The American Academy of Pediatrics says that babies can't fully control bladder or bowel movements until they're about 18 months old. So, the ideal age to begin toilet training is around then -- but it's important for children to be ready for it, and every child is different. The child must be able to understand what the toilet is, verbally communicate her needs and physically get herself to the toilet. Otherwise, there's just too much stress on parent and child -- and too much opportunity for failure [source: AAP].
The infant potty training community, of course, begs to differ. Babies aren't uncommunicative blobs, they say, and they have more control over bodily functions than the medical establishment thinks.
Although the sides disagree on what age is best, they both recognize that the current trend toward later potty training is not a positive one. The age of toilet training initiation steadily increased through the 20th century, largely because it's so easy to use disposable diapers. Now, the average age is around 3 [source: Contemporary Pediatrics], even though the AAP recommends about 18 months. Dr. Barton D. Schmitt, writing for Contemporary Pediatrics magazine, asked, "Has the pendulum swung too far?"
Toilet training methods have changed quite a bit in the past century, too. In the early 1900s it was a fairly strict, punishment-based process. But the psychiatric community, led by Sigmund Freud, started questioning the psychological impact of using punitive techniques in toilet training. Now, parents are encouraged to make it fun for the child, staying positive and offering rewards for using the toilet.
Obviously, parents need to consider many factors when thinking about trying elimination communication. It takes a lot of time and patience, to be sure, but more time and patience than changing diapers for three years? Only you can be the judge.
To learn more about elimination communication and infant potty training, take a look at the links on the next page.