Potty Training: Baby-Led Potty Training

Baby-led Potty Training (BPLT) also know as Elimination Communication (EC) or Natural Infant Hygiene (NIH) is the natural way to care for your baby’s toileting needs, and a growing number of parents are returning to the traditional practice of offering the baby toilet (or potty) opportunities.

If this approach is used, there is still a need for toilet training, as before 8 months the parent is simply ‘catching’.   The child still needs the opportunity to learns about taking her/himself to the potty/toilet.

When baby is just a few months many parents recognise when their baby is going to soil their nappy and prepare themselves for the imminent nappy change. But very few spring into action, hold their child over the toilet and avoid the clean up operation. Wet nappies are nicer to deal with than soiled ones!   BPLT is non-coercive and focuses on keeping the baby clean and dry and aware of their bodily functions. It uses and maintains their natural instinct not to soil themselves.

Variations of this approach are used internationally and are the norm in many countries.  Whilst using BPLT many people still use training pants or nappies as ‘back-up’ (rather than the only way to deal with body waste). Contrary to common misconceptions, using this method does not need to be stressful, messy or overly labour-intensive. It can also be done full or part-time to suit family circumstances.

What is Baby-Led Potty Training?

What is Baby-Led Potty Training?

Julie Rose is a mum of one living in Stoke Newington, she volunteered at the Hackney Real Nappy Network nappuccino sessions to raise awareness about Baby-Led Potty Training – a technique used to drastically reduce nappy use and something she learnt through a friend who practiced BLPT with her son.

Natural Infant Hygiene Factfile

Written by Rachel Richardson

Elimination Communication: Nappyfree Newborn

Mum Blogger, Lulastic talks about doing EC with her baby.

Conventional Potty Training

How do I prepare for Toilet / Potty Training?
  • Always talk about poo and pee in a positive way and encourage your child to praise him/herself.
  • Talk about poo and pee. If your child wears cotton nappies talk about when the nappy is wet and when it is dry.
  • Get a potty. Your child can sit on a potty from an early age. Encourage your child to sit on the potty ONCE a day (if possible when you expect a poo) for a short time (a couple of minutes as a guide). It should be a relaxing time. Nothing needs to happen but if a poo or pee comes give praise to show this is what the potty is for. Warning: don’t go overboard with the praise or it will be overwhelming for the child – although the prospect of you child coming out of nappies may be incredibly thrilling to you!
  • Open door policy: let your child see you on the toilet.
  • Visit the library and borrow different books about using the potty.
  • Create a game with your child about helping a teddy or doll to use the potty, praising teddy or dolly when they do a pee or poo on the pot and keep their pants dry. Get your child to role play being the teddy or doll and repeat the steps to you.
  • Visit a home where there are children of a similar age who use the loo and encourage your child to take an interest.
When Should I Toilet / Potty Train?
  • If you do this preparation your child is highly likely to show an interest – letting you know a nappy is wet or poo is coming.
  • The act of toilet training has been found to help the bladder develop so current thinking is that we do not wait until the child can stay dry for 2 hours.
  • Your child may already be using the potty/toilet for poos.
How to start Toilet / Potty Training?
  • Doing potty training preparation, rather than suddenly introducing a potty and pants out of the blue is not essential but very helpful.
  • Choose a time when your child is showing an interest in the potty and you can spend some time together. Set aside a few days to spend mostly at home and devote the time to helping your child develop this skill. Prepare your child for what is going to happen – that s/he is going to stop wearing nappies during the day.
  • Tell your child that s/he is only going to wear pants from now on during the day and will only wear a nappy at night.
  • Make it exciting. Go on a special shopping trip with your child to buy some cotton pants. If your child is going to use the toilet straight away get a step and a special seat too.
  • For the first few days encourage her/him to sit on the potty/toilet every few hours – about half an hour after a drink. But make sure s/he knows that s/he can also tell you if s/he needs to go, and that you’ll accompany her/him whenever s/he wants you to.
  • Some toddlers won’t sit on the potty long enough to relax and let anything come out. Calmly encourage her/him to sit there for at least a minute or so. Stay with her/him and talk calmly, or read a story. It’s best to start boys off with sitting too. Peeing standing up can be learned later.
  • When your toddler uses the potty successfully, give her/him lots of praise, though don’t go too overboard, as s/he may find too much fuss overwhelming. Even if s/he continues to have accidents, s/he’ll then start to grasp that getting something in the potty is an accomplishment.

When you think your child is ready stop reminding her/him to use the potty / toilet. There may be a few accidents but your child does need to get the feeling of when s/he needs to go to the toilet him/herself.

What do we do when we go out?
Once this process has started be consistent. Stick with it and don’t go back to nappies. When you go out you may need a portable toilet so s/he can use it.  Choose to spend time at a park with toddler toilets (such as Coram’s Fields) or a drop-in with small toilets so that your child will see ‘big’ boys and ‘big’ girls going to the loo.
What about night training?
Most children become dry at night within 6 months or so of becoming dry in the day but up to 20% will still wet at age 5 years.  If so parents need to speak with their school nurse or GP regarding appropriate treatment to help their child become dry.
What if there is no progress?
If you feel that your child is not ready after all, go back to nappies and try again when your child shows an interest. This process takes co-operation.   Your child should be an active participant.   Be consistent in whatever seems right for your child.
What about children with special needs?
Having special needs does not mean that your child cannot become toilet trained.  PromoCon, working as part of Disabled Living Manchester,  provides impartial advice and information regarding a whole range of products, such as musical potties and other toilet training equipment and swimwear and washable trainer pants for children who have delayed toilet training.

Information is also available regarding which services and resources are available for both children and adults with bowel and/or bladder problems.


0161 607 8219

In March 2011 RNfL carried out an online survey into potty training. It revealed that only a tiny percentage of parents are given guidance on potty training from Health Visitors. It also showed that children that wear potty training disposable pants tend to take much longer to make the transition to pants, than those that don’t. To read more: download the report (pdf).

“What to expect, when?” Guidance to your child’s learning and development in the early years 16-26 months “I can tell you when I need my nappy or pants changed” – pdf download

Continence Advice for Older Children

This is not our area of expertise but these websites offer excellent information on dealing with bedwetting, day-time wetting, constipation and soiling. www.eric.org.uk

PromoCon is also a useful resource for helping early years settings and schools manage continence. Another great resource for older children Talk about going to the toilet (PDF). Promocon Helpline: 0161 607 8219

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