EPISODE 065: Fear of the autoflush toilet
Welcome to the Go Diaper Free Podcast where we're all about helping you potty your baby as early as birth. I'm your host, Andrea Olson, author and mom of five ECed babies. This is episode 65, Fear of the autoflush toilet: how to help your child overcome her fear of being autoflushed away.
Okay, so you can find the show notes to this episode over at godiaperfree.com/65 including a full transcript, a place to interact with me through the comments, and a special video of a family pottytunity we did when my daughter, my oldest daughter, was three years old at the Biltmore House and was terrified of getting on the toilet because of the autoflusher and how I very firmly, yet kindly helped her overcome that fear that day. Of course, she has this eternal fear of the autoflush. This is why I'm doing this podcast right now.
I have something to share with you first. So some of you from my Instagram know that we started homeschooling Isadora for kindergarten and it went really, really well for one month. So it turns out she really wants to go to kindergarten and be with other kids there. She wasn't really jiving with the homeschool activities we had going on. She felt really shy. She really wanted to eat at the cafeteria and ride the bus, stuff like that. So since we're not doing extended travel right now and she happens to love school, I happened to be fine with whatever decision we make as a family. We have sent her back to kindergarten. Her first day there was two days ago at the time of this recording.
My work was honestly suffering. I was only getting in about an hour a week of work versus 20 before we did homeschool. I run three businesses, so it's a lot and I produce a lot of our income for our family as well. So that was a problem for our family, but really I had no downtime at all with like homeschool, then all the other kids, then meal prep, then cooking a fresh meal, then going to bed. There was literally no time to breathe.
But the more important thing is she really wants to be in kindergarten, she really wants to be in school, and we have this great small public school down the road. The reason I'm sharing this long story in an episode about the autoflush toilet is that in their kindergarten class, right next to it, they have a toilet, and I showed it to her when I dropped her off the first day. I did not notice that it had an autoflush sensor on it. Apparently she did. She decided to not go to the bathroom until 2PM that day. She was very excited to be there, but also very reluctant to go into that toilet. Apparently she asked to go in four different times and she would put a little piece of toilet paper on top of the autoflush sensor and it kept blowing off. My heart absolutely breaks thinking about her in that situation, not knowing what to do, and one of her biggest challenges is honestly being so shy sometimes that she won't ask for help. She was embarrassed. She ended up peeing herself through her underwear into her shoes all over the floor. She told me after school that none of the kids saw it, but that the teacher came in and she helped her and she cleaned it up and she wasn't mad at her, was her words. "She wasn't mad at me for doing it," and I was like, "Of course not."
But this child, she's six years old now and she has never ever ever had an accident since she was 15 months old. She was out of diapers at 13 months telling us every time at 15 months and literally has never had an accident since then. At night time, sure sometimes because she was a heavy sleeper so we did have her in a diaper backup at night until 26 months because if she were naked at night or had underwear on she would just pee everywhere. And I've definitely talked about that on my blog before. But first day of kindergarten, accidents are actually pretty common. Intense fear of autoflush toilets is also very common. With my family, she's the only one who has this fear and it is really, really bad. So after feeling incredibly guilty and saying, "Oh my gosh, I should have put her in kindergarten a month ago or I shouldn't have put her in kindergarten at all." And all of the mommy guilt, I went through all of those steps in stages.
I decided because she was fine with it and she was like, "I can't, I love kindergarten, can't wait to go back tomorrow." They sent her home in different shoes and in some biker shorts and stuff. I felt so bad. I called the school and the principal's assistant said she's been teaching in that kindergarten room before and they would give them Post-it Notes. I do teach that in my potty training book. It didn't occur to me to offer those. So I showed my daughter how to put them on and she now has those in her cubby right next to the toilet. And yesterday she went back and the teacher reported to me that she went several times. I told her, "Go morning snack, go at lunch, go at afternoon snack, because that's what you always do at home and ask the teacher, this is how you raise your hand. This is how you say come here and you whisper it in her ear if you feel shy." So we went over all of this really intense training to help her to get really mentally prepared to feel like she could overcome the autoflush the next day.
And that got me thinking I need to do a podcast on this one. So, you guys, the fear is real. I have some solutions right now. Let's go through them and at the end I'll tell you about the video of our family pee and what I did with her three years ago to help her to go that day. And it's a continual training, you guys. Some kids are terrified of the autoflush and I really wished that those and those loud hand dryers were never invented.
Okay. Solution number one, carry a Post-it Note, a stack of Post-it Notes. If you're watching the YouTube version of this, I have some right here. Carry those in your diaper-free bag and always use them from day one. If you ever have a situation where your child is on the toilet when that autoflush sensor goes off, because we're doing EC with such young babies, you could set them on the toilet seat reducer on the public toilet. That thing goes off because it doesn't see that the child's there because they're so small. That can kind of damage them for a really long time and I think that's what happened to Isadora, is it happened a long time ago and she thinks that every toilet is going to do it to her and she's afraid of being flushed away.
The other thing, if you don't have a Post-it Note handy, you can stick a sticker on it. That's another option. You could also drape some toilet paper over the sensor. A longer piece usually works better and that will keep the sensor, the eyeball, from seeing them. You can also use your child's pants if you're in a stall that doesn't have toilet paper, they've run out, put the child's pants over the sensor. That could work, basically cover up that thing so it can't see what's going on.
The second thing I want you to do, besides carrying something or having a plan to cover the sensor is to practice flushing at home and to reduce the fear around that. Get them used to the sound of the flush. Usually public toilet flushes are way louder than they are at home, but any child who's really comfortable with flushing at home and really enjoys that process, will be comfortable with a sound coming out of the toilet when that flushing happens. It also gives them control. I am the one flushing this and when they get off the auto sensor toilet at a public place, you can have them push the button so that it doesn't just automatically go off so they feel control or you can push it or you can just get out of the stall as fast as possible and pull the toilet paper off.
The other thing is I have a board book called the Tiny Potty board book that talks about the whole potty routine. If you don't have it, definitely grab a copy at godiaperfree.com or tinyundies.com. Part of the routine is flushing the toilet and by seeing this child in this book, flushing the toilet as part of the routine, your child can get used to integrating that as part of his or her process. We'll also want you, so besides covering the sensor and practicing at home, I want you to practice in public. You flush with your child in the stall, like close to the door. They can step outside of the stall while you flush it. Gradually, you want the child to be closer and closer and closer to the toilet as you flush it, until finally they are the ones flushing it.
I don't usually suggest rewards, but you could offer a small reward for them to do it. "If you go ahead and flush this, show me you’re a big girl, and we're going to go out and get that sucker for you." That is a bribe. I'm not all for bribes at all, but for something like that where it's like this huge accomplishment of getting over a fear and maybe sometimes it's just a behavioral thing, like they're just afraid of it, understandably. We can give, I reward one time for doing that. They can get them over the hump as a possibility if you're into it. If you're not, whatever, don't listen to me.
Then you can...okay, here's the thing. Toilet seat reducers really help a child feel more secure and stable on a public toilet. You've got the sensor covered up. You've explained that that eyeball cannot see you right now because I've covered it up. You're relaxing with them. You put something like the Potette Plus on the toilet seat and they can really feel stable on it. A lot of the fold-up toilet seats are actually really crappy. Potette Plus is what I recommend. There's a link in the show notes, godiaperfree.com/65. If you cannot get your child to sit on a public toilet and you just want to hold them over it, cover up the sensor, hold them in EC position, squatting over the toilet, that's fine too. As a last resort, bring your Mini Potty that you got from my tinyundies.com store - the really short Mini Potty - along with you in your diaper-free bag. It's very lightweight, very small and it has been known to fit into those bags. And you can use that inside the stall, dump it and then have the flushing be a part of this process as well. You want to encourage and engage your child and slowly but surely engaging in that process. By the time they're 18, I'm hoping they will be comfortable with the autoflush.
Again, there is a video of our family pee-pee with when I only had three children when Isadora was three years old and we were at the Biltmore Estate at a restaurant and she really did not want to go in. She starts freaking out pretty early on as you can see the tension. You can see how I firmly yet kindly help her overcome that fear, and we get her to pee in the potty and then all the other kids as well. So check out that video as well. It's over the show notes at godiaperfree.com/65.
Do I have a couple of tips from our listeners before we go? No, I only have one. Linda, in Tustin, is a treasure trove of tips. “I have a foldable seat reducer for use in public toilets and I also keep a small potty in the car in case we need it.” That's another alternative. If they don't like flushing, you can do the potty in the car. Although Linda's husband is “pretty vehemently against having him use the potty in the car and then dumping it in a planter - both for privacy and public sanitation concerns.” So she tries not to use it unless she has to. So she keeps a foldable seat reducer in her bag and then a small potty in the car. Being equipped is key for EC success. You guys know that by now, right?
Okay, so comment with tips you have over in the show notes on the blog with any questions you have for me there. I look forward to interacting with you there as well. And please leave a review on iTunes. Believe it or not, the more parents, the more iTunes charts will show my podcast on it, the more people who leave reviews, they like take it seriously more. And this will help more parents discover elimination communication by moving us up on the iTunes charts. We've got a lot of reviews there so far. Please pull over when you stop for gas, voice dictate your review into iTunes directly, and after the next pottytunity get your review up there. It will really literally help so many more thousands of parents find this podcast. We already have a big listenership, but we want more, more, and more.
Okay, so that's it for today. I'm Andrea Olson with the Go Diaper Free Podcast at godiaperfree.com and I'll see you next week.
I take some toilet paper and tie it around to cover the sensor when my daughters use the toilet. Then just remove it when they are done.
That totally works Sarah! xx Andrea
Wow! What a helpful discussion of this problem! I haven’t thought about it much, but I’m so glad to be more prepared for these auto flush situations with my daughter. Post it notes! So smart.
Hi Bethany! You don’t really think about it until it happens unfortunately. I’m glad I could spare you the experience! xx Andrea
Post it notes!!! Totally putting those in the baby bag right now– my 5 year old also has intense auto-flush fear. You’re right: why?? and why not consider little people??! Thanks for this post!
Hi Mary! I’m so glad this helped you and your son. I don’t blame him, those autoflush toilets are loud and it’s so unexpected for kids. xx Andrea
I kneel in front of my little and hold her whole she goes, since most of the time the seat is too big for her. As soon as she’s done I wipe quickly and pull her off and away so I’m between her and the toilet. This way it will flush once she’s off. I do this because I have a thing about airborne particles the toilet might spray. She always says it scared her when it flushes but she uses it on the context of startled.
Hi Valeria! It sounds like you have a great system figured out! xx Andrea
I have a 7 month old who’s been doing great with EC so far, both at home and in public restrooms. But about a month or two ago she started developing fear of flushing, then fear of the hand drier, then fear of the water tap starting and sometimes even the soap dispenser! She’s also fearful of being placed on the changing table but luckily I have a sturdy stroller that reclines to almost flat so I now always change her on that. I have been using the post it note trick, but she would also start crying when other people flush/wash/dry their hands…now she starts screaming as soon as she walks through the main restroom door, even before we get to a stall so I’m not quite sure what to do!! I have tried potty reducer and also using her home potty on the floor facing a wall instead of the toilet but she’s always in such hysteria already by the time I undress her that she can’t relax enough to pee anymore…I also usually have my toddler with me so we have to do at least one toilet visits on most outings … I’ve tried baby first, toddler first or mommy first, no difference, it’s tears beginning to end every time. One thing that calms her is if I have her in a carrier when we walk into the restroom but as soon as I take her out to pee she’ll start crying, and it’s not always easy to wear baby when I have to take my toddler up and down the toilet either! I’ve tried reducing toilet visits, just letting her pee into diaper sometimes during outings, but then she cries to be changed and cries more when I do change her… what can I do other than to stay home all day?! :(
Hi Rose! Oh, that sounds so difficult. I’m sorry she’s having such anxiety. If you feel it is sound related, you might try noise reducing headphones. Try to get a family bathroom when you can. Offer the potty in the car before going in somewhere and again before putting her in the car seat. If she continues to be upset, take a break for a few weeks from out and about potty trips for her (toddler of course needs them still). Then start back in with the headphones, car potty, etc. xx Andrea
The headphone is a good idea! Thanks Andrea! I think I will give her a break and only potty in the car and familiar restrooms where I know the flush won’t scare her, until she rebuilds some confidence.
Your article also reminds me to “desensitize” her fear by presenting similar situations at home, maybe I can start putting her on the big toilet more so she gradually gets used to being near flushing sounds too, and bringing her in there when toddler/I go at home.. (So far I potty her on a small potty on our laundry countertop 99% of the time because the height’s so much easier for my back!)
And I’m sure singing will help too. Thanks Viv! I can’t wait to try it next time I’m out! .
I think working on using the toilet at home is a great idea. You can sit on a stool in front of the toilet or sit way back with her in front to create a smaller seat for her and save your back. xx Andrea
We have a song that I start singing before we enter a public restroom and continue singing it the whole time we’re in there. My two year-old is still too scared to use the toilet but she will at least tolerate being in there so that I can use it. Everywhere we go, I’ve been carrying Andrea’s portable “chimmy”, as we call it, since my daughter was 17 months old when we ditched daytime diapers. While I’m eager for her to use public toilets (ummm, that sounds odd), I don’t want to pressure her and I trust that she’ll get there eventually.
Singing is a great idea Viv! Thank you for sharing. I totally get it, it is so much easier once they’ll use a public toilet. And you’re right, she will get there! xx Andrea
My daughter is 7 and still scared of auto flash and hand blow dry due to sensory issue. What I do is that I put my hand over the sensor to block till she wiped and stand far away from toilet, and I let my hand go. I am starting to journal which public restroom does not have auto flash. It’s hard to find it now days, though LOL.