Let’s put this into perspective. The concept of the disposable diaper has only been widely in use for approximately .0003% of the entire existence of homo sapiens on the planet. In other words, only the past 50 odd years or so. Nearly 2/3 of the population of the modern world either don’t have access to or don’t have the money to spend on diapers. I’m not sure of the exact number, but most of the babies in the world do not wear diapers. Especially those babies in places like Africa, India and Asia.
These days, people in first world countries, probably like the one that you live in, read lengthy guidelines on toilet training. They google tips on toilet training ‘readiness‘, and buy entire books dedicated to dealing with clever strategies on how to toilet train a stubborn toddler. And, it’s not like us first worlders are making this stuff up… Parents NEED strategies to toilet train their children because it can be hard work. You can’t just all of a sudden tell a child who has been using a diaper for 2 years that all of a sudden they need to do their business elsewhere. I mean, *some* kids will catch on straight away, but others will not. For some, the toilet training process is long, drawn out and painful for all those involved.
So, what is our problem? How come toilet training is such a big deal? Everything else a baby does comes naturally. Sitting, Walking, Talking… What’s so unique about toilet training? Why do our kids need so much extra attention in the toilet training department? Is it really true that kids have no control over their bladder and bowels until the age of two (this is what most medical professionals will say). Why are our kids so ‘special‘?
What the Cave Woman Would Tell You
Cave-people, indigenous tribes, people living in impoverished regions of the world and your great grandmother would SCRATCH THEIR HEADS if you told them that the average child uses $50 of diapers per month. Long before the invention of diapers, woman around the world have found ways to deal with baby poo and pee. Babies were mostly taken behind the bush, tree or rock, to do their business. Not only were their babies potty trained from birth, but the parents were also in tune with their babies and knew what signs to look for and when to take them. Mothers back then also had aunties and grandmas who knew what they were doing and all your friends were doing it too. It was no biggie.
Short History of Toilet Training
Probably your grandmother used cloth diapers (my mom did, go mom!). Before cloth diapers, indigenous women used animal skins, leaves, and other materials found in nature. Get this: In 1914, the recommended age to start potty training, according to a popular book called, ‘Infant Care‘ published by the US Department of Labor Children’s Bureau, was… THREE MONTHS OLD. The recommended age for potty training in the 1960’s (no coincidence, when disposable diapers became popular) was pushed back to about 11 months old. And, these days, it’s normal and even recommended, for potty training to slowly occur between 24-36 months. And, you can’t call modern parents lazy, we’re anything but that. These days, many woman have to go back to work and we are busy! Also, we have less support from extended family around to help with things like potty training. Poor people of the world take their babies to the toilet from birth, because that’s their only option. Some indigenous women say that using diapers is really gross and they prefer to keep their baby’s bottom clean. Most kids who live in places where diapers are not readily available, are toilet trained around the time they can walk.
Open Door Bathroom Policy, Do Kids Even Know What Goes On?
Love having those private moments on the loo? Well, they are nice, I admit, but they don’t happen too often! Do we let our kids see what we’re doing? Private toilets back in the day and now, in third world countries, are a rare commodity. Kids would have to see what’s going on all the time! Babies learn by watching everything you do… eating, talking, sharing, playing… and using the toilet! So, let ’em have a peak! It may seem slightly odd at first but it is going to help you in the long run. Although I do have a funny story to tell. Friends of mine had just done up their bathroom and installed some amazing bathroom cladding. Needless to say what happened when their not quite perfectly potty trained toddler got in there!
Garbage the Medical Community Tells You
I have a real bone to pick with the medical community on the topic of toilet training. I’ll never forget when I took my older daughter to the pediatrician for her six week checkup and we told him that we were doing elimination communication (EC or taking your baby to the toilet). Instead of saying, “Wow, what’s that all about?” or “Hey, that’s pretty neat.” Do you know what he said?!?! He said, “HAH, Good luck with THAT! That’s ridiculous!’ Another doctor that we went to soon after said, “But, isn’t it sort of nice to be a baby and be lazy and just get to relieve yourself wherever you want?” (gross!!!) Then, you have some people from the medical profession saying that your child will be emotionally scarred if they are toilet trained too early. Or, they may develop dangerous holding tendencies because of anxiety, etc. (I agree, this can happen, but not if the parent is acting with awareness).
Could you imagine if you told a poor person living in a third world country that they better not toilet train their child until he or she is ‘ready‘ or they may end up needing to see a psychiatrist?! The only option for most people in the world is to just take their baby in a designated area to relieve themselves. For people in these countries, responding to their baby’s elimination needs is simply a matter of hygiene.
This Blog Post is Crazy and Does it Really Matter When a Baby is Toilet Trained?
Ok, “so what“, you say, what does it matter if a baby is taken to the toilet from birth or if they’re potty trained at 4 years old… so long as they’re happy… right? And, maybe you’re getting annoyed by reading this because you had a hard time toilet training your child. But, I’m not saying we’re making toilet training issues up! Going to the toilet is a big impression in our consciousness. The way we were trained to do it, most definitely stays with us for a long time! How many people do you know that will go to the toilet fifteen hundred times before they get in the car for a road trip? Or, twenty times before they go to bed (I’m raising my hand here).
It’s interesting, but if we observe, many babies show interest in using the toilet, right around 15-18 months. This is when many parents are told the stupid recommendation to wait! “Oh, don’t bother with it now, they’re too little.” But, there’s no guarantee that if you skip that window of opportunity that you’ll be able to play catch up with toilet training a toddler. And, what if you have another child and are then are caring for a newborn AND trying to toilet train a toddler? Oh, and what about the potential thousands of dollars you might spend on disposable diapers in the meantime? Anyway, there are many reasons to raise toilet awareness at a younger age than the recommended, two years old.
So, What Can We Do?
Of course, we live in a different world than the third world. We have furniture, clothing, car seats, and beds to protect. I’m not saying we should never use diapers. BUT, how much dependence do parents put on diapers and WHO put the idea into our heads that our children are not capable of being toilet trained at an early age? Let’s take back the power in toilet training! If your baby starts talking about the toilet, TAKE THEM.. SHOW THEM… TEACH THEM ALL ABOUT IT! Because the ‘training‘ part isn’t really for the babies. The ‘training‘ is actually for us, the parents. Listen to your baby. Watch your baby. See how a child’s confidence improves when we listen to ALL of their needs… including their toileting needs. Tell the medical community and the diaper companies making millions off of hard working parents like YOU, that they can go stuff themselves and that you’ve found another way to help your child help themselves. Toilet training does not have to be a milestone or ‘event‘… it can just happen naturally.