Welcome to the Go Diaper Free Podcast, where we're all about helping you stop depending on diapers as early as birth. I'm your host Andrea Olson, author and mom of five EC babies. This is episode 36, A camel.
So today we have a question from one of our listeners, Anne from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Before we dive into her question, I'm sharing another track from an independent artist in our community. In episode 33, I shared a song about elimination communication, please check that out if you haven't heard it already. It's so cute. And two more tracks I shared in 34 and 35.
Today I'd like to share another song from Aly's album, one that makes me tear up because it's about gentle birth. I'll play it in full at the end of today's episode. We will be doing this for a few weeks just at the end of each of these Q&A type podcasts. Music for everyone, yay, stay tuned for that track. Oh, and please see the show notes for this episode at godiaperfree.com/36, where you'll see a link to her album as well as links to everything I'm gonna mention in today's episode. A downloadable transcript is available there as well, for those of you who can't listen to the whole show due to adorable little interruptions.
All right, now for Anne's question.
“Hi. My name is Anne McShane. I've got a seven and half month old baby. I've been trying EC for about a month and a half. And we've been stymied because he is an infrequent pee-er. He mostly ... his preferred method is to just pee right as soon as we put him down for a nap, which screws up the nap and also makes EC pretty hard. I can hold him over the potty and he might eventually pee, but then he'll pee just a little bit, I'll put him in a diaper, put him down for his nap, and then he will pee some more. He also, I think, pees right when he wakes up before I have a chance to even get him out of bed. So it's been a challenge. He also never caught a poop. Does not poop outside of his bed. So it's been a struggle, and we keep at it, some days more than other days, but I'm hoping there will be a developmental change that will make this easier, but any input you have is very welcome. Thank you. Bye bye.“
All right, Anne, thanks so much for your question. Okay, so you're at seven-and-a-half months now. You started at six months, and this child is a camel. This is what we call a child or baby who holds their pee for a really, really long time. For all of you wondering, "Does it hurt them to hold it so long?" No, babies and toddlers will release if they feel pain. That is a visceral sensation of pain, not an injury pain.
But you know as an adult, you'd feel the same way too, right? When you have to go to the bathroom, you feel a little bit of pain. Maybe it feels tight or uncomfortable, or you feel pressure. That pain actually encourages you to go to the bathroom. If we feel pain, we let it out. Babies and toddlers are the same. Being a camel just means that you just don't pee as often as other people do.
So he holds it a lot, I get that. We just understand that this is his particular natural timing. Now if you haven't done observation yet, Anne, I want you to go ahead and do that. Everybody else listening with the same issue where you just can't quite get the timing right of when you're offering the potty, you wanna know, "How often does my child pee or poop?" You gotta do an observation period as well. I will link to my observation log in the show notes as well.
What I want you to do is when you do sit him down, since you're catching partial pees in the potty, I want you to give him a little bit of privacy to get him to fully release his pee on the potty. To do this, with a seven-and-a-half month old who is not walking yet, who is probably just crawling and sitting, you want to set him on the mini-potty or the seat reducer, and then turn your back and pretend like you're doing something else in the bathroom like wash your hands, pick at the wall. I don't care what it is. You could brush your hair, whatever you want to do to just ignore, pretend like you're ignoring him so that he will release his pee onto the potty. Even at this young an age, human beings need privacy to go and to fully relax. What you're saying is he's peeing when he's diapered in his nap, which is when he relaxes. So we want to help him to feel relaxed in a non-nap situation. Got it? Okay.
The other thing you could do while he's going is run water, like pretty fast water, so that he hears that rushing and maybe it encourages him to release as well. Everybody, I mean, a lot of people I know, adults included, need to pee when they hear running water. Also, there is something called a Lid Buddy by our friends over at Lid Buddies. It is a sticker that has beautiful, watercolor paintings on it, that goes on the back of the toilet seat. You could always turn the toilet seat reducer around, and he could look at this, and look at the pictures as he relaxes and releases to pee.
Now we don't wanna use diversions and distractions and potty toys for very long, if they become distracting, then we want to stop using them. But if it helps the child to sit and to pee and to relax long enough, we wanna use them. Another thing you could do is get something that's really squishy, that's not too messy, like maybe one of those squishy gel-filled toys. As long as they don't bite it, but something that's baby safe that he can grab and squeeze and hold while he's on the toilet, which would help him to relax as well, and to release his bladder. The other thing I want to mention is to try a seat that is comfortable. He seems to prefer comfort, so we can use a potty cozy over the mini potty, or we can use a toilet seat reducer that is comfortable and padded and cushioned. I will list a couple of options for those in the show notes.
I think, so I already mentioned the observation log. I want to talk to you about before you can get him out of bed, that he's already peeing before you get to him. What you're talking about is the wake-up pee. That's one of our easy catches. That's easy catch number one, in fact. If the wake-up pee is not working for you guys, I want you to set an alarm to about 15 minutes before when your child typically wakes up, or when you typically go to get your child. That is usually when they're gonna start shifting.
I want you to go in there at that time. Notice, stand there quietly. See if they're wriggling or even turning or tossing their head at all, and that means that they're already starting to wake up. The ADH, antidiuretic hormone, is already wearing off. Their bladder is filling, and they're going to need to go to the bathroom. So if you're missing the wake-up pee, get up a little bit, or get them out a little bit earlier. The other thing you could do is use a video or audio monitor, and get him at the very first shift like I just described.
I want you to calm him on the way to the potty, just like you would any baby who's waking up. You're gonna cuddle and nurture, and then potty him at that time. So see if that helps with the wake-up pee. You also mentioned that you've never caught a poop because you just started EC, and he does that in the bed too. That's because he's relaxed, and he is in there, and he's gonna poop when he's relaxed. The stuff I talked about in the beginning about peeing and privacy, and the comfortable seat and all that, that still applies with poops as well.
Now when you find him in bed having just pooped, I want you to offer the potty anyway, and say, "Poop goes in the potty." You can even dump the poop from his diaper into the potty just to show him where it goes. Experiment with a different sleeping backup. I have an entire blog post that's all about backups, which is the clothing, or diaper, or underwear, or whatever that you're using on your child instead of a full-time toilet, a diaper is now a backup when you're doing EC.
When sleeping, and I'll link to that blog post in the show notes as well, when sleeping, we want to experiment with what is going to have our child signal the best and the strongest to go to the bathroom instead of wetting or pooping himself during sleep. So take a look at that post and see. There are various options, but basically you're gonna check out, which kind of disposable diaper am I using? Should I put a cut-up cloth insert into it? Should I use a cloth diaper? Should I, with an older child, 14, 16, 18 months, should I stop using diapers? Should I do commando? There are lots of options, so check out that post for that. Experiment with a different backup to see if we can't get him more sensitive to peeing or pooping himself in the bed.
And, lastly, I want you to try to catch that poop before he goes to bed if he's pooping right after he gets to bed. Get him all relaxed first. Maybe do a warm bath, then set him on the potty and give privacy as I mentioned earlier. Then he's off to the bed or nap. If you're able to catch one poop when you're starting EC, you guys, you will establish a routine and he or your child will follow suit.
The other thing I want you to be aware of is, do you know his pooping patterns? Do you know how often he poops? Is it once a day? If a child is exclusively breastfed, EBF, they could poop every seven days and that would be considered normal. How often does your particular child at this moment in his life poop? If you do see him go poop during a waking time, or on the monitor when you're seeing him wake up. Gently say, "Wait," and have him finish in the potty. We want to do that with repetition and with confidence, and with a really calm demeanor. "Wait," and then have him finish.
It's almost like if they've just sneezed, and their snot is coming down into their mouth, and you go, "Oh, wait." And you're gonna grab that snot out of there with a tissue. That's the kind of demeanor. Like, yes, there's some urgency, but also we're relaxed and calm, and we're just gonna clean it up, so as to not startle the child.
You also mentioned, Anne, that you struggle some days more than others. When starting EC, it is a complete paradigm shift. There could be differences, and you could get frustrated. This is totally normal. If you're starting at birth, it's a lot less likely for there to be so much struggle, but since you started at six months, you've already gotten into a routine of having a diapered child. This is a diapering culture. Don't feel bad about that. You only know what you know when you know it, right? You only start when you start, and there's no room for regret. It's fine.
But it is normal to feel frustrating. Some days are more of a struggle than others when you're starting EC with a mobile baby. What I want you to do is stay consistent. Go for the four easy catches, which you'll see in the show notes as well. Get every morning pee. Even if nothing goes in the toilet, offer every morning pee. Offer every poop that you see during the daytime. When his timing changes, which it will, probably next week, and you see him pooping, try to get every poop in the potty. Offer every diaper change. If you're missing it, and he's peeing a little bit in the potty, and then wetting the diaper later, offer again at every diaper change.
This is the new routine, whether he goes or not is not the point. This is a routine, and we're going to demonstrate that this is how Mommy's gonna be consistent, and every time I'm gonna offer it to you. And then every time before the nap, give him some privacy. Allow him to fully release his bladder and his bowels, and hopefully that'll help.
Anne, you've also mentioned that you're hoping for a developmental change that will make this better. The thing is, yes, Anne, once he's walking, things will change. Every baby changes so fast you guys, this is a tiny blip in the big picture. When you look back, you'll be like, "Oh my gosh, I know I had a rough start to EC, but, hey, it's actually ... it was a tiny part of our journey."
Once he is walking, you're welcome to do the hybrid plan that comes with my book, Go Diaper Free. Begin wrapping it up once he's walking, aiming on ditching the daytime diapers soon as you're consistent with poops. As soon as you've got all the poops nailed, then you wanna ditch daytime diapers. If all else fails, try the four easy catches every day, and just do what you can. Keep it up. Keep it simple. Keep him familiar with the routine and the potty, even if it feels unfruitful to you. When he tackles walking, he'll be primed for the handoff of that baton toward his full independence. Hopefully that makes sense.
One more thing, I mentioned this in our last episode, number 35. We wanna set up a few predictable routines in your part-time EC practice. Okay, so first, every time you do take him, don't ask him if he needs to go, just take him, and point to the bathroom each time while you're in route, or say, "Potty time," each time. The same thing every time. Very little talking when taking him. If he does go, say, "Pee pee," or, "Poo poo," while he's going to build an association with going. Kind of like feeding new foods. "This is an avocado. This is a banana. Are you hungry? Are you all done?"
We are just expanding our communication to include potty time here. Same as everything else, use the same words to go to bathroom, the same while he goes, and he'll quickly develop a vocabulary around it, and you can begin working together. Again, this is whether he is productive or not. For those listening who have a pre-mobile baby, just use “pssss” for pee, or "mmm...mmm" grunting for poo, or use the words during the time they go. You'll either use sounds or words. They will associate the sound with going. This is called sound association, also more info in my book if you're interested.
So, Anne, I know this can be difficult. I know you may feel like giving up, and maybe a lot of people listening feel like they're in the same boat as you. What we're doing here is not trying a technique with the baby. You've decided to begin EC, and you really want it to work out. I'm in full support of that. So just shift a few things, the diaper is a backup for when you guys miss each other. No harm, no foul. At this age it's all learning for both of you, and you're not gonna screw it up.
Also, shift this. Like I just said, you are zooming out to include potty time as a new part of your overall baby care routine. Just think about how you teach him about anything, and apply it to EC. I know you're not getting a lot of opportunity for practice, but you do have tons of opportunity to keep potty time consistent and positive so that you won't be popping potty training on him out of nowhere in the future.
All EC is is communication and connection. Even if you're not catching much, there's still learning, and there's an attempt to help him meet his needs, and he'll know this and appreciate it. He is definitely used to the diaper by now, but it's not insurmountable, and it's definitely not too late to turn it around. It's actually totally fine to start at this age. Any age from zero to 18 months, you can start EC.
If you give up on EC, then potty training later is another option, but I would not wait to start potty training any later than 17 or 18 months. If you decide that EC's not for you, Anne, or anyone else listening, that's fine. We're not gonna judge you. But go ahead and potty train early at around 17 or 18 months. My other book, The Tiny Potty Training Book, covers this in detail.
There is no shame in doing potty training if EC doesn't work out for you guys. Just wrap it up when he's walking, talking some, or he doesn't even have to be talking. If you can tell when your child is hungry or tired, you can tell when they need to go to the bathroom. You can totally take steps towards independence. You can wait until he's more capable of the wrap up in a rapid fashion. You can do that as another alternative by waiting until 18 months to potty train.
I hope all that makes sense. It's a lot, so just listen a few times. In the meanwhile, try all this for a few months, and if doesn't work, then just keep up your communication, and maybe just offer the morning pee every day. Just the potty, no expectations, until it's time to potty train at 17 or 18 months. So that's like our default worst case scenario, and it's not a bad case. It's actually awesome. All right, sound good? You guys are actually doing great. You're very aware of each other. This is good, and we're just gonna turn things around a little bit. Really big congrats for giving this a go.
Also, for all of you listening out there, Anne is doing what we call part-time EC, which I talked about in episode five. She is using easy catch number one, the wake up pee, which I covered in episode 28. She also began EC by downloading my free easy start guide, which you are welcome to also grab a copy of for free at godiaperfree.com/start. This is a wonderful way to begin EC just by choosing to dip your little toe in gradually with something that feels doable to you. Once you hit your stride, you'll be hooked.
Thanks again for your question, Anne. We hope to hear how it's progressed since you sent in your question. And just for sending it in, I'd like to give to you a free copy of my EC book, Anne, Go Diaper Free. We'll be sending you an email. I just feel like it'll help you guys so much, so I hope you enjoy it. Again, you can check out the show notes at godiaperfree.com/36 for the transcript of this episode and any links I've mentioned. If you'd like to submit your question for me to possibly answer on the show, you can do so at godiaperfree.com/askAndrea.
As I promised in the beginning of today's show, here's another track by Aly Halpert & Friends on their new album, Nipple Confusion, which you can find and purchase your own copy at over on the website godiaperfree.com/nipple. That will link over to their website. This particular track is about easing in. It makes me cry. It's about being born and giving birth, and as a lot of you know, I've given birth unassisted a couple times, at home a couple times.
I really, really get emotional with this song, and I hope you love it. I hope you enjoy it. And cheers to Aly and her friends for making these albums. Please subscribe to this podcast to be notified of future episodes, and leave a review. Your review will help more parents find EC believe it or not. Now for the music. Enjoy, and I'll see you next week on the Go Diaper Free Podcast at godiaperfree.com. I'm Andrea Olson, and I'll see you then.
Hi this is Anne again! Just an update: it turns out our child was not getting enough milk, so he was constipated and not peeing enough. It took us a while to figure this out because he was exclusively breastfed and then started getting solids. Infrequent pooping is normal in both those circumstances. But then his percentiles started dropping, so that was a good clue. Anyway, we started supplementing and he started peeing and pooping when not asleep. Just another possibility.
Ps Thanks for taking my question!! The tips are really helpful!
I’m so glad you figured out what was causing his constipation! I hope he gets back on track with his growth soon, that is worrying I’m sure. xx Andrea
thank you for all this wonderful information
My pleasure! xx Andrea
This episode has been a huge help!! We started EC with our little girl when she was 5 months old, and at first things were amazing. Then, suddenly, she wouldn’t go anymore. She would squirm when we held her in the EC hold over the sink, and if we put her on the tiny potty, she’d just sit there for as long as we let her. We knew she had to go, per her natural timing, and as soon as her diaper was back on…she’d pee! It was so frustrating that I reverted to only waking pees and almost gave up ECing, but my good conscious and care for her hygiene kept me hooked. After listening to this podcast episode, I tried all the calming tricks mentioned, and now we’re back in EC bliss!! She relaxes, is happy, and almost always pees, as long as it’s her time. She is 8 months old now, and EC is back on track. Thanks a bunch!!
That’s wonderful! I’m so glad the calming tricks helped. xx Andrea
Thanks so much for this post. It was super helpful for my little guy who is also a bit of a camel. I’ll be trying some of the calming tips out on my 10 month old who stopped wanting to use the potty (just probably not turning my back because he’s just started walking). Giving him something squishy to hold sounds like a great idea though. Hoping we can get him interested again.
Hi Amanda! I’m sure you are right, learning to walk threw off potty use. It should improve soon. If it doesn’t, check out my Potty Pause Resolution class. It will help you work through it. xx Andrea
I started PT my son at the end of 21 months and I am realizing he is a camel. If he starts to move/make noose over an hour before he usually wakes up, do I try morning pee then?
Hi Samantha! If he is wet when you would usually get to him, then yes. I would go in once you hear him start to wake. If he stays dry, just offer like you usually would. xx Andrea
Hello! I’ve been on the EC journey with my son since he was around 2 months old and is now 15 months. Daytime pottying is chugging along with some ups and downs, but naptime has been throwing me for a loop. At around 13 months he started peeing A LOT during his nap and, after listening to this episode, I tried catching him when he starts shifting to take him pee with varied success for around a month. This was also happening when he was transitioning to one nap, so naptime was anyone’s guess and the length as well. I got so burnt out with only one naptime to have some mama respite, plus constantly checking him every few minutes during that one nap. (We don’t use a monitor) I’ve been taking a break for a couple weeks now and he gets up soaking wet (my most absorbent cloth diaper is not up to the job). Is this naptime pee something he’ll grow out of? Or do I need to be more vigilant again? Thank you so much!
Hi! First of all you are doing great! 15 months is such a great age! There are lots of developmental milestones still happening, teeth coming in and all of those things can have an effect on EC. Most children will grow of it as they complete their milestones, however continuing to offer the potty upon waking, even though he is wet, can help establish the connection to try to stay dry during the nap, until you can get him to the potty.