This is a re-post of an article originally published by Andrea Olson on January 2, 2016
Q: What do you do if your infant does not want to use the potty at all? My baby went through a period of fussing and fighting it when I tried to potty her. I did not want to force her, but I knew she had to go--shortly after we stopped trying she would go pee on the floor. (At the time I was focusing more on timing. I pottied her just after she woke up, before putting her to sleep, and once in between.) ~Jodie D., Currently stationed overseas in Rota, Spain (Hometown: Santa Clarita, CA)
A: Hey Jodie! Great question. I had several similar questions come up while surveying my readers for their top questions...illustrating its place as #1. I want to include them here as well:
- I just started ECing this week with my 6 month old daughter. I was surprised and delighted that she peed on the very first try! That gave me hope and so I continued. We have had major success first thing in the morning, after naps, and at least once during the night. Other times, though, she resists even when I know she needs to pee or poo and as soon as I set her down she goes on the floor. Any ideas why she would be willing to EC some times but not others?
~Alauna F., Standish, Maine
- Is there anything we can do when a child rejects to pee in a potty but runs away and pees on a floor in like 15 minutes?
Is it something he is experimenting with his "limits of power" or just physiological necessity to pee not now but in 15 minutes?
- My seven month old son is currently going through a time where he doesn't want to use his potty. We take him, he doesn't pee, and then he pees two minutes later. This has happened in the past, but he's got over it. Now it seems to be happening again. My question is: why might a baby go through times of a potty strike if you could call it that?
~Natalie, Alberta, Canada
The summary version of this and your question, Jodie, is indeed the way you stated it, plus the "why" behind it:
What do you do if your infant does not want to use the potty at all (and then pees on the floor minutes later)? And why might this happen?
Here's my "nutshell" answer of what to do, then I'll cover the why and the what to do in more depth:
My Nutshell Answer for "What to Do"
First of all, look at your life from an outsider's point of view and see if there's been a major shift somewhere in there that your baby's responding to. It could even be that he's teething or on the verge of walking. Make the stress, or the pain, less by doing what your heart says to do.
Next, look at your level of potty centeredness. Are you obsessed? Are pee and poo the major topic of your day-t0-day? Do you get annoyed when things aren't all perfect catches? Do you keep track of catches?
It's always good to back off a few steps and try to connect with your baby instead of focusing on EC. Don't worry, it won't all go to hell. Diffusing your EC focus and lowering the # of times you offer a pottytunity ALWAYS results positively!
And then see if there might be something you can teach your tot to help her have more control over the process. She just might be longing for a piece of the puzzle that you can give her!
Oh, and lastly...you might need to lay down the law (gently, but firmly) that "we sit on the potty when we need to pee." If, indeed, you are certain that your baby needs to go but is obviously resisting it...you may gently hold her on there in a hug and set the record straight. More details below...but for now just know that you have permission to lovingly discipline your child around pottying (and, well, everything...they actually want us to set boundaries for them!).
Now to the nitty gritty detailed answers..."Why?"
First I'll address the why. Why do babies sometimes resist the potty, and sometimes pee on the floor moments later?
Let us define what's happening here: If potty resistance has been happening for several days in a row, your baby may be experiencing a Potty Pause. In conventional potty training terminology, this is called a Potty Strike.
See the above "Potty Pause" link to a blog post of mine that speaks to alternative views on potty pauses. And here's an excerpt from my book that covers the possible reasons:
Possible Reasons for Potty Pauses
Some reasons for potty pauses may be that baby is about to hit a developmental milestone (crawling, walking, talking, etc.), she is teething, she is sick, she is undergoing a growth spurt, she has a food intolerance or allergy, or she is distracted by her budding awareness of the world.
Some also believe that baby is testing her own limits, and that “potty pauses” are just part of the learning process. They are not necessarily a failure in EC, per se, but a sign that your baby is [healthily] becoming aware of her ability to hold it, let it go where she wishes, and decide whether or not to go at all...independence, ability, and decision-making in action! (See Article [here] for the whole theory.)
Some babies pause their pottying patterns because of their caregiverʼs energy around pottying...whether the parent is hovering or hyperfocusing on pottying, feels stressed or pressured around pottying, is anxiety or frustrated, babies pick up on it and can choose to respond by pausing. Check in with your own stress level and (hovering?) energy around pottying...you might have to dig deep to find out what youʼre emitting.
In my opinion the reason above is the top cause for potty pauses: pottycenteredness in the parent.
Other babies pause because of a big lifestyle shift in the family: travel, divorce, moving, job loss, parental discord, parent(s) working overtime, etc.
Lastly, a possibility that I often ponder is that Western babies will all of a sudden resist the usual potty routine because they are not raised in tribal communities...
Okay. So that tells you why your baby may be resisting all of sudden, after a lengthy period of success with Elimination Communication.
Again, I definitely recommend reading the article I mentioned above - about an alternative take on potty pauses.
It addresses the "peeing right after" phenomenon nicely!
And the next part of the nitty gritty: "What to do?"
Now let's look at what to do if your baby is resisting and then peeing on the floor moments later.
Again, read the alternative take on potty pauses article (which has a unique perspective of "what to do" in it).
Furthermore, I'll address the question of "what to do" in three parts: (1) How to get through a resistant phase (or Potty Pause), (2) What to do if your child just won't sit on the potty, and (3) What to do about the "peeing a few minutes later" thing.
(1) How to get through a resistant phase (or Potty Pause)
Here's another excerpt from my book. Yep, this came up so much that it warranted a special section in there. We also address it often on the private Forum. Here's a quote:
How to Get Through a Potty Pause
Although it may not be pleasant to be in the middle of a Potty Pause (in conventional potty training, itʼs called a Potty Strike)...know that youʼre not alone.
Here are some suggestions that experienced ECers report have helped them get through potty pauses:
1. Focus on being a happy & peaceful parent for the moment. Reconnect with your baby, removing your focus on EC for now. Take a nap with your baby, read books together, put her in the baby carrier and wear her around the neighborhood, sing to her. Connect!
2. Back off. You might be focusing entirely too much on pottying. See #1. Offer less pottytunities. Your baby is more than just a peeing & pooing machine.
3. Teach a new skill. Your baby may lack one of the pieces she needs to feel ownership over this process. [There's a whole new section on these building blocks in my revised book.]
4. Wait it out. Remember that “this too shall pass.” Usually after a few days of whatever (your babyʼs experimentation or developmental milestone) babies go back into signaling and willingly potty full-force...sometimes even better than before.
5. Continue to prompt your baby to go. Donʼt just stop ECing all of a sudden, even as youʼre backing off. Try to address or support the developmental milestone or teething or chaos in the home...and as you “zoom out” from your potty focus, continue to offer when appropriate and at the most obvious times (like after a nap). Pottying follows mood, so support your baby through the change, when needed, & itʼll pass.
6. Gently experiment with different locations, environments, receptacles, positions, and/or cue noises. Get creative. Sometimes itʼs just a simple fix...your babyʼs pottying preferences may be whatʼs shifting. Change it up and see what happens.
7. Seek support. Come to the Book Owners Only Support Group and tell us whatʼs going on. So many parents donʼt ask for help. Whatever you need, seek it out.
8. Be easy on yourself. The pressure you put on yourself or your baby during these times will just make it worse. Be gentle, inside and out.
9. Donʼt take it personally. It isnʼt your fault. You didnʼt do anything wrong. Somethingʼs simply out of balance. Never blame yourself...your baby is communicating something by pausing. Try to distance yourself from the problem and observe it from afar, nonemotionally, perhaps with the help of a friend or your partner.
10. When you find yourself totally frustrated, notice Iʼm frustrated!, take a deep breath, and regain your center. Remember the long-term goals you have around your connection with your baby. This is a tiny sliver of time as compared to a lifetime with her!
11. Avoid coercion, punishment, anger directed at your baby, and general upset. They donʼt help. Take care of yourself so you donʼt find yourself going to these extremes. When you do feel negative emotions (we all do sometimes!), breath deeply and take a moment to regain your center.
12. Laugh often. Itʼs just a potty pause. Be happy that your baby even potties at all! Most of all: stop counting your miss:catch rate. Got you didnʼt I? Instead: grateful smile. :o)
Okay...the second of three:
(2) What to do if your child just won't sit on the potty
I've got a good excerpt from my book that covers this one, too. It might surprise you, but here goes:
My Baby Will Not Sit on the Potty Any More / Long Enough to Go
If you canʼt get him to sit on the pot and pee, then catch that pee in something. My potty trainer friend likes to use a Red Solo Cup. Try it and see if he or she can pee in it instead. Works for some!
For poos, and even sometimes with pees, you may need to snuggle your baby while gently holding her on there.
When you get the signal or see the pee/poo dance, sit your baby down on the potty and say "poo goes in the potty." If he tries to fuss out of it or stand up, hold him there in a snuggly warm hug, saying "This is how poo goes where it belongs. Thank you for sitting." Stroke his back, get close, sing to him.
Itʼs kinda like gently holding your flailing, screaming, rebelling child on the car seat as you strap her in while sheʼs struggling like hell to get out. It is for her safety, and you are not hurting her. You are taking charge in a way that is caring, healthy, and necessary.
Sometimes with pee and poo, it becomes the case of dire need. It is time. You need to sit for your hygiene, and your mental health.
Sometimes at night, when he was a young toddler, I had to hug my baby boy (who was not-so-cuddly) to get him to stay and finish his business (pees).
For poop, the instinct IS stronger to sit and squat, so *trust* that your child, once firmly encouraged, will get it and continue with consistency. If you need to show him how to squat, do so.
Just get the message across gently, firmly, and consistently, knowing in your heart that itʼs best for him to pee and poo in the potty, not on the floor or in his pants.
He will follow your lead.
I especially love this concept. It feels right in a way, doesn't it? Taking charge and all.
In fact, I recently read a story from a woman who met this challenge in a similar way. Here's a quote from that anonymous person who overcame potty resistance with loving discipline:
So I ask him to please sit, telling him the potty is for sitting and placing my hand against his pelvis to encourage him. After a minute of not-really-unhappy resistance on his part, he'll usually sit and pee. And if he does have to pee, he'll sit just in time, almost every time (so far), and seem relieved and not stressed anymore. If he continues to resist, I take him off, though, and figure that I misread his signals. Occasionally he will pee after he's off the potty, but not often.
And the third of the three "what to do"'s:
(3) What to do about the "peeing a few minutes later" thing
First off, you can try to get your baby to stay on the potty a few moments later...by utilizing the sitting wisdom in (2) above.
You can also change your timing that is based on your baby's natural rhythms after eating and sleeping...offer the pottytunity 5-10 minutes
Next, when you arrive in the bathroom, close the door behind you. This can prevent a trail of pee after the resistance happens...and baby decides to galavant off and pees on the floor a tad bit later. You see, better to get the "after pee" IN the bathroom than on your carpet. :)
Also, limit naked time. I have a whole new section in my book about this topic. "Diaper-free" does NOT mean "naked all the time." If you meet resistance, back off and put a diaper back-up back on, if she does pee moments later then at least it'll be contained. When she's ready to pee in it a second time (if you didn't notice)...she'll most definitely tell you! And eventually the first pee in the diaper goes away too.
And The Re-set...a last resort for those who need one
I teach a tool called the "Re-set" in my book and on my Forum.
Basically, you're instituting a formal 2 week break from all ECing activities.
The main point is to give you, the parent, a break. To reduce the stress in the house. That sorta thing.
It also gives baby a chance to really tell you when he feels like he needs to go potty. All the pressure's off. No one to know about his needs but himself. Full control.
9 times out of 10, he'll start asking strongly during the re-set for you to take him. Of course, you would take him during the re-set ONLY if he strongly signals, but otherwise there is just one communication per morning:
"You are going to wear your diaper all day today. We're taking a break from the potty. IF you need to go, tell Mama/Papa and I'll take you."
And leave it at that. Follow through. But drop the rest ONLY for 2 weeks.
That's the dummed-down version of the Re-set. For a better handle on it, see the book and special thread on the Forum for the totally simple steps.
Alright! So, Jodie, I hope that I answered your question. It's a doozy to be in the middle of, but usually simpler-than-expected to get out of!
Everyone...please leave your experiences with Potty Pauses, peeing right after, and other shenanigans in the comments below!
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