Potty Training your Infant with IPL

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When my partner and I first heard about infant “potty training,” we laughed. “Crazy,” we thought. We always hear how little babies have zero control over their elimination functions. Definitely not for our family.

Fast forward a week when our baby was using 10-15 diapers a night (!!), barely wetting them, but screaming to be changed immediately. I took to google machine and narrowed the options down to: UTI or child diabetes. I was terrified! Then I stumbled across a forum on infant potty training (or as I like to call it “infant potty learning”–because I dislike the term”training” when applied to human babies), and everything she had been trying to tell us made perfect sense.

We’ve been using Infant Potty Learning (IPL) ever since, and it has been an exciting adventure for all of us. I’ve had so many moms ask for information (hard to find) about IPL, so I’m chronicling what we do, how we do it, and–perhaps most importantly–why we do it. Enjoy!

**NOTE: I am not a healthcare professional or an expert on IPL, by any means. This is a description of our methods and experience. We’ve drawn tips from many online sources and improvised a lot based on what works for our baby.

Why it works
  • Babies, like most animals, have a natural desire to be clean and avoid filth. Dogs are frequently crate trained because they are less likely to soil the area where they sleep. Why would a baby be any different? This isn’t what we’re told by diaper companies, pediatricians, or the mainstream media, but it makes sense.
  • Babies ARE born with the ability to hold poop/urine for short periods of time if they want to and/or have an incentive to do so (ex. avoiding a wet diaper).
  • Babies are also born with sensitivity to wetness and a connection to their bodily functions. After a while they lose this sensitivity. When infants are made to go pee or poop in their diapers, they learn that they are supposed to use their diaper as a toilet.
  • There seems to be a sensitive period between zero and six months during which infants ‘want’ to avoid eliminating on themselves (in a diaper). After this period, infants start ignoring this natural impulse, and have to re-learn this when they go through potty “training” later in life.
Benefits
  • Comfort for baby: Being dirty and wet is unpleasant. Sitting in your own urine and feces must be terrible. It makes me sad to think that babies sit in their pee and poop and slowly learn that’s what they’re supposed to do–even if it is uncomfortable and unnatural!
  • Saving money: From the first day we started IPL, we saved 3 diapers! And it only got better from there. I am convinced there is a conspiracy between diaper companies and pediatricians to say babies are “incapable” of holding their pee or poop. This is false (within limits, of course). This also makes me angry, because everyone (baby and parents) loses EXCEPT the diaper companies when babies are in diapers for years and years.
  • Connection to baby: This is why we started IPL. The happy look my girl gave me after our first few successes told me I was doing the right thing.
  • Environmental impact: cutting down on non-reusable waste (diapers, wipes, etc).
  • Less mess: Because baby isn’t making a mess in his/her diaper, there is much less to clean! No need to use 2-5 wipes for one poop diaper. I’ll use one square of toilet paper or our “family cloth” (see below) if any clean-up is needed.
  • It’s exciting: Now, people who don’t have kids may not understand this, but watching your baby learn anything (even something as simple as “it feels good not to be wet after peeing) is incredibly exciting! My partner and I would look at each other in amazement as we were discovering how well infant potty learning worked for our baby.
When to start
  • I’ve read that you can start on day 1! I started when our girl was 10 weeks old because that’s when I learned about IPT/elimination communication and did enough research on it to decide I wanted to try it.
  • Some people wait until there’s a hint of a rhythm about baby’s elimination. When I started IPL, I knew that our baby would always go upon waking and soon after eating.
  • As I mentioned above, we also started when we noticed our baby holding her pee. She would let out only a tiny bit of pee at a time–just enough to relieve pressure–then stop–every 15-20 minutes. Because she always hated a wet diaper, this resulted in a LOT of barely-wet diapers going in the trash! I was convinced she had diabetes or a UTI (first-time mom alert), but once I stumbled across a forum post on IPT, I immediately told my partner and we both knew right away!
How to get started
  • Have reasonable expectations. Not all babies are good candidates for IPL and not all ADULTS are good candidates for helping their infant learn to use the potty. I am confident we wouldn’t have been so successful if our girl didn’t hate a wet diaper so (although I believe most babies are born with this instinct and will react just as well, as long as they never learn to use their diaper as a toilet). If your baby hates the process, I would take a break or even stop and pick back up at another time. That was my approach. We took a couple breaks (ex. for two days when she was sick, for an evening if she was feeling fussy, etc.) and didn’t suffer any big setbacks. It’s kind of a staged process.
  • It is very important to be calm, relaxed, and supportive with your baby if you’re going to try IPL. There were several days when our baby did not want to use the potty and looking back, I attribute this to my nerves! I had been peed on (I didn’t have a great hold down yet) and was nervous, and she could sense that. I switched my hold, moved from toilet to bathtub, and made a conscious effort to stay relaxed, and it was smooth sailing from there!
  • Think about whether IPL is right for your family. IPL is time-consuming (especially up front). You should be comfortable with the possibility of mess, especially when you’re getting started. I do 99% of the potty trips, even though my partner changes a lot of diapers. I’m also a stay-at-home mom, which makes IPL much more feasible, but I think even doing IPL part-time might be beneficial for an infant. Obviously, IPL is much easier if you have one parent staying at home full-time with the baby.
  • Be patient. I’ll sit down with our baby where we’re going to try to let her eliminate, take off her diaper, and hold her. Then I sing her a couple sounds and bounce or rock her gently. She’ll usually go within 5-30 seconds for pee, but it can be a few minutes for poop. After several weeks, she started “trying” to pee/poop ever time her diaper was removed.
  • There are two main “methods” for offering the potty: working with a schedule and reading elimination cues. We do a bit of both. I watch our baby closely for signs she wants to be taken to the potty (her sign for pee is to give a small cry/scream and kick her legs, but it could also be grunts , fussiness, breaking his/her latch repeatedly during breastfeeding, etc) and I take her right away. If it’s been more than 40 minutes, I will take her to the potty and take her diaper off and she will almost always pee within 5-30 seconds. I also take her every time she wakes up.
  • Some people suggest giving baby 2-4 hours of no-diaper time before starting IPL to learn baby’s signals. See how he/she moves and acts and vocalizes before eliminating. I didn’t do this because we were lucky and our baby always gave a small cry as a signal. If your baby is more comfortable in a wet diaper, or doesn’t give any readable signals at first, this might be an effective way to learn about how he communicates that he needs to eliminate.
This is similar to the hold we use. I usually rest her back on my thigh instead of holding her in front of me.

This is similar to the hold we use. I usually rest her back on my thigh instead of holding her in front of me.

  • There are many holds you can use to help a small baby. I started off holding her in front of me on the toilet, but it was kind of awkward especially because she didn’t have great head control at first and she is a big (and heavy) baby. What worked for us is holding her in a cradle hold with my supporting arm holding her thigh. Then I hold her other thigh (the one close to my body) with my other hand. I sit on the edge of the bathtub. It’s really comfortable for both of us! I chose this position because it’s close to having her laying down (this position was familiar to her because she started out peeing whenever her diaper was opened on the changing table). You can let them eliminate into the sink if that is comfortable for both of you, too.
  • You can use a potty chair, a potty ring, or use the adult toilet, bathtub, or sink. I like using the bathtub because of the comfort factor for both of us (it’s just what worked for us) and easy cleanup! We just spray the shower and run water to wash away pee and a quick spray of cleaner after poop. Some people even use the access to a tap to rinse off baby’s diaper area after pee or poop. I like this idea! But we don’t do it because I’m worried about the temperature of the water. We use “family cloth” for pee and toilet paper or a wipe for poop (see “Notes”). I prefer using the toilet (and I’ll switch to the toilet when our baby can sit up) for older infants because it eliminates the extra step of switching from potty chair to adult toilet later! If you’re starting with a 4-7 month old infant, I’d try toilet right away. We started off trying the potty ring, but since we started when she was 10 weeks old, it was uncomfortable for everyone.
  • Only and always use positive reinforcement. Personally, I am genuinely happy and excited about my baby using the potty (and I think you will be, too), so this isn’t hard! I smile at her and celebrate her little victories. I also sing her a little potty song I made up for her when she uses the potty. When we have “misses,” I just calmly take her to the changing table and change her.
  • Never use punishment! Sitting in a wet or dirty diaper is more than enough punishment.
  • Cues may help your baby. Some people suggest making a “ssssss” sound to encourage baby to pee. The idea is that they will learn to associate the sound with the action. This didn’t do much for our baby, so I don’t do it.

Notes

  • Baby may be more likely to pee when put down (in car seat, swing etc). Mine is. This makes sense to me because she wants to avoid soiling me. She will rarely eliminate while being held or “worn” in a baby carrier. You can use this to your advantage.
  • I have a little potty station by the toilet with our “family cloth” (small squares of cloth from old pillowcases that my daughter and I use for pee), wipes, a plastic cup (in case I want to rinse her with water), diapers, and washcloths.
  • Many people use cloth diapers when doing infant potty learning. We used disposables, but I like the idea of doing cloth both because of increased sensitivity and reduction of non-reusable waste.
That’s it for now! I’ll update as I think of more things to add.
I’m also open to answering any and all questions about IPL.

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The “good enough” parent

A very intelligent and insightful professor of mine spoke briefly this past week about parenting. This is (the gist of) what she said:

When you’re becoming a parent, the stress should really be on being a “good enough” parent, and not a perfect parent. Children are born the way they are going to be. All we can do is provide them enough food and water, put them near the window so they can get some sunlight, and wait for them to become who they’re going to be. We’re not going to mess them up terribly if we don’t say or do the exact right thing at every moment. And the only thing we should be trying to avoid is doing damage. We try to be “good enough” parents, then we wait and watch them become who they are.

I love those thoughts. Beautifully reassuring to all of the kind, loving, compassionate parents who are trying their hardest to be as good as they can be.

When I think about the kind of parent I want to be (and think back on the four years I spent working in preschool), I always come back to the idea that there are two paths to getting things done. The first path is easy and often unsophisticated. For some people, that path might involve making broad statements (“You have to share”) giving in, yelling, or even hitting. This path gets you what you “want” in the short-term, but it is heavily reliant on impulse.

The second path is harder. It involves work and thought and self-regulation. For some people, taking this path would mean making an effort to explain (for the 5th or 10th time) that we shouldn’t do something because we wouldn’t want someone to do that to us. This path requires an understanding of what different people (including people over the age of 5) are capable of. It might involve helping someone add a skill to their behavioral repertoire (“Next time, when there isn’t enough candy for everyone, we can open the candy and share it fairly” or “When your spouse does something that annoys you, starting with a compliment and holding hands during your discussion might be better than criticism and crossed arms”).

The second path also involves the most difficult of parenting/teaching strategies: modeling (showing a child or person how they should behave, not telling them).

My goal as a (hopeful) future parent is to try, in every situation, to take the second path, be a “good enough” parent, and show my children, with all of my actions, who I want them to be.

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Why I love Detroit


I love living in Michigan. Sometimes my soul misses the hills, open spaces, small-town charm, and absence-of-pretentiousness in Kentucky. But if, today, I had to choose one place to live out the rest of my time on this planet, it would be Michigan.

The mitten can tear at your heart-strings whether you’re a redneck or the kind of person who wants to spend $100,000 on a yearly membership to a country club.

And Detroit is special.

Detroit has been touted as the “next Chicago.” And I agree that the potential is there. The city is lived-in and fluid and rustic and cold. Buildings with age are torn down or vandalized, and just as many are reclaimed and renovated and turned into something beautiful. You have to seek out a good time, and there’s a bar on some block of the city where anyone can feel at home.

When we love a place, we love it because of its flaws. To quote Nelson Algren, in describing his sentimental fondness for Chicago:

“Loving [Detroit] is like loving a woman with a broken nose. You may well find lovelier lovelies. But never a lovely so real.”

Also, come visit me! But give me a couple months, because grad school is my husband now.

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The worst kind of person

This is the life the worst kind of person is living:

You often pretend to enjoy things you don’t care much about. You amass material possessions that please you for a while, then get boring, and then are replaced with other material possessions that you subsequently stop caring about.

You are guarded around your friends and partner and only show them small parts of who you are. You befriend only people who make you feel comfortable or who boost your social status. You surround yourself with people who suck the life out of you. You are terrified of showing anyone who you really are, so you don’t. You give no one the opportunity to criticize you and no one the opportunity to love you.

You don’t try new things because you are afraid of being bad at anything.

You don’t speak up when you want to say something and spend a lot of your time self-censoring yourself. When you encounter the sacred space between yourself and another person, you think only of yourself: how you are coming across, how you should present yourself, what he/she is thinking of you.

You dress for other people and not for yourself. You find no joy in what you wear or look like because it’s not even a representation of who you are. Your appearance is a representation of the people you want to please.

You have a lavish wedding, but your marriage is devoid of joy and pleasure.

You spend years in school to get a job you don’t value or love or enjoy, but that will impress other people. When you realize you’re not content with a path you have invested in, you plod on letting other people (or former selves) make your decisions for you.

When you come up against “negative” circumstances, you sweep your feelings aside and lash out. You are not introspective because you’re afraid of what you will find. You criticize and hate people who are open, loving, happy, or expressive.

You spend your entire life waiting to complete the next step so you can finally be “happy.”

Here’s how this story ends:

You get to the end of your life and know that no one knew you authentically. You lived a life of fear. And you have left in your wake an endless list of opportunities not taken, friendships not forged, children not appreciated, experiences not enjoyed, ideas not entertained, joy not experienced.

Do. not. be. this. person.

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Why we should cut the US military some slack

This.

Men and women who serve in the military see things none of us have ever seen. In fact, they are trained to become innured to seeing and doing horrible, grotesque, unimaginable things (so they can stay as sane as possible). Yes, doctors (for example) may see similar blood and gore, but a doctor’s job description does not require him to perpetrate violence upon other people.

These people put their lives on the line every day of their lives so we can sit in offices or in our homes and bitch about birth control, write on our blogs, kiss our partners and children, relax in our own beds, eat delicious food. They are sacrificing all of these things so that we can have them.

And the worst part is that they do this service in the name of American ethics and values (not necessarily their own ethics and values). They are risking their lives for things we read about in the newspaper and minimize and disparage. But there is a difference between raging against a war we are waging and raging against the person who put his life on the line to fight in that war. Christians try deal with this by reminding themselves to “hate the sin, not the sinner” (although they seem to hate sinners an awful lot, especially when they are gay or aren’t Christian).

Americans today are so disconnected from the military. “Joining the military” is something someone else is doing in some other country. They’re taking care of the dirty work while we’re reaping all the benefits. And, like those cloying thoughts we have about destroying the environment, we sweep these pesky concerns about soldiers aside and continue complaining about how much we hate war and defense spending.

I have talked to men who have killed men, and it is pretty fucking bleak. Killing a person is life-changing. And the difficult part isn’t just dealing with the thought that you have killed somebody. You might feel worst about the fact that you don’t feel anything. You might have flashbacks to collecting the body of the person you killed. You may have mixed emotions about whether or not the person you killed deserved to die.

The incidence of mental illness among people who have served in the military is harrowing.  In 2009, 7% of medical discharges from the military were necessary because of mental illness. Approximately 1/3 of homeless people are veterans, although veterans only make up 11% of the US population. Which means that 67,000 veterans will are homeless tonight. Add to this depressing statistics on divorce, drug and alcohol addiction, and social isolation following service and I start to question the sanity of anyone who is willing to give their life in service to the military.

So when I see shit like this Atlantic Wire article about how “morally repugnant” and “disgusting” these people are who we have trained to become callous and self-protective in the face of violence…I feel like shaking the writer out of his/her frightening lack of big-picture-perception.

We are so divorced from the lives, pain, and suffering of military men and their families that these seem to be the only stories that we hear these days. What about all of the thousands of heroes who are enlisted in the military and are engaged in heroic feats every day? Like this Lieutenant who, with his Marines, endured 2 days without sleep in 100-degree heat to obtain a major victory on the border of Pakistan. And Pat Tillman, the multi-millionaire professional football player who enlisted in the army in the aftermath of September 11th, 2001, later losing his life in Afghanistan.

These stories are just as sensational. And they should be pulled to the front in place of navel-gazing articles about rare and isolated incidents that do nothing to treat or help any of us. The positives are individual and institutional: the military is one of the best ways I am familiar with for people to raise themselves up out of poverty and other shitty circumstances.

Even though we may not have friends, children, or neighbors in the military, we can honor the work of our military by focusing on what matters: valuing and caring for men and women who risk their lives in service to our nation. And cutting them some slack once in a while.

And also there’s this:

Ok ok, and this:

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Hipsters look like homeless people

I know this isn’t news, but hipsters look like homeless people to me. Terrible photo editing, courtesy of Christine White.

Links:

http://hipsterorhomeless.wordpress.com/

http://hipsterorhobo.org/

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Mardi Gras 2012 Slideshow

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