Thursday, September 29, 2011

Early Potty Learning: A How To

The few people that have discovered that we are practicing early potty training our one year old daughter have asked me "How do you do it?" "Where do I start?" I say "few people" because I have been reluctant to go around touting our potty training success. I've been worried that I would either sound like I'm bragging (which, ok, I would be. "Hi, this is my daughter, Mary Abilene. She's potty trained.") or that I would hear "She's too young. You're going to scar her." or something along those lines. I'll let our success speak for itself!

So how do you start? The book I mentioned earlier is good, but it is more about why to potty train as opposed to how. So I devised my own plan, and it is a major success. First things first, get a little potty. I recommend a little potty chair as opposed to a potty seat that you put on the big toilet for several reasons. One, it is safer for a smaller toddler or baby. Two, your child can see their own success. Mary Abilene likes to get up and point to her prize. She knew that when she sat down, the potty was empty, and when she got up, it was full. This allowed it to click fairly quickly that she was making the liquid and could make it on purpose.

Next, you can choose to sit your child on it fully clothed, or go ahead and sit them on it without bottoms. Praise her just for sitting on it and read to her. See if she will sit for a few minutes. If she is totally comfortable with that, then you can move to sitting her on it without bottoms if you did clothed first. Put her on it first thing in the morning - that is the most likely time for you to catch it. I'm talking, as soon as her little eyes open, put her on the potty. The first morning we had the potty she pee-peed in it. I read that babies don't go while they are in a deep sleep, its really upon rousing. If I waited too long then I would have missed it. If she nursed first, then we missed it. So it has to be fast. (As long as she's awake enough to want to sit there - too fast, and of course, she will be cranky). Read to her while she sits (or some other activity that will keep her sitting), do the same right after naps. When you catch a potty tell her "Go pee-pee" or "Go potty", try not to jump for joy immediately because you might scare her into stopping! Then when she is finished, really ham it up; act like its the greatest thing since indoor plumbing. Praise, clap, cheer, throw them up in the air. This is all you want or need to do at first - upon waking in the morning and from naps, and you can try between diaper changes and before a bath. Anytime that your child would be naked anyway, go ahead and put her on the potty. Just read to her and let her sit as long as she wants, but let her get up when she's ready. If you catch it enough times, she should figure it out. That's what happened with us. MA stood up when she was done and would look at it and point. She figured out she was making the liquid/poop.

Also, I let Mary Abilene run around outside naked, she would watch herself pee and point to it. They have to be able to figure out that they are making it and that they can make it on purpose. Let your child in the bathroom when you go. Mary Abilene's potty is right in front of the toilet so we are facing each other if we are both sitting on our potties. Let her look in your toilet when you're finished (Don't be weirded out about it! Its a natural process and the best way for your child to figure out that everyone has to go potty!) When I sat her on the potty before her bath, I would go potty too and she started going when I went. She would also try to push it out when I went, even if she didn't have to go. I noticed that she would go even in her diaper when I went. It kinda fell into place at this point. One random day, I just put her on it between diaper changes and she went. After that, she was doing it on purpose every time.

It is really important to do a sign. It can be whatever you choose that is easy for your child and a clear indication. You need to do a sign when you put her on the potty and especially when she goes. Also do the sign when you go. I chose to pat my tummy with both hands because it is an easy sign to pick up. There is a real sign for "toilet" but its not as obvious as patting the tummy, I thought. She started doing this when she was going on the potty and then she just started doing it right before she had to go.

My daughter really caught on fast, about 3 weeks. She will tell us when she has to go, most every time. She does still have 2 or so accidents every day, and if we don't get her to the potty as soon as she makes the sign, she will go anyway. She can't hold it long; I only have about a 15 second window between making the sign and her going so it does have to be immediate. We keep her in little "panties" at home, which are just smaller size (6 month) bloomers from her too-small dresses. This way we don't have to take off a bunch of layers and unsnap snaps while hoping she can hold it long enough. I'm looking at getting training panties on Etsy, and it is going to be adorable! You could keep your baby in a velcro easy on/easy off diaper, but I'm really hoping to not confuse her too much. I think as long as she is not in a diaper it helps her to know she needs to go potty in the potty, not in her diaper. Also, if you have your baby in underwear you know when they go and you can go ahead and sit them on the toilet to help learn "pee-pee goes in the potty", and also, your child will not be sitting around wet. I believe it is important for the child to get used to being dry and like it. And also to like not having on a bulky diaper. I don't expect every baby to catch on this fast. Mary Abilene might just be trained easier because of cloth diapers, or because of her disposition; keep your expectations to a minimum and just do it for fun. Remember that your child does not have to be potty trained any time soon - this is purely bonus!

Potty training any child takes consistency, and I'm sure that goes double for a baby or young toddler. I have noticed that when we are out and MA is in diapers more, like on weekends, then she has more accidents the next day. Just don't make it a big thing, and I really do not believe that children this young should be reprimanded for accidents. Praise for success, and just an "all business" attitude when cleaning up an accident is sufficient - not disappointment or frustration. If it ever gets frustrating for you or your child then stop and try again the next month. And, never force a child to sit on the potty. It is really fun to watch my baby figure it out and really, really fun to feel like I have this great secret!

Previous posts on our early potty training journey:
We Like to Potty
Potty Update - 3 weeks in!

Note: I say "she" and "her" a lot because I have a girl. I believe early potty training works with a boy too, it is just easier for me to say "she" *smiles*

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Books I Love: Taking Charge of Your Fertility

Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The definitive guide to natural birth control, pregnancy achievement, and reproductive health.
Toni Weschler, MPH

This may be one of the best books I've ever read. No I'm not kidding. I read this book two years ago when I was just starting to think about trying to conceive. In the midst of being totally amazed at what I didn't know about my own body, I couldn't help but wonder - why didn't I know this before? This is not what kids are learning in sex ed. This is not what our mother's are teaching when we first get our periods. Why? Because they didn't know. The female body has remained a mystery for even females!

This book teaches how to learn your body's natural cues of fertility. It teaches that your cycle doesn't revolve around your period, but rather ovulation. It teaches how to know when you ovulate. The natural birth control taught here is the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). FAM is 99% effective when followed properly. It is not the "rhythm method", but rather following your bodies cues to know when you are fertile. It absolutely puts you in charge of your fertility. You can decide when to try for pregnancy or when to avoid it. It is not just looking at a calendar and counting to 14 as your OBGYN might teach. It also can tell you when you have an issue in your cycle so you and your OBGYN can be more precise and effective. The FAM combines charting your basal body temperature with other fertility cues. You may be thinking "Ugh, not charting!" A lot of people find charting laborious or stressful because they tried it when trying to conceive. I'm not going to lie, it does take work and organization. If you have trouble remembering to chart, are too busy, or don't have the discipline, then this method is not for you. But I love spreadsheets and I love learning about myself, so no big deal!

I absolutely believe that hormonal birth control is destroying our fertility. It wreaks havoc on our bodies causing more than just some uncomfortable side effects or mood swings. I believe it can cause lasting damage to your cycle. No, I don't have science to back me up. All I have is experience, testimonials, and a fair bit of speculation. So many people are experiencing miscarriages. I believe some of these could be related to hormonal birth control. Progesterone is what carries a pregnancy. Pro-gestational-hormone. It is essential to maintain pregnancy. While on birth control you do not produce progesterone. Hormonal birth control shuts down your natural progesterone and replaces it with progestin, a synthetic progesterone derived from horses' urine. Because the body is not allowed to produce it's own progesterone, it often has a bit of trouble kicking it back up once off the pill. The body could then not produce enough causing crazy cycles, delayed ovulation, or loss of a fertilized egg. Your hormones are in charge of everything from sleep, to your mood, to fertility, and a hormone imbalance can cause insomnia, headaches, weight gain, allergies, arthritis, auto-immune disorders, fatigue, etc, etc, etc. Hormone balance is very fragile, and personally, I believe hormones are nothing to mess with.

So get the book and read everything you may not know about yourself. It is totally eye opening and fascinating. Also, Weschler, has a book for teens called "Cycle Savvy: The smart teen's guide to the mysteries of her body" that teaches young girls all about their cycle. If there isn't something newer by the time my daughter enters the great abyss of puberty, then I'm definitely getting that.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What you think your baby needs.. that she doesn't!

I once heard that a new baby will cost $1,000 a month. I have no idea who came up with this number, but I would just like to say "No way!" My baby is cheap! Actually, she's priceless, but seriously light on the budget.

Maybe if you bought high-end disposable diapers, formula, and all the latest gadgets and gear, you could spend about $1,000 a month. I've already been over the cost of disposable diapers vs cloth diapers, and the cost of breastfeeding vs formula (read: free!) so you can refresh the cost savings. What I want to point out here is five unnecessary baby items that everyone thinks they gotta have!

1) Baby bathtub

I opted for a Tummy Tub and we all loved it. Mary Abilene was delighted and smiled and cooed in the TT when she was a newborn. There was hardly anything better than watching her eyes light up as we lowered her into the soothing water. But as soon as she could hold her head up, I brought her into the big bath with me because I wanted her to be comfortable in water at a young age. There I could help her lie on her back and "float" and fun was had by all. Apparently, I bathed with her one too many times and soon she refused to go back in the Tummy Tub. So from about 4 months of age on, Baby Girl has not been in a baby bathtub. We have bathed her in the sink, and she enjoyed sitting in the sink and looking at herself in the mirror as soon as she could sit up unsupported. Now, ever since about 11 months old, she has sat in the big bathtub by herself. No bathtub seat, no floaty device, no nothing except constant supervision and hands close by. I realize now that baby bathtubs and bathtub seats are pretty pointless. A newborn can be bathed in the sink and this can continue all the way until you are comfortable letting your child sit in the big tub on their own. Saves money, saves space!

2) Baby Food

While jarred baby food is unnecessary considering it takes 10 minutes to steam and puree fresh food, I'm not even talking about making your own. I'm talking no baby food. No pureeing, no mashing, no spoon feeding, no baby food. Baby Led Weaning, or Baby Led Solids is a great way to introduce solids. We started solids at six months old and Mary Abilene is a great and efficient eater. I like to think she's a better eater than other babies her age, though I don't know that statistically. Even if she doesn't eat more or more variety, it is just plain easier and more enjoyable for parent and baby to allow baby to explore food at their own pace.

3) Crib

Cosleeping is somewhat controversial, yet very traditional. Parents have slept with their babies probably from the beginning of time, and otherwise kept their babies in a basket next to them. Everyone having their own space in their own room, with their own bed is a bi-product of our, dare I say, selfish culture. Everything is bigger these days; bigger cars, bigger houses, bigger rooms. Just 50 years ago people lived a more minimalistic life. Putting a newborn in their own bed in their own room, otherwise called a "nursery" actually stems from nurseries in hospitals. Starting in the late 19th and early 20th century, babies were immediately whisked away at birth and placed in a box in the hospital nursery. Parents were led to believe that they needed the same set up at home, and thus the modern home nursery was born.

4) Crib bedding sets

While I'm on the subject, those oh-so-adorable crib bedding sets have turned out to be a bit of a waste of money. The only thing we really use from our bedroom set is the valance. But wait, that didn't even come with the set and isn't even necessary or for the baby! Bedding sets usually come with a comforter, a sheet, a dust ruffle, and a bumper for the crib. At least for my crib, you can't see the dust ruffle very well and is pretty pointless. The comforter, a baby can not use (it is advised to not use blankets in a crib with a newborn), and as far as the bumper goes, my crib has a solid portion in the back so the bumper doesn't tie where it should and thus sags. We hung the comforter on the wall as decoration, but I would have rather skipped the bedding set and picked out sheets, potentially a bumper if you think you need one, wall art or decorations, and curtains separately. That would have made a nicer and less contrived design scheme, I think.

5) Pacifiers

We all know pacifiers were invented to replace mother's nipple, but have you actually sat and thought about that? A pacifier is replacing the warm, loving, comfort of a mother's arms and bosom with a hard plastic, lifeless, plug. Don't get me wrong, I think pacifiers can be useful, but I also believe they are severely overused and misused. Pacifiers are often on registries and are bought before the baby is even born because we just assume its something baby needs. There is nothing that irks me more than giving a baby a pacifier within the first days of life. A newborn has needs and instincts that are God-given. A newborn must be allowed to suckle at the breast as often as needed. Sometimes it may feel like the baby is permanently attached to you, but this phase doesn't last long, and it is very healthy and normal. In the first few weeks of life, this "sets" the mother's milk supply. Pacifier use often leads to early weaning and a dwindling milk supply. Pacifiers can have their place if baby is very fussy in the car or another time when it is unwise to nurse, but should not replace nursing during other normal times. Sometimes a baby may need to suckle beyond what a mom can handle, and by all means, use a pacifier if it will help you keep your new-mom sanity, but I do not think it should be a regular fixture in a baby's mouth. Not using a pacifier won't save you much money, but it will certainly prevent your child from becoming attached to it and may save you from "weaning" from the pacifier later.

There are probably hundreds more unnecessary baby items and an abundance of baby products out there that seem to enable you to parent lazily. I saw a picture of a bottle holder that you strap onto the car seat and it dangles the bottle down at mouth level. No joke, I almost cried when I saw this. To not take the time out of their "busy" schedule to nurture their own child just makes me want to weep uncontrollably. But anyway, that's off topic. Point is, you don't have to take out a second mortgage to have a baby. If you adopt a more natural parenting style, babies can be quite cheap! (and totally priceless!)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Heck No, GMO!

You've probably heard of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) by now, but you may not know what they are or what the big deal is. I acquired a nice pamphlet from my favorite herbalist so I thought it would make a good blog post.

"Yes you're eating them. No, they're not safe."

- Since 1996 Americans have been eating GMO's in most processed food and some whole foods.
- A GMO is a food that has been genetically altered with foreign genes from bacteria and viruses.
- There are eight GM food crops - soy, corn, cotton, canola, and sugar beets are the biggest five. Hawaiian pineapple, zucchini, and yellow squash are the other three. About 10% of the nation's sweet corn is GMO, and that number is rising.

A GMO product is a plant that has had its DNA altered. Basically the way they alter a food's DNA is by "shooting" foreign genes into a cell or using bacteria to invade the cell with the foreign DNA. The altered cell is then cloned into a plant. You may be wondering why anyone would want to alter the DNA of a plant. The largest crop producer in the United States is Monsanto. Monsanto is an agricultural biotechnolgy corporation that produces herbicide and genetically engineered seeds (GE). They require their farmers to ONLY use their GE seeds which are genetically altered to withstand their specific herbicide, called Roundup. They produce "Roundup Ready Soy" which is GE to survive heavy doses of Roundup. The mutated genes of their soy and other plants allow Monsanto to spray Roundup killing all other plants besides their specific variety. This also causes a heavy residue of herbicide on the foods. Another reason for genetically modifying seeds is that they can create the plant, usually corn or cotton, to have its own built-in pesticide. A study in the journal "Reproductive Toxicology" found the bacteria used to modify the DNA of corn and cotton to not only show up in her blood stream, but to cross the placenta of a pregnant woman and pass it on to her unborn child. Essentially, GM foods are not only unnatural, but either have large doses of herbicide, or built-in pesticides.

The agricultural companies like Monsanto do this purely to make more money. They control the food supply and the farmers. Using their own GE seeds with their own GE herbicides allows them to produce many more crops than could be done naturally. See the documentary, Food, Inc for more details on Monsanto and the food supply.

Some may see more supply and more money as a good thing, but the problem is that GMO crops have been proven bad for us. Soy is now one of the top allergens, but soy allergies sky rocketed after the introduction of GM soy. A skin prick test shows that some people are allergic to GM soy and not natural soy. Cooked GM soy contains as much as 7 times the amount of allergens of a known natural soy. The toxin used in the DNA of corn and cotton has also been linked to allergies. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine states "Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food", including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. They ask physicians to advise patients to avoid GM food.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) essentially is turning a blind eye to GMO foods. In 1992, they claimed they had no information showing that GM foods were substantially different from conventionally grown foods, and were therefore safe to eat. Because they deemed the food "safe to eat" no safety studies were required. Yet internal memos in the FDA made public by a lawsuit reveals their position was staged. The pamphlet states "The FDA official in charge of creating this policy was Michael Taylor, the former attorney for Monsanto, and later their vice president." In actuality, FDA scientists had repeatedly warned that GM foods can create unpredictable, hard to detect side effects including allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems. The same GMO companies that have been found guilty of hiding toxic effects of their chemical products are in charge of determining whether GMO foods are safe.

Just last year, the Obama administration passed a bill that would allow biotech companies to genetically modify alfalfa. This is a huge blow for organic farming. Organic farmers feed their cows alfalfa, as is their natural diet, as opposed to GMO corn. Essentially if alfalfa is now GMO, cows are no longer eating their natural diet and there will be no such thing as organic dairy products or beef because the very source of the food is GMO.

What you can do: Refuse to buy GMO food. The best way to do that is to buy certified organic products, considering it is not required in the U.S., unlike other countries, to label GMO foods. I'll never forget my high school economics class that taught me that whatever you buy is your stamp of approval for that item. If you buy GMO corn you are announcing that you want GMO corn and you want them to continue to produce GMO corn. Refuse to buy and the demand goes down. If more people understand GMO and refuse to buy those products then we are telling biotech corporations that we do not want GMO; we want natural food!

Further reading:
and download a Non-GMO shopping guide at

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Potty Update - 3 weeks in!

In my last post, less than a week ago, I talked about how we are helping Mary Abilene learn to use the potty. Check out that post for potty training babies and young toddlers. This is an update on our super fast, amazingly, awesome progress.

Toward the end of last week, Thursday and Friday-ish, she wasn't going in the potty near as much as she was Monday and Tuesday-ish. Maybe once a day; I think she didn't go at all in it on Friday. Maybe it is a two steps forward one step back kind of thing. Well, as of Sunday, she started doing a sign for potty! We were teaching her to pat her tummy with both hands when she potties. On Sunday she suddenly started patting her chest at random times. We were thinking "Now what is that?" She has a bit of sign confusion, signing "all done" when she actually means she wants something. But it didn't take more than 2 pats before I realized that she was doing her version of the potty sign. She pats her chest while she sits on the potty, and pats her chest while she goes potty! By Monday we were thinking "This is fantastic, but she needs to learn to pat her chest or tummy before she needs to go." We were going to start patting our tummy and her tummy before we take her to the potty. But today, just one day later, she is starting to pat her chest right before she has to go!

This morning, she was sitting on the floor and looked up at me and patted her chest. I said "You have to go pee-pee?" Thinking she was currently going pee-pee, I swooped her up and promptly stuck her on the potty. As soon as her little fanny hit the seat she starts to tinkle! Yay! She did it! She told me she had to go then she went! No more than an hour later, my husband was sitting at his computer and she toddles up, taps him on the knee and pats her chest! He scooped her up, managed to get her tights and diaper off, sits her on the potty, and she tinkles! I'm so excited I can barely stand myself! She continued to do this throughout the day. I didn't even have to stare at her to wonder when she needed to go. I was even making dinner and she was playing in the kitchen, she grunted at me, I looked at her and she patted her chest. I took her to the potty and she tinkled! She tinkled in the potty ever single time she had to go today that she was at home. She only wore two diapers - one during her nap, and the other while we were out this afternoon. My next question is; How am I going to find panties to fit someone this tiny?

She will be 13 months old on Thursday. Just shy of 13 months old, she has learned to potty in a little potty, has learned a simple sign for potty, and has started doing her sign to communicate with us that she has to go potty. We started sitting her on the potty on August 13. Now, less than a month later, she tells us when she needs to go and goes in the potty regularly. This is seriously revolutionary! My mother-in-law asked why we would want to start potty training her so young - the answer is simply: because we can! I know my baby is a super-genius and all, but I truly believe that every baby could learn. Maybe at different paces, maybe at different ages, but the fact of the matter is that you do not have to wait until age 2 or 3 to start potty learning. Don't delay, start today!