The Great Potty Training Hoax: What is the Diaper Industry Hiding From You?

Potty training… potty learning… it doesn't really matter how you flush it, it all means the same thing: teaching your child to use the toilet instead of a diaper. It's a hallmark of toddler care, a rite of passage that every kid goes through, right? That's what the diaper companies would have you think – but is it all a great big hoax?

Singing and Dancing Around the Toilet

So have parents been dancing around toilet seats to encourage their kids to use the bathroom since the beginning of time? Giggling potties, diapered teddy bears, and sticker charts weren't part of human toddlerhood back in the day. How did they do it?

I don't want to be totally unfair to the diaper companies here — cloth diapers, moss, and other absorbent substances have been used against baby bums for centuries.

But it's not true that babies have no elimination awareness. It's completely false that you need to wait for some “readiness” to start teaching your kid that his pants are not his toilet. It doesn't require stickers, singing toilets, or special pull-on diapers.

And the advice that it's harmful to “potty train too early” — total hoax.

Baby, You're Born With It

Did you know that human babies are born with a desire to avoid soiling themselves? It's hard to figure out why that's so surprising, shocking, and bordering on sacrilegious. After all, animals clearly demonstrate that they don't want to soil their nests, even as babies. Why do we think that human babies, certainly more developed, would do that?

Babies are born with an awareness that they're eliminating — urinating or having a bowel movment. Babies squirm, grunt, sign, squeal, shiver, kick, fuss, and give any number of other signs.

Think about how many parents glance over at their baby and just know she's filling her diaper… we have an instinct about it.

Diaper Duty

Of course the diaper industries have a pretty vested interest in keeping our kids in diapers. Cloth or disposable, it's money to keep them toddling around in those diaper-clad bottoms.

“Delayed toilet training” is touted as gentler, more kid-friendly, and respectful.

The truth is, listening to your baby's signals from the start is what's really the most respectful to your baby's dignity. And, well, it's just a little easier to flush the toilet than clean poop that's smeared into every crack and crevice on your precious baby's bottom.

Wait, Is This All or Nothing?

I want to be clear that this isn't an all-or-nothing thing. My first baby spent a lot more time diaper free than my other babies have. I'll admit it, when I'm busy with running a home and keeping up with a bunch of kids, I like the diapers helping me out.

But I still feel good that I can catch most of my baby's cues throughout the day, helping her to stay clean and dry – with minimal work for me. I've been listening to her cues since birth, and it's just part of daily life to keep respecting them. I'm certainly not perfect, and sometimes I feel baffled by just how she managed to sneak a dirty diaper up on me 😉 But on the whole, we're staying clean, dry, and happy.

“Potty training” for us will be a transition from Mama helping all the time to a proud tot going all by herself… it certainly won't be the celebrated (and dreaded) milestone the diaper companies make it out to be.

How can you listen to your little one's cues? What can you do if you're getting a late start… is it still possible to learn when your kiddo needs to go? Get the answers to these questions and more in my favorite guide to elimination communication: EC Simplified. It's packed with photos, flowcharts, advice, and easy step-by-step help to get started successfully today.

Photo by Manish Bansal

About the author 

Kristen

Kristen is childbirth educator, student midwife, and a mama to 8 - all born naturally! She has spent years helping mamas have healthy babies, give birth naturally, and enjoy the adventure of motherhood. Find her on her website NaturalBirthandBabyCare.com and helping families through her online childbirth class MamaBabyBirthing.com

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  1. I haven’t done EC with my kids (though I find it interesting). I also have not done the stupid gimmicks. My oldest we simply left naked a couple summers ago when she was almost 2.5 and she trained herself. We had a potty available and encouraged her (and my older son) to use it from about 15 months on — if they wanted to. Right now my son (3 in July) is nearly trained. I haven’t really pushed him or done anything special for him, I’ve just left the opportunity open, and I ask him if he would like to go potty if I catch him going or about to go. He doesn’t always say yes. But he is getting there…with no sticker charts, no rewards other than feeling clean and dry (and getting to use the toilet paper and flush the potty…since those are for people who use it 🙂 ). We will probably do the same for our third too.

  2. I just started ECing Isadora. She was so fussy about a wet diaper I figured why not try it. It is amazing how quickly she has taken to it. I am still keeping her in diapers since I’m not very good at catching all her signs yet. After the first day she figured out to go when I put her over the bowl. She is one month old today 🙂

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