Hello!

October 25, 2016

9 Comments

It can often be pretty difficult to convince a determined two year old to quit nappies. So why not start earlier?

To avoid this conflict, many families are adopting a different approach to toilet training, one that is more commonly used in other parts of the world, including China, parts of Africa, India, and South and Central America.

This method, called Elimination Communication (EC or assisted infant toilet training), is becoming increasingly popular in the West.

It involves starting toilet training from birth by following the child’s cues.

Toilet training from birth

Instead of using nappies, children learn to go in an appropriate receptacle from two weeks old. Babies are placed on the toilet or some other suitable place (such as a cup, a potty, a bucket or even the ground) after a meal or when they show signs of wanting to eliminate. If the baby does this right, it is rewarded with food or affection.

As far back as 1977, researchers suggested,

sociocultural factors are more important determinants of toilet training readiness than is currently thought.

Research shows this process can help babies quickly learn to eliminate in a convenient place.

It works through two way communication between the caregiver and the infant. Caregivers follow the infant’s cues and can also signal to the baby to eliminate.

How effective is it?

Some argue, based on this cultural difference, that babies are aware of their need to eliminate from birth. Others suggest that infants prefer to be dry and would rather not be left in a dirty nappy. It is this preference that makes elimination communication easy.

One study found that children who used this method (from 33 days) were toilet trained by five months of age.

In this study, the parents noted the child’s signal to eliminate and held the infant’s back to the caregiver’s chest while sitting over a toilet.

While the baby eliminated, the caregiver used vocal signals to reinforce the behaviour.

Usually these signals are a “psss” sound for urine and a different sound for faeces (we’re trialling this method and using a “plop” sound).

Cultural and social differences around nappy use

Parents in western countries generally use nappies to manage babies’ and young children’s waste.

Some parents prefer disposable nappies, which are said to reduce nappy rash – a red and inflamed rash around the nappy area, caused principally by wetness and bacteria or yeast – and other skin conditions including eczema.

For others, environmental concerns mean reusable nappies are preferred. Reusable nappies are usually made of cotton.

There are two types: two-part nappies that often have an insert and an outer, waterproof, layer; and all-in-one nappies that combine the inner absorbent layer with the waterproof outer layer. Parents also need nappy liners. But cloth might not be as environmentally responsible as many parents believe.

There is evidence of major environmental issues including the water and pesticides used in cotton farming, the principal ingredient in reusable nappies.

The need for cleaning products, hot water and constant washing may also be environmentally damaging. Cloth nappies generally soak through more quickly than disposables and need to be changed more often.

What’s more, the care-giver’s labour is not cost neutral and may not be factored into the evaluation of cost and benefits of reusables.

Western families increasing age of toilet training

Toilet readiness is usually considered a developmental milestone, where bladder and bowel control is linked to maturation.

For toilet training to be successful, children must be able to walk to the toilet after recognising the need to eliminate, manage clothing, eliminate fully, clean, manage clothing again and flush.

Over the last 80 years, Western families have been increasing the age at which they toilet train, from less than 18 months 40 years ago, to between 21 and 36 months today.

Starting toilet training at 18 months may be related to medical advice.

Thinking about when to start toilet training has shifted since the early 20th century.

In the 1920s, for instance, 12 months was considered suitable. By the 1960s, the advice was later than 18 months. Researchers suggest changes may be due to parents’ work schedules, convenient disposables and a more liberal approach to parenting.

Children with special needs may take longer learning to use the toilet.

The relationship between caregivers and babies is complex. It may be that, with careful observation of infants’ cues, parents can learn to understand their child’s needs.

We are certainly hoping so in our family to avoid buying nappies for three more years and cleaning up after inevitable misses.

The ConversationShare your comments below.

Rebecca English, Lecturer in Education, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

  • Interesting- sounds like a lot of work and messes to be cleaned up though. I had enough difficulties training mine at just before 2 years old. I think that it would be very hard to communicate when the baby doesn’t understand what you are saying to them and can’t walk or access the toilet on their own.

    Reply

  • Interesting article,it makes sense to train early!

    Reply

  • I’ve seen this method being used on my travels. In Africa, where the babies often are carried in a sling on the hip of mum, the mum feels the muscles of the baby tightening and lifts the bottom of the baby out of the sling so it can eliminate. And in Asia where children wear pants with an opening in the crotch and are lifted above a bush or at the side of the road to eliminate. The method appears to be much easier and more clean then the way we do it.


    • Yes, I’ve seen pictures of this method used in China. It sounds weird but maybe it’s really effective.

    Reply

  • Erm, I didn’t really read more than half of this as I found it a bit silly. Small babies are stressful enough without the added dimension of trying to potty train them!!

    Reply

  • I am sure a baby cannot sit at 2 WEEKS. So, a baby is going to know and wake up when he/she needs to use the toilet? You have to be joking !

    Reply

  • I am flabbergasted! I just cannot picture placing a baby on a toilet or pot, at 2 weeks or 5 months. I had no trouble toilet training tho

    Reply

  • That makes sense to toilet train earlier. When you train children as toddlers they are too used to nappies and will let you know that they don’t want to sit on the potty. If we train children as babies they learn that it is normal to not wee or poo in a nappy. It makes sense!

    Reply

  • As a child care worker i hear about this all the time but have never seen it happen successfully.

    Reply

Post a comment
Like Facebook page

LIKE MoM on Facebook

Please enter your comment below
Would you like to include a photo?
No picture uploaded yet.
Please wait to see your image preview here before hitting the submit button.
Your MoM account


Lost your password?

Enter your email and a password below to post your comment and join MoM:

You May Like

Loading…

Looks like this may be blocked by you browser or content filtering.

↥ Back to top

Thanks For Your Star Rating!

Would you like to add a written rating or just a star rating?

Write A Rating Just A Star Rating
Join