Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Stand-up diapering....the long version. But SO worth it hanging in there for.

When I finished grad school about 5 years ago I took at job at a college lab preschool. The school was used as a teaching model and practicum site for early childhood/child development college students. It was a preschool that ran 2 programs in the same building--a traditional preschool that served infants through preK--and also a Montessori program also serving infants but including kindergarten, as well. I was hired to work in the traditional model, primarily in the 2 year old classroom.

As part of my orientation (I LOVE their model for orientation), I had to spend several hours observing each of the other classes through the two-way glass (and I could listen by wearing some headphones that connected to a microphone in the was an awesome set up!). The Montessori program, especially at the infant and toddler levels, instantly amazed me! I was so shocked to see 1 year olds setting their own tables, using silverware, regular cups, and NAPKINS!!! This was just the beginning of my journey....

The toddler class I taught in followed a more traditional philosophy, but it was still highly influenced by Montessori methods. One that was immediately foreign to me was stand-up diapering. When I first observed teachers in the infant and toddler classrooms diapering standing up, I wondered what in the world they were doing....and then when I heard this was the ONLY way any child able to stand could be changed, I was a little nervous whether I'd be able to do it...and why in the world anyone would WANT to do that.

I remained a critic for only a couple of days.  It was easier to master than I had thought. My co-teachers gave me great tips (and I learned a few lessons the hard way.) I quickly saw the reasoning and value behind stand-up diapering....first in the toddler classroom where our children were mastering potty-training, and then later, when I took on some extra hours in the older infant classroom and saw the pre-potty-training stages.

First off, in the Montessori method, there is no such thing as potty training a child over a couple of days, over a weekend, or even over a week. Like most aspects of child development, procedures and skills are taught gradually and methodically--giving the child as much responsibility as they are developmentally ready to handle at each point of their physical, emotional and cognitive (mental) growth.

So....the first step begins even with tiny infants when caregivers explain what they are doing as they change diapers. They explain to the child what's in their diaper (pee or poop) so the infant begins to make a connection that there is a difference...important later on when a child needs to be able to discern if they need to pee or poop in the potty. They may also begin to let the infant hold the diaper or a wipe and hand it to them when they are ready for it.

When a child is able to stand up with help (ie: holding onto something), they are ready to begin stand-up diapering. For us, that was around 10 months with Quinn (our daughter) and Beck (our son). You can tell it's time when they start the "alligator roll." If you've had a baby you know what I mean! The second you start diapering he tries to roll away from me and fight getting changed. I cringe anytime I see a parent in a battle with an "alligator baby" during a diaper change, and I cringe even more when I hear parents tell me they have to spank their child (or use some other form of punishment) to make them lay still to get their diaper changed. Alligator rolling combined with leg strength to stand (with support) equals time for the world of stand-up diapering!!

In a classroom setting, the teacher would sit in a small chair and put the child between her legs, with the child holding onto one leg of teacher to assist with standing (this was in the 2 year old classroom). In the infant classroom the child supported himself on a low changing table that was about 2 feet off the ground (of course....Montessori is all about child-sized furniture!!).
At home we bought two very cheap stools from Ikea (they kinda look like nightstands) for around $12. We kept one upstairs and one downstairs in the bathrooms.

It's important to have all your supplies ready at hand. We kept a basket under the stool with diapers, wipes, bags for dirty diapers, and diaper cream.

Before changing the dirty diaper, we would get the new diaper and unfold it and actually turn it inside out, so that once it's placed on the child the leg flaps (that contain the pee) are not tucked under.

At this first stage the child is encouraged to help with removing clothing--ie: show them how to loop their fingers in the waistband of their pants and use a downward motion. We often sang the song "Quinny's pants are falling down, falling down, falling down." to the tune of London Bridges.

The child is also asked if they have pee or poop (even if they don't have the words to answer yet.) The caregiver checks, and notifies the child. If it's a pee diaper the child can be taught to remove it themselves. We started teaching Quinn how to open the tapes on her diaper. If it's a poopy diaper, the child needs to learn that the caregiver removes it, so it doesn't get everywhere! It's important to teach the child to differentiate between poop and pee because when they are starting to use the toilet they need to know if they are peeing or pooping. Seems simple to us, but initially kids don't know the difference. They will be taught that if you need to poop sometimes you might need to sit a little longer, and you wipe differently, etc. Also distinguishing between pee and poop is helpful later on, as you can encourage the child to come to you immediately for a change if they have poop.

The child can be in charge of getting a bag for the dirty diaper. They can also be taught how to open the wipes and take them out one at a time, handing them to the caregiver. Of course all of these skills are introduced one at a time, with lots of practice for each skill. For a pee diaper the child is asked to "clean your body" first (use a wipe on themself). The caregiver can follow up with a second wipe, if needed. If it's a poopy diaper, the caregiver cleans first, and the child can have a turn when the caregiver's finished.

People always freak out the most when they hear about stand-up diapering when it's a poopy diaper. I actually learned it's much easier standing than doing it laying. First off, often it doesn't get smashed all over the place onto the child's body because the child layed on their bottom. The poop stays more solid, making for easier clean up. The child can either lean forward, over the leg of the caregiver, or one of the child's legs can be lifted to access all the areas that need wiped. The child can switch over to holding onto the caregiver's other leg if the caregiver needs to wipe the front of the child.

For my two, we used the stool, so we were actually behind them when we changed her. Initially we had to work with on remaining standing--they'd want to sit back down and crawl away. We would let them take the wipes out or put a small toy or book on the stool top to keep interest (for about a month, until they figured out what was going on and had no problem remaining standing).

The caregiver explains what they are doing as they help remove clothing, clean the child's body, and help the child redress.

Another facet of this method is that once the child starts standing, diapering is relocated to ONLY occurring in the bathroom. This is for obvious reasons--the place where we take care of toileting needs is in the bathroom. We kept our "changing stool" in the bathroom. We also purchased a small toilet seat (that fits on the bigger one) and stool, so she could begin to learn about using the toilet. In our school's program parents were encouraged not to place little toilets in any other locations (living room, etc.), because children need to learn to go to the bathroom to handle all toileting needs. It's important to diaper in the bathroom (ding--one of those early "pre-potty" steps that leads along the path to potty training....) to help the child make the connection that potty stuff happens in the bathroom! I think one of the first reasons many parents resist stand up diapering is because it's a little more work--you can't just change the child right where you happen to have to get up and go into the bathroom every time. But it'll pay will! If you are saying, "But our bathroom is too small to fit a stool in there," you can use the toilet to support the standing child. Close the lid and wipe down surfaces that will be touched with a clorox wipe, or throw a towel over the closed lid so the child touches that, instead. You can also use a child-sized chair or even a door frame to support your standing kiddo.

We started out by letting Q explore the toilet--flushing many times, opening and shutting the lid, and unrolling the toilet paper. We didn't allow her to put her hands in the water, though. We taught her that it was "yuck." We showed her how to climb up and sit on the seat. So, for a couple months after every diaper change we encouraged her to sit on the potty for a second. She didn't do anything....just sat for a couple seconds. This was fine! She was learning some important skills--how to get on the toilet, primarily. So, to recap, every time we changed her diaper, it was ALWAYS in a restroom. And if we were at home, we always encouraged her to climb up and sit on the potty after a diaper change.

18 months seems really young to most people, but this is actually a great age (for some children it occurs even sooner....) because they are first starting to notice the toilet and what goes on with it--and that parents are using it. Once the child first shows interest/curiosity is the perfect time to add toilet skills to the "potty training" schema. Sometimes waiting until the child is older (2 or over) actually skips past the window of interest (and also coincides with the "NO" phase, which does not help acquire toilet skills!)

Sometimes we knew times of the day Q would always seem to pee. We tried to take her to sit on the potty before she peed/pooped in her diaper, and occasionally we'd get her there in time and she'd pee in the potty. We'd make a big deal and clap and say, "yeaaaa!"

After a while of just sitting and practicing, Q peed in the potty a few times and started making the connection. A little bit after she turned 2 years old, we started encouraging her to sit on the potty and "push out your pee" every little bit during the day. From that point on she did great and was fully potty trained shortly after her 2nd birthday.  Same thing for our son.

From a teaching standpoint I was shocked how easily ALL of our children potty trained using this method--even the boys, which many people argue are so much tougher. I love that potty training was never an "issue" or an "obstacle" or even a frustration. It was just part of our every day routine.

As a mom I loved that I could change diapers anywhere easily--no changing table needed. In the truck--easy! Standing up on the seat worked great. In public restrooms--no problem, she often just held onto my legs and I bent over and helped her (or him). I also loved that it wasn't ME CHANGING HER.....the older and more capable she got, the more she was expected (and excitedly willing) to do because that was just the way we had always done things.

I could go on and on about how great I think stand-up diapering is. And also how important it is to teach toileting just like any other skill--in small pieces as the child is able to do more.  We would never say to a child "This is the weekend you are going to learn to eat.  We are not leaving this house until you learn to eat."  Yet often this is done with potty training....

Both of my kiddos moved along the process so smoothly and with no resistance.  I saw the same thing in the infant and toddler classrooms where I taught.  The only "things" with stand up diapering is that you have to be committed to following the same procedure every time and give as much of the process over to the child as they are ready for....if you can do've got it made!

** more about our diapering journey at THIS POST.It has a step-by-step breakdown with pictures of our Little Man and stand-up diapering.  :)