EC begins at the birth of a child for some parents; others wait a few months before attempting the practice. Proponents of the method advise that parents definitely begin implementing it before the child reaches six months of age (when they’ll likely be used to diapers and reluctant to make a change).
“The typical Western method of training a child to be continent starts with teaching kids to ignore their need to eliminate for approximately two years, then trying to retrain them to pay attention and ‘go’ in an appropriate location,” says Wiggins. “With EC, kids know from day one that there is an option for elimination that keeps them dry and comfortable.”
“I have nothing but respect and admiration for parents that committed to raising their children that they invest this much time and effort to toilet training them,” says Hodges. However, “I have never seen a child harmed by being in diapers too long, but I have seen lives ruined by being taken out of diapers too early. Uninhibited voiding and defecating are healthy and lead to less urologic issues in children.”
While having a child who knows how to use the toilet, potentially by the time she is 1 year old sounds fabulous, EC-objectors believe the practice can negatively affect a child’s physical development.
“If you are always with your child and able to make sure they void or defecate on time, it’s possible you may never have a problem. My fear is parents that aren’t capable of attachment parenting will see the reports of success with early training and, in an effort to get out of diapers sooner, train their child at a young age with inadequate follow-up,” says Hodges. “These children, when left to their own devices, will start holding their pee and poop.” And this holding while the bladder is still developing can lead to problems like UTIs, bedwetting, incontinence, frequent urination and more.
“Accidents and infections in kids are not normal. When they are present they are due to holding of pee and/or poop,” says Hodges. “While holding can cause these problems at any age, and training early does not make you hold, nor does training late prevent you from holding – you can be sure a baby in diapers is not holding, and you can more easily treat constipation in diapers, and you can more easily convey the importance of regular emptying to a child that speaks and understands.”
“Just like a child will say ‘mama’ when he is ready, a child will potty train when they are ready, and by age 3, kids are ready, so why push?” says Deborah Michael, occupational therapist at North Shore Pediatric Therapy and mother of five. “Kids need to learn frustration-tolerance, independence, communication and they will, in developmentally-appropriate ways. Kids get trained in an easy and quick way if parents are on board and ready.”
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