Leave the diapers behind, that’s what Alex and I agreed upon when packing our suitcases for Costa Rica. Not because we planned on buying some when we arrived but because we planned on fully weaning Nova off of them during this trip, fully knowing that he’d be spending a lot of time naked in nature. We envisioned this helping him to recognize the urges associated with having to eliminate and the freedom and accessibility to act upon his natural instincts. Fortunately, for the three of us, with commitment, follow through, and a touch of luck we had a self- confident diaperless child within the first week of our vacation.
Here’s how it went down:
It’s important for you to know this wasn’t a one week process, a false promise or timeline pressure thing. In hindsight, we’ve actually been prepping Nova prior to the trip by having him diaper free before and after nap time and all the way until bedtime. Along with his caretakers supporting us with ample diaper free time.
We asked Nova (aprox. every 30 – 45 minutes) during the times he was diaper free “do you need to go to the potty?” In which we’d then direct him to it or go with him depending on his response and request.
We began noticing his potty cues, some new to us and much more obvious due to him being diaper free. For instance, he’d grab his “zeezee” a.k.a. his penis and hold it very tight, sometimes even crossing his legs and squirming, this immediately signaled us to direct him to the potty. On occasion, he’d take himself to eliminate and other times he would let us know “mommy and daddy I feel something happening” unsure of which bowel movement was needing to take place. We’d then take him to the toilet and hold him up to make him feel safe and sturdy since we weren’t using our usual throne.
Once Nova followed his cues and used the potty, we did acknowledge him by saying that’s great Nova, you’re becoming such a big boy using the potty and recognizing your bodily sensations, acknowledging the steps he was taking towards independence. I know praise can be a controversial subject but it felt right to acknowledge Nova’s action in a positive and encouraging manner, that wasn’t based on bribes, demands, or rewards. Instead, a good old fashioned pat on the back, way to go! Nova responded very well to the encouragement and enjoyed going to the potty just like mommy and daddy, that seemed to be motivation enough at times. I know the school of thought that says not to praise our children but as a parent, I find that idea doesn’t always apply to my feelings and the support I want to share with my son. The truth is I am proud of my big boy, growing fully into himself and if it’s wrong to praise that, then I don’t want to be right.
We bought Nova big boy underwear a.k.a. training pants shortly after he turned two. He enjoyed using his potty from time to time and we could tell that one day soon he would likely prefer to get rid of his diaper, and wanted to have an alternative ready for him. We purchased the training pants to show him there were options for him outside of diapers when he is ready. In the beginning. he wanted to wear his big boy underwear but continued to use them as diapers. This signaled to us that it would likely be easiest for him and us to observe his cues if he went without any diapers or underwear until he developed the visual connection of elimination. We now use the big boy underwear as underwear and not as diapers because Nova now grasps the sensations and the connection of elimination.
What about the middle of the night you ask? Did he wet the bed? Being a bed wetter myself when I was a kid made me fear that I would wake up to the same frustrating scenario my parents and I often woke up to, a wet bed, stained mattress, and a sea of shame. However, with Nova, this wasn’t the case. Sure, in the beginning, there was an accident or maybe even two but we all caught on very fast to tuning in. We began modeling to Nova to use the potty before we lay down for sleep and immediately when we woke up in the morning. Doing these things even though he drinks water throughout the night prevented us from waking up to wet bed linens. One those days when accidents happened we were cautious to not react in a way that would make Nova feel like he did something wrong. Instead, we acknowledged that he wet the bed and next time he can try again. For such a grand right of passage, letting go of diapers and gaining more independence a few small nuances hardly hold weight, for us anyways.
We noticed as Nova was making the transition into more independence he had a desire to cling to mommy and daddy more, this made a lot of sense to me albeit at times made me think “why is he so clingy, what’s going on”? He wanted to know and feel the security from us was still there for him in these changes. This was such a beautiful bonding time for all of us and put more joy in the process of letting go, growing up, and elimination training.
Nova grew more and more excited discovering his own favorite places and techniques to go to the bathroom and with the freedom of being naked and in nature most of the time in Costa Rica it gave him a lot of potty options. We have noticed that when Nova is distracted or fully engaged in something such as play, watching a show, or riding in the car that he doesn’t respond to his cues on his own instead tries to hold it in, that’s where we’ve been able to help him the most checking in with him and guiding him to use the potty before, during, and after these scenarios. We talk to him about being able to push pause, not be afraid of letting go of the play for a moment and coming back to it when he’s done with the potty, as well as communicating before a car ride and during if it’s a longer trip or if we’ve noticed he’s had a lot to drink or eat.
Maybe it’s being on vacation or in a relaxed environment like Costa Rica, but, I can’t help but feel that this passage has been nothing short of awesome and not at all horrific, tiresome, and intense as I had once thought it would be. I share all of this with you in hopes that if nothing else you can take the pressure off knowing that it’s a natural process and in the right time windows of opportunities present themselves when our kids are ready. It’s acting on these cues that will make the process enjoyable vs. difficult for all.
I encourage you to be patient, communicate often, have fun with it, and be there to assist, encourage, and hold your child when needed. You too might find that the process can be as rewarding as the outcome with the added bonus of never needing to change, clean, or purchase diapers again!
Here are some links to Organic Big Boy/Girl Underwear a.k.a. Training Pants: