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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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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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Christine is going to Mardi Gras

For those of you who don’t know, I will be in New Orleans for the next six days. If you need to reach me, please don’t. I’ll be busy partying at the biggest party in the world.

Keep Calm and Chive On!

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Why celebrities aren’t talking about Whitney Houston’s drug addiction

Millionaires and billionaires should have moral responsibilities.

I can’t believe this is a topic that comes up for debate. Hoarding an incredible amount of money does not exonerate one from social responsibility. And joining the echelons of the rich and beautiful shouldn’t herald the end of individual thought. We give beautiful people so many allowances in daily life, but those allowances come nowhere near the moral leeway we afford the rich and famous.

More often than not, when a celebrity expresses individual thought, he or she is censored or castigated and made to look like a monster. It happened when a select few spoke out against Chris Brown and his violence and anger issues. Usher commented on how Chris Brown should have shown remorse instead of riding a jet ski, after beating Rihanna, biting her on the face and neck, and leaving her for dead on the street. Usher was criticized for his comments and quickly issued an official apology. How rude to speak negatively about Chris Brown’s ‘private life’:

The celebrities surrounding Chris Brown have done nothing to indicate how monstrous and pathological his behavior is. Yet again, celebrities, along with our “justice system,” have reinforced the idea that if you are rich and famous you are above the law. ABC didn’t press charges against Chris Brown after he threw a chair into a mirror after an interview. This year, a spokesman for the Grammys had this to say about Chris Brown: “I think people deserve a second chance, you know. If you’ll note, he has not been on the Grammys for the past few years and it may have taken us a while to kind of get over the fact that we were the victim of what happened.”

I am a believer in rehabilitation and personal forgiveness. If Chris Brown had changed his behavior, expressed remorse, and became a spokesperson for anger management and victims of domestic violence, I hope he would be forgiven. But Chris Brown has done none of those things. After beating Rihanna, biting her on the face and neck, and leaving her for dead on the street, he received probation and community service, the equivalent of a legal slap on the wrist, and took no steps to work on himself as a person.

Celebrities demonstrate the same kind of callous, manipulative self-censorship they displayed after Chris Brown beat Rihanna when confronting drug and alcohol addiction. They did it after the death of Marilyn Monroe. They’re doing it right now in the aftermath of Whitney Houston’s death as a result of alcohol and pill use. They are presenting her as an icon and a role model, and utterly failing to mention the destructive habits that contributed to the decline of her career and her health.

Whitney Houston was a drug addict. She was arrested multiple times for crack cocaine use and possession of illegal substances. She is not a role model. Yet celebrities have remained surprisingly silent about this fact. This silence speaks volumes.

The message celebrities are sending in their response (or lack thereof) to drug addiction is that people who kill themselves with drug abuse and egocentrism are to be valued and immortalized. You can be forgiven for you volatile behavior, poor parenting, and illegal behavior if you are “an artist.” What a terrible message to send young people who look up to you.

So why the silence? Is the fact that Americans value self-destructive celebrities evidence that we value success, fame, and beauty over almost all moral qualities? Do fame and money have morally transformative properties? Are people who are attracted to certain careers (acting, politics) more likely to demonstrate sociopathic tendencies and believe in moral relativism? All of these ideas receive some support in scientific literature.

But I’m still surprised by the pervasiveness of this silence. I find it odd that celebrities can pose in Playboy, be addicted to drugs, and demonstrate total disregard for others and still claim they are empowering women or acting as humanitarians or role models.

Every time I come across the rare celebrity running against the flock of the beautiful sheeple, it warms my heart. Not enough attention is paid to people like Robert Downey Jr. for the effort they put into getting clean, turning their lives around, and building successful, productive careers out of the wreckage that drug abuse can wreak on a life. I don’t find Taylor Swift particularly talented, but I started paying attention to her after she went on record saying that celebrities and musicians shouldn’t complain about having their picture taken by the paparazzi. She views such minor inconveniences to be part of the package of being a billionaire (since the “billionaire” package includes more than enough positives–power, voice, money, adoration–to outweigh the negatives).

It looks like the messages that need to be sent about real life are never going to come from celebrities, so the onus of responsibility will fall on us (normal adults) to teach children media literacy and set positive examples for what appropriate behavior is. Young people need to learn about the fallibility of humans and they need to understand how utterly destructive negative habits can be, even on “the voice of a generation.”

More importantly, we have to talk about the truth. And today, one truth is the fact that Whitney Houston was a beautiful singer and a drug addict.

What are your thoughts on why celebrities seem incapable of criticizing other celebrities for their moral failings?

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