Hi! I gave a talk to Hackney mums and dads at the Nappuccino at Hackney Central Library last Friday about my practice of BLPT (Baby-Led Potty Training). I wanted to share my experience of this technique with other parents first-hand to raise awareness of it and help change the cultural norms around babies wearing nappies 100% of the time.

To my surprise, a show of hands revealed that around 40% of the folks there had heard of BLPT in some form and several people were already interested in trying it. One participant even said that her mum had done BLPT with her when she was a baby! Others had never even heard of it and were interested to hear something new. Everyone seemed impressed at the basic messages of BLPT as a huge waste-reducer for environmental friendliness, no big and sudden change of message when the child reaches an age where it seems they should no longer wear a nappy, and it costs nothing-100% free to do!

I wanted to post some of the questions that I got asked as it’s likely that they will be relevant to other parents so here goes and I hope that you will find this helpful:

Q: Where do I start with BLPT?

A: The whole practice starts with nappy-free time. If you do some nappy-free time each day it gives you a chance to observe your baby’s signals and what they naturally do around when they pee or poo. They may give a small cry, or squirm or make a particular face or go very still. This will help you to tune into your baby’s toilet needs when they are dressed and gets the baby used to the causal nature of peeing making them feel wet and so on. Disposable nappies in particular are very effective at wicking the moisture away from a child’s skin so in nappies they may not have a sense that they have peed at all. BLPT doesn’t just foster a line of communication between parent and child about toilet needs it helps the child to be responsive to their own body. This is my main reason for practicing BLPT.

Q: Do you use sounds to help the child understand what to do?

A: Absolutely. Once you hold the baby in position over the potty, you make a ‘cueing’ sound: a ‘ssss’ or ‘ssshhhh’ for a pee and a grunt for a poo. My mom was pretty mortified when I told her about the grunting, but she gave it a go and was very pleased with herself when it worked. Some people run the tap as the sound of running water can help. BLPT also goes really well with a sign language practice so that once children start signing back (typically from 9-14 months), they can simply make the potty sign to tell you they need to go. Creating communication around their toilet needs will naturally become a 2-way process once you are in the habit of using the potty with your baby. They’ll tell you if they want to go or not! You can get free baby sign videos on YouTube but do be aware that British Sign Language is different from American Sign Language, so make sure you are doing the one you want to practice. It’s a nice thing to do with your baby anyhow.

Q: Do you find that you spend hours and hours holding the baby over the potty?

A: In the early months, you’re at home a lot anyway. When the baby is so small, the BLPT relies on the reflex of the child’s reacting to the sensation of fresh air. This is why babies often pee once you have removed their nappy for a change. Instead of doing the double dab (particularly for little boys), removing the nappy to let cool air in and then holding it back over so you don’t get pee in your face, you can pop the kid on the potty and catch it in there. It is not the idea to simply hold the baby in position for as long as it takes them to go. Sing a few songs to your baby to help them (and you) relax and if it comes, it comes. It takes practice! The curiosity to give it a try will mean you don’t perceive it as time-consuming, rather as just another activity that you do with your child as part of your routine.

Q: What do you do about night-time?

A: There are different approaches. Some people prefer not to do night-time BLPT and dry nights are among the last things to fall into place with a lot of kids. If you do want to do BLPT at night, just lie the baby on a sheepskin or soaker pad and when the baby wakes to feed, use the occasion for a potty moment. Day or night, a pattern emerges for your child’s natural preferences and these patterns will change as the baby grows. Like with most things with children, it’s best not to take a rigid approach but to do what works for you and be flexible.

Q: How does it work if you are sending your child to nursery?

A: You have to bear in mind when you set out to do BLPT that it is not the cultural norm and so nurseries are unlikely to make provision for this preference, particularly with very young babies. If your child starts nursery or other childcare once you have already established a BLPT practice, you could advocate for your key worker to include this in your child’s routine. You never know, the childcare professional may already have experience of BLPT or similar. Stranger things have happened and you don’t know if you don’t ask! In any case, you could keep nappy-free time and offering the potty at a couple of times consistently, perhaps at the beginning and end of the day, to keep BLPT in the mix. It’s your child and your practice so you have to navigate the situation as you think best and be realistic.

Q: Where can I learn more about this? 

A: I learned about BLPT after we experienced a friend taking her (pre-verbal) 18 month old to the loo when he told her he needed to go. We were totally astonished and she filled us in- it’s not witchcraft, it’s Elimination Communication! (That’s what they call it in the US.)

I read a book by Ingrid Bauer that I was handed down by my sister when I got pregnant (my sister had it handed down among many other pregnancy books and had never read it). I then asked my friend who had done EC/BLPT for a tip and she recommended reading and contacting Andrea Olsen. I have recently heard about Amber Hatch through the Real Nappy Network and she is a UK-based practitioner who has a book out. So there’s plenty of info out there if you’d like to know more.

I can be contacted via Hilary at Real Nappies for London if you have questions. If you’d like to come and chat with me in person I will be doing a little talk at the next Hackney Nappuccino, (run by the Hackney Real Nappy Network) on Fri 23 Oct October 10.30-12 Hackney Central Library with BLPT talk at 11am.

Julie Rose Bower