Whistling could reduce number of nappies going to Mont Cuet landfill

February 1st, 2013 by University of Gothenburg

Child on the beach (click image to expand - image ©Iju published under creative common license)

Western babies are potty trained at a later age these days and generally need nappies until an average age of three or four.  The situation in Vietnam is just the opposite.

Researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, followed 47 infants and their mothers in Vietnam for two years to study their potty training procedure, which begins at birth and generally eliminates the need for nappies by nine months of age.

Not only does eliminating the need for nappies save money and remove one practical chore for parents, but the baby’s ability to control its bladder improves efficiency and reduces the risk of urinary tract infection.

The technique is based on learning to be sensitive to when the baby needs to urinate.

“The woman then makes a special whistling sound to remind her baby,” Anna-Lena Hellström said.

“The whistling method starts at birth and serves as an increasingly powerful means of communication as time goes on.”

According to the paper ‘Vietnamese Mothers’ Experiences with Potty Training Procedure for Children from Birth to 2 Years of Age‘ published in the Journal of Pediatric Urology, women notice signs of progress by the time their babies are three months old.

Most babies can use the potty on their own by nine months of age if they are reminded, and they can generally take care of all their toileting needs by the age of two.

“Our studies also found that Vietnamese babies empty their bladders more effectively,” Professor Hellström said.

“Thus, the evidence is that potty training in itself and not age is the factor that causes bladder control to develop.”

Many western societies have grown accustomed to the idea that babies cannot be potty trained, but that parents need to wait until they are mature, usually when they decide that they no longer want nappies.

The evidence from Vietnam demonstrates that more sophisticated communication between parents and their babies would permit potty training to start and be completed much earlier.


Guernsey Nappies are preferable to disposable nappies in many ways.


3 Responses to “Whistling could reduce number of nappies going to Mont Cuet landfill”

  1. Yvonne

    This is very true. Readers might be interested to google “elimination communication”, we did this with our child with excellent results.

  2. Helen

    When I first worked in childcare a good fifteen or twenty years ago I’m sure the average age to potty train was about 18 months. This is now considered unusual and even frowned upon, with some studies suggesting that potty training under the age of two can lead to an increase of urinary tract infections later in life, contrary to the conclusions cited here. (I have to admit I find this hard to believe, given that it’s only in Western cultures – and then only in recent times – that potty training has taken place on average so late.) The cynic in me can’t help wondering whether this current trend has anything to do with the fact that the nappy industry has so much to gain financially: an additional year in disposable nappies equates to around 1,500 extra nappies per child (on the conservative estimate of only four a day) which is massive in terms of sales – and sadly also in terms of the environmental impact, especially in Guernsey. Better promotion of elimination communication and real nappies would make a really big difference here.

  3. stacey

    I don’t know about whistling but I think that nappies are a very convenient reason to put off potty training. I should imagine after 18 months of washing out a toweling nappy you would be sick of it. I potty trained my two boys at around 22 months. The first was quicker than the second but we got there. I was determined to save myself the cost of nappies as an incentive but obviously the environmental costs outweigh that still.

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