It sounds too good to be true, but you can potty train your child before age 2 in one easy step! With my second child having just finished potty training at 21 months and my daughter being finished at 19 months, I couldn't help but sharing. Drum roll, please! And here it is: to potty train your child early all you have to do is put them on the potty!!! Yup, that's it! Put them on the potty to go pee pee at a young age. It seems simple and easy, and it is, well sort of. Here's how we did it.
I knew I never wanted to contribute to the land fill with disposable diapers so I researched and used cloth diapers with my daughter. So it was natural that when my baby was about six months old, and someone posted about elimination communication in our baby group, I had to learn more. It sounded perfect to be out of diapers earlier rather than just be in cloth diapers. Plus, I had read about how babies in other countries are potty trained before a year old and I didn't understand why it was different in the USA. What I read was that elimination communication teaches your baby at a young age what they are doing when they are going to the bathroom, teaches you the signs to understand when they might need to go to the bathroom, and teaches them what you are doing when you are going to the bathroom. Since my daughter was soaking everything up and learning so quickly, I wondered why I wasn't also teaching her about going to the potty. Couldn't I teach her about that, too?
With elimination communication, the window of the program is 3 months old to eighteen months old. After that they start becoming autonomous and want to go to the bathroom the way they know-in their diapers, they feel more comfortable in going in their diapers versus the strange toilet, and their urge to "hold it" has been taken away because they can go any time in their diaper. And just to be clear, this is not having them "hold it." It is knowing when they are making signs they have to go and putting them on the potty. Many bring up the fact that they can not hold it until they can draw a circle and connect both ends. This is not that, it is just putting them on the potty very frequently, all day. So with my first daughter I thought 12 months seemed about right so right after her first birthday, we got out the green frog potty.
How It Went With the First Child
I started by talking to her about mamma going to the potty every time I went. Since she was in there with me 10 times a day, that was easy! Then I put down her potty training green frog. For the first two weeks, she didn't want to sit on that "thing!" It was strange and she resisted even sitting down. At the end of the second week, I realized she would sit backwards facing the back of the potty, and that was it! We were able to then sit long enough to read a book and sat long enough that she went pee pee for the first time. With lots of excitement and encouragement, she realized that it was a good thing to go pee pee on the potty. After a month about talking about her going pee pee and poo poo in her diaper while we watched her signs and put her on the potty when we saw she needed to go number 2, we let her go naked from the waist down in the house.
At that point, she would ask for her diaper to go poo poo and we thought it was amazing that she was communicating that with us!!! She started refusing to wear the clunky cloth diapers so we got her underwear and man, it was the cutest thing ever to have such a little toddler in underwear!!! By 15 months she was going number 1 and number 2 on the potty almost exclusively while at home and man, did we spend a lot of time on the potty reading books. I think that is where she started loving books so much!
Now, going out in public was another issue. We dragged the potty to the museum and to the library so we could be fair about her communicating with us and not forcing her to go in her diaper, but we were fearful that she would have an accident out in public. It wasn't until 19 months and she was seriously refusing the diaper that I dropped all my fears and took the plunge by going out to a museum in public with underwear. It was like being at the top of a roller coaster looking down before the big drop. But I thought, hey-what's a wet car seat and change of clothes? You can wash everything...right! Once I thought of an accident as a quick clean up, no worse than anything else we had to clean up and deal with in public with kids, it was easy. She never had an accident and we never looked back. At 19 months we were diaper free by day and it was amazing! Going to preschool in the 2s class without diapers was a breeze and we were so happy about the whole process.
Yes, yes I did take a photo of the first successful poo poo!
Fast Forward to Child #2
Since we loved elimination communication and knew it could be started at 3 months, we plunged in early with child number 2, our baby boy. We put him on the potty at 4 months. He was too big of a chubby butterball and couldn't sit up so that was a quick chuckle and we abandoned. We tried it again at 5 months when he could sit better and it worked! He went pee pee on the potty in the morning! By golly, at 6 months he went poo poo in the morning! We cheered with laughing, astonishment and shock and before we knew it he was going pee pee and poo poo on the potty EVERY SINGLE MORNING from age 6 months to 12 months!!!
We had a diaper on him most times, but would put him on the potty various times throughout the day. We started going naked from the waist down at 10 months, but we don't have carpet. With the amount of cleaning up we did, I wouldn't recommend this, but it really is part of the elimination communication process. We could see him start going poo poo and get him to the potty. We could see him start going pee pee and talk to him about it, then clean up.
At 12 months we got discouraged because he started going poo poo in his diaper again. Having not cleaned this up in over six months we though it was gross!!! I attribute that change to his starting to walk and being too busy to stop for the potty. At about 15 months he would sit on the potty for about 10 minutes reading, but not go pee pee. Then he would stand up and play at his train table and immediately pee pee on the floor. I finally realized that he was a boy and maybe he wanted to pee pee standing up! So I started putting him in the bathtub to stand up and pee pee, to my mother's dismay. And wa la! He went pee pee and there was no clean up around the toilet. For a few months we fumbled with pee pee on the floor and in the tub. Finally at 18 months we could reliably put him in the tub and he would go. He would also occasionally go on the training seat on the potty so this was moving forward, too.
At 20 months I felt comfortable going out in public with him in underwear since we had had no accidents in the house putting him in the tub. Why couldn't I just pull his pants down behind a tree and have him go outside in public at this point? But he had a few accidents out in public where it had been 2 hours, he was squirmy and I knew he had to go. I would pull his pants down for 5 minutes, he wouldn't go, and then when I pulled his pants up he would go in his shorts. I was stumped. Why did he go in the tub when he had to, but not outside when he had to? FINALLY, I happened to ask him to pee pee on a pine cone, sort of like the whole pee pee on a cheerio trick for in the toilet...and he went!!! That was it! I realized that he knew what to do in the tub, but out of that element, he didn't know what, "please go potty randomly in the grass in the public I know you have to go!!!" meant. However when I said, "Hey buddy, can you pee pee on that pine cone? That would be fun!" he understood that and we were golden!
Spring view potty seat at Poe Springs in Gainesville!
At 21 months we went out in public with underwear only and we were diaper free! It took about a week to convince my family that he didn't have to wear diapers and he was completely refusing them. After many, "But I'll be with him all day, can't he just wear a diaper just this one time," and having to refuse that for him or change my plans, everyone was on board and had their own personal pine cones in their close vicinity. Even more amazing, he has refused diapers at night this week! He gets up at night upset, but then he goes pee pee in the tub and goes right back to sleep. My daughter was in pull ups for about 6 months longer until she refused pull ups at night and I had to let go that it was only some nightly sheet changes and I could let her have her wish to not wear the diapers. So, needless to say, I have my last pack of night pull ups in the closet, open and unused, and I am surprised and shocked that my son is completely done at 21 months. I'm sure he will have accidents here and there, but wow, it sure does feel good to be diaper free and give him the gift of being independent from diapers!
It's Not For Everyone
The elimination communication method has worked great for us, but I know it is not for everyone. I am at home with them all day while I am working from home, so I "have time" to do this with them, and that is just not feasible for everyone. I also remember that it took us 7 months to potty train our daughter starting at 12 months where it only took some families using the 3 day method at age three to potty train their children. Also, every child is different, even in the same family, so elimination communication may work for some and not others. I would recommend it to any one and I'm extremely pleased with being diaper free at such a young age with both of my kids. It saves money, prevents contribution to land fills, and allows us to be independent, cleaner, and I didn't have to pin down wiggly toddlers to put on diapers them any more.
So, just put them on the potty and talk to them and teach them about going to the potty. They learn everything at very young ages, and learning how to go to the potty is no exception. Start putting them on now and let us know what you think! Share your elimination communication successes/failures, potty training secrets, and questions. We'd love to help others in their quest to potty train!