Question:

I have a friend who is from Russia. I believe she gets a lot of her information from her relatives there. Her son will be 3 in March. She has not bothered to potty train him at all, but he doesn't wear diapers, just his normal underpants with jeans or shorts, depending on the weather. He shows no bladder or bowel restraint. She believes that urine, in a confined diaper can get overly hot, which in turn can or will cause a male child to become sterile later in life. I have tried to look this up on-line and found nothing, but did come across your site which is very well said, to the point, accurate and informative.

Is there any truth to this? I mean, I can't believe a wet diaper could possibly get any warmer than body temperature!

Answer:

The timing for potty training a child varies by culture and economic situations. Here in the United States children are not generally not trained until somewhere between 18 months and 3 years of age. But in Scandinavia, the typical age for training is 11 months. And surprisingly, when I researched Russia's traditions, it is 9 months! It is much later in the United States because of our fondness for disposable diapers and our willingness to buy them instead of putting in the extra work necessary to train a child at a younger age.

In Russia, the typical method is to set a child on a toilet from the time he is able to sit up on his own, generally around the age of nine months. Their goal is not so much a training to hold the urine or feces as it is to teach the child where they are to put these things. Since babies tend to soil shortly after eating, the Russians will put a baby on the toilet after every meal and wait until the natural results happen. They then give lavish praise when it does. The result is that the need for diapers disappears sooner, which is important when your income is low.

It appears to me that your friend is merely lazy. She doesn't want to expend the effort to train her son. What concerns me more, though, is whether this laziness extends to putting off changing her son when he does soil himself. One of the motivating factors in toilet training is that the child does not like the feel of soiled clothing and so hurries to the bathroom to avoid it. But if this boy has grown up used to wearing soiled clothing, he has less motivation to use the toilet. And this is not even considering whether he has rashes from exposure to urine and feces for periods of time.

Her excuse fails on two accounts. First, urine and feces are at body temperature when expelled. They will warm up when bacteria sets in to start the decay process, but no child should ever be wearing soiled clothing that long!

Second, the concern about temperature is after the male child is old enough to produce sperm; that is, in his teenage years. It is the production of sperm that requires slightly lower than body temperatures. If the temperature rises too high, sperm production is temporarily suspended. It resumes when the temperature is back in the normal range. Since a child does not produce sperm, the concern is unfounded.

To prove this point further, any parent knows that a baby boy's testicles are held close to the body. This is because the scrotum is not yet developed, and won't begin until after puberty. But the design is there to keep young boys from injuring their testicles. Yet, a side result of the design is that the testicles are basically kept at body temperature until after puberty. Yet that little extra warmth does not affect fertility in later years.

Getting the boy back on track will take several weeks of diligent effort. It isn't a hopeless case, but what first must happen is that this mother must put more effort into being a mother and less on her convenience.

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