Ten FAQs about Baby-led Potty Training

Babies love being held outdoors

Does my baby have to be naked?

No! Not at all. Do what works best for you. Many parents may prefer to keep their baby in nappies, at least at first, to avoid stress and pressure. This may be particularly true whilst at other people’s homes, or if your own home is carpeted. You may find that you are happy to have baby naked for a few minutes after each wee, or perhaps once you feel confident of recognising their signals. Different kinds of coverings heighten or weaken both parents and babies’ awareness of their bodily functions. In order of increasing awareness, these are: disposable nappies; cloth nappies; (cloth) training pants; normal underwear; and naked. Sometimes parents will find that having baby in pants or naked provides them with the extra motivation they need to “tune in”. At other times, its more important to relax without worrying about misses. Cloth training pants, are a great option for an older baby as they are easy to pull up and down, retain the ‘wet’ feel, yet still (mostly) contain wee and poo. They have to be changed immediately to prevent wee leaking onto clothes.

I’ve read that early potty training is psychologically damaging. How does that fit in with BLPT?

Any practice that is coercive, or tries to push a baby before they are developmentally ready is potentially psychologically damaging. Whatever you do with your baby, you need to apply your normal, common sense rules of parenting. Parents should not put a theory above their own knowledge of their child. The method described here isn’t coercive, because the aim is not to push baby to do something against their will or before they are ready. In fact, BLPT does the opposite. Because it focusses on the communication, not the catch, it enhances the bond between parent and baby. Baby-led potty training is all about listening to, and respecting your baby, not a battle of wills and coercive training.

How often do babies poo and wee?

All babies are different. Anecdotal evidence suggests that babies practising BLPT tend to poo less often more quickly – e.g. once a day. They are also more likely to have larger less frequent wees at a younger age, as they are using their urinary tract muscles. However, all newborn babies wee a lot – perhaps twenty or more times a day. It is unrealistic to expect to catch them all! Babies and toddlers tend to wee more frequently in the morning, especially in the first hour or two after waking.

Is it more work?

Yes and no. It’s a different type of work to changing nappies. It does make you more aware of your baby, which could be considered more work. You are likely to have to “potty” your baby more often than you change her nappy – perhaps twice as often. But in terms of minutes per day, there isn’t much in it. Pottying is fast and easy compared to nappy changes. No scraping poo out of crevices! BLPT saves time in other ways, if you factor in time spent buying disposables/ dealing with pooey washables. And if your baby potty trains (or ‘graduates’) sooner than she would have done, it is potentially a saving of months or even years of nappy changes. It is not so convenient, but it is far more satisfying and pleasant.

Do I have to watch my baby all the time?

No. Firstly, you don’t have to practise BLPT all the time. At times when you are practising BLPT, you do need to be aware, or at least open to their signals. (In the same way that you need to be aware that they are hungry or tired.) Some babies signal more audibly than others; you will get a feel for how closely you have to be aware of baby. Babywearing is an easy way to keep alert, while getting on with other things. Babies often signal more clearly in the sling – crying and kicking, and tend to hold on for longer too.

Will I get covered in poo?

Possibly, but probably less often than if you use nappies conventionally! Parents who don’t do BLPT often report blow outs and leaks. BLPT babies are less likely to take you by surprise. It’s easy to aim a baby’s bottom away from you if you know they are about to poo and you are holding them in position. It’s is surprisingly clean and easy to do.

Can Dads and grandparents do it?

Of course! It can be a wonderful bonding experience for Dad, who can sometimes feel left out.

Can I do it part time?

Yes! You can do it part time or even just occasionally. It’s best to start small, and see how you get on. Perhaps offer the potty just at change times, or when bathing baby, or when you go to the loo yourself. Or you could devote a few hours a week to observing baby and responding to his signals. Any amount of BLPT you do will help baby to learn about the potty, and help keep him aware of his bodily functions, making the eventual transition to toilet independence smoother. Every catch, even if it’s once a week, will reduce laundry, save on disposables or reduce the chance of nappy rash and infections.

Parents sometimes wonder if it will be confusing for babies if they are offered the potty part time, or only with one particular caregiver. Babies are remarkably good at adapting to different circumstances. You may need to commit a certain amount of time at the start to establish the asociation, but once baby has that, you will be able to try out for yourself how often to offer the potty in your family.

What if I’m going back to work?

You can still do BLPT during maternity leave. If you go back to full time nappies afterwards, you have still gained a wonderful experience. Remember, it’s worth doing for the gains you get on a day to day basis, even your baby doesn’t “potty train” any sooner. It is also possible to find caregivers who will help you to practise BLPT with your baby, especially if you explain how it works. Caregivers may find it easier to offer the potty at set times, until they can read baby’s signals. Or alternatively you can just do BLPT on the days you look after baby. You can think of it like breastfeeding. Don’t let your return to work govern how you interact with your baby now.

My Doctor says babies don’t have bladder control before 18 months. How can BLPT work?

In the West, health professionals generally subscribe to what is known as Brazelton’s “readiness theory” for potty training. In 1962 paediatricic professor T. Berry Brazelton published a paper that recommended waiting until the child initiated toilet training themselves, usually after age 2. Brazelton (rightly) argued that previous methods to train children earlier were often coercive, ineffective and could lead to behavioural problems. His theory has been so widely accepted, that many health professionals don’t realise that babies can, in fact, safely begin non-coercive, or baby-led potty training much earlier.

Brazelton did cross-cultural analysis of potty training methods and, in later articles, has himself acknowledged that BLPT (or EC) is both physiologically possible, and also strengthens the parent/baby bond. (Read the article here.) However, he reasserts that it is easier for parents to wait until children initiate potty training themselves, as he believes that BLPT is impractical in our society. He’s entitled to his opinion. He cites the return to work of parents as the biggest obstacle. (Brazelton is from the US, where maternity leave lasts an average 6 weeks.) It is worth noting that Brazelton is a paid spokesperson for Pampers.

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