For me, pottying my children was a part of every day life.
I didn't pick and choose when to do it, I just did it.
It made sense and it became our 'normal' so it's what every child expected.
That's not to say we lived in hippy harmony with nerry a pair of wet pants. Far from it. We lived in a London suburb, I'm a scientist not a hippy, our house was only truely harmonious when all of our children were simultaneously well fed and rested (which isn't nearly as often as you'd think) and we used cloth nappies so our kids have had more wet pants than they've had hot dinners.
None-the-less, we did our best to be consistent in our approach and expectations.
That's something you need to decide for yourself.
All will become clear once you've worked out why you're interested in baby pottying and can follow your own principles.
I like an approach based on principles because I find it easier to be consistent when the reason for my choices doesn't change and is always applicable. (It also makes me very accepting of the bumps in the road - because I don't have a different postition to run to.)
If you think it makes sense to introduce a potty early for familiarity, then you might opt for offering once a day at a particular time.
If your main motivation is to reduce your soiled nappy count, you might focus on catching poos and not bother with wees.
If you want to offer while at home, then you'll base your approach on your location.
If you need to consider nurseries or childminders then you might ask your childcare provider to take a simple routine based approach while you take a more flexible one.
If you agree with the idea whole heartedly but hardly know where to start, then you'll start with your very first offer and build up from there - until you've worked out what fits with your life.
If you're like me, and once you see the logic there's simply no denying it, then you stand by that principle and see where it takes you.
There are no 'rules'. It's a flexible approach that you tailor to your own life. Jump in! People will think you're nuts however you go about it...
Not to me!
I used a potty 'full time' with all of my children - but they were rarely bare bottomed (in fact, I invented Flaparaps for this very purpose). It's not how absorbent the nappy is that makes the difference, but your attitude towards it.
My approach was to treat all nappies as backup - so I'd act like they weren't there. But of course, they were there, so risks were minimal and I kept all the benefits.
Not in most cases, no! At least, not in this country...
Let's take rural China as a nappy free model society. There, nappies aren't used at all. Instead the adults are vigilant and the babies and toddlers wear split crotch trousers with bare bottoms on display. Truely nappy free.
But somewhere along the internet, the vigilance of the Chinese was lost in the Western interpretation. 'Nappy free' came with blogged recommendations of leaving your child with a bare bum as much as possible, so that they could potty train themselves. Toddlers grew up thinking the world was their toilet and resisted all attempts to encourage potty use. Their parents ended up frustrated and confused and frightened of any conflict around toileting.
Don't go there! The trick to pottying successfully in this country, is to recognise how far removed your approach is from native nappy free. To understand why you personally are using baby-led pottying so that you can follow your own principles with consistency.
Having said that, there are very real advantages to nappy free time - as long as you're aware of why you're doing it.
Remember: Every thing you do teaches your child something, even if you're not consciously in 'teaching mode.'
(Don't wing it and expect magical results.)
1) You're learning your baby or toddler's signals. You're paying very close attention to when he'll 'go' so that you can make your cue sound to build up an association, race him to the potty, or get a handle on his natural rhythms and timing.
2) You're giving your baby's bottom some fresh air. The best time to do this is immediately after a wee / poo. She's unlikely to go again for a while, so you can enjoy some nappy free time with minimal risk to your surroundings!
3) You're giving yourself easy access to your child's bottom before his next expected wee/poo (based on routine or timing) and you're going to make every effort to catch it.
4) You have an unrelated reason for needing your child half naked. To give nappy rash a chance to clear, for example, or to ease the itch of chicken pox.
5) You are taking a consistent and vigilant approach, modelling a culture where nappy free is the normal state of affairs. This is harder than you might think when you're surrounded by your own cultural expectations. It can be very effective, of course - millions of people use this approach every day - but if you're inconsistent, or don't pay close enough attention, or don't correct your child every single time you have a miss, you'll end up teaching your baby that weeing isn't worth noticing and things won't work out the way that you hoped.
Remember that your child learns from every thing you do. She doesn't stop learning because you're not deliberately trying to teach her something.
So if you're teaching her to use a potty a couple of times a day, you're teaching her to use a nappy for the other 23 hours and 56 minutes. Which is fine - as long as you adjust your expectations accordingly.
If that's your strategy, it's unlikely that your child will be reliably dry from a few months old (like her Chinese counterparts). But it's also unlikely that she'll be begging for a nappy to poo into as an articulate three year old (like many of her preschool friends).
Most people worry about offering pottitunities when out and about. They get put off by the practicalities and wonder what the world will think of them. This is where your principles come in really handy! Principles trump embarrasment, and they help you explain what you're doing to passers by.
So... don't hang about. Do it! Do it, do it, do it!
Pottying out and about is often easier than pottying at home, and it will do wonders for your confidence.
I'm not sure... but it is!
Probably because you're paying attention and your baby knows that something different is going on.
But also, if you're a sling user, because you're carrying your baby - this makes a big difference. Most babies will try to wait rather than wee in a sling, even if they have a nappy on.
When I started pottying my first child, I fell into the potty trap.
I let her establish a preference for a potty, did nothing to introduce variety, and ended up carrying a folding potty everywhere with me. Not that big a deal when you only have one child - still much smaller than your average changing bag - but I didn't want to repeat that with number 2.
So for the next three kids I used the traditional in-arms hold everywhere, and coupled it with a small leakproof tupperware box when necessary. The box was small enough to fit in my bumbag. Quite a slimline kit!
It therefore depends on how you go about things. If you succeed with flexible positions, you barely need to carry anything.
I kept a standard potty in the car because it's very convenient and the car doesn't mind a bit of extra clutter.
Yep! Given the choice, I'd pick libraries, coffee shops, leisure centres and restaurants over public loo blocks, but we've used all sorts. Luckily, my kids grew up being held over toilets, so even at school age they have no problem being held to avoid sitting down. However, somehow I can't seem to stop them licking everything in sight.
Yet, if I can avoid toilets, I will. I actually prefer Somewhere Green (parks, forests, grass verges, flower beds, roadside trees) or secluded drains (in the road, in the gutter, in car parks, at train stations). I couple these with the tupperware if I'm worried that the wee won't be clean (milk fed babies have a tendency to squit a bit of poo at the end, and no-one wants to find that on the grass). Tupperware isn't the ony option for a receptacle - you can use a bottle for boys, a sealable porta potty, an open nappy on the floor, or a bag with some loo roll in the bottom. Be inventive. But give it a go!
You'll find it easier if you can dress your child for easy access. Flaparaps will help you with that.
Well, yes. They might. Or they might not...
It's quite easy to be discrete and many baby pottiers keep their pottying a secret until their child is virtually potty trained. That's one way to do it, but I think you're missing out if that's your strategy.
Baby pottying is an interesting thing to do. It has a sound evolutionary precedent and is part of living memory in this country - your grandparents will have used this technnique and there's a reasonable chance that your parents did too (depending on how old you are, of course). So don't be frightened to mention it in public.
I think the important thing is to be up front about your reasons and expectations, without alienating your (nappy using) audience. So I would say:
"Yes, we hold her over a potty... like people used to do in the old days.... It appeals to me. We evolved for this, you know! To start with there's a reflex, but now she recognises the position and will usually try to wee. Doesn't always work, of course, but I think it's worth doing."
Then there will be questions, which you answer, and before you know it, your friend thinks you're a bit batty but generally harmless and is willing to help you out when you run out of hands. Then, when they witness their first catch, they'll be wide eyed with wonder - but it won't change the way they use nappies, so don't expect it to.
Entirely possible! But you may well decide it's not worth it for you.
The point of nights, is, of course, to maximise sleep. For everyone.
Sometimes you gain a lot of baby sleep time by using a potty, sometimes you don't. Some people actively train their children to use a nappy at night because the extra sleep makes the daytimes so much more enjoyable. Other people have babies who wake to wee whatever they're wearing...
It's fine to try out different day time and night time strategies - but your child might have other ideas!
Pampers finally conquered China with their 'Golden Sleep' campaign, claiming that babies in disposables slept for longer at a stretch than babies with bare bottoms. Yes, even the Chinese like the idea of uninterrupted sleep.
So what should you do?
Well, chances are, if you have a tiny baby, you're going to be up in the night anyway, so using a potty then isn't a big deal.
And once your child is used to it, and you've got your clothing sorted out for ease of pottying it's sometimes easier to carry on than to teach them something else.
Plus you can pull my favourite pre-emptive trick and save yourself years of night time washing or nappy buying.
My first two kids used disposables at night until they refused to wear them any more (before they turned two). By then, the pre-empt meant they were dry for weeks at a time so I'd reuse the nappies until they fell apart. With numbers three and four, and decent Flaparaps to hand, I had no need for disposables at all. I offered the potty before or after night feeds and changed the pad when it was wet in between. Waterproof easy access makes all the difference!
Visit the blog for more in depth practical night time tips, how to do a pre-emptive wee and more about pottying out and about. I also discuss catching and missing and what they mean when pottying is a part of your life.
If you have a toddler, watch my video to learn all about the potty sign (and you might as well prep up on that now, even if your baby is still a baby - he'll be a toddler soon enough). A good clear potty sign can do wonders for enabling independence.
If you want something even more hands on, take a look at my online workshops.
...how you would want your partner to react if you needed help getting to and from the toilet.
...how you would react if your two year old clearly needed the toilet.
...how you would react if you knew your tiny baby would want to poo after feeding.
I like to think of my children as Little Big People (however small they might be).
It helps me to make consistent decisions.
Create your own personal cheat sheet.
I'll guide you through your options as if you were at one of my workshops.
To Us It's All So Very Normal.
Always a potty in the room.
Always a tree available outside.
All part of normal life to babies who've been pottied from birth.
Nearly two and nearly four and using the potties as part of a game.
Nothing left now but to get started!
Go Forth! Potty Your Babies!
Inside, Outside, Upside down.
Well, perhaps not upside down, but get comfortable with every other position that fits your personal principles.