Friday, June 06, 2008

The Joy of Catching a Pee

Those who arrive at this site for travel adventures might find this a bit off topic. But in addition to my local and international explorations, I’m currently on the journey of parenthood.

Before River was born, we decided we were going to try what is referred to in the U.S. as “elimination communication,” or helping a child to go to the bathroom without diapers from an early age.

Why did we want to do this, given the risk that we would be eliminated upon ourselves? For me it was my international travels. I saw that in the majority of the 50-odd countries I’d visited, people used diapers rarely to never. By the time babies were a year or so old, they were pretty well able to lean over a bowl with split pants and do their thing. I also didn’t want to contribute 39 months worth of plastics into the landfill (the current average age for potty-training boys in the U.S. is 39 months!), nor wash 39 months worth of cloth diapers. I also wanted him to feel the pride of being able to control his own body and to avoid the embarrassment of late bedwetting.

For my husband, the enticement was a reduction in the number of months he would have to scrape dirty diapers.

On one of my last flights before River was born, I was upgraded to first class, where I sat next to an Indian woman who had lived in the U.S. for a long time. She was sophisticated and educated and told me that of course, they start potty-training by six months of age.

“As long as you do it before he’s mobile, it will be fine,” she said.

I thought we’d start long before that, but we didn’t. We didn’t know how liquid the poops would be, how sudden and explosive. We didn’t realize that he could smile and laugh, poop, and smile and laugh, with no clues in between as to what was happening. So we continued to put it off.

In the meantime, we found a great cloth diaper that works just as well and as easily as the disposables, but can be washed in the home washing machine.

A few weeks ago, at just over five months old, we realized he was getting close to becoming mobile. He was also venturing further into solid foods, so his poops were getting closer to what one would expect to see. We decided to give it a go.

I bought a simpler cloth diaper to use at home in the daytime, so that we’d know immediately when he went. We tried to give him a few hours a day of playing naked on top of towels or sheets. We watched for a pee and when we saw it, we’d say “pssss,” hoping he’d eventually learn to associate that sound with going to the bathroom. We have a different sound for pooping.

It didn’t take long at all before we could see the signs of a coming poop and I was very excited to catch my first one in a bowl we have on hand for that purpose.

Catching the pees is much harder though and to be honest, I didn’t expect much success there. There is no forewarning. The best we can do is try to guess when he might need to go and then hold him over the bowl and give the signal.

This morning I fed him. When he was done, I held him over the bowl and said psss. Nothing. He ate a bit more and I did it again. Right on signal, upon hearing psss, he peed into the bowl. A few hours later, he did the same thing for the babysitter.

How exciting is that? Not because peeing in itself it something glorious. But because he’s still a few days shy of six months old yet he’s shown us that his mind processes associations. He’s shown us that we can communicate, far before he becomes verbal, and that we can help him to meet his own needs and to spend less time sitting in his own doo-doo.


Lainey Wright said...

that picture is hilarious! -he looks so excited to be peeing in a bowl:)

jj said...

He is happy. The bowl has been retired though. What's in the picture is the Baby Bjorn little potty. While we had to hold him over the bowl, he can sit by himself on this thing.

Lisa said...

that is sooo cool! I wish I would've done that with my little one. Maybe next time. :)