Toileting Routines Present a Unique Opportunity

The role of the adult in the toileting routines of a young baby is that of facilitator. After all, babies are not physically capable of changing themselves. However, that does not mean that your baby is not able to be a willing participant and cooperative partner in the process. Quite the contrary, even the youngest baby can respond to sensitive physical care routines, and can contribute to their care through cooperation and expression of enjoyment in the process.

The goal of a diaper change, therefore, is not a clean baby, with a fresh diaper, but rather a baby who has an understanding that their physical care is an important part of their daily life, that it is important to their significant career, and that they have a level of control and independence that is appropriate to their stage of development. The baby’s first introduction to the world is through touch. Our hands and our handling of them communicates our love and respect in a profound way.

If we touch slowly, gently, and ask for cooperation rather than having an expectation that our babies are passive recipients of care routines focused on efficiency, then we will find that our babies grow into willing partners in the process of their care and this makes for less conflict as our child grows, which incidentally makes for more efficient care routines in the long run. Parenting is rarely about the short-term experience, but more often about reaping the rewards of a crop that was lovingly planted and tended for a long time…

So what does a respectful diaper change look like with a non-mobile baby?

Before you initiate a diaper change, OBSERVE your baby to see if they are ready to be changed. If you swoop in and carry them off to be changed you may be interrupting their concentration and activity, which has significant ramifications for their developing cognition. If you get in the habit of

changing your baby’s diaper as soon as it is soiled, then they will internalize the sensation of being clean and dry as “normal” and they will communicate their need for a diaper change from a very young age.

The key is to talk to your baby. Tell them what you are planning to do BEFORE you do it. Then WAIT for a response before continuing. EXPLAIN your actions as you perform them. SLOW everything DOWN so that your baby can experience every step and learn to trust you.

And for a mobile baby?

Well basically the same rules apply, except that you will need to give more notice before initiating a diaper change, to ensure that you have their cooperation. Without your baby’s partnership, you will have a struggling, wriggly baby to contend with which makes for a pretty miserable diaper change anyway. So, it is worth investing time in securing their willing participation in the process, before you start. You may also need to move your changing mat to the floor for safety. The beauty of making a point of changing your very young baby’s diaper as soon as it is soiled, is that your child will not like the feeling of a soiled diaper against their skin and will want to remove it as soon as possible. So, setting up this pattern early on, does you a lot of favors when your child becomes mobile.

The first year of toilet learning is complete…the goal of this stage is to

create an awareness within the child of the difference between “wet” and “dry”

establish a positive association with diaper changes so that your child is a cooperative partner in the work

prepare for the next stage which is awareness of elimination (can begin between 12 and 18 months)

Join us on January 25,  2018 5:30-7:30pm for a workshop, “Toilet Talk” at The Children’s Tree Montessori School, 96 Essex Rd., Old Saybrook. 860.388.3536. For more information or to register for this free workshop visit:
Dinner and childcare offered for $10 per family
Dinner: 5:30-6:00
Free workshop: 6:00-7:30

Information contained in this article is adapted from Michael Olaf, the Child’space Project, and How We Montessori.