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Bucking Baby! 17 Ways to Get Your Baby to Stop Resisting the In-arms Potty Position

Bucking baby

Why would a baby who you're trying to potty in-arms (with the elimination communication hold, under their thighs, their back leaned up against your torso) all of a sudden stiffen and straighten their legs so that you basically can't hold them in potty position anymore...and refuse to go to the bathroom?

5 Reasons Babies Resist Being Held for Elimination Communication

Just so you know, this can happen as early as two or three months old.
And the first of 5 reasons I have for you today is just that...

1. Baby Is Working on a Developmental Task

..that maybe there's a developmental task that your baby is working on and you don't even know it.

For example, at two or three months old, you've got a baby whose body is naturally and instinctively trying to roll.

So when you have them in that position (held under the thighs, their back is leaning up against your torso, you've got them very secure and you're holding them over a top hat potty, or the sink or the toilet), they start to straighten their legs and actually what they're doing is starting to turn their bodies.

So they're trying to turn and do that rolling position that they are basically pre-programmed to do at that time. Typically, babies will start to roll at three or four months old.

So just a little heads up, that might be one reason - rolling.

When they're about to start crawling can also be a time when baby used to be pottied really easily, and then all of a sudden starts to “buck.”

(We call this “bucking,” when they stiffen, straighten their body. Stiff as a board, whether they whine about it or not, they just basically try to stand up in your arms.)

Maybe they're trying to learn how to stand. If they're pulling up on everything and they're trying to sort of “creep along the furniture,” that's also a reason why a baby will buck.

If they're starting to try to stand already, maybe it's time to start moving and transitioning from in-arms to a toilet/mini potty .

That's reason number one, developmental tasks...something's going on behind the scenes.

2. Baby Wants Privacy

The second reason that baby will buck while you're trying to potty them in-arms is because they want privacy.

Believe it or not.

Why would a four month old or a seven month old or a nine month old want privacy already, Andrea? They're just happy to be naked whenever and do whatever.

Well, we'll talk about privacy thoroughly on episode 133 so I hope you can wait that long. However, in my book, Go Diaper Free, there are at least eight instances where I talk about privacy and why you need to give it and how to do it.

If you can't wait till episode 133, which is going to be in a little over a month, then I highly recommend you just look at my book.

I will give you a little bit of a to-do, a little preview of what to do now.

Just think about it. A baby who is able to crawl, for example, would not need you to be involved in the potty process any longer.

They would go to the place where everybody else goes to get privacy to go to the bathroom in an indigenous, intact culture, kind of tribal situation, which is what we used to live in.

They would want privacy because that's really normal for a baby. How can they get privacy if you're holding them? They probably want to get out of your arms so they can go find some privacy, right?

That's the second reason.

3. Baby Has Better Things to Do

The third possible reason that your baby is bucking and straightening is that they have better things to do than to go to the bathroom right now.

We'll talk about what to do about that, but just think about it. There is so much going on with your crawling, newly mobile baby.

Even a baby who's just starting to become mobile: they have check boxes to mark. They have lists to go through of things that they are working on.

Frankly, if they just had a hut with a mud floor, they probably would just pee and move on and then eventually get shooed out of the house.

(All of this stuff I'm talking about is actually real. If you look at Laurie Boucke's book, Infant Potty Training, you will see a lot of examples of just this from around the world.)

They have better things to do. Why would they want you to interrupt what they're doing and what they're playing with to take them to the bathroom? It isn't wired into us that way...but there are solutions.

4. Baby Wants to Use the Big Toilet - Like You

The fourth reason is that they want to use the toilet that you use.

They could be watching you...they're always watching you.

Our babies study us from the moment they're born. This is how we pass on wisdom and information. We socialize our children this way.

They might want to use the toilet that you're using and they're probably wondering, "Why am I being held? I want to be big. You're big, and you use that big toilet. I want to use the big toilet."

We'll talk about what to do about that. But that's the fourth reason why your baby might be bucking.

This picture shows what I mean. Twyla is straightening her legs resisting to potty, she is bucking.

straightening legs resisting and bucking

5. It May Not Be Time to Go Potty (Misguess!)

The fifth reason is that it may not be time to go. You might have offered too early, or you might still be pottying them based on when they were four months old versus now that they're six months old.

We aren't matching up with their current natural timing.

You might have “misguessed.” If you have a misguess, there are some things you can do. And believe me, your baby is super-forgiving, more forgiving than you are of yourself. So it's not a big deal.

So those are the five reasons why a baby will buck. Developmental tasks going on, they want privacy, they have better things to do, they want to use a toilet you use, or it might not be time to go and you have misguessed.

17 Ways to Get Your Baby to Stop Resisting the In-arms Potty Position

Now let’s talk about how to get your baby to stop resisting the elimination communication in-arms hold...how to get baby to stop bucking.

1. Wait It Out

If it's a developmental task that we're dealing with, the number one thing you can do is to wait it out. I know this sounds like a little bit of a cop-out, but this too shall pass.

I've had five children over the course of eight years, and I will tell you that waiting it out usually works with almost everything. Everything changes so fast, it's like the blink of an eye.

Right now, it feels like an eternity to you, but just wait it out, keep doing what you're doing.

2. Potty on a Waterproof Pad

If you can't get baby to sit for you or to squat for you in the in-arms hold, just lay baby on a waterproof mat and offer while they're lying on the mat for a while, if needed.

If they are working hard on rolling over at two or three months old, then just have them go on a mat. I did that with Branson, my fourth baby, and it only lasted two weeks.

3. Try a top hat potty

The other thing you can do is try a top hat potty. Baby might want to feel like they're sitting on something; that might stimulate them to go. The top hat potty is something you can invest in over at tinyundies.com.

4. Run the water

Then the other thing we could do, if it's a developmental task like learning to crawl or stand, or the rolling thing: run some water, and the louder the better. I've even run the bath tub water before.

That will relax and distract your baby to where they'll go, because if you need to pee and you happen to be next to a waterfall, for example (I've been in that situation), it just makes you have to pee even more.

5. Distract

You can also distract your baby by talking to them in the mirror, holding them over the sink and making some faces, something like that.

6. Pass baby’s foot through lukewarm water

You can also just pass their foot through lukewarm water. So if you've got the water running and you're over the sink, just pass their foot through that water.

It's kind of like that college prank that guys in a fraternity would play on each other, where somebody would be passed out on the couch and they would put their hand in lukewarm water and they pee their pants. It's a thing. I don't know if you've heard about it. I don't think I'm the only one who knows about that one, but it's pretty silly.

Babies kind of have a similar...a little bit of a reflex. Just see what happens when you pass their foot through lukewarm water. Maybe it distracts them, maybe it stimulates them. I don't know, but it definitely works. And I'm saying lukewarm - not cold, not hot.

7. Give privacy

Secondly, privacy. If it's because your baby wants privacy, they're not going to be able to tell you. They're going to tell you by resisting, right? What you can do if your child is already sitting up on their own, you can set them on the big toilet with the toilet seat reducer and leave the room.

Oh, I just forgot something. Let me go get my brush, I'll be right back.

Or divert your attention elsewhere. Just turn your back, be within reaching distance, but not so close that your baby can dive into your arms and just, I've picked the grout out from the tiles or fiddled with the knob on the door, whatever it is, just divert your attention elsewhere.

Some might call this ignoring, I like to say diversion. Diverting your attention will help them feel that energetic privacy that's so important when we're going number one or number two. Often you'll walk out the room and you'll listen and they will pee immediately. It is literally magic.

Now, if you're worried about your child diving off the toilet, it is not my responsibility if that happens, it is up to you to make this safe. My company and I are not to be held liable. We have that on our website. However, that said, I have some tips if you feel worried about that, especially if you're a first time mom or dad: you can put towels or blankets around the toilet and be nearby just in case, but not so close that they whine to get off the toilet.

8. Use a mini potty

The other thing you could do is set them on a mini potty. We used to have ours next to the shower curtain with my first. He would pull the shower curtain in front of him and play peekaboo. Every time he'd be covered up, he would go to the bathroom. So, that could work.

9. Play peek-a-boo

You could give baby a towel or a blankie and just drop it on their head and say, "Where's Twyla? Where's Twyla? Peek-a-boo, there you are." And then while it's covered over her head, say, "Okay. Pee-pee while you're covered up." And maybe it'll happen.

10. Know your baby’s current natural timing + signals (do observation time)

One of the reasons we mentioned above was “better things to do.” Your baby just is moving and grooving. What I want you to do here is make sure you know your baby's current natural timing so you are not offering the potty prematurely.

Get to know their common signals during this observation time. Use Tiny Trainers if your baby's mobile. You can get those at tinyundies.com also. The aqua blue ones and the blackberry purple ones will show you instantly when they're wet.

You can get my observation log for free, download it, print it up:

We've also got an app in the works. Probably won't be ready by the time that you read this, but we're working on that.

Meanwhile, you can just type it into your phone - how often they go from waking and from feeding. That is detailed more in my book.

11. Carry baby around naked for a few minutes, then try again

So you’ll get to know their rhythm, their timing, and make sure that you're not offering prematurely or too often. However, if they still don't go when you offer and they buck, they straighten up, carry them around, still naked, for just about five minutes.

Do other things, pretend, you don't need to talk about it, whatever, just carry them around. Do some things. Come back and offer again. Try to run that water, put the foot in the water like I mentioned.

12. Be calm, yourself

This is the most important thing that you can do: be calm, yourself. If you are calm, you are going to be more matter-of-fact. When we're nervous, we tend to over talk, right?

When you're calm, your baby will be calm because they're always watching us. They're always trying to match. If you ever stub your toe and your baby sees you, they'll just start crying too, because they're so attached to you in those early months.

13. Be matter-of-fact

Be matter-of-fact, don't ask if they need to go, don't talk about it, don't say, "Oh. Is it okay if we just try right now?" Not if baby is bucking. We don't want to do that; just take them and do it. Just like those tribal mamas in Africa, China, India, Thailand would do it and still do it. They just do it.

14. Simplify the process (and what about leaving play?)

The other thing I recommend if they have “better things to do” is to simplify the process, make it really brief, less talking, maybe bring the toy with you, let's see if the tractor needs to go too, or just bring the toy with you and stick it in their hand and stick them on the potty. So they have that continuity, they're still playing with that toy, but they're now on the toilet.

If the potty toys are distracting from the task, which I will cover in a few weeks, I would just say, stop keeping a toy or a little library of books at the potty. Just don't do it anymore. Hey, we're going to go pee and then we're going to go back to play.

And if you need modeling for that, the Tiny Potty board book is a really good resource that shows a child who says, "Ooh, I think I’ve got to go to the bathroom. I'm going to holler for a little bit of help." And then they go to the bathroom and they go back to play. So it's really key that they know that this is just a small break.

15. Get a toilet seat reducer

The next reason that we mentioned is that they want to use the toilet that you use, and it makes sense. They're super smart. They know way more than we think they know. Grab a seat reducer. When they're sitting unassisted, you can start using the seat reducer. You can also hold them onto the seat reducer and they can't as easily buck when they're on the seat reducer. Some of them will like it, some of them won't.

You can try a mini potty with a cozy on it if they don't like it, but to be honest, they're probably going to be a little bit happier on the big toilet with a seat reducer. Put it on there, line the floor with blankets or towels like I mentioned. Be nearby in case, but not so close that they're going to whine to get off.

Remember we're in the period of separation anxiety. So if you're a couple of feet away, that's too far - baby might get anxious (but don’t expect it).

We can also have them sit on the little mini potty and I go to the bathroom while the baby goes to the bathroom or we can say, "Okay, my turn. I'm going to go first." And you go to the bathroom with them on your lap (which could get you soaked, because I've done that before and gotten soaked).

But sometimes if they're just really resistant and bucking, you can just say, "All right. Well, I'm going to go first." And then you go and they're on your lap. It's modeling, it's really clear. This is what we do. And then say, "Okay, your turn." And then put them on the big toilet next. And just make it this really cool thing that you get to share.

16. Get a mini urinal (for boys)

You can also get a urinal, a mini-potty-style urinal, to attach to your wall for your boy to pee into standing up next to the big toilet. That might be helpful, too, especially if they're bucking because they're working on standing or walking. They just want to be able to pee standing up. So let them. Have that urinal there. If it's a girl who wants to pee standing up, stick them in the tub for a little while or in the standup shower and let them go in there for a little while. This too shall pass - it will pass.

17. For misguessing, do some observation time, too

This goes back to what to do if they've got “better things to do” - same if you've misguessed. Same exact advice as #10 above: just get to know their natural timing.

Do some observation logging. Get to know about how often they're going now, because it changes really fast, you'd be so surprised. You'd think, "Oh yeah, for sure. They go every 25 minutes." But now all of a sudden it's 45 minutes. Then, you're going to wait to offer. If you're still at roughly the same amount of time, just wait about five minutes more, or do the walk-around, carrying them while they're still naked from the waist down, and then offer again.

So if it might not be the time to go and you've misguessed, then get to know your child's timing again just to be sure that you've got it.

And that’s it for “what to do” about a baby who is resisting the elimination communication in-arms position by bucking.

Let me know right now:

What do you do when your baby bucks and simply will not go? Do you have any tricks or tips for the rest of us?

Please share them in the comments below!

xx Andrea

PS - here’s the video version of this episode in case you prefer to YouTube it. ;)

Andrea Olson

About Andrea Olson

I'm Andrea and I spend most of my time with my husband and 5 children (newborn to 8 years old) and the rest of my time teaching other new parents how to do Elimination Communication with their 0-18 month babies. I love what I do and try to make a difference in one baby or parent's life every single day. (And I love, love, love, mango gelato.)

10 Comments

  1. Avatar Pirah on February 2, 2021 at 10:48 am

    When my baby bucks, i still hold her on the inside of mini potty, she does her job sometimes with straight legs and sometimes in the bending position

  2. Avatar Kristen on February 2, 2021 at 11:59 am

    I think my baby is bucking because he hasn’t gotten used to the idea of going outside his diaper. We just started a week ago. Is it a good idea to do more diaper free time or just keep offering pottytunities?

  3. Avatar Melinda on February 2, 2021 at 3:25 pm

    Hello there! When he resists, I try to change the position, or hold him not over the toilet, but over the sink or the bathtub. I also tried to sit with him on the toilet, which has worked for quite a while but not right now. I also leave the bathroom, walk around a bit with him still naked and try after a few minutes. Sometimes he will go, sometimes not. If nothing works, then I guess he just didn’t need to go and I move on to something else. :)

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on February 2, 2021 at 8:49 pm

      Great job Mama! 💕

  4. Avatar Sarah Brex on February 3, 2021 at 6:51 pm

    My baby is 8 weeks old. I use a top hat potty and hold my baby over it while standing at the changing table. When she bucks and cries, I’ve been finding it helpful to pick up the potty and bounce or sway from side to side and make a shushing sound while still holding her on the potty. She usually calms right down, stops bucking, and does her business a few minutes later :)

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on February 3, 2021 at 7:11 pm

      Perfect! Way to listen to your intuition. ❤️

  5. Avatar Alex on February 5, 2021 at 7:12 pm

    I sometimes just turn around 360 and go “oh! There it goes! And look down into the vessel…. then my son looks down like “really?” Then, he goes!

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on February 7, 2021 at 4:20 pm

      Love that! Thank you for sharing. 💕

  6. Avatar Alicia on February 21, 2021 at 3:17 pm

    Let’s say I wanted my baby to do the most primal thing and crawl/toddle off to a secluded bathroom area and go potty on their own. My baby was really up for this for awhile: we had a pickler triangle with a blanket over it and we called it the “potty palace”. I lined it with prefolds. Then they started pooping in there once and I was like ohhhh no… and now they had poop all over their bum and they stepped in it and I was like, “Yeah we are only doing over the sink/toilet in the EC hold from now on.” (They don’t like to sit on the tiny potty). Now I feel like they still don’t like me to take them poop, I just catch them when they start and then hold them over the toilet and they can’t hold back at that point. I don’t necessarily want to work really hard to get them using a seat reducer though because it isn’t a nice squat for biomechanical elimination.

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on February 22, 2021 at 3:52 am

      Consistency is key in this case. Keep taking them to the potty like you are doing, and keep putting them on the potty. Eventually they will get it and become comfortable with it. This may just take a little time.

      Depending on your little ones age, you may have to try to distract them while they are on the potty, but it seems like what you are doing now is working, so I would continue to stick with what works. ❤️

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