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 EC’d babies. This is episode 59, Passing the baton, the art of gradually handing over the potty keys to your baby.
Welcome back. We had a few weeks talking about work, work, work, and now we're back to talking about EC, EC, EC. So thanks for bearing with me and thank you for those of you who have joined up, way more than I expected, joined up for Mamaworx this time. Oh, I'm so excited to teach you all. Okay, so EC, EC. Let's talk about passing the baton. What is passing the baton? And by the way, I'm going to start getting back to my shorter format of around 12 to 15 minutes on these episodes. So let's do this in a rapid pace.
Passing the baton is not potty training. Just want to tell you that. Okay, so passing the baton does not mean that we are potty training. We are looking at a gradual process when we're talking about passing the baton, going from I, as the parent, do most of this EC thing, to we're working together as a team, to you're doing most of this, baby or toddler, and you're becoming independent with it. So it's this spectrum. Passing the baton is this process of handing over what belongs to your baby, as in, this is how you do it in the context of our cultural and societal norms, our tools with a potty, things like that.
I have often talked about this, talked about this a lot in my popular book, Go Diaper Free, about how if we were in a culture like thousands of years ago where the babies are, upon crawling, taking themselves to the potty spot outside and really independent by the time they're crawling/walking. They don't need our help anymore. There's no need to pass the baton. We don't need to tell them how to manipulate their clothing or when it's appropriate to go. We didn't really have a lot of things going on that involved cars. Hello, there weren't any. Things were just a little bit more connected and simple and intact as a community culture was involved.
Now things are different so we have to pass the baton because we have things like potties, and clothes, and social appointments, and things like that. So why? Why would we want to pass the baton? Why not just let the kid guide everything and wrap it all up and just figure it out? Well, we know that babies grow rapidly, that's their job, and they crave mastery once they become a toddler and have gotten their body in order and everything working and their fine motor skill's down and they're mobile and moving about, then they go and they do something. Have you seen a baby do this before or a toddler? They do something over, and over, and over, and over, and over again, and then once more because they're mastering something. This is a totally developmentally appropriate thing for a young toddler. Mastery is what they crave.
So why do we pass the baton? Because it's a gift to empower our children with their own self-care. They own their body, they navigate their body, we teach them how to take care of it and they deserve that. They love that.
So when do you start passing the baton? Well, officially 12 to 18 month we definitely want to focus on passing the baton. But unofficially, from birth, you identify and give a common language to all the aspects of EC and the potty process. You're going pee, or doing the toilet sign, or saying it's time to go. There's an identification just like we do with food, "This is a banana, yummy. You like that?" We're communicating with things from an early age there as well. We also kind of unofficially start passing the baton at crawling. Some things can happen there like where you put the potty nearby and then they can crawl to it when they need to go. And so you've brought your communication up to another level of two way communication before they need to go. Some will start passing the baton right when baby starts pulling up and you can put a potty behind them and they can sit on it, things like that.
But really officially, the rest of us and most people will start passing the baton at walking. 12 to 18 months is when in Montessori assisted infancy programs, I can't remember the exact word, Elizabeth, our coach, is going to kill me. The 12 to 18 month class, they are putting cotton pants in the day and really with no pants underneath, a short T-shirt and cotton training pants. And from then on, it's all about teaching them all the parts they need to know while their brain is developing, and everything happens in this perfect sequence together alongside the brain development, to where by the time they're 15, 16, 17, 18 months, they are mostly independent.
Starting the baton once that walking task is finished, it's great timing, you guys. And honestly, before disposables were invented around 1957 to '61, per the New York Times, in 1957, 92% of toddlers were potty independent by 18 months. This is huge. This just means that when our grandparents and great grandparents' babies started to walk, they were like, "I'm not washing any more diapers. Let's wrap this thing up." And they started to pass the baton and giving them this gift of teaching them what they need to know to finish it.
So what is all this stuff you're talking about, Andrea? What are these things that you teach? How do we pass the baton? What can you do to pass it? Let's talk about that right now. So at birth, you can give the gift of language, you can identify what you're doing when you're doing it with respect to pottying your baby. I wouldn't over-talk, but we definitely want to be repetitive in our actions and our offering the four easy catches, and also be dependable in our expectations. When we wake up, we're going to go to the bathroom. So we set a rhythm and a pattern to life that our kids can kind of latch onto from the beginning. So that is part of passing the baton, by giving this language in the beginning because their mind, they're born with an absorbent mind.
Then during the crawling and pulling up stages, you can start teaching your child how to sit on the potty, put the potty up against their calves and say, "You can sit now," while you're holding them up obviously and have them gently sit down onto the potty. That's something we can teach when they start to walk as well. Obviously, that gets even more exciting, then you can even mount the potty yourself and show them. But having another kid that's a similar, a little bit older age sit on it to demonstrate is really, really key.
We can also, at crawling and pulling up, have the baby already start participating in changing their own clothes when they're wet. They can, if you have them in training pants, they can sit down on a bed, you can pull their pants halfway down, have them sit on a little stool and then have them help you push them off of their feet. And this is obviously a little bit older, like 9 to 12 months or so. They can participate in this process of changing if you're daring to use training pants at that age. If you are, by the way, I sell really small ones at tinyundies.com that are all cotton that do hold like a medium-sized pee at a time mostly, and they're just really good in teaching them this immediate, "Hey, I'm wet and I need to change."
Participating in the process is key, especially at walking. Changing soiled or dirty clothing is going to be a little bit harder, but with the wet ones, they will soon learn that the more efficient path is to just go to the bathroom before wetting themselves. So having them involved in changing is actually a way to pass the baton because they're going to want to avoid that once they're capable of doing so. They're going to go, "Hey, I'm going to push these pants off and sit on my potty instead of going through having to change wet ones with my mom or dad.".
Okay, so there are ways your child can participate in the process from early on besides language. But when they're walking, this is when things really get exciting, you guys. I'm going to teach clothing manipulation. If they're only in cotton pants like you size up on the tiny trainers and have them in something that can be easy to push off and on at home in the daytime and the wake times, that can be really helpful as in, "Here, grab these and push them down," and they can help manipulate their clothing.
Communications continue endlessly. I mean, you're always going to be communicating with your child, but you're going to change your cue to your prompt word. This evolves like with eating. We go from pointing at our mouth, "Hungry?" To, "Would you like to have a banana or an apple?" So your communication also evolves, and passing the baton is you're going to change your communication from here it's “pssss” or “mm, mm” to time to pee or poop or just taking them. So I covered that in other episodes, but I really... and a lot in my... If you don't have my book, please just get it right now. It has all of this in it.
Also handing off the baton at walking, you're going to teach the process or the movement from wherever you are to the potty or the bathroom and vice versa, you can bring the potty to them. So if they start to go or they're signaling or you know it's time, we're going to do run, run, run to the potty, back, back, squat on the pot. That's the little rhyme we use at our house and that I use in the Tiny Potty board book. This part is really key. Helping them to move to the potty or the potty to them every time will help them associate, "When I feel the sensation, I need to go there."
We can also pass the baton in walking by teaching them how to wipe. That even just means just touching the toilet paper to their private part and then putting it in the toilet. That's a starting point. Up to 18 months, two years, three years, you can teach them how to wipe their own bottom in the bathtub, "Can you find your anus or butthole?" Or whatever you want to call it in your family, and they can find it when they're washing themselves. Then when they go to wipe another time during the day, "All right, let's fold up the paper and wipe from front to back. Let's get in the back and wipe and look at it. Is it clean yet? No? Okay, throw that one in. Let's try again until it comes up clean.".
I cover all of this in a supplementary video series that comes with my Tiny Potty... I'm sorry, The Tiny Potty Training Book, my book for potty training. So if you want help with a lot of this wrap-up stuff, you can look at that. But those videos show my daughter when she was three, teaching your child how to wipe and flush and stuff.
The other thing we could teach is flushing. A lot of kids become afraid of that, but if you make it part of things from the very beginning, then it helps. We want to get a really, really short potty to teach how to mount the potty. We want to teach everything as a whole routine, start connecting the dots. We go in the bathroom, we turn on the lights, we push our pants down, sit on the potty, then are we all done? Yes, we wipe, then we flush the toilet, wash our hands, turn off the lights and leave, something like that. Now, the Tiny Potty board book also covers the whole routine without a focus on diapers. I wrote that book because it's helpful for kids. A lot of parents say, "Oh my gosh, your board book helps so much because now my child knows the whole routine and can see it as this really great thing. Hey, I feel it in my belly. Let's stop play, do our deed, then go back to play."
Another thing that we can do to help pass the baton after they start walking is start to do EC if you haven't already during outings. We pee everywhere in the potty. This shows a really clear message, and often outings are a lot easier than just doing it at home all day.
Okay, so those are some ideas, hopefully not too many and not too much, just to help you wrap your head around how to pass the baton when the time comes. It starts earlier than you would think. So once they're pulling up to standing, you really literally can start then or at walking to sort of give those keys over to your baby, helping them to be independent, to do it themselves, which will reduce the chances of potty pauses and will reduce fussiness and tantrums and struggles. And either way, if you're wrapping up and passing the baton between 12 and 18 months, you're going to have a lot less conflict because you're not doing it at two or three years old where everything is, "I want to do it myself and I don't need your help," and meltdowns and tantrums. Ask me how I know.
Okay, so tools for passing the baton. You definitely want a short potty. My Mini Potty is the shortest you can find and it's very lightweight so they can carry it themselves and dump it themselves. It's over at Tiny Undies. We want to have loose pants with an elastic top. We don't want to have dresses on girls, we want to have a shorter t-shirt with loose pants that they can grab and adjust their clothing. We want to have loose Tiny Trainers or my TinyUps or a cloth pull-up cover with a bamboo inside, and those often are really good solo or on top of Tiny Trainers.
I have a whole post about EC backups, so you can look at that. But we definitely want some undergarments that are going to help you keep your sanity. It could just be Tiny Undies if you want to do that. We want a full length mirror. If they can see themselves manipulating their clothing and pulling it on and off, they can get a better idea of their body spatial orientation. Some people like to put the toilet paper into a little Kleenex tissue box so they can't unroll the whole roll. It might help you if you like that.
And then I also have created something called Learn Undies and Learn Trainers. They have a picture of my Bear for my board book upside down on the front, and they have orange handles and different colored leg holes. Go check them out at tinyundies.com/learn. It's amazing. They teach your child how to dress themselves without your interference, so they're self-correcting and very helpful.
Other resources, so I mentioned this before, but in passing the baton, you definitely utilize the Tiny Potty board book and I have a stuffed version of Bear so you could actually have your baby bring Bear with them when it's time to go. Go Diaper Free, the section called “The Building Blocks to Potty Independence” breaks all this down even more. I've got a mini course called Wrapping Up EC, which absolutely covers passing the baton, and my potty training book. If you've done any amount of EC and you want to wrap it up with potty training, there is no shame in that at all. That's The Tiny Potty Training Book. And all this stuff I'm going to link to in my show notes which are at godiaperfree.com/59. In the comments, please let me know what part will you teach your child today to facilitate passing the baton. I want to know.
Here's a tip from one of our readers in Connecticut. I shared one from her last week too, Jamie, "My biggest EC tip, listen to Andrea's advice and don't over prompt. I'm finally learning this and when it clicked for me, it helped my son make leaps forward when we had started going backwards. He wanted more independence (duh!), and teaching him more aspects of the process and backing off on my presence and hovering was absolutely key. Truly was and still is." And the one she's talking about is her boy who's two and a half years old. She started at one month. Thank you so much for sharing that, Jamie. So true, so true.
Please let us know in the comments if you need any help or if you have any questions and tell us what part you're going to teach today. Go to godiaperfree.com/59 and we'll see you over there. In the meanwhile, I hope you enjoy pottying your baby this week and we'll see you next time. I'm Andrea at godiaperfree.com.
I have been passing the baton for quite some time with my son who is 15 months. He really is doing pretty well; I will have him naked at home and he takes himself or does great with my prompting, then we go commando and he does great for a day or two (maybe one miss) but then starts to pee in his pants again and we repeat the process and it seems to be a cycle of doing well, then starting to pee in pants again, then going back to naked time and starting the process over again. We potty full time out of the house too, where he does great unless he finds something he really doesn’t want to stop playing with which might result in an accident. When he has an accident, he tells me, and he knows pee and poop goes in the potty and he does the chest slap sign and says “pa-pa” (potty) (signs often, but not EVERY time) and I still prompt and remind him often. What would you suggest here with this sort of cycle we are on? Should I have him naked at home more? Or just keep up with what we are doing and hope one of these times the cycle doesn’t restart?
Thanks for this podcast :)
Hi Whitney! I would stick with the commando and not revert to naked bottom. There is a learning curve with pants. It will improve. Using clothes at home will help him make progress. xx Andrea
Thanks Andrea! Your podcasts are always so timely 😀 we are absolutely in this passing the baton stage as my 21 month old is now wanting to pee and poop in private, independently.
Wonderful! It really is an exciting time. xx Andrea
I started passing the baton at 15 months! I started EC at 14 months and was surprised by how fast the process can be picked up. She knows how to sit alone so we are working on undressing and running to the restroom… that one is hard. Thanks for all your help!!!
That’s great Alex! Yes, when you start EC around that age things really do move quickly. She’ll have it all down before long. xx Andrea
Hi Andrea, EC Coach here. What would you suggest if my boys don’t eventually decide for themselves that going to the toilet on their own is better than changing wet or poopy underwear with me? That’s where we have been hung up for… Years. My boys are 4.5 and 2.5, Both EC’d since birth. My oldest especially just doesn’t want to take ownership.
Hi Malissa! I would have them be responsible for clean up. Not as a punishment, just taking responsibility. You may also want to try ditching undies for a bit and have them commando. You’ll get them there! xx Andrea
I had to laugh when you said something along the lines of “better than waiting until they’re 3 and want to do it themselves without knowing how and throwing tantrums.” I swear my 16 month old daughter is already a threenager when it comes to teaching her most things. How to put on undies? How to push down undies? She refuses to let me show her how and will throw a tantrum (and the undies!). So thankful for EC because she would be hella difficult to train the traditional way. We’re working on washing hands right now. She thinks it’s super fun and actually let’s me help.
I know just what you mean Amber! I have a spirited kiddo or two and potty training would have been a nightmare. It sounds like you’re doing an awesome job passing the baton. xx Andrea
Thank you for this! My 13 month old is doing well on the potty…we catch most poos and a few pees a day. I’m still not catching all her signals, but working on it. I think I will progress to doing EC on outings too, and teaching her to push down her own pants. Do you take a potty or seat reducer on outings? We do hybrid diapers, with reusable cover. I’m interesting in moving to training pants to help her learn to take them off but really nervous and it will be a difficult and messy transition. I guess we could start with the training pants just at home? Thanks again!!
Excellent and A wonderful read! Your article is the best one I have learnt, and it has helped me. Keep doing that.
I’m so happy to hear it was helpful! xx Andrea
Hello! First time parents here new to EC. We started catching poops around 9 months because who wants to clean poopy cloth diapers and decided to go full EC when my son was 14 months. He was doing pretty well, usually signing when he needed to go and we always offer potty-tunity at transitions. About one accident per day. He’s now 17 months but recently stopped signing and having lots of accidents. Any suggestions to get him back on track?
Hi Karina! This is totally normal, don’t stress. When kids are going through a developmental leap, illness, teething, growth spurt, etc communication can drop for a bit. Just take over with prompting/offering. Working on teaching skills will help too. xx Andrea