Elimination Communication: Is It Possible to Potty-Train Infant Twins?

Perhaps you’ve heard of the potty-training method called “elimination communication” or infant potty training. This technique has been used in parts of Asia and rural Sub-Saharan Africa for a long time. The premise is that infants as young as six months old can be trained to use the toilet (or sink or other container), rather than the diaper. (Some experts recommend starting it even younger, right after babies are born, so they don’t get accustomed to using a diaper.) Proponents claim that parents can learn when a baby’s ready to “go,” through signs such as straining or grunting, and get him to the toilet before he’s soiled himself. Some parents are even able to prompt their child to eliminate by using a particular cue, such as a whispered “pssst.”

The benefits of elimination communication include no diaper rashes or smelly diaper pails, fewer diapers used (which saves money and contributes to a healthier environment), as well as not having to train an obstinate two- or three-year-old later. People who have used the method also say it strengthens the bond between parent and child as it requires a great deal of closeness and natural communication.

So, is this method effective? It can be, for the parent who’s truly diligent in following it. Experts say it’s more about training the parents than the children. Infants are really too immature to understand that they need to signal you when they’re ready to go, although they may learn to relax their bowels in response to your cue. Mostly, it’s a matter of the parent learning to read babies’ signs that a bowel movement is imminent. Of course, this requires a huge time commitment. You have to be constantly in your children’s close proximity in order to know when they’re “ready.” And often there are “false alarms,” so you may be running your children to the toilet quite often, only to find that no tinkle is forthcoming. On the other hand, there will be times that you’ll miss the cue, in which case you’ll be doing a lot of upholstery scrubbing. This method is also very impractical when you’re out in public. If you think one of your twins is ready to poop, will you be able to make it to the store bathroom in time? And who wants to expose their infants to the germs of a public restroom anyway? And what if there’s an embarrassing “accident” in the middle of Macy’s? Some parents compensate for these factors by using a combination of elimination communication (at home) and traditional diapering (in public).

With these benefits and drawbacks in mind, is it possible to use this method if you have multiples? Well, technically it’s possible—anything’s possible!—but is this really how you want to spend your life with your twins? It seems like a lot of time that could be spent on other things during your babies’ precious first year of life. And this method also makes it much harder to leave the twins with others to give you a much-needed break! Of course, if you work outside the home or don’t have enough time within the home to closely monitor your child (because you work from home or have other children to attend to), this method will fail. If you think you’re up to trying it with your twins, then go for it! You have nothing to lose (except maybe your newly upholstered couch). My prediction, though, is that this potty-training trend won’t become the norm—especially among parents of multiples!

Excerpted from It’s Twins! Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence (c)2007 Susan M. Heim.

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About Susan Heim

Susan M. Heim is an author and editor, specializing in multiples, parenting, women’s and Christian issues. Her books include "Boosting Your Baby's Brain Power"; "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Twins and More"; "It’s Twins! Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence"; "Twice the Love: Stories of Inspiration for Families with Twins, Multiples and Singletons"; and, "Oh, Baby! 7 Ways a Baby Will Change Your Life the First Year." Upcoming books include "Chicken Soup for the Soul: All in the Family," "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Women," and "Moms of Multiples' Devotions to Go." Susan's articles and essays have appeared in many books, magazines and Web sites. She is a member of the National Association of Women Writers and the Southeastern Writers Association, and has a degree in Business Administration from Michigan State University. Susan lives with her husband and four sons (two teenagers and twin grade-schoolers) in Florida.