Let me back up for a minute. A bit of background on my potty journey with my son is a good place to start. With my son I didn't get a huge amount of success until he was 4-5 months old. We started pottying at 8 weeks with him, but it wasn't until 4-5 months that I started pottying him consistently. And an amazing thing happened.
I started to get more regular signals! The signals gradually picked up the more consistently I pottied him. This makes sense logically.
Babies are intelligent little beings, and if they know that you usually potty them at certain times, they will start to hold it and wait for that “pottytunity”.
For those who don’t know: “pottytunity” is a word we use in the world of EC to describe the action of giving our babies an opportunity to eliminate in a potty instead of in their diaper.
So, just as with potty training, in EC, consistency is key!
On the other hand, with my daughter, she did have a clear signal early on (at 3-5 months). She used to give a little cough every time she needed to pee. That signal worked very well - unless she was sick and then the coughing signal was impossible to distinguish from a genuine cough! If only we could pick our childs’ signals for them! Wouldn’t that make EC so much easier!
But we were lucky to have a signal at all, as some babies signal very subtly. Or not at all. We soon learned this as when she started to get more mobile those signals disappeared. Our catch rate became dismal. And sadly we never really got it back reliably until we potty trained later on!
So, back to where we are at now. Sebastian is 7 months old now and we tend to catch about 5 – 8 pees a day and about 70% of the poops. If I am not having a super distracting day, we will usually only miss about 1 – 2 pees for the whole day. His signals can vary quite a bit, but he will usually give one or the other of his most regular signals. Most of the time, he does a little grunt, and that’s not just for poops. He will do the grunt for pees as well. Same with farts. We tend to associate farts with pooping, but he quite regularly will fart, and then have just a pee once I put him on the potty.
I have also been using the sign language signs for “potty”, “pee” and “poo” for a few months now to try to encourage him to sign to me when he needs to go. But, so far, we are getting nada.
He is still not responding with any signing despite all my efforts. I try to continue to use the signs consistently even if he isn’t responding, in the hopes that he will start to sign at some point. Not every baby will pick up on sign language though. My daughter never did. She was much more interested in trying to talk than in signing. But, it is always good to practice signing with them as it opens up the opportunity for another way to communicate. That's the hope anyways!!
There is also an alternate “potty” sign that I have been trying out lately. It is basically an open-palmed chest slap right in the middle of the chest. Some ECing families have had success with that. So Iast week I switched to the chest slap sign to see if he responds. The verdict is not out on that one yet. I also try to use other signs like “milk”, “more”, “eat” and “all done”. Hopefully, he will be motivated enough to use one of them eventually. Until then, I will just keep signing and trying different signs to get him interested in it.
Yes, that means you don’t really need to be naked for “naked time”. You just need to be able to see right away when they go for it to count as naked time! This was a game changer for me.
We did a lot of irresponsible naked time with my daughter, and learned the hard way that naked time only serves a purpose if there is learning happening. If your child is not signaling, and all the pee is ending up on the floor, then you are just teaching your child that it’s okay to pee on the floor. But that is not the goal here. Pee doesn’t go on the floor. Right?
So if you can’t be “on it” enough to get some of the pee in the potty, then DON’T DO NAKED TIME. Use a sumo-style diaper or some other potty-friendly back up, but don’t do naked time unless you can be really focused on your child for the entire time they are naked. I’m telling this because I wish someone had told me this. We didn’t do this with my daughter and it resulted in a very difficult potty training experience. Not to mention it didn’t help that we had a very strong-willed young toddler and some other transitions in our household that made training difficult, but the peeing on the floor habit was definitely a huge factor. We need to use the fact that they are super uncomfortable with getting themselves wet to our advantage. So, minimizing the number of accidents that happen is a good thing for down the line. You will thank me later.
Also, the sumo-style diaper has been a huge game changer for night time EC. At night, I use a prefold with a booster insert inside and wool cover over top. This makes pottying at night quick and quiet most importantly! No snaps and it just slides off very easily. The last thing you want is a bunch of fussing with snaps when you are trying not to bring your child to full alertness for a nighttime pee. The idea is to keep your baby half asleep through the whole process so they fall right back asleep. So far, it’s been going really well and he has been pottying quite regularly at night without much fuss. He even seems to sleep better after being pottied so we are all getting more sleep!
So far, I am feeling very optimistic about this. We’ll see what the future brings, but for now, I am a big fan of EC.
Helen Holder is a mother, an engineer and the owner of Earth Baby Services. She is a Go Diaper Free Certified Potty Consultant and Postpartum Doula. She is an avid ECer and advocate of early potty training and protecting the environment, and is very passionate about helping new mothers!