the portable baby
These are some of the most recent photos from my photostream
on Flickr. Click one of them!
How to do part-time potty-training with your baby
Dear Santa, I want this toilet!
I'll take a village
The world can't wait.
Wilma ate my website
Less lawn, more organic fruits and veggies
Julian update - 19 months
Diaper-free babies in the New York Times
Kate Moss coke video
His Noodly Appendage touched me...
« September 2005 |
| November 2005 »
EC or Elimination Communication (aka "Infant Potty Training" or "Natural Infant Hygiene") has been in the news non-stop lately. A story about ECing moms in NYC was recently the most emailed article on the New York Times website! There have also been articles in Newsweek, The Boston Globe...the list is growing daily, it seems.
But EC is just a new label on a very old practice that has been around since the dawn of human history. My grandmother used EC techniques with my mother, and had her out of diapers by 9 months. We've mostly lost this art in the Age of Disposables, and now a new set of problems has reared its ugly head...that of the 3,4 and 5 year olds who are so trained to use diapers that they won't transition to the toilet without a huge battle.
I've been pottying my son Julian since he was 2 months old. I think it's great that the word is getting out, and I would encourage *every* parent to give it a try. It has been great for us, and I am so glad that we have been slowly introducing the potty to Julian all along, rather than waiting for the difficult toddler years to introduce it as a totally new concept. Julian has been mostly out of his diapers since he was 13 months old, and completely out of them during the day since 16 months. Meanwhile, so many other parents are struggling to begin potty-training at 2.5 years, 3 years...it seems it often gets harder and becomes more of a struggle as time goes on.
It's really not that hard to take your baby potty, I promise you. And it is definitely possible to do EC part-time as a working parent. You do not need to be a stay-at-home obsessive to do this! Anyone can do it part-time...and not just moms but dads, grandparents, babysitters...whoever is willing to give it a try.
I would recommend that you put your baby on the potty (or hold him/her in arms over the sink/bathtub/toilet -- see photos of various positions here) right when he/she wakes up in the morning, using the cueing sound "pssss-pssss". Waking up from sleep is an almost-certain pee catch time. There may be resistance at first if your baby is not used to this (most likely for older babies who are used to using a diaper to pee in), if so, you can nurse on the potty, sing a song, run water, read a book, play with a toy, touch the feet together...whatever helps to relax your baby enough to release and let them know that this new thing is OK.
Sometimes there can be a lot of fussing. Your baby likely has an uncomfortably full bladder after waking up, but doesn't know yet that it's OK to release outside of diapers. That's where the relaxing, reassuring, and communication comes in. "It's OK, peepee goes in the potty." If your baby does pee/poop in the potty, give some verbal affirmation..."Yay! You went peepee/poopoo in the potty!" But there's no need to go overboard with this. The younger you start, the easier it is, because the baby is not yet trained to release only into diapers.
You should be able to put your baby on the potty at least once in the morning before going to work. If nothing else, try potty time when you take off the soggy overnight diaper. Babies pee the most in the morning. With little babies under 6 months it can be every 15-20 minutes after waking for an hour or so, then it slows down to once an hour or so by afternoon. No need to fret about not catching every pee, just do what you can. The point is to simply expose your baby to using the potty from a young age, so that it is a familiar, comfortable, and regular thing to do, instead of a sudden and dramatic regime change.
Think about the message of consistency...today we encourage our newborn babies to use diapers as a toilet, with no alternatives. Once the child is fully diaper-trained at age 2,3 or 4, we change the rules 180 degrees and tell them that diapers are now the *wrong* place to go. Does that makes sense? No. Why not work with a small baby's natural inclination to be clean and dry? Pottying is a skill to practice over time with gentle help from loving parents, like everything else. So don't worry...even if you only potty your baby once a day, you're still doing fine. I pottied my son in the morning before going to work and he did all his pooping during our morning sessions. We went 3 months without a single poopy diaper, which was wonderful for us both. No more rashes, no more sitting in his own poop for even a minute.
I recommend observing your baby with some diaper-free time on weekends in an uncarpeted area and see what his/her individual timing patterns are. This will help you to recognize any pre-pottying signals given by your baby, and also to anticipate how often your baby needs to go.
Some babies signal very strongly, others rely on parents to take them potty based on timing. My son now alternates between the two. He will sometimes use a hand sign or even say "peepee" or "poopoo", at other times he is busy playing and needs a reminder that it's probably time to go. Whatever your baby does, it's OK, just go with it and stay relaxed. Keep in mind that next week might be a completely different story!
Diaper-free time is not as big a deal as it sounds. Baby pee is not sulfuric acid, it's pretty harmless stuff, and the poop of a little baby is not bad either. If you can corral your baby in a carpet-free area for your diaper-free observation time (or outside, on a warm day) then the clean-up is actually easier than the average diaper change. Don't be afraid...believe me, it's *much* easier to clean up a little puddle from the floor with a cloth than it is to change a diaper! I keep cheap cloth prefold diapers for accidents (they are very absorbent), then just do a quick rinse and throw in the laundry hamper. I was surprised to find that even a poop on the floor is quickly picked up with toilet paper and disposed of in the toilet, but poop smeared on a baby's butt is a real chore to clean up AND time-consuming!
Back to working parent strategies...during the day, I took my son to the toilet one last time AT the daycare before leaving. I would also potty him very first thing at the daycare upon arriving to pick him up. My son never got confused by this. He seemed to accept and understand that Mama would take him potty, but the caregivers at daycare would not. They commented to me about his excellent bladder control, and how he never peed or pooped on the changing table.
Apart from wake-up pees, I would offer "pottytunities" (the opportunity to use the potty or toilet) at *every diaper change*. This is a GREAT habit to get into for part-timers using diaper back-up.
- It is a great reminder to offer the potty frequently and on a regular basis.
- It avoids the common problem of changing a diaper, only to have the baby immediately pee or poop in the clean one. Don't say that hasn't happened to you! ;-) While the baby is bottomless and the diaper is off, you might as well offer a pottytunity before putting on a clean diaper, right? It just makes sense. And this avoids the other problem of getting peed/pooped on on the changing table during the diaper change. Once I started doing EC at 8 weeks, my son never peed or pooped on the changing table again.
So OK, let's recap....
HOW DOES A WORKING PARENT START TO EC?
- Potty upon first waking in the morning at home, and thereafter as frequently as you think your baby might have to potty until you have to go to work. (Use diaper-free time on weekends to get a good estimate of how often your baby usually has to pee/poop.)
- Optional: Potty at daycare before leaving (bring a little potty, or use the toilet).
- Optional: Potty at daycare upon arrival for pick-up. Might save you a wet diaper on the way home!
- The rest of the time, potty at every diaper change.
- It's also a good idea to have baby in a cloth diaper without a cover (or training pants, or underwear) at home. That way you can tell very quickly when your baby has peed, and change the diaper. The baby will also get physical feedback from a pee..."I'm wet! Yuck!" instead of having it mysteriously disappear into a dry-feeling disposable with no real effect. This lack of feedback after peeing tends to deaden the baby's connection with his/her bodily functions after a while.
I used disposables as a backup, but I stopped at around 1 year old. I discovered that I tended to ignore my son's potty signals when he was diapered in a disposable. However, whatever makes you most comfortable and relaxed in the process, use it! If you are feeling tense or stressed about EC, then feel free to use a diaper backup. Just keep taking the diaper off to offer the potty on a regular basis.
- One last thing...I highly recommend having your baby in loose sweatpants or something easy on/off for ease of pottying. No one-piece outfits with a zillion snaps. Onesies are bad in general. They make it such a pain to get the clothes off that you tend to just leave your baby in the diaper until it's full. Ick. But hey, I've done that before too.
That's it! EC is easy and anyone can do it. It's not an all-or-nothing practice. Why not give pottying a try tomorrow morning at diaper change time and see what happens? I guarantee it's easier than cleaning pee off your changing table.
More about dreaming and peeing/pooping, but this time in a different context...my dream toilet!
The DoBidet starts off your Pleasure Potty experience with a heated seat, then gently washes you with warm water (including optional massage or rhythmic spray functions!), and it dries you off afterwards with puffs of warm air. What a dream machine! It does even more than that, but I had to stop reading because my credit card started burning a hole in my pocket.
Even if you're not interested in bidets, the site is worth checking out just for the fractured English.
"You brush your teeth 2-3 times a day, Then you just wipe out with paper, After done with toilet?...YOU ARE NOT CLEAN ENOUGH! CLEAN MIND COMES FROM CLEAN BODY!"
Hooray! Who can argue with that?
Well, now you all know what I want for my Birthday/Christmas/Mother's Day.
Babycenter mostly sucks as a site. I feel like their info is so sponsor-driven and mainstream. The bulletin boards drive me nuts. Back when I was pregnant I was posting there in my frenzy to research this impending motherhood thing as much as possible. There seemed to be a lot of horrifying posts from moms and moms-to-be who were boozing, drugging, on the streets, in terrifically abusive relationships, had no prenatal care, etc.
I would often write back to suggest something helpful like free/low-cost prenatal care from Planned Parenthood, or maybe if you're in an abusive relationship and have no education or money, getting pregnant isn't really a way to fix things right now and maybe birth control would be a better plan.
I got a lot of weird, fundamentalist types flaming me and threatening me with eternal burning hellfire for even mentioning PP, and a bunch of nutty Quiverfull types saying that birth control is babykilling and the more children you have, the more blessed you are. Sigh. So for my own sanity, I stopped visiting BabyCenter
But Catherine Newman's journal Bringing Up Ben and Birdy is still there, and still fabulous, so I stop by from time to time. She seems to perfectly put into words whatever vague idea or feeling about motherhood I've had floating around in the back of my brain. Plus she is one of the few writers on ANY subject who can make me absolutely belly-laugh. She has a great way of pointing out the absurdity of about 99% of our daily child-rearing activities, and how funny they can be when pointed out by someone who has been there. But she also nails the more poignant moments.
For example, the following from her most recent entry hit me right in the gut:
The kids are great, really, they're full of life, and they're testing their world, and they're fun to be with. I think I'm just weary of noise, of conflict. Or maybe I've been a little blue lately? I think it's true; I think I have been. When we were in the Brick Dwelling building of the Shaker Village, I was filled with melancholy, and I can't exactly describe it. Partly it was the beautiful simplicity of the rooms: wooden beds and chairs and tables, beautiful built-in cabinets (Do I sound like a real estate agent? See? Totally un-shakerlike.). Everything was spare, everything useful. I loved it, and it was as much like our house as a rag doll is like a Look-Up-My-Skirt Barbie, which is too bad for me.
But also it was the idea of a hundred people all living under the same roof, but as a community, not in their individual apartments. Sometimes I think that's how I really want to live. I mean, we are blessed with beautiful, close friends, we visit with them often, we share lots of meals. But often I can picture all of us grocery shopping with our kids, returning home to make dinner, and eating alone with our families. And often it's heaven on earth, this contracting of the world to the intimacy of our closest ones around the table. But sometimes it can be a little lonely, like, in the satellite picture of a neighborhood, you'd see the same woman shape in every house, bending down to brush little teeth, and all of us everywhere are doing the same thing at the same time, but alone.
I'm not explaining this right. I think that sometimes it can feel a little lonely, that's all. In the infirmary at the Shaker Village they had an enormous cradle to comfort ill adults. Maybe that's what I want. I want to say, 'Come over, after your kids are asleep. I'll rock you here in this cradle for a while." And then maybe you could rock me.
I have had the same image of each little house with a woman-shape, doing the same kid-centered tasks all alone. Cleaning the kitchen, making dinner, all alone. True, maybe it would be a drag to have other people around all the time, but then again, maybe not. Because this job is hard, and that's one thing. But to be hard and LONELY, that's another thing.
A village, yes...that would definitely be nice at times.
The World Can't Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime!
Hear hear! We certainly can NOT wait any longer!
The website provides a pretty concise summary of why the world can't wait any longer to drive out the Bush regime, and why you should be PISSED right now, like I am.
Find out what's happening near you
- Your government, on the basis of outrageous lies, is waging a murderous and utterly illegitimate war in Iraq, with other countries in their sights.
- Your government is openly torturing people, and justifying it.
- Your government puts people in jail on the merest suspicion, refusing them lawyers, and either holding them indefinitely or deporting them in the dead of night.
- Your government is moving each day closer to a theocracy, where a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism will rule.
- Your government suppresses the science that doesn’t fit its religious, political and economic agenda, forcing present and future generations to pay a terrible price.
- Your government is moving to deny women here, and all over the world, the right to birth control and abortion.
- Your government enforces a culture of greed, bigotry, intolerance and ignorance.
- They forgot one of the biggest, namely...your govenment is systematically enacting an all-out assault on the natural world around us, poisoning our air, water, and soil, destroying what little remaining wild areas exist and turning them into suburban sprawl, reversing the protection of endangered species, denying its contributions to global warming, and wreaking huge amounts of additional damage EVERY SINGLE MINUTE.
I haven't been able to check my email all day long, and my website has been MIA. D
Damn that Verio! I sent them an email asking what happened to my server, it was obviously down ALL MORNING and what the hell, people! Then I got no response, so I escalated it to the managment and sent them an email too.
Finally I called and got a recorded message saying that, because of Wilma, only emergency personnel were on site. Everyone else had been evacuated.
Oh. Oops. That's riiiiiiiiiiight. Verio has my server housed in Boca Raton, Florida. They have a hidden status update several layers down on their website (why is it not on the front page...duh!) that explains why the servers are all down. Apparently they have generator backup, but the generators that were tested and working just FOUR hours before the power went out, are not working now. You could *hear* the frustration in this update. God DAMN those generators!
Well, they hope to have them working by tomorrow morning sometime. For now my site is down, and going there I just get a 404, which is sad. But not having email is kind of restful, I must say.
Just finished reading the new Broadsheet on Salon.com. It rocks...it's all those fascinating little tidbits that your best girlfriends send to you, like the far-out thing that Martha Stewart said on her show today, and a scary family with 16 kids (and the mom wants more!), all of whose names start with the letter J. Like Jesus, of course.
But it's not just fun and weird stories. Broadsheet also covers the feminist stories that don't get much play in the rest of the media, like the horrible situation for women in the Sudan, where gang rape is a daily risk that women run just to get food for their families.
All I know is, I'm hooked.
We had two sections of lawn in front of our house when we moved in. A large lawn to the left of our driveway, and a small lawn to the right of the driveway.
The small lawn was the most useless thing ever. It was hard to mow, too small to play games on...really just a ridiculous waste of space and resources. So last May I had the lawn removed and replaced it with a vegetable garden.
I paid someone to do the hard part, which was to strip out the top layer of grass/roots and rototill in lots of lovely dark, rich compost. Still, they did it in less than a day, and it was pretty cheap. Included in the price I got a simple little drip irrigation system, so I wouldn't have to do any watering. Picking out the veggies was fun, and the planting was super-easy.
What a payoff! All summer long we have been eating an ultra-fresh, incredibly delicious bounty of strawberries, melons, heirloom tomatoes, green beans, fragrant basils, sweet peppers, hot peppers, Japanese eggplant, cucumbers, lots of different salad greens, corn, and Swiss chard. We're still waiting for the artichokes and Meyer lemons to produce, they are winter crops.
Now ask me what work I did after I planted the veggies. Um, almost none. I went out and harvested every few days, pulled a weed or two here and there, sometimes turned the hose on and watered when it was really hot outside. Other than that, my plot was almost maintenance-free.
Now I'm wondering why *anyone* would want a big lawn when you can reap such an incredible bounty from putting even a tiny section of the land to a different use. I put much less effort into my veggie garden than I do our lawn (which needs to be mown, trimmed and edged weekly, and re-seeded fairly often in the bare patches). I'm sure we used less water for the veggie garden too. And we had all kinds of butterflies and big fuzzy bumblebees visiting the garden, whereas the lawn is just kind of blah.
We have a Neuton rechargeable lawnmower that kicks ass. It's so quiet you can talk on the phone while you mow your lawn. No fumes or gas to buy, just push a button to start it. And I don't use any chemical fertilizers or herbicides, just a top-dressing of compost in the wintertime. Our lawn looks pretty great without any of that poisonous stuff on it, and I don't have to worry about Julian and Bugs playing on it, or, in the case of Bugs, eating it.
Edible Estates is an ongoing series of projects to replace the American lawn with edible garden landscapes responsive to local culture, climate and landscape. The website has some scary facts on it:
- Homeowners use up to 10 times more chemical pesticides per acre on their lawns than farmers use on crops.
- Lawn chemicals drift and are tracked indoors where they may remain in carpets and on surfaces for up to a year when not exposed to direct sunlight.
- Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 13 are probable carcinogens, 14 are linked with birth defects, 18 with reproductive effects, 20 with liver or kidney damage, 18 with neurotoxicity and 28 are irritants.
- Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 17 are detected in groundwater, 23 have the ability to leach into drinking water sources, 24 are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms vital to our ecosystem, 11 are toxic to bees, and 16 are toxic to birds.
- 2,4-D, the pesticide in most Weed and Feed products, is a neurotoxicant and contains half the ingredients in Agent Orange.
- Studies have found that dogs whose owners use 2,4-D lawn products are twice as likely to develop canine malignant lymphoma.
- Those are just a few...
So think about that next time you're laying in the grass, or letting your kids frolic on it. What has been sprayed or sprinkled on that lawn? Freakin' POISON, possibly.
They also have some good DIY instructions
for how to remove some or all of your lawn and replace it with your very own edible estate. Why pay $$$ for wilty trucked-in organic produce, when you can pick it fresh just steps from your door?
So I have to get this off my chest. What's up with mowing your lawn and bagging every single leaf and grass clipping, then going out and buying chemical liquid fertilizer and topsoil to replace it? If you mulch the clippings and leaves back into the lawn (you can do this while you mow it, just remove the bag) then it keeps the soil built up and healthy. Good fertile dirt is made of leaves and lawn clippings and sticks and other organic detritus. Just pile them up around your existing plants and watch them spring to new life.
Today I was checking my email and it was silent for a while in the other room. A little TOO silent for my taste. So I went to investigate and found Julian on top of my nightstand, where he had knocked all of my books off in order to get a good viewing platform to watch the birds and squirrels run around in the backyard. Oh, and he was naked too.
This is the moment I caught him. In this photo you'll see his reaction a moment later. Cute!
So here are some new things that he's doing:
1) Counting 1-2-3. If I sing the Sesame Street 1-10 song then he can go to 10, but only with the musical accompaniment.
Any multiple items get the "1-2-3" treatment, wherein he points his finger at them and randomly moves it around while saying "1-2-3...2-3!"
He likes it when I count his toes, and we did that about 15 times this morning. Every time I would finish counting five toes on one foot, he would then offer the OTHER foot for toe-counting. Lots of fun. Good opportunities for toe nibbling and belly raspberries.
2) ABCs. Same deal. He has been singing the ABC song lately as "A-B-C-D...A-B-C!" About a week ago he was pointing to the wall next to his bed and tapping it while saying the above, as though he were pointing out imaginary alphabet letters.
3) Says "OK". Finally we have an answer to questions that isn't "no".
"Come on Julian, are you ready to go peepee?"
4) Says several sentences:
"Where's the baby? Here he is!"
(Wheah da baby? E e is!)
"That's a BIG poopoo!"
(Das a BEEG poopoo!)
Said while proudly pointing in the toilet at the results of his morning evacuation.
5) Ball skills are amazing. He kicks it in a line drive just about every time. And we are now ROLLING the ball in the house, because he has a super-strong arm that fires balls like a rocket.
Even his rolling technique is fast and accurate. He has obviously been paying close attention during bocce ball games at our house...he carefully examines the course, begins his approach, and lets go with a fast underhand roll that almost always hits its target with force.
6) Massive hugging and kissing. He went through an anti-Daddy -anti-anyone-but-Mommy phase for a few weeks, but now he seems to be back at the top of his social game. Lots of hugs and kisses for Daddy, Doggie, and anyone else whom he likes a lot.
I get swamped by the Love Avalanche every morning. He usually wakes up in the night and I crawl in bed with him, then he wakes me up in the morning by saying "Hi!" in the cutest little chirpy voice possible. Big smile. Then the kissing and hugging and squeezing starts. My face was all drooly this morning from the massive numbers of kisses planted on it.
It's extra sweet because he makes smacking satisfied noises the whole time he's kissing. "Mmmmm...mmmWAH!"
7) Points to food (or a picture of food) and says, "Mmmmmmm! Yummy! Wow!" Eats pretty much everything lately. Having a growth spurt.
8) LOVES his new Ecco shoes. Asks to have them put on, then does a little stomp dance in them. Very proud of new big-boy shoes.
9) Can walk Bugs on a leash for about a mile. We pretty much just tell him where to go and then follow closely, but he's in control. When he gets tired he starts to trip over his feet, and that's when he goes into my Ergo backpack.
10) Feeds Bugs his breakfast and dinner, and gives him biscuit snacks. I take the food bowl out of the holder and give it to Julian. He carries it to the garage, where I put Bugs' food in it, then Julian carries it back to the holder and places it back inside. He then stands back with a satisfied look to watch Bugs eat his meal. "Doggie EAT!"
He also likes to give Bugs water, but it's a sloppy process still. For a kid not yet two years old, he's a very responsible dog owner.
A distant cousin (the daughter of my grandmother's brother, second cousin to my father..whatever relation that is!) got married in San Francisco at the St. Francis this weekend.
My immediate paternal family came up from Southern CA for the wedding, and Aunt Polly and Uncle Dave came out from their new digs in North Carolina so that Polly could officiate (she's an Episcopalian priest).
Polly and Dave stayed with us from Tuesday through Friday and we had a really good time. I like having houseguests, especially when they're fun and helpful and good conversationalists.
They just happened to come during a hectic week when:
a) Julian was suddenly fussier and clingier than normal (getting 2nd year molars?)
b) Bugs went to the vet for his annual exam and had to come home early due to "explosive diarrhea" and excessive stress. He then proceeded to wake me up every 15 minutes two nights in a row to go outside and continue his excessive shitting. was not a happy camper, and there was a lot of really nasty gooey dog poos on the lawn.
c) Dan and I were crabby with one another. Julian was super-mommy-centric and wasn't buddy-buddy with Daddy like he normally is, so Dan couldn't help me out with Julian as much as normal, and I got stressed out by nonstop whining/fussing/clinging and then pissed with Dan for constantly backing off on helping with Julian when I was so tired and frazzled. And I'm not sure why Dan was pissed. Because his son was favoring Mommy over Daddy that week? I gues that could make a Dad pissy. Plus, I was crabby with him.
Anyway, Polly and Dave were great. They amused Julian by playing ball with him, reading books, and even a little badminton practice.
Dave is now known as the "Poopoo Uncle". One morning, when I was struggling to make pancakes for breakfast despite an onslaught of leg-grabbing and whining from Julian, Dave scooped up Julian and took him out back to look for poop to scoop. (Remember, this was after Bugs' "Night of a Thousand Poops")
Don't ask me why my uncle wanted to go out back and help scoop a sick dog's gooey poops...let's just say that I'm nominating Dave for Houseguest of the Century.
Oh and Dave ALSO volunteered to clean up one of Julian's pee accidents on the carpet. (No, we weren't doing so well at EC that week). He insisted that I hand him the cloth to wipe it up, so he could "practice for when he had grandkids". The man is a hero!
Anyway, the next morning J was fussing again, so Dave came over to ask him if he wanted to play with the ball. Julian pointed outside and said, "Poopoo!". He wanted Dave to carry him around outside to look for poop again. Apparently my boy has quite the talent for poo spotting!
We went on two good hikes (Fremont Older and Sanborn), ate two excellent meals out (TGI Sushi and Three Seasons), and had lots of interesting discussions.
Dave and Polly left on Friday and we were sad to see them go. Saturday we chilled, then Sunday a whole mess o'family came over. Dad, Peggy, Lisa and Jimmy, Grandma Wava, Manny, Anni, Murph and Hana...we played games and had fun. Anni took much better pictures than me. But she's good at sharing ;-)
Anni, Murph and Hana came over the previous Tuesday night as well for game playing with Polly and Dave and us, so we got twice the fun all in one week. It's prety rare that I get any family time at all, so it was exciting to have all family all week. Too bad we don't all live closer to one another.
from the New York Times
A Fast Track to Toilet Training for Those at the Crawling Stage
By TINA KELLEY
Published: October 9, 2005
Hannah Rothstein, 7 months old, has double thighs and a dimpled bottom, but very svelte German underwear. She can still fit into her birth-to-3-month-old clothes because she lacks her peers' familiar bulge in the rear. She can sleep all night without a diaper. And during the day, every so often, after her mother, Melinda, of Newton, Mass., places her on a plastic potty and makes a little "pss-wss-wss" sound like the one used to call a cat, Hannah uses the toilet.
A meeting in Manhattan of mothers and babies. Some of the babies are toilet-trained; others might be soon.
For many parents in the United States, the idea of potty training before a baby is able to walk, or even before age 2, is not just horrifying but reprehensible - a sure nightmare for parents and baby, not to mention a direct route from the crib to the psychiatrist's couch. But a growing number of parents are experimenting with infant potty training, seeing it as more sanitary, ecologically correct and likely to strengthen bonds between parent and child.
About 2,000 people across the country have joined Internet groups and e-mail lists to learn more about the techniques of encouraging a baby - too young to walk or talk - to go in a toilet, a sink or a pot. Through a nonprofit group, Diaper Free Baby, 77 local groups have formed in 35 states to encourage the practice. One author's how-to books on the subject have sold about 50,000 copies.
"It's just so simple," said Lamelle Ryman, who recently attended a support meeting at an apartment on the Upper West Side. Ms. Ryman, the mother of 7-month-old Neshama, added, "I feel like it's been such a gift in our relationship."
To be sure, adoption of the approach in the West is in its infant stage, so to speak. Moreover, the philosophy behind it flies in the face of Spock-influenced child-rearing. Dr. Benjamin Spock, the last word in child rearing for many American families through much of the 20th century, recommended against any training in the first year, believing that it could lead to rebellion later through bedwetting.
Once, however, breastfeeding was also a rarity, until conversations among mothers, supported by medical research and encouragement from doctors, nurses and midwives, pushed it during the 1970's to the mainstream of child care practices, where it remains today.
With early toilet training, there is a broad body of knowledge and experience to draw on. Parents in at least 75 countries, including India, Kenya and Greenland, embrace the practice, with Chinese babies often wearing pants with split bottoms for easy squatting (available for $1 in Chinatown, according to savvy mothers in New York).
Some parents who adopt children from other countries say they are startled to find that their babies arrive ready to use the toilet. More than 50 percent of the world's children are toilet trained by the time they turn 1, according to Contemporary Pediatrics magazine.
From birth, the reasoning goes, infants are aware of their needs to eliminate, and although their muscles are not developed, they can soon learn to go on cue. Conversely, by relying on disposable diapers, modern parents are in effect teaching babies to ignore the signs that they have to go, making potty training at a later age more difficult.
Ingrid Bauer, author of "Diaper Free! The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene" (Natural Wisdom Press, 2001), believes it is easiest to begin toilet training in the first six months. To start, parents are taught to hold the baby by the thighs in a seated position against their stomachs and to make an encouraging hiss or grunt. With practice, parents learn their child's rhythms; some parents sleep next to their children and keep a potty at arm's reach, or diaper their babies overnight.
For families who practice the technique, the advantages are many: savings in the cost of diapers, which can reach $3,000 a child; less guilt about contributing to the 22 billion disposable diapers that end up in landfills every year; no diaper rash, and a nursery that doesn't reek of diaper pail. They also note that age 2, a common age for toilet training, is a time of notorious willfulness and a terrible age to start teaching any child anything.
Most important, they say, is an increased emotional bond with the baby, forged by the need for the parent to pick up on subtle signs and act on them quickly. Proponents of the practice use the phrase "elimination communication."
"It is enhancing that interaction and closeness, the intimacy between baby and mother," said Thomas Ball, a psychologist in California who is helping develop a documentary about the technique. "Here's another set of cues the child is giving that may be ignored or may be responded to."
Unquestionably, in a child-rearing culture that thrives on sanitation and parental convenience, the prospect of supervising 20 deposits a day in the first busy months of infancy is daunting.
"It doesn't sound like anything I would ever even attempt to try," said Erinn Marchetti, who has two preschool-age children and was shopping recently at Toys "R" Us in Times Square. "It's hard enough when they're 2 and 3."
Another mother in Toys "R" Us, who offered her opinion but wanted to remain anonymous, was aghast at the notion. "Have you read Freud?" she asked, worrying about the method's long-term effects. "I imagine it's going to come out in sexual ways."
Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, the renowned child-rearing expert, said parents need not worry about psychologically damaging their child. Dr. Brazelton, author of "Toilet Training: The Brazelton Way" (Da Capo Press, 2004), has always advocated a child-centered approach to training: do it when a child is ready, without too much pushing or even encouraging.
"I'm all for it, except I don't think many people can do it," he said of elimination communication. "The thing that bothers me about it is today, probably 80 percent of women don't have that kind of availability."
He said he did wonder if children trained as infants would rebel against it later. "Are they going to run into some withholding afterward, when the child realizes, 'Hey, this wasn't up to me, this was up to my mommy and I'm not going to put up with it.' "
As with breastfeeding, a turn toward infant potty training would represent a leap into the past. Before the 1800's, babies in Western societies were swaddled, which restrained them and contained their wastes, Laurie Boucke said in "Infant Potty Training" (White-Boucke Publishing, 2002), one of several books she has written that advocate the technique.
When cleanliness became a virtue in the 19th century, Ms. Boucke wrote, infants were regularly held over a chamber pot until they learned the habit of using it. The American Academy of Pediatrics, in its current "Toilet Training" pamphlet, says children have no control over bladder or bowel movements when they are younger than a year and little control for six months afterward.
"Even if you're getting them to go in a pot as a young infant, I don't know if it will have any long-term impact for all the effort you have to go through," said Dr. Mark Wolraich, author of the academy's "Guide to Toilet Training" (Bantam Books, 2003). "The risk is, if it's not working and the parents are frustrated, they're creating more negative interactions with their child."
But parents of diaper-free babies said working with a child's signals is a rewarding and worthwhile experience.
A mother in Medford, Mass., Sarabeth Matilsky, said elimination communication helped strengthen her bond with her son, Ben, who began using a potty when he was about 10 weeks old and who was colicky as an infant.
"When I started doing this, I got to start seeing him as a little person with abilities," she said, noting that her son had become much happier after she learned to read his cues, and that he no longer cried before every diaper change.
At two recent meetings of support groups, mothers and one father shared signals their babies gave: kicking, nose-rubbing, getting loud, getting quiet, hiccupping, feeling warm to the touch, shivering.
Ms. Boucke, the author, noted that many fathers really enjoy infant potty training. "They can't breast-feed, but they can work on the other end," she said. "Some dads get really good results."
She knows it can be challenging, she said. "I tell people, you cannot be a perfectionist with this," Ms. Boucke said. "No one is going to be there all the time. They won't have a life."
Here's your daily dose of trashy gossipy fun...finally online!
Enjoy...Kate Moss caught doing coke.
I am having a somewhat rough day, as you can probably tell from my previous posts.
My Loving Husband just took Julian and Bugs out for a walk to give me a break, so I sat down to send some emails about contract work. Then I got distracted, started reading this and it totally cracked my shit up. All bow down to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Creator of the Universe!
Many thanks to dooce for turning me on to the FSM!
subscribe to my RSS feed