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Infants are aware of elimination from birth--just observe their movements, facial expressions, and
vocalizations when pooing--and often cry or give other signals to be changed. But we don't watch and listen.
What if we were to do so? Parents who respond positively and proactively to spontaneous infant elimination
cues typically find that their babies will experiment, practice and learn in this regard, just as they do with
other milestones such as crawling and walking.
You start by briefly whispering a watery sound such as "sssss" in your baby's ear at potty time to help the
child learn to associate this sound with releasing the sphincter muscles. If it's (nearly) time to go, infants can
release on cue. Over time, different types of cues can be used. And rest assured, there are many different
types of elimination communication you can use if starting with an older baby or toddler.
Studies of association show that infants are able to quickly learn and that positive experiences reinforce
behaviors learned in the first weeks and months of life. Opponents say that any "catching" of elimination
from babies 0-12 months is merely a matter of conditioning, but much of what we learn in life starts this way.
This is not the type of potty training we are familiar with and thus is often misunderstood. Some people don't even consider it to be potty training since
it differs in so many ways. But whatever you decide to call it, medical professionals classify it as a form of toilet training.
Cross-cultural studies show that there is no name for infant pottying in most societies. Instead, parents report that it is simply the way things are done.
Perhaps it is easier to describe this practice in terms of what is not a part of it, so here are Laurie Boucke's Potty Whispering No-Nos: no punishment,
no pressure, no coercion, no shaming, no competition, no showing off, no obsessing, no perfectionism, no rushing toilet learning, no attachment to
time goals, and no negativity.
Infant pottying can be done on a part-time basis, with or without the use of diapers, and started at any time before approximately two years. It doesn't
need to be overly time-consuming or to unduly take away from other activities. Changing diapers and cleaning dirty baby bottoms take time too, so
why not get some elimination in a potty instead? The key to time management is to maintain a realistic balance in all that you do.
As is the case with all child-rearing practices, there are critics, yet not one of them is truly knowledgeable about elimination communication. Many
Western parents are told that any attempt at working with infants under 12 months is a waste of time and might even be harmful. Fortunately, doctors
agree that toilet learning is no more traumatic than any other part of a child's upbringing and that it is only a problem if parents use negative tactics
with their children. With infant pottying, the emphasis is on being relaxed, nonpunitive and communicative while keeping baby safe and comfortable.
We love potty whispering and want others to know that it's a viable option. Once they have the facts (rather than misinformation), they can then
decide if they want to give it a try. It's a personal decision. Surely we can be open to more than one way to raise our children.