Sunday, March 14, 2010

Adventures in Potty Training

My unconventional potty training methods have earned a few quizzical looks, some "you must be crazy" eye rolls, and an occasional gasp. But I'm glad I did it the way I did. I know potty training is a hot topic for moms so I want to put this out there for anyone interested. For this post I'll write a summary of what I did and then point out the advantages and disadvantages of this method. Warning: If potty training is gross to you or body functions make you squirm, don't read on. Second Warning: This is a long post.

I introduced Ella to the potty when she was only 7 months old. At the time she was sitting up very well and showing a lot of interest in her surroundings. I did some reading on some methods of infant potty training but what I saw was a bit extreme. I didn't want my baby crawling around diaper-less in a fully carpeted rental apartment, nor did I want to arrange life around my baby's potty schedule. However, I did see an advantage to making the potty a regular part of daily life early on. So I scaled back the method and worked on "infant potty awareness" with my daughter. When she was 7 months old, I found a cheap little potty ($0.99 at Ikea) for Ella and started sitting her on it.

Week 1 (7 mos old)
The first day I sat her on the potty when her diaper had been dry for a while. We played and read books and sang songs. After about 15 minutes she went and I acted really excited, clapped my hands and cheered and covered her in kisses. I also made a "pshhhhh" sound so she would associate the sound with going potty. I showed her what she put in the potty and how we cleaned it up then I put her diaper back on and we went about our business. We did this about 3 times the first day and 4 times the second day. By the third day when I sat Ella on the potty and made the "pshhhhh" sound she voluntarily went within the first minute. She still went in her diaper between potty breaks, but she definitely understood the concept of going in the potty and got really excited with huge grins when she went. During that week she also pooped on the potty a few times and figured out the difference between the two functions.

Week 2 (7 mos old)
By the second week, I had made sitting on the potty part of our routine. We went when she woke up in the morning, after meals, before and after naps, and before bedtime. Nothing was rigid and we missed a few times, but the point was to simply give her opportunities to go. I tried to give her 4-7 opportunities each day to go to the potty. I never expected her to keep her diaper dry or to always go every time I decided to sit her on the potty. The point was to just let her be comfortable using the potty.

After 1 month (8 mos old)
By the end of 1 month, Ella stopped pooping in her diaper. She decided it was uncomfortable to sit in her own poop and much better to go on the potty. If she needed to poop, she would either hold it until a regular potty time or make a noise to tell me she needed to poop. Since she was 8 months old, she has soiled a diaper less than 15 times. That alone made the potty awareness worth it to me--No wiping up a poop covered bum for us.

After 2-3 months (9-10 mos old)
Ella started peeing less in her diaper and more in the potty. This translated into big savings on diapers for us. By the time she was 10 months old we were down to using 2-3 diapers a day (including one at night!).

Holding Pattern (10 mos-18 mos old)
We continued in this pattern for several months. I eventually found a potty seat that goes on a regular toilet and Ella started using that. This eliminated potty clean up and helped Ella identify more with how grown-ups go potty. I decided to wait until Ella was walking and able to communicate to us that she needed the potty before I transitioned from diapers to panties.

At 18 months old
Just before Ella turned 18 months old the time felt right. She was mobile enough to come get my attention and she had just learned to say potty ("otty"). Santa also brought Ella some brand new panties for Christmas and I was tired of seeing her wear them like hats. So one morning I put panties on Ella and sat with her in the kitchen for 3 hours and we played with a doll who drinks and wets. We talked about wet panties and dry panties and sat the baby doll on the potty. We clapped for baby when she peed in the potty and told he we were sad when she made her panties wet. We repeated this over and over and over. All the time I gave Ella snacks that made her thirsty and made sure she had plenty to drink. I also let her have her first accident on the tile floor (that's why we were in the kitchen) so we could talk about how her panties got wet and how uncomfortable it was. (This one-day method comes from a book called "Toilet Training in Less than Day" by Nathan H. Azrin and Richard M. Foxx.) After 3 hours we took a break but kept the panties on. She had a couple more accidents that day but only 2 accidents the next day and only 1 the day after that.

Present day
Ella hasn't worn a diaper since the day we played with the drink and wet baby doll. She tells us "otty" when she needs to go and unless she gets too distracted with playing, she rarely has an accident. She's used to the routine and has even started to use toilet paper to clean herself. I still pay attention to how much she has had to drink and how long it has been since she went to the bathroom and try to remind her if it has been a while.

I didn't want to put pull-ups on Ella because they are so similar to diapers. But when we go out in public I don't want her making messes. So I compromised and decided to put a pull-up over her own panties. We call them her "girl panties" because there is a picture of a girl on them. This way if she has an accident while we're out, all I have to do is change her panties and pull-up. I take the pull-up off when we're at home and there hasn't been any problem or confusion so far.

Public Toilets
Public Toilets were a big concern for me because Ella is just physically too little to use a public toilet. But I didn't want to plan my life around potty breaks at home, so we hunted around and found a fold-up travel potty seat that goes with us on errands and outings. It sits right on top of the regular toilet and Ella loves the pictures of Elmo and Cookie Monster that are on it. She has used several public toilets without any problem. I keep the travel potty seat in a ziploc bag inside of a zipper pouch designed for holding soiled clothing/diapers. I also keep a spare pair of panties and a pull-up in there just in case. So far I've never had to use them. (Just FYI, I clean the seat and change the ziploc bag regularly.)

Night Time and Sleeping
Ella stopped having accidents in bed after 4 nights of wearing panties. Though I wanted to claw my eyes out and shoot myself when she woke up wet at 2 am and I had to clean up the mess, bathe her, and change the bedding, I held out and refused to go the route of pull-ups. By the 4th night she had held it all night long and barely went just as she was waking up. On the morning after the fifth night, she held it until I got her out of bed and took her to the potty. She keeps her bed dry now and will wake us up if she really has to go (this has happened less than 5 times since she fully trained). For dry bed insurance, I stop giving her liquids 45 minutes before bedtime so she'll be less likely to have a full bladder during the first half of the night. Ella did have one week of relapse just a couple of weeks ago when she wet her bed every night for 5 nights in a row. I think she stared sleeping more deeply and lost control, or she might have had a mild bladder infection that affected her potty routine. In any case, she stopped as abruptly as she started and again keeps her bed dry all night.

Was it Worth it? Yes.
Here are the advantages to this method:
Huge $$$ Savings: Fewer diapers and wipes from 8 mos old to 18 mos old; NO diapers and wipes after 18 months old!
No fighting: The potty was never a choice for Ella--it was just part of the routine
No manipulation: The potty isn't a power struggle (as it might be for a 3 year old)
Quality time: Potty time is one on one time with mommy or daddy-she loves it
Confidence: Ella is very proud of herself and knows we're proud of her
Less stinky: No poopy bum since she was 8 months old

Here are the disadvantages to this method:
Time: It can be time consuming and so may not be as doable for a baby with older siblings or a working mom
Convenience: Diapers are simply more convenient--they get changed on mom's schedule
Patience: This method requires a lot of patience--rushing Ella or getting mad if she didn't go when I put her on the potty could have spelled big trouble
Spouse Cooperation: If you have a spouse, you have to have have their full support and cooperation (my husband was supportive and helpful but I might have lost it if he hadn't been so great)

This method is a fusion of two known methods of potty training. Though doctors and specialists have been known to support both infant potty training and Potty Training in Less than a Day, I have not seen any references that from doctors or specialists that either recommend or discourage using them together. This method may not work with every child. I paid close attention to my daughter and how she reacted to and learned about her body and the potty. It was a good method for her and I'll use it again with future children only if they are similarly receptive and eager.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Short-Lived Career in Upholstery

Sometime in December I picked up this sad little bench for less than a song (read: free) and decided to do my best to bring it back to life. The previous owner had thrown some scrap fabric over the seat where some ferocious cat had ripped it apart. It was nasty and I had no clue where to start. But with my typical impulsive zeal and overconfidence I decided to dive in head first.
I did check out some upholstery books from the library and skimmed enough to know that I didn't want to try this alone. So I asked my sister in law, Jenn, if she would be willing to help me. She has some limited experience in reupholstery, which is more than I had, and she said yes. So in January we got to work.
I took pictures as we picked the bench apart so we would have a reference when we put it all back together with new support slats, foam and fabric. The reference pictures were a HUGE help. From start to finish we probably spent 10-12 hours total on the bench (spread over 3 days) and we learned a little something along the way. I couldn't have done it without Jenn--she was fantastic! And I'm really pleased with the result.
It's far from perfect and certainly not a professional job, but it'll work for my needs. I intend to use it as a prop for photography. It'll also serve as a little stool to help Ella get up onto our bed--after I scotch guard it. As time goes by I find I'm forgetting how much work it maybe I'll try to rescue this little number, too:
Wish me luck!