Infant elimination training 101

How were babies potty trained before diapers? How are they toilet trained today in societies without diapers? Most parents who ask these questions instinctively know there is a simple and natural approach -- and one that is kind to the environment.

Surprisingly, babies are aware of the elimination function and attempt to communicate this. But often parents don't watch and listen. Communicating with your infant in this fashion enhances bonding and drastically reduces diaper use. Just as children can learn a foreign language with no effort and no accent until they are about nine, in the same way there is a window of learning for the elimination functions. Parents in Asia and Africa report completion between the ages of 6 and 18 months. In Western countries, completion tends to be between 18 and 24 months. (The ideal time to start is between birth and four months of age. )

In the West, we teach our babies to use a diaper as a toilet and then expect our child to unlearn this behavior in just a couple of years. This can be confusing and lead to a battle of wills and years of diaper wars.

The basic concept of infant toilet training is the same philosophy that has been successfully practiced as the mainstream method in much of Asia and Africa for centuries. I have slightly modified this method to adapt it Western lifestyles -- including wearing a diaper or training pants between bathroom visits and using a receptacle as a toilet place for infants--but the basics are the same. A quick synopsis of the method follows:

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