An Unintended Consequence of Early Potty Training

Okay, I shouldn’t say “potty training” when what I actually mean is “elimination communication”. Two related but distinctly separate things. Potty training teaches your kid to hold it and elimination communication (or EC, for short) teaches your baby to let go. But this post isn’t about teaching you how to EC your child. I don’t want to delve into that until/unless I’ve been successful in my own attempt.

I’ve been interested in EC since I was pregnant with Baby and I heard about the practice being done in China. While I wasn’t too keen about keeping random bowls in every room for my baby to pee and poop in, I did like the idea of associating a sound to the action of peeing/pooping so that you could train your child to go to the bathroom whenever that sound was made. So I began making my noise of choice from week one in my attempt to train Baby. That was the extent of my EC training until Baby started crawling at which point I decided I needed to crack down and really get her ECed. For two days straight, I let Baby walk around diaper free so I could see when she urinated and observe any signals she made prior to that to indicate that she needed to pee. It was pretty successful as far as what I learned but Baby peed a lot on the floor, so I’m not sure she learned much in that time. Before we could move on to more diaper free days, Baby got sick and then I did and rinse and repeat for three weeks straight. So we went back to diapers (cloth and disposable) until we were both in good spirits to deal with the challenge that is EC/potty training.

Again, I stripped the diaper off, but this time I let her wear bloomers or pants so that less pee would make it to the floor (read: easier clean-up). From the time she got up until the time the husband got home from work, I watched her like a hawk as she toddled around the house. As soon as she’d pee, I’d pick her up and run to the nearest baby toilet. I did this for three days straight and at the end of those days I was exhausted by having to watch every move that Baby made but I realized something very significant had happened in those three days.

Moms today, myself especially included, tend to be more “connected” then moms of the past. We have our cell phones and our tablets, and we check Facebook and Instagram and Twitter. We text our partners, our girlfriends, and our relatives. Now look, I’ve always been somewhat ADD and proud of it (I think it lets me multi-task better!) but when you couple my short attention span and wondering mind with the instant gratifications of the internet and smart phones, what you get is a detriment to my attempts at mothering. For instance, when I take Baby into her room to play with her toys, after only five minutes I find myself bored and take out my phone to start perusing my Facebook feed. Then Baby notices and tries to sit on my lap or grab my phone or climb me, which makes me feel bad for ignoring her so I put my phone away. But when I put my phone away this time, my mind starts to wander. When are my bills due this month? I need a job, what jobs are available on Craigslist? When’s our next playdate? I try to talk to Baby and tell her what the names of her toys are: “That’s a green square.” But it’s a one-way conversation, and if I’m going to be talking to myself I’d rather do it in my head and about other topics. So at that point, I get out my phone yet again. When the husband comes home I nag him for getting on the computer by saying “she needs interaction!” to which he replies “but you’ve been home with her all day!”. Sigh. He just doesn’t understand.

So back to those diaper free days. Since Baby had no diaper, she could pee anywhere and at anytime, so I had to be 100% focused on her at all times. Being the ADD person I was, I couldn’t just sit in silence, having a one-way conversation for 8 hours straight, so I put on a podcast about EC or potty training, or some other toddler related topic and I let it run in the background. Then I just sat on the floor with Baby and played with her. For the first time in a long time, she got all of my attention (minus the part that was listening to the podcast). Every time she looked up from her toys to see me, my eyes were on her. Every time she smiled or laughed, I reciprocated without delay. We cuddled, we read books, we built block towers, and knocked over the block towers. We had quality time together. When she’s in a diaper, I can easily sit down at the computer to do “just this one thing” and as long as Baby’s not hanging from the rafters, I can get away with saying the random statement (“Oh, did you find your book?” or “What are you looking at Baby?”), but when she’s diaper free the stakes are higher. If I’m not paying attention when she pees, I might not realize and have pee settling into our hardwood floors for extended period of time and I also miss the window to associate her peeing with the toilet.

So while I was happy to be over with those diaper free days, at least for the next few days, (I had serious tech-withdrawal), it was a good slap in the face as to how much more I could be doing when it comes to quality time with Baby. While Baby and I no longer need to do diaper free sessions (I’ve already determined what her cues are when she needs to pee), I’ve decided I’ll make it a recurring event in our weekdays, just because we both benefit emotionally. Baby learns that she’s important to me and I don’t miss the cool things she does. If you’re like me and find yourself checking your email every five minutes, then maybe diaper free time might help you and your baby too. It doesn’t have to be a long period of time, maybe only an hour a day. And you don’t have to do it with the goal of potty training. Diaper free time has lots of benefits, including helping to prevent diaper rashes, allowing your child to develop a healthy body image and, of course, forcing you to not get distracted by what’s trending on Twitter.

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