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Elimination Communication for Beginners - Our Experience

Did you know that the average age for toddlers to be fully potty trained (during the day) in the US is 2.5 - 3 years? If we go through about 6 diapers per day, that is a lot of diapers! What if there was a way to reduce the number of diapers you used, tune in and grow closer to your baby, and mostly likely get your baby out of diapers much earlier than this standard?

I’m talking about elimination communication (EC). Sounds a little crazy, right? I thought so too, when I first heard of it. Bear with me.

In a nut shell, many people know EC as potty training for infants, but really, it’s training the adults to learn their babies’ signs and natural timing to help them eliminate in a hygienic and less wasteful manner. It’s also nothing new. Non-western cultures around the world still use this method with their babies, who are usually potty trained by about a year old because they don’t have access to diapers (and it’s what all humans did globally before the invention of diapers – even cloth).

When I first heard of EC, I thought that babies couldn’t control their bladder and bowel movements and this must be a scam. However, as more of the mom influencers I follow on social media started mentioning they were using it part time (some even while using disposable diapers!) my curiosity blossomed. I saw photos of tiny newborns being carefully cradled over top hat potties or regular toilets and eliminating on command. I saw babies who weren’t even walking yet sitting happily on a mini potty with teeny tiny underwear around their ankles. Cuteness aside, I began to wonder, could this really work?

I did some research, and stumbled upon Andrea Olson’s book and website, Go Diaper Free. She’s known as the EC guru and has 5 kids who she pottied from birth, and were out of diapers by the time they were walking. Olson’s website and podcast offers a wealth of knowledge, but if you want all the information in one concise resource, I highly recommend purchasing her book (it’s a bit expensive, but I got mine used, and found it well worth it).

To begin, here are some misconceptions I had about EC (perhaps you share some of these).

1. EC is only for hippy parents.

2. You must start EC with your baby from birth, or you won’t be successful. ‘

3. You must use cloth diapers in order to do EC.

4. You have to do EC 100% of the time, no matter where you are or what situation you’re


5. EC will be lots of extra work as compared to using regular diapers.

6. EC will be really hard, require all of my attention, and won’t be worth the reward.

Allow me to address these misconceptions.

1. EC is only for hippy parents.

Ok, so I might be considered a little hippy, because we lean towards the Montessori approach in our household (I am a trained Montessori teacher), but not like that. It’s true that many parents who do EC also use cloth diapers and may follow a Montessori approach or an attachment parenting style (co-sleeping, lots of babywearing, etc.), but that’s not true for everyone. Many parents start using EC with young toddlers as a gentle way of introducing their child to the potty rather than springing it on them when they’re 2.5 (or whenever the parent decides it’s time to potty train) and it potentially being a stressful experience for all involved.

2. You must start EC with your baby from birth, or you won’t be successful.

This was a big one for me. We didn’t start EC until my son was 9 months old. I figured we’d give it a try with no expectations or stress and see what happened. I started getting “catches” (when pee or poop goes in the potty, rather than in the diaper) on day 1! While there are a few optimal windows for initiating EC (birth – 3 months is the easiest, followed by 4 – 10 months, then 11 – 15 months) you can begin EC with your child at any age before 18 months old. (Andrea also has a book about non-coercive potty training for kids 18 months and up). It might take a bit longer for your little one to catch on if you are a “late starter,” like we were, but you can still have excellent success and work towards familiarizing your baby with the potty and getting them out of diapers sooner.

3. You must use cloth diapers in order to have success with EC.

I was one of those moms who had hopes and dreams of using cloth diapers and getting some cute second-hand diaper covers for my even cuter baby. But the realities of having a newborn and all the laundry it already involved (not including the 10 plus poopy daily diapers) he generated in the early days squelched my enthusiasm for pursuing it. I really do love to be kind to Mother Nature, but I told myself I’d have to find another way. While many parents who practice EC use cloth diapers, many do not! Some believe that using cloth helps sensitize babies more easily to the feeling of being wet. I wasn’t too concerned about that initially, and just tried to keep my little one as dry as possible, without using an inordinate number of disposable diapers in the process. We plan to transition to training underwear once he begins walking and he’s demonstrated he can stay dry for 1-2 hours.

4. You have to do EC 100% of the time, no matter where you are or what situation you’re in.

This was another stumbling block that kept me from getting started earlier. We travel out of town frequently and are often out and about, so we only do EC at home during the day (and I keep a travel potty in the hatchback of our Subaru and usually offer before and after we leave somewhere). Even a few catches a day can help build the potty - elimination association for your baby and help make potty training down the road smoother and quicker. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good!

5. EC will require lots of extra work and time as compared to using regular diapers.

At first, yes, it was some extra work. I set aside some time for naked observation to get a sense of my babies natural timing (how long after he woke up or ate did he normally need to go potty? Then what time intervals after that?). However, once we got into a rhythm, it really didn’t take much extra time. Plus, we have fun, sing songs, and read while he’s on the potty, so I don’t believe the time is wasted, even if I mis-guess and he doesn’t need to go.

6. EC will be really hard, require all of my attention, and won’t be worth the reward.

It really isn’t that hard! We focus on the “4 easy catches:”

· Poop

o It’s pretty obvious when they start to go – you can whisk them off to the potty

usually before they’re done.

· Upon wake ups

o These are nearly always easy wins.

· During transitions between activities

o Before/ after leaving the house, sitting in a high chair/ stroller

· After meals/ nursing or bottles

o You’ll get to know how soon after a meal your little one needs to go

We also use natural timing. I’ve learned my baby (currently at 10 months old) typically needs to pee about every 40 minutes, so I give him “pottytunities” at those intervals. Sometimes he goes, sometimes he doesn’t, and lots of times I mis-guess, or we have misses. It’s all good and it’s all part of the learning process.

So far, I’ve found the process of EC very rewarding. Do you know how much easier and more enjoyable it is to dump poop into the large toilet, flush it, and wash out the mini potty rather than clean a messy bum? If you don’t, I encourage you to give EC a try! You’ve got nothing to lose, and possibly a lot to gain. Check out Andrea Olson’s website for an easy start guide and a wealth of wisdom and information if you’re interested in learning more about elimination communication.

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Unknown member
May 04, 2022

This is SO great Calesse! As I mentioned to you, Michelle of M4 did this with her little guy and their success was amazing! I admit that that rest of us in the group thought it was a little crazy when she first mentioned it. Then we were all jealous when here son was using the potty at 9 months while we were still in icky diaper world! Don't forget ladies, the diapers get worse as the kiddo gets older! 🙁


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