Today we’ve got another question from, not one, but TWO of our Go Diaper Free readers from the US and Thailand. It’s all about
what do I do if my baby poops or pees in her pants because she’s started crawling?
This is another super-common problem that warrants a deeper answer...let’s do it!
Q: 1) I used to have completely 100% dry days with my baby before she became mobile. Once she started crawling I had to learn all of her new cues and I only caught the morning and post-nap pees. I now miss about three pees a day on a good day (ie she isn’t refusing the potty). Is this the new normal? Does everyone experience this? ~Louise R., USA
2) Unya’s (9 mos) poo is usually very firm, but it has gotten quite a bit softer the past couple weeks and she has stopped signaling when she has to poo; it seems like she doesn’t have to try anymore it just comes out on it’s own. This is disappointing because we were at almost 100% accuracy with the poos, but now we’re down to about 50/50. ~Jeremy A., Thailand
A: Hey Louise and Jeremy! These are both excellent questions. Yep, very common and somewhat fixable. Eventually, it’ll all be back to normal. But with pee it can be months; poop days or weeks.
Let’s get started on how to reverse these trends. But first, the why?
Why we suddenly begin missing newly mobile babies’ pees and poos
Part of the reason is new abilities.
Part is newly accessible (and very interesting) surroundings.
Another part is that explorative compulsion (temporarily) overriding all other urges, instincts, and sense.
Also, they’re not always by our side or in our arms, so we miss the more subtle signals that might be there.
And we’ve been doing most of the physical pottying work for them thus far, anyway, so why bother signaling anymore?
Lastly, the newly developing leg and abdominal muscles are affecting the bladder, colon, and sphincters in new and interesting ways (again, temporarily).
How do we get everything back in order?
The first thing you can do is wear your baby more often (Jeremy – at least until you get that first poop of the day, or around when you’re expecting it, go ahead and strap her on).
You’ll be able to reconnect with her signals more, and she’ll be able to give them more willingly.
Yep, some babies might dislike being worn inside the house while all that exploring is on the agenda, but you might have to do it for a week. Or, take a walk outside with her strapped on. Just get close to that baby and refer to these common in-carrier signals that might come up:
Possible babywearing EC signals (while in baby carrier)
- sudden crying or fussiness
- feet pushing against you
- trying to stand up in the carrier
- arching out of the carrier
- “phantom pee” on either side (feels warm but baby hasnʼt peed)
After a week or so of wearing your baby at least 2-3 more hours per day, see if your catches go up and her signals become clearer.
Keep up the EC practice by continuing the easy catches
Continue doing Elimination Communication with your baby, despite the misses!
The worst thing you could do at this point (if you want to keep doing EC, that is) is give up.
Depend more heavily on the easy catches, such as upon waking from a nap and during a diaper change. Also, potty your baby when it’s convenient for you (when you go potty, or when you arrive at a store, or when you are ready to leave the house, etc.).
No, really…pay attention.
Tune in a bunch more, for a week or two, by:
- turning off your phone for a few hours a day
- turning off your computer for a few hours a day
- stopping the Facebooking or Instagramming or Tik-tokking for a few hours a day
- being in the here-and-now, physical world for a few hours a day (to help you do this, just keep coming back to your breath…follow your breath in and out, in and out, in and out)
- do NOT hover or be potty-centered…do things that are creative and hands-on and that allow you to still be present for your baby when the needs arise…without helicoptering!
Notice those times when your newly mobile baby crawls over to the other side of the room and hides under the chair, or pulls herself up on something and begins making a familiar face (um, poop time?), or starts to get either extra quiet or extra active all of a sudden.
Then try to catch some of that pee or poo.
Gently call out “wait” and transport, quickly.
Use a back-up during these times so that you don’t teach her to pee on the floor, and so that you don’t get stressed out. This could be a diaper. This could be just clothing. This could be Tiny Trainers (in aqua blue or blackberry purple so it shows wetness right away) or a sumo-style cloth prefold diaper with a diaper belt. Either could really help you know when she’s wet…right away (do this method AFTER nailing the poop cycles and getting that back on track!).
If your problem is missing a bunch of pees…
Here’s an excerpt from my book:
I’m Catching All the Poops, But Not Many of the Pees
You’re not the only one!! Babies pee so often between ages 0 to 18 months you might miss a bunch, and it’s not a big deal. Some babies begin pee consolidation at 3-4 months, some after crawling or walking. Some don’t mind being wet, some hate being wet. The big picture: over time, baby will consolidate pees, pee more quantity/less frequently, and will care about being wet. Someday.
We always go for every other pee (they sometimes pee every 15 minutes for goodness’ sake!). If my first baby peed in the diaper back-up without telling me, he’d most definitely tell me the next time *beforehand*...so we’d get half. Then we’d get less! Then we’d get more again. I can safely say there is no real predictable expectation I can give you about pee catches. Every baby is so different, even my five as compared to one other. In case you’re wondering what happened for us, eventually all 5 of our babies were consistently signaling, and all pees were consistently caught, by about 15-22 months old – no matter how we got there. Since the process is so non-linear, my biggest advice is just to stick with what you’re doing and trust that everything will work out in the end (it always does).
Additionally, here are some more ideas for you to catch more pees:
1. For your sanity, first, do not strive for perfection. Let that crazy idealization go right this instant. Stop counting your catch vs. miss rates! Especially with pee.
2. Keep her in some sort of clothing or back-up during times of numerous pee misses. Remember “diaper-free” doesn’t mean “naked and peeing everywhere.” You’re still communicating, right?
3. When babies are bored, they pee more. This is moreso when they get into the crawling/toddling stages. When engaged, especially with other children, they hold it more. Please don’t take this as advice to spend all your time playing with your child. As I’ve mentioned, child-centeredness can annoy a baby. Use your judgment. Other kids are usually much more interesting to them, as are walks in nature and outings.
4. As EC becomes his normal routine, and if you use a back-up, he will prefer to be drier and will hold it more. Things definitely change over time, partially due to maturation and growth, and also depending on what's going on in his immediate environment.
5. You gotta let a few happen. You aren’t teaching her to pee in her diaper. You will likely get a better pee signal if you let her pee in her diaper the first time and if she doesn't tell you about it, the next time she needs to go she *will* tell you because she doesn't want to double-wet it. And she won’t want you hovering over her all day, so holding it becomes a grand idea. I don’t mean to stop offering, or to forego the best pottytunities. Just lay off a bit and offer half as much. Maybe rely on the 4 Easy Catches and such. Trust in the process.
6. Last, if you ARE taking him all day long, he WILL pee all day long. Take him LESS.
If your problem is that your baby stopped signaling once she got more mobile…
Check out my episode on signaling here.
Thanks for your questions, Louise and Jeremy!
Please share any stories or advice you might have in the comments section below…how did you get past your newly-mobile-baby-miss sessions?! What did the trick for you and your baby?
Thanks :) xx Andrea
PS - here’s the video version of this episode in case you prefer to YouTube it. ;)