Want to read more about Silence?
The Guardian’s Inner Life magazine featured an extract of The Art of Silence recently:
My latest book The Art of Silence (Piaktus) is now available to buy in all good bookshops. Available in hardback at £9.99 rrp.
Spend some time observing your baby naked.
See what she does just before weeing or pooing. Little babies don’t like to soil themselves or their carers, so they will normally show some sign of discomfort. Common signals are kicking legs, sudden fussiness, popping on and off the breast, heavy breathing, grunting. Older babies may have got used to going in their nappy, but they may still make signs such as particular expression or going still. If your baby is mobile, you may prefer to have her in training pants or a cloth nappy without a cover – so you can tell when she goes
When you see her weeing or pooing, make a cue sound, for example “psssssss” or grunting. Talk to her about her bodily functions.
Hold her out
If you think you can guess when she is about to go, try holding her over a potty, bowl or the toilet. Be careful to support her head and body. Encourage an older baby to sit on the potty or toilet seat herself.
If you are not sure about reading her signals at first, don’t worry. Try holding her over a potty anyway. Good times to try are right after a nap; before, during or after a feed, when you take her out of a sling or reclined position, eg. a car seat or bouncy chair. Or simply offer her an opportunity every time you change her. It only takes a few extra seconds and if she wees, it means her nappy will stay dry for longer – maybe even until the next time you change her.
Establish the connection
The point in doing this is that you need to establish the connection between the potty (or the way you hold him) and pooing and weeing. Little babies go a lot, so it is relatively easy to catch a few wees and establish a connection. It may take a little longer with a older baby. Some older babies have, in effect, been trained to go in their nappy, so it may take a little bit of time for them to ‘unlearn’ this.
Once the connection is established, it means that when you hold her over the potty and she has a full or nearly full bladder/bowel, she will understand that this is the moment to release. It doesn’t mean that she will ‘perform’ every time you make a ‘psss’ sound. The cue may help her relax, but ultimately, she will only go when she needs to. Babies often show a strong preference for the potty. The position is much more comfortable for them as it relaxes the pelvic floor. If you offer her opportunities regularly enough, you’ll probably find that she’ll ‘save’ most of her poos for these times. She will tend to signal more and more strongly. She may even cry out angrily, if she is waiting for you to take her to the potty!
The more she practises, the stronger her pelvic floor muscles will get. Also, if she comes to expect that you will offer her the potty when she needs it, she will start to hold on that little bit longer when she needs to go. It may only take a few days for her to be able to hold her bladder for a minute or two.
How long do I need to hold him for?
With a bit of experimentation, you’ll soon find out how long you need to hold him in position or sit him on the potty. Once baby is used to the technique, you’ll probably be able to tell if he wants to do a wee in, say, 10 seconds. At first, you might need to hold baby for a little longer, but only do it for as long as you are both comfortable. Poos often take longer to come out, sometimes up to 10 minutes, if baby is on solids. You’ll soon be able to recognise when baby wants to poo, and when he is finished going.
Always listen to your baby.
If he is back-arching or crying or squirming, then he probably doesn’t need to go. Respect that and wait until a bit later.
Sometimes babies act like they don’t want to go, even when they have a full bladder. This is especially true if they are going through a developmental stage like learning to crawl, sit, stand or walk. Often you can help them relax with a toy or a song or a beaker of water. Or try using a different place. Babies often prefer to go outside too. But if he is still protesting, then listen to your baby. He may be trying to figure it out for himself.
What do I need?
You don’t need any special equipment, but a few things make BLPT easier.
My advance copy of Mindfulness for Parents… published by Watkins and out on Thursday!
Available to buy from all good book shops (and also on Amazon…)
I’m very excited to announce that after a bidding war – the audiobook giant Audible has won the rights to record Mindfulness for Parents. It will be available for download soon – I will update as soon as it becomes available.
I’m interested to know – do you prefer reading or listening, and why?
(Picture drawn by my husband Alex Ogg in my last week of pregnancy)
Last July I ventured to Bangor University in the furthest corner of Wales to attend a workshop run by pioneering midwife Nancy Bardacke. Nancy is the author of Mindful Birthing and devised the 9 week Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting course (MBCP) which teaches parents-to-be how to use mindfulness as a resource in pregnancy and childbirth.
Virtually all of the 30 or so attendees were midwives, health professionals or meditation teachers – I was one of only two pregnant mothers there.
I was delighted to speak to Chitra Ramaswamy about the practicalities of Baby-led Potty training. Read all about it in the Guardian’s G2 Magazine:
I’ve just written a new guide for childcare providers. This concise fact-sheet gives a brief introduction to BLPT. It explains how childcarers can work with parents to provide consistency of care, and gives some ideas as to how they can offer the potty in the childcare setting.
Feel free to download it, print it off and give it to your childcare provider.
I’d love to hear what your nursery, childminder or nanny thinks about BLPT, and how they get on with pottying your baby. Let me know in the comments below.
Elimination Communication, EC, Natural Infant Hygiene, Infant Potty Training, Pottying, Diaper free, holding baby out…
All of these names and more have been used to describe the technique of actively toileting baby. In cultures where EC is the norm, for example in China and much of Africa, it is not common for this technique to have a name, in the same way that we do not have a single word or phrase in English that describes the technique of keeping a baby in nappies. We could almost say that linguistically, we are not even aware that keeping a baby in nappies is a technique.
The process described on these pages has been re-discovered in the US. As it is different from the conventional method, it needed a name to distinguish it. And we have agonised over what that should be ever since!
Infant potty training perhaps gives the biggest clue to the method it describes, however, practitioners are quick to point out that “potty training” suggests a goal oriented approach. It also has nuances of an adult led, potentially coercive, practice. In the UK, the term infant is also problematic, as it is rarely used in everyday speech. We prefer baby.
Elimination Communication, or EC appears to have stuck, though it is rare that anyone in the UK will have the slightest idea what it means, if they are new to the term. Coined by Ingrid Bauer, in her book Diaper Free, communication emphasises the two-way nature of the method. The problem for those of us in the UK, is that we do not habitually use the term elimination to describe bodily functions. In fact, it has sinister overtones! EC has become popular probably because of its brevity. All the other terms are a bit of a mouthful.
Diaper Free/ Nappy Free Baby This gives some clue to what the method entails to someone new to the term, but again it is somewhat misleading. Nappy Free implies that babies don’t wear a nappy, when in fact most ECed babies do wear a nappy as a back up, at least in the first year.
Natural Infant Hygiene. It’s a good description in some ways, once you know what it means, but it seems a little obscure to the casual observer. Hygiene could refer to a number of aspects of baby-care. Again, in the UK we have the same problem with infant.
Baby-Led Potty Training This term was coined by Amber in response to the above difficulties. She hopes that the clarification of baby-led addresses the problems associated with baby/infant potty training. It emphasises the gentle nature of the method, while still giving some clue as to what it refers. It is reminiscent of baby-led weaning, another gentle, intuitive baby-care method.
Does it matter? The problem with giving a technique a catchy name, particularly a slightly obscure one, is that it turns the technique into a separate thing, which parents either “do” or “don’t do”. Parents sometimes worry whether they are “doing EC properly”, or what the “rules” are. The method can become associated with a particular way of thinking, or set of people (e.g American). This can even put people off trying it out. There is no one “right” way to do baby led potty training. Every family will approach the method differently. It can be thought of simply as a baby-care tip.
This website mostly uses the term Baby-led potty training (BLPT), as it seems the least self-conscious of the terms, and most likely to convey its meaning. We also use EC and Elimination Communication, as these are the common words found on the forums and in the US. You will also find to potty as a verb, to describe the process of offering the potty, or holding baby out.