What is baby-led potty training?

Baby-led potty training (BLPT), or Elimination communication (EC), is a respectful, natural way to care for a baby. It can be done with or without nappies. Millions of mothers around the world deal with their babies’ toileting needs in this way. It is a skill that has been forgotten in the West since the advent of disposable nappies. Parents who practise BLPT respond to a baby’s needs as and when they occur, rather than waiting until nappy change time.

How does it work?

Parents look for signals that baby is uncomfortable, and then offer her a chance to urinate or defecate outside her nappy. They normally hold her in a ‘squat’ position, hands underneath the baby’s thighs, with baby’s back and head leaning against the parent’s chest. An older baby can sit on a potty or a toilet insert.  The baby then urinates or defecates in the potty or lavatory, instead of in their nappy.

All babies seem to be born with a reflex that prevents them from soiling themselves. Parents of newborns often find that their baby wees and poos as soon as they remove the nappy. The change in temperature and /or the squat position triggers this reflex. A parent can capitalise on this reflex by regularly holding the baby in a position that relaxes the pelvic floor with the nappy off. The baby will soon learn to associate the hold and the place (the potty or lavatory) with his bodily functions. And so, what starts as a reflex and some lucky timing, moves into a more conscious act on the part of the baby. Parents often make a ‘psss’ sound, or a grunting noise to help baby make this connection.

Baby led potty training can begin at birth, though some cultures wait until the baby can hold their head, or sit on a potty. It is harder to introduce after six months of age.

Some parents use this method full time – during the day, at home and out and about, and also at night. Others prefer to do just a few hours in the morning, for example. Another way is to offer the potty at convenient times, (for example when baby is being changed or bathed, or when the parent is using the loo) and use a nappy in between times.

For the purposes of baby led potty training, the type of nappy or underwear parents use on their babies is not as relevant as the way they are used. While parents are practising BLPT (which might be full time, or might be just for an hour), they try to communicate about every wee and poo, which normally means changing a nappy as soon as it is wet or dirty. In the first year, most parents use some kind of nappy system as a back up, and they often find that this is easier if they use cloth nappies, or training pants. It is possible to use disposables, but it is harder to tell when a baby urinates. A mix may be the best option, for example bare-bottomed at home, cloth for out and about, and disposables at night time.