One of our readers has a very, very common issue with elimination communication: My baby hates sitting on the potty but always pees outside easily. What should I do?
Today we’ll answer her question!
Q: So, while at home, I’ve been “peeing my son” (now almost 11 mos) in the bathtub since he was about 2 mos. old. Here’s my question: for a while now he’s sometimes fine with this, but sometimes really fights it. I know he needs to pee, but he won’t go, and squirms to get away. I’ll try distracting him with the mirror, with tickling him, with a toy, … anything. Sometimes it works, but not often. I’ll try holding him by the toilet, or the sink, and that’s usually a no go as well. If we stay inside, he’ll eventually go on the floor (if he has no diaper on)- sometimes while standing, sometimes while sitting.
HOWEVER, if I take him outside, it’s much better for him and he’ll more reliably let go and pee (and/or poop). What’s going on!?
We live in OH, so soon it will be too cold to be heading outside every time he refuses the tub. (He hasn’t liked sitting on a little potty, or the Bjorn attachment for a full size potty…which is another question… how to get help with transitioning him to that?)
But my main burning question is what we can do to help him pee inside, especially as it gets colder! (Let alone that the neighbors are probably extra weirded out by this….) ~Daria, USA
A: Hey Daria! Thanks for asking this. It’s almost as if we’ve time traveled and I’m the one writing about my first son, Kaiva.
I can tell you from experience that I fully empathize. And I can tell you what I and others have done to get through it.
What’s going on?
To answer your first question…what in the heck is going on? Why is your son totally fine pooping and peeing outside versus inside?
One word: instincts.
Not to compare us with dogs (but I will because it’s a GREAT example!), but you know how crate training works, right? Dogs’ instincts tell them not to soil their home, their den, their bedspace.
Our babies are born with a similar instinct to not soil their home, their den, their bedspace.
So, when a baby is born, his immediate environment (the 12″ or so that he can see, in shadows and light at first) IS his home/den/bedspace.
As he wakes up to this world, and begins to crawl, creep, and walk, his home expands to include everything indoors.
So, naturally, he’ll feel more comfortable going potty outside. (Not to mention – how relaxing is nature?! It’s wonderfully relaxing.)
Some babies (especially boys, in my experience) just really really really really strongly prefer going to the bathroom outside. My first son used to crawl to the door and bang on it with his hand to be let onto the porch where he could squat at the shoe rack and do his business. Mind you, we didn’t let him make this a habit. But it’s a great example of instincts in action.
In fact, babies in intact, indigenous cultures like I explained here are finished with potty training when they can crawl and/or walk outside to the potty space, farther and farther away from the house. This technique is practical and keeps the house clean.
Our brain wiring, instinct-wise, is the same as it has been for 1,000′s of years. We come in with the same set of basic hunter/gatherer instincts that our ancient ancestors did. Of course, we have a lot more info, and brain space, and potential, given our current culture and environment, but if you read the scientific literature on instincts, we’re pretty much the same (at the core).
Thus, makes sense that pottying outside is the path of least resistance with pottying a baby. Right?
Unfortunately, you will need to keep this from becoming a habit, as we pee in bathrooms in our culture. Folks who do “natural potty training” by letting their kids be naked outdoors don’t really end up teaching anything.
But you can do a little differently with a plan.
How do you get him to begin peeing indoors more cooperatively?
You might benefit from going ahead and pottying him outdoors for a few weeks (for no more than 6 weeks, around 4-6 weeks total) and THEN slowly integrating the indoor pottying, with an actual potty, back into the picture.
Meet him where he’s at right now.
Rebuild your confidence together by doing what works for now.
Know that this trend will not last forever.
Potty him outdoors til you guys get reconnected on all this…
You are in charge of when it transitions, and when it ends altogether.
And you’ll have to dress him for success – by putting him in chaps with a cloth diaper and cover over them; by dressing him in long socks/legwarmers under the pants; by dressing him in split-crotch pants with a cover worn over it (or sumo-style cloth diaper) when in the house; or by dressing him in Tiny Trainers and a t-shirt.
Some folks even keep a potty outside and hold their babies OVER that potty, eventually getting him transitioned into sitting on it every time he goes outside.
This last point is actually quite a great idea…but for some strong-willed babies like yours (and like mine was!), this piece might not actually work.
But, start slowly and then about 3 weeks into it, start to turn the boat around, gradually.
At the end of the 4-6 weeks, firmly state and change your actions to: “We are all done pottying outside. It is just too cold and big boys pee in the potty. You will be peeing in the potty now.”
You can even have him start to go in the BIG toilet “where daddy goes” if that would make a difference. Use a toilet seat reducer over the big toilet and set him on it, give several feet of space and turn your back to give privacy. See podcast episode #133 on how to give privacy in this way!
Hold steady on your course. Do it with an aligned front across Mom and Dad and caregivers. Be gentle, matter-of-fact, and don’t over-talk. At the end of this transition, it’ll be high time to set a firm boundary (aka “teach” or “discipline”).
You can do it!
And maybe don’t let him go outdoors for quite a while, unless it’s a situation where you have no other choice.
Further reading that will help you transition back to indoors
Furthermore, our community and the Certified Coaches I’ve hand-trained can help you personally on our private support Forum if you’re a book owner.
Furthermore, I can help you personally on my private support Forum if you’re a book owner.
Thanks so much for a wonderful and timely question, Daria!
I hope I’ve at least begun to help you figure out how to get him comfy pottying back in the bathroom! :)
Do any of you have other ideas on pottying outdoors vs. indoors? Experiences or stories? Please post them in the comments below.
Thanks! xx Andrea
PS - here’s the video version of this episode in case you prefer to YouTube it. ;)