning the Gentle Art of Infant Toilet Training

Diaper Free Babies

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Guest Post by Louisa

I toilet-trained my first child when she was four-months-old. I thought I would start this guest post with a statement that knocks most people’s socks off when they hear it. “Four months old, you are kidding, aren’t you?” No, I kid you not.

I had worked extensively in China and seen what mothers did there; always aware of their children’s needs, able to listen to the signs that told them when their child wanted to pee and available to help them achieve their own personal hygiene at a very early age, many from birth. In our age of disassociation from our babies, when we wrap them up, place them in prams and car seats and leave then in front of TVs for hours, it seems impossible to be in such harmony with our little ones, but it is absolutely possible and many, many, many people have done it before now.

After reading Jean Liedloff’s Continuum Concept before giving birth and then the book Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygieneby Ingrid Bauer, I knew that I wanted to train my baby too, it just seemed the natural thing to do. So this is what I did and you can too, if that is what you decide.

I believe that diaper-free babies are eco-friendly, aware of their bodies at a young age, sociable and under no pressure to perform in any way. They must be ‘responded to’ from a very early age however, before the feeling of peeing in a diaper gets too natural for them. It all takes time, patience and devotion, something that has to be thought about very carefully indeed before embarking upon as you have to be 100% available. This doesn’t mean sitting and watching your baby’s every move, it means being there for her when she needs to tell you she wants to pee/poo.

It is very well worth it for the sake of the planet alone, but also for the deep and long-lasting connection you will be forging with your child.

Starting off simply is a good plan. Use one less diaper at night by leaving your baby free from the waist down after her bath in the evening and getting her to sleep on a thick towel. Babies will very rarely wet themselves whilst asleep and will benefit from air circulation around the parts that have been enclosed and wet all day. This I did with my baby and never had an accident in bed, nor diaper rash. It helps if you co-sleep with your baby, (but I figure if you have thought of infant training, then you have probably thought of co-sleeping too) so when she fidgets in her sleep, you can get her up and let her pee into her potty. Making quiet hissing sounds will encourage her to relieve herself straight away, then you may settle her down again.

This routine I was doing pretty soon after birth with my baby, I then graduated onto awareness of her needs during the day. Making the hissing sound whilst holding her in a comfortable position over her potty I found to be a key factor to my success – staying tuned to her cues also was crucial; a young baby will cry to be helped to pee/poo before she gives up and does it in her diaper. Be gentle, understanding and don’t get stressed, if you miss it this time, you may very well get it next time, no problem! Having your baby wear diapers during the day is up to you, having the potty in view as the child learns to walk is also up to you. As a rule of thumb, your young baby will pee 20 minutes after drinking fluids, then approximately every half-hour thereafter and once or twice during the night.

This is the start of diaper-free babyhood and it happens like this all over the world. That is why Chinese children have splits in their pants with their bottoms showing and use the gutters regularly, I kid you not.

My first born was a happy, capable and contented baby, we taught her to make a sign for ‘pee’ long before she could talk and she seemed very capable at managing her own ‘toilet matters’ as she grew.

She laughs now at seven-years-old when I tell her what she could do at four months old and she thinks it is the most natural thing in the world too.

What do you think… is this an idea that appeals to you? I’d love to hear who else (this is Stephanie speaking now) is intrigued by this idea, and especially if anyone else has tried it!

lulu bitingLouisa has brought her children (7 and 4) up in a natural way, she lives in the mountains of France, home schools and follows the principles of Weston A.Price and Rudolph Steiner. Her first child was potty trained at four months old, both her girls co-slept with her and her husband and were carried until the age of one. She lives in a TV-free house. She believes that when a woman takes on the role of nourisher, (both physically and emotionally) she becomes both hearth and heart of her family. Read her slow-living blog at: constantstateofflux.com or find her on Twitter as @lululovesmilk.

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  1. jess annis says:

    HI i came across this page and i was wonderingif i was wih my daughter at the park or somwere and she needed to go were should i take her and how should i hold her and i dont want her on the floor doing it.Thanks jess annis.

  2. gorgeous photo! and great piece! we EC’d both our kids and wouldn’t do it any other way!

  3. I discovered this when my daughter was 3 mos old. We switched to cloth diapers (which I love!) and within a month (I know for sure because I wrote everything down-HA!), she only had wet diapers, all other “business” was done in the potty! Very exciting for a new mama!!! She is now 24 mos old and has been in regular underpants full-time (except at night) since 16.5 mos. We had a transitional time using training pants for a few months but we probably could have made the leap to regular underpants sooner if I had been braver. :)

    We still struggle with nighttime though. I never did EC at night because I love sleep! Any tips for nighttime EC/potty training would be appreciated. We’ve tried taking her potty when we go to bed (after she’s been asleep a couple hours) but I just hate disturbing her at that point and it hasn’t made a difference in her being wet or not the next morning anyway. Also try to limit fluid intake in the evening to a point. She’s not a big soaker anymore though, so I think I’m just going to give it time and not try to push it.

    Baby #2 is due the end of August and it’s a boy this time, so it will be interesting for me to start from newborn, on a boy, with another child already. Sounds challenging…wouldn’t do it any other way!

  4. I LOVE your ideas! I am only fourteen, but I have a baby brother who is 17months now and I think he is perfectly smart enough to be potty-trained. And I think he could have been started long ago. Your adventures have inspired me for what I am going to do with my kids when I have kids. I think that our world has separated us from our babies and I think it is wrong that we don’t have time for them and simply drop them off at day-care or ignore their needs. Doesn’t anybody wonder how the pioneers did it??? Its so good to be around your children all the time.
    And I also think that cloth-diapering/no diapers is so much more healthy. Though the idea of sleeping beside your baby without a diaper on does seem kinda scary, but then it’s not such a big deal either. And nothing is impossible.

    • You remind me a great deal of myself at fourteen! Good for you for researching topics (such as parenting in general) that are off the beaten track. I’m sure you will be an excellent, sensitive, and loving mother some day. :-)

  5. Just wondering if anyone has ever tried this with older special needs children. I have an almost 9 yr old with autism (severe) and he is still in diapers, although he will go pee if I bring him to the potty which we do every hour and a half or so. He just cannot figure out that “that feeling” means “run to the potty”.

  6. This sounded like the craziest thing to me before I had a child – I remember reading a NYtimes article thinking, “what are these people doing to their children?”

    Then, when I had my son, I was using cloth diapers, and met some women who did EC, then started reading a book, and it just made SO MUCH SENSE! Whenever I opened my sons diapers we’d play and coo and he’d pee again, and I always thought it was great because it saved me a diaper change. As I read further into the book, I realized what we were doing was essentially EC, only with diapers…

    I read The Diaper Free Baby by (i think?) Christine Loh. It was really flexible and forgving – you don’t have to make a huge commitment. We used a potty at 6 months (once my son could sit up) and he took to it immediately – peed right away and pooped the next day, and we never looked back. We still did diapers at night and when we went out, bringing him to the potty only if we felt like it, but not worrying that it would unlearn anything we were doing. It didn’t, and it worked for us. The best part was not poopy toddler diapers, he only pooped in his diapers maybe another dozen times after 6 months (which really proved to me that babies don’t want to poop in there diapers, but we teach them to….).

    My son is now 2.5. We never potty-trained him, only gave him the same “potty-tunities” that we had all along, offered underwear, talked about the toilet, etc. and continued diapers at night and out up until he was done with them a few weeks ago. He just stopped peeing in them and askign to go on the potty, when he was ready himself, and physically able to hold his pee. It was all child-led, when he was ready, and it was a BREEZE. I feel like we really have the EC to thank for that. It’s not potty-training, but COMMUNICATION between you both.

    LOVE. IT.

  7. This is very interesting to me but by no means could I ever do it. So all you who try or accomplish it Good job!

  8. I first heard about EC when my first daughter was about 6 months old. I was turned off at first, but then really loved the idea. We started PT at 11 months old and have had pretty good success, especially with BMs (that was the first one she picked up on and HATED going in her cloth and always asked for the potty). But, with my second daughter (8 months old) I didn’t consider EC, b/c I was far too tired and worn out (my kids are 18 months apart and my oldest STILL wakes up through out the night!).

    So my question – what do you recommend when the children are so close in age? It seems a daunting task to EC with two.
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..Food for my Northern friends =-.

  9. I’ve done it with my current baby since she was four days old, and I LOVE IT! I keep her in cloth diapers just in case, and I *try* not to worry too much when I fail to read her cues. She’s nine months old now, and clearly prefers going in the bathroom than in her diaper. I think on average I’m catching a little better than half of her potties, which means that I’m cutting my diaper laundry in half.

    I’ve blogged about my experiences with EC occasionally. My posts on the subject can be found here.

  10. I just discovered your blog yesterday and found it interesting (perhaps a sign?) that one of the first posts I see is about EC. I am currently expecting #3 after a 6 year “break”. I am a big believer in co-sleeping and a child-led lifestyle. Lately I have become interested in learning more about EC but I will admit, the thought of the time commitment scares me. I wonder, can I handle it? I do like that it can be done part time, which makes it feel less daunting. Thank you for the insightful post. I look forward to following your blog (I’ve already signed up for the RSS feed!).


  11. We used infant potty training with our third and enjoyed it very much, were delighted to start and finish sooner than we had with traditional delayed toilet learning. That was 30 years ago and now our grandchild is using it too :-))

    What an adorable photo with this blog, and an excellent article.

    Here are a few links for anyone wanting to read up on the practice:

    “Infant Potty Training” book and “Potty Whispering” DVD


    For those who think ec/ipt might be overwhelming, always remember that you can do it part time . . . “as part time as you need” . . . it’s essential to be relaxed.

  12. My youngest son is 2 and we are trying to potty train now. I heard of this just recently, too late to try, but I wish I would have. It sounds like a good idea.