How do you start EC with a newborn who has been in the NICU and may have delays? Today my new guest host, Nicole, will discuss some strategies and considerations for practicing EC with a delayed or special needs child.
You Will Hear:
- An introduction from our new guest host, Nicole Cheever
- What adjustments might need to be made when starting EC with a delayed or special needs child
- How to determine which EC instructions to follow for your baby based on their developmental stage
- What supplies are helpful for pottying a delayed or special needs child
- Which conversations to have with your child’s doctor(s) before starting EC or potty training
Links and other resources mentioned today:
EPISODE 213: Starting with a Delayed Newborn
Hello and welcome to the Go Diaper Free podcast. I am your host for today's episode, Nicole Cheever, Go Diaper Free certified coach and mama of three kiddos who all did EC and potty training at different ages and stages.
Hi everyone, this is Nicole Cheever and this is episode 213. You can find all of the show notes including everything I will link to in today's episode over at godiaperfree.com/213. We are going to take a question today about starting EC with a child who may be experiencing delays, but first I did want to give you a little bit of an introduction of myself.
If you listen to last week's episode, Andrea let everyone know that I would be coming on the show here and doing some of the podcasts and I'm just so excited to be here. I am a mama of three. My youngest I started EC with when he was about four months old and we sort of got off track. I had to go back to work when he was about six months, and so we stopped doing EC and then we did a potty training experience with him when he was about 28 months old. So he was almost two and a half. We decided that was it, we were done and we used the Tiny Potty Training Book and did a potty training experience with him.
His first younger sister came along when he was only 17 months old. I did have two under two, both in diapers for a while. Let me tell you, it is not horrible, but if you have the opportunity to get your kiddos out of diapers and not have two at the same time, it is definitely, definitely worth it.
We tried to do EC with her. She was a little bit too old, or I guess her personality didn't quite fit it because she was about 15 or 16 months when we tried to do EC with her and she wasn't having it. She was very independent, she really likes to do things for herself. And so trying to do EC with her wasn't really jiving. So we took a little break, we kind of regrouped and we did a hybrid plan with her starting at about 16 months. And if you have either the Go Diaper Free book or The Tiny Potty Training Book, both of them come with a resource center where you have downloadable copies of the optional hybrid plan for babies 12 to 18 months. This is when you're starting to see that toddler independence come out and you can really capitalize on that and get them out of diapers through kind of a hybrid, a mix between EC and potty training. So that's what we did with her.
And then my youngest was born last October and she just is about 13 months old now and we've been doing EC with her since she was 10 days old. And I definitely had that “aha!” moment, which I think if you've had multiple children and you didn't do EC from birth with the first, or the second, or the third, or whoever, and then you do it, you're like, "Why didn't I do this this early before?" It is really not as tough as we kind of get in our heads about it. We started just part-time. We were like, "Let's just take the diaper off, we'll try to catch a pee, we'll see how it goes." And we were really hooked, you guys. We very quickly fell into full-time EC with her and we are just in the process of wrapping her up now, which I'm really excited about.
So when she was only maybe about two months old, I had been thinking about becoming a certified coach and I checked the website and there was a promotion on it, there was a sale. And I said, "Why not? Let's do it." The criteria for being a coach is you need to have about three months of EC experience under your belt. And I said, "Well, my baby's not quite three months yet, but I've done some EC with my other kids and she's definitely going to be three months before I get certified with this program." And so I said, "Why not? Let's do it."
The program started as a way to get local coaches planted all over the world. We have coaches in so many different countries now, and I will link it in the show notes. You can go ahead and check out the program if you're interested. It's just a great way to bring EC to your community. I'm online right now on Instagram @thepottymama. You can come and see the shenanigans I'm doing over there and it's just a great way to really get the EC word out, non-coercive potty training to the masses, and let everyone know that there's a better way to do things and just a more natural, hygienic, and dignified way to do things with our kiddos.
So I've been doing that for a little while now, and then Andrea invited me onto the podcast here and I'm just so, so happy to be here. So let's jump in. Let's get to our call here with Kate from Ohio. She had a question about starting with a baby who might be delayed here.
Kate: Hello, this is Kate. I am in Ohio and my question is, I had a baby seven weeks ago. We are currently in Cincinnati Children's NICU and I was planning on doing EC from birth, but now we have delays. So what resources are there for me to start with a child that may be delayed? Thank you so much.
Nicole: Thank you so much for that question, Kate. And first, I do want to send a lot of love to all of the mamas and daddies who have NICU babies, who are going through the NICU or have been through the NICU. You've been put in such an extreme situation and you are just so brave and we want to send you all the love in the world. And all the encouragement in the world because we have a community that has reported that babies who have special needs, or delays, or have been in the NICU have really had incredible success over the years with EC and with potty training.
It might look a little bit different for all of you, but many things do. When we have children with special needs or delays, a lot of things do look different. Feeding might look different, clothing, bathing, communication in general. And so, you're going to find those little nuances with your baby and your child. You're going to find those accommodations you're going to need to make. But in general, you're really going to just go through the normal process of EC and potty training tailored to your child.
And I want to encourage you, all the parents out there, especially if this is your first baby that you're experiencing the NICU or delays with, I do not want to downplay what you're going through at all. But I do want to encourage you that all kids are different. I can tell you as a mama of three, they all have their own timing, they all have their own preferences, they all have their own patterns and their own way of signaling. So just because your baby's experience and your experience with your baby might look a little bit different, it doesn't mean that it's not going to be totally successful.
Here are some of the considerations that you might want to look at in order to get started with your kiddo. If you're talking about a developmental delay for maybe a premature baby, my understanding is if baby was born two months early, then when baby has been out, on the outside for four months, they are four months old, but they are two months old age-adjusted. You age-adjust by subtracting that amount of time that they would have normally been in the womb cooking a little bit longer.
When you have an age-adjusted child, they're typically going to be meeting those milestones at their age-adjusted stage, whether we're talking about physical milestones, cognitive milestones, or even EC. So if we are talking about a mobile baby, we usually say that the babies we're talking about are six to 12 months old. But that's not always true, even for babies who aren't age adjusted or are not delayed. Some babies are crawling before six months, some babies are waiting a little bit longer, some babies are walking at nine months.
We break it down into those categories just to make it a little bit easier for you to understand what to expect. But that is not at all a hard and fast rule and it is not something that you need to be measuring your child or your success against. It's just to kind of divvy it up a little bit more neatly. You said your baby's seven weeks old, and when you do start EC, you're going to look at the chapters in the book for wherever your baby is at that developmental stage. Don't worry about the ages in there, look at the descriptions of what those babies are doing.
A zero to six month baby is typically not yet mobile. They might be starting to learn to roll over or even push up on hands and knees, but when you put them down, they're not really going anywhere. And we like to use things like a top hat potty for those babies because you're going to be maybe potting while feeding, in your lap, or even just when you're holding your baby, sometimes it's easier than holding over a sink. If your baby is starting to be a little bit mobile regardless of the age, you're going to look at the instructions for six to 12 months. And then if you're starting with a child who's walking, that's where we have the 12 to 18 month EC babies.
We also have the Tiny Potty Training Book, so if you're listening to this right now and you have a baby who's got special needs or experiencing delays and they're older than 18 months, the potty training book might not be appropriate for you if there is a cognitive delay or developmental delay where your baby is not yet exhibiting those signs of exerting themselves as a toddler.
I talked about, just a few minutes ago, my second baby who was very assertive and she was very independent, wanted to do everything for herself and she could do everything physically for herself. And so that's why we skipped kind of a little bit early to The Tiny Potty Training Book and did the potty training experience with her. With your special needs or delayed child, you want to encourage them definitely to do as much as they can for themselves, but if they're not even quite there where they're really trying yet, don't worry about it. You can do EC with an older child if that's where they are. We want to meet our children where they are.
Some of the other considerations are going to be looking at different supplies. So you might need a more supportive potty chair, you might need a higher foot stool, you might need a seat reducer with handles on it. Look at your child's physical needs and you can determine what you're going to need to purchase, maybe, to make your experience a little bit easier. I always like to say you don't really need any equipment for EC or potty training, but certain things do make it a lot easier both on you and your child.
And especially if you've got an older child where you're trying to help them with a little bit of that independence, having supplies that can help them do things for themselves is really great. I really like the seat reducer with a ladder on it for my children because they can get up onto the big potty by themselves. They have all really had a drive to do that.
Some babies don't. Some babies really like the little floor potties because the big potty can be kind of scary. And the mini potty at Tiny Undies is really low profile. So it has a nice high pee guard on it so they're not going to pee sort of over the top of it. Some boys and girls, even the girls pee straight out, both of mine do. So we need that pee guard on it, and that potty is really low profile. If you've got a child who's really trying to get on the potty by themselves, maybe they're not walking yet, they're only crawling or scooching, that potty can be really great for that.
A few other things to keep in mind, you're going to really use all of the same methods. Potty training and EC are both very physical and we are physical beings and babies especially are very physical. So regardless of if your child is going to be verbal at the same expected age or developmental stage, it doesn't matter. You're going to be doing a lot of physical movement with your child when you're communicating with them.
You're going to follow all of the same instructions in the book, but it might take a little bit more prompting. You might need to help a little bit more physically, you might need to have a little bit more patience, or be more in tune with your child to keep an eye out for those very subtle or different signals.
But like I mentioned earlier, all the kids are different. Every single one of my children have met their milestones in their own times. So even though you might in your head think that you're going to be needing to really have special instructions or resources or considerations for these children who have special needs or delays, it's not really going to be that different than just having two different children. My kids all came from me and they are very, very different. So just remember, it's not anything to compare. All of our children will meet their milestones and meet their outcomes in different timing. Releasing those expectations of when your child is going to be wrapped up or when they're going to meet a certain outcome, releasing those expectations is going to help you a lot, too.
You might want to rely more on natural timing in general to get a routine to your day. Things like the wake up pee or getting in and out of something, whether it's an assistive device, or a carrier, or a car seat. We like to use natural timing a lot in our house. And in fact, with my youngest, when we started her at 10 days old, that's really what we relied on. We did all the wake up pees, we did all of the in and out of something pees, and then you can use The Log potty training app or just pen and paper if that's what you prefer. And you can do some observation and try to get a rhythm of how long after feeding or how long after waking your child needs to eliminate.
And that helps you with that natural timing too. And you'll find that that turns into intuition. That turns into kind of a potty sense when you go, "Okay, it's been about long enough, I think you need to go potty." That's that intuition kicking in to tell you you've become tuned into your child's natural timing and your clock is sort of keeping track for them.
As with all children, instructions should be brief and specific. When we talk too much, it shows them that we're nervous, that we're unsure about it, so giving very brief and very specific instructions. I like to give, especially with really young children, one word instructions if possible. My daughter is learning to throw the toilet paper into the potty right now. So I hand her the toilet paper and I point and I just say, "In." That's it. As she gets older, it's going to be more of a conversation, "Put the toilet paper in the potty." But she's 13 months, so right now it's, "In," and that's it.
You want to talk to your pediatrician, absolutely, about any medications your child might be on because some medications can either cause constipation, they can cause bladder irritation, they might cause more frequent urination. There could be adverse effects or just like I said, frequency of elimination. There can be any kind of effects with medications that your child might be on or might be needing to take. So your doctor can give you some insight into that and you can weave that into your strategy.
If your child is going to be on a medication or has been on a medication that causes constipation, talk to your doctor about possibly using stool softeners to make it a little bit easier for your child to get that poop out. Constipation can not only, obviously, be uncomfortable for your child, but it can also cause a little bit of fear around potting because they know that uncomfortable sensation is coming. So anything you can do to try and mitigate that is going to be helpful. Talk to your doctor about that.
The other thing is, if your child has been on a catheter, it may take a little bit longer for them to sort of connect that sensation in their body with the active peeing and the feeling of becoming wet. Have some patients for that, understand that. Talk to your doctor about any of the lasting effects that might come from your child having been on a catheter and make a plan for how to help them reconnect those signals in their body.
The last thing is, I just want to encourage you that, again, so many of our readers and listeners have reported to us that they've had amazing success with EC and potty training with their special needs or delayed children and you will be amazed at the connection it brings you with your child. If nothing else, I think that's a great reason to try even part-time. Remember, even just catching one pee a day is still practicing EC. You can do it super, super, super part-time. And then if it feels right, if you're having the kind of success you're looking for, you can expand it. But just giving them that independence, having that connection with them is really priceless.
Hopefully, that was helpful. Don't forget to head over to the blog and let us know: have you ever done EC or potty training with a delayed or special needs child, and what advice do you have for this mama and the other parents out there going through this? What devices or potty supplies worked for you? What strategies worked for you?
Please let us know. We'd love to hear, especially if you have a success story to share with us about EC or potty training with a delayed or special needs child.
Thank you all so much for listening. Thank you for having me here today. I can't wait to see you again, and we will see you next time.
Thanks so much for listening. This is the Go Diaper Free podcast at godiaperfree.com. We'll see you next time.
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