A celebration ensues every time 2-year-old Michael Ellison uses his big-boy potty. Cheers from big sister Kiyana, who is 4, put a smile on his face. Proud mother LaKisha Wright is just a few weeks away from a diaper-free household.
Not all moms and dads can sing the same tune.
More and more children are being potty-trained later in life. Last year, the first large-scale study of toilet training in 30 years reported that only 22 percent of children are trained by Michael's age. In the 1960s, 90 percent of toddlers were toilet trained by age 2 1/2.
And the $4 billion diaper industry is responding to - perhaps driving - that trend.
Pampers introduced their biggest diaper, size 6, in June. Huggies' size 6 hit the stores last month. Manufacturers say the diaper, for children weighing around 35 pounds, is made specifically for the huskier toddler and the older child who is not psychologically ready to start potty training.
The diaper has re-ignited the debate over what method of toilet training is best.
Some parents are calling the new diaper a blessing; others say it's just another excuse for delaying training.
Wright wants nothing to do with a larger diaper. "That larger diaper is nothing but a pacifier," she said.
She is training her son in a cloth training pant so he can feel the wetness a thickly padded training pant masks.
She thinks the "child-led" approach to training has gotten out of hand.
"Every child develops differently, but sometimes we have to push a little," Wright said. "I think with the right motivation and encouragement we should be able to teach our children anything, especially how to grow up."
Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, a pediatrician who is consultant for the Pampers Parenting Institute, has used the child-led, pressure-free approach to toilet training with thousands of his patients. He asked Pampers for the larger diaper.
"Don't rush your toddler into toilet training or let anyone else tell you it's time," Brazelton advised. "It's got to be his choice."
Brazelton appears in a Pampers commercial for size 6 diapers.
The Proctor & Gamble Co., maker of Pampers, listened to "tons and tons" of moms whose children grew out of size 5 and weren't ready to move to the next step, training pants or underwear, said Howard Lossing, the Pampers brand manager.
"If your child is ready to potty train at the age of 2, that's wonderful. It just doesn't happen in every case," he said.
The new size 6 diapers have come a little too late for Donna Russell.
Russell's 4-year-old son, Kenneth, was toilet trained by the time he was 3 years and 2 months old, but he outgrew his size 5 diaper before that happened. Russell had to use a training pant product.
"It was hard training him with Pull-ups because it confused the issue with underwear," Russell said. When Kenneth was ready to move to regular underwear, he soiled them.
"I would have loved to have had larger diapers," Russell said.
She intends to train her 11-month-old son with the same "when-he's-ready" theory and said the larger diaper would come in handy.
Sales of Pampers' size 6 are brisk, Lossing said, although some mothers have called the company saying, "Shame on you for doing this."
But "for every one bad call I get, there's 20 great calls saying thank you."
Wendi Strong, spokeswoman for Kimberly Clark, maker of Huggies, said it was too soon to gauge the success of the larger diaper.
The manufacturer of Drypers is taking the wait-and-see approach before making any plans for a larger diaper, a company spokesman said.
Parents point to two reasons that children in the 1950s and 1960s were toilet trained earlier: Today's disposable diapers keep children more comfortable than cloth diapers, and more mothers stayed home and were able to keep their children on a consistent training plan.
But the major diaper study last year discounted those theories. A researcher at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine concluded the age at which a child is trained has nothing to do with whether he or she was in day care, had siblings or a mother who worked.
Pub Date: 12/13/98