I knew the day would come when I would eventually need to address this issue of early potty training. You may have recently read the amazing article about early potty training in the Huffington Post or listened to a friend bragging about how their two month old infant that can already “use” the potty instead of diapers. It can be intimidating to another parent and also impressive.
We are told that the benefits of ECing or infant potty training are: saving money on diapers, bonding with the baby as it is based on learning the baby’s potty cues and saving the baby from the horrible experience of defecating on itself which is viewed as abusive by many mothers that practice EC. Let me fill you in on my own experiences with EC.
Ten years ago when my son was first born a friend called me up excited about how her daughter used the potty at only one month old. She was now three, and had a very strange issue with not eating food yet and still breastfeeding almost exclusively. Those two contrasting behaviors and all of the research I had already had on infant bonding and Reichian style parenting made me put up a red flag, initially, but still I decided to research it and try it. After several attempts at putting my little infant on a potty- I had to stop, it just seemed and felt cruel to me. He could not even sit up on his own yet, let alone me holding him there on that hard plastic chair and encouraging him to “go.”
Both Freud and Wilhelm Reich had developed and researched extensive and profound theories on the anal character. The anxiety ridden person that was taught to potty train too soon and was later in life a penny pinching, collector and a control fanatic. These are blatant symptoms but there are much more subtle character disorders from this infantile treatment and training. In the middle east especially, early potty training was forced for hundreds of years, I was surprised that my friends husband who is of Lebanese descent describe his own toilet training at a mere six months old. Of course, there are also different levels of abuse in this area and training. There are the mothers that beat and shame their infants into doing it and then there are the mothers who “love” their children into doing it. I am here to protest this idea of “love” potty training as a sham. Let me explain why:
Its Not Training!!
I have heard many EC mothers use this argument; that to learn their babies potty cues and to bring them to the potty is very natural and has nothing to do with training. One mother even compared it to breastfeeding and being “in tune” with their baby. Wow, that almost makes sense, and most definitely would if we lived in a perfect world free from neurotic parenting and psychosis on a large scale.
Reich proved that over 90% of the population had some degree of neuroticism and suffered from pleasure anxiety. The blanket term he used for societal illness is the “Emotional Plague.”
This means, that I don’t care who you are and how perfect of a mother you think you are- your child’s life and future existence is literally hanging on this seemingly natural baby training. As a mother, are you that confident to admit you cannot cause emotional damage by ECing your baby?
Forced to Grow Up and Forced to Stay an Infant: The Contrast
Case in point, if you talk with these ECing mothers, many defiantly protest and defend their actions as I mentioned above with the arguments of being natural and letting the baby decide. The mother’s believe they are so in-tune with their infant that ECing just “happens.” The irony in this is that you will see many of these same mothers later with 6-12 month old infants- and the infants are attempting to wean themselves off the breast. To this natural, child led phenomena the same mother will protest- “Oh, no, I want them to still nurse- the baby doesn’t know, I’ll keep trying and forcing it.” The mother will continually offer the breast and with that offer add all of her emotional “cues” and neurotic expectations and the baby will start nursing again, for another few years. I recently came across a woman who was breastfeeding a ten year old simply because she wanted the child to wean herself. My assumption was that this woman missed her child’s cues- long, long ago. The breastfeeding therefore became a manipulative, emotional expression of the mother’s own neurotic needs. Later, in life, for the ten year old that breastfeeding became a infantile crutch and leash- literally a noose around the neck that leads her back continually to childhood and keeps her from emotionally moving forward.
Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game!
This is one reason why so many mothers get angry about Steiner’s recommendations to let children wean themselves when they become vertical. Many mother’s insist this is too young, however, every mother knows (including me) that there is a critical time between 6 mos-to one year where the baby becomes very disinterested in nursing and naturally attempts to wean itself. Steiner proposed that the reinforcing of breastfeeding after that critical time causes emotional problems later in life. Is that preposterous? I think not, when we look at the child as a unique independent life reaching out to the world and taking steps towards independence, it only makes sense.
I link potty training with breastfeeding because it shows how in both instances the training of the infant was about the mother, but the mother used the child as an armor or defense. This is not unusual and is a very “normal” way of parenting for most parents- though it is truly not the healthy or natural way to parent. So, whats the harm in saving some money, impressing all your friends and encouraging your tiny infant to use the potty like a child does?
A Look at an Infants Life
The stage of infancy is preverbal, this means they communicate exclusively to the mother, and vise versa, through intuition, facial expressions, feelings and emotions. Also, it is proven that infants lack sphincter control to hold their urine and feces, this means that if an infant is doing so- it is purely out of emotional control and unattributed to physical maturity and ability-the stakes are high:
1. A first time mother, not knowing what to expect- she puts many expectations on to the baby, it goes well at first and progresses, but the baby hits a bump and regresses, the mother gets frustrated and disappointed- the baby “feels” it.
2. A mother with other children- already stressed-baby is not catching on or mother starts missing cues and blames the baby, baby regresses- mother is frustrated, repressed anger- baby “feels” it.
3. Finances are tight, it is important that the baby stops using diapers- to save money…you already know where this is going…..
I am concerned that the infants of the EPT families, who up until a few years ago would have had a more contactful, loving, attached and least neurotic upbringing as their rigidly mechanical, conservative counterparts-with their only downfall being neuroticly controlling extended breastfeeding- will now characterologically be worse off and more sick later in life by this disturbing EPT trend. There was a reason why EPT was essentially irradicated and abandoned in the west up until now. Providing balanced education in this area seems unsurmountable, as just as these same people have blocked and armored themselves about forcing their child to breastfeed when they don’t want to, now they do the same thing concerning EPT- this is what worries me most!
Keep in mind, I have provided you with just a few circumstances- and this could happen to even the most loving, perfect and natural mother. Point blank, there is no such thing as a perfect mother– so, the sooner we realize that as mothers and stop striving towards it and start getting honest- we can learn to accept ourselves and our babies- as they are. I believe in child led parenting- but I have yet to see it in the pure form and until it actually becomes a reality- it would behoove us as parents to get real and honest and look at our own neurosis and how it affects our children and the world around us.
If you like this blog check out her six part book series on body/mind natural health from a Reichian perspective-“Beyond Natural Cures” “Beyond Natural Skincare and Weightloss” Available through amazon.com, lulu.com
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