Category Archives: Elimination Communication

Letting child follow his body's cues

Elimination Communication (EC): Tales of a Diaper Free Baby

Posted by Cassandra Okamoto

I first came across Elimination Communication way before I was even pregnant. I read all about it here, here, and here, and after devouring up all of the information, testimonials, FAQ’s and concerns it just made so much sense to me and sounded completely “do-able” whenever we decided to have a child. My husband was definitely not convinced. He was used to me coming to him with “extreme” ideas: Let’s eat vegan! Let’s have a completely vegan life! Let’s eat all raw! Do NOT get the dog his shots! Throw away all of the cleaning products, now! Don’t flush the toilet if it’s just pee! Pee while you shower!

But no diapers on a baby? Potty training an infant? He was definitely skeptical.

Whenever EC comes up in conversation most people do refer to it as “infant potty training” but that really was never what it was about to me, or even it’s appeal. I loved the idea of giving baby an opportunity and space to relieve him/herself and not forcing him/her to sit in wet or soiled diapers unnecessarily, which could be in conflict with his or her natural, instinctual desire. Below is our journey practicing EC with our now 15 month old.

When my son, T, was first born we started cloth diapers pretty soon after and although EC was still on my mind, we were in strict survival mode – washing diapers was all I could manage. Around 14 weeks post partum we were getting in a little better hang of things and I ordered Diaper Free Baby off of Amazon to read up on the specifics of how to implement with my now almost 4 month old.

We started by just letting him be naked on some towels and whenever he would pee or poo I would make the pppppsssssssss sound for him to try & start associating that sound with the sensation of going. Next I would hold him in the squat position over the toilet… he did NOT like this. A lot of the other moms we spent time with regularly that had babies only a couple weeks or months older than my babe were having tons of success with EC in practice and I was determined to keep trying… so the next thing I did was buy the BABYBJORN potty chair.

My son was actually not into this potty either, he wasn’t really able to sit by himself and although we could hold him on it for a few seconds before he started fussing it was never long enough for him to relax enough to go to the bathroom. We “caught” a few pees but that was it…

Baby-led potty-training w/ 16-week old

Baby-led potty-training w/ 16-week old

So after this (when T was 15/16 weeks old) I gave up on EC for a while. I got super sick right after that and my husband and mom were on baby duty for a couple of days and it all kind of went out the window.

But, around the time T was about to turn six months old, I got the itch to start up EC again and it was a whole different experience!

As soon as he would wake up in the morning the first thing we would do is take him to the regular potty, hold him over in the squat position and wait until he peed. He was totally comfortable in that position now & would never fuss!! He would always pee in the morning and then we would do the same after every nap. He almost always went, and we even caught a few poos this way too! I journaled about an after nap EC experience we had during this time that said “you woke up from a long nap kind of fussy (which is rare, you are usually only fussy when you wake up prematurely) so I took your pants & diaper off and went straight to the bathroom and almost immediately you pooed a TON & then peed, wooo hoooo!”

We would still make the ‘pppppppsssssssss’ sound when he was going in hopes that he would start associating that & the squat position with eliminating. I still had not noticed any cues from him: certain faces, grunting, etc. that indicated to me that he had to go but we kept doing the ASL potty sign too, and stayed hopeful that sometime soon he would catch on to that or we would start to notice some sort of other pattern or something. It really excited me! Diapers are really NOT exciting at all, but this was. It was so nice to not have to wash as many diapers, ESPECIALLY poo ones now that he was eating solids, and it felt like we are just making huge strides in our communication with each other, I loved it. My husband would take him to the potty too, which was awesome!

After he was sitting up really well unassisted, around 7 months, we started setting him on the small potty chair again. He was much more comfortable at this age and would sit for a while, playing with toys or just hanging out with us. He would poo & pee, too! We started taking him not just after naps but at all different transitions, when he would wake up, when we got out of the car seat, when we got out of the carrier, before we left the house and sometimes a few minutes after nursing. When we would arrive somewhere I would take him and hold him over the toilet in a public restroom, or often times just outside of the car in the parking lot! We were getting in a really good groove and it didn’t really take much extra effort at all, just undoing & redoing diapers but it wasn’t that big of a deal.

We also bought a few more little potty chairs from IKEA to have around the house so we weren’t always running to the bathroom. Having them scattered about was really convenient for us and I loved that T was comfortable and happy sitting on them.

Baby-led potty-training in progress

Baby-led potty-training in progress

Baby-led potty-training at playtime

Baby-led potty-training at playtime

This went on for a couple of months and then T started crawling, yay! Not so great for the potty though. Now he was able to climb off of the little potty whenever we would set him on it, he was MUCH harder to manage during diaper changes as he just wanted to roll over and go, go, go, and it was much more difficult to watch for any “signs” that he needed to go to the bathroom when he was off exploring.

Potty chairs are fun to play with though!

Potty chairs are fun to play with though!

This was a big time of transition for us, T loved being mobile, his mood was dramatically different, and it was the beginning of a lot more bodily independence between him and I. I was ok letting EC take a back burner for a while. He was learning and exploring and discovering at such a fast rate and we as parents were now deep in the “how to” of balancing freedom and safety and boundaries and awareness with a mobile child.

We changed houses a lot during the next months, stayed with different family members, moved states, but we always managed to spend time outside and I almost always gave T some diaper free time each day.

Around 12 months I noticed that he seemed to have more awareness of when he had to/was about to go to the bathroom. He would be naked outside and he would always look down before he peed, when he had to poo he would usually stand up and hold onto something, still and quiet for a bit, then go. This was huge to me! I felt like if he was aware of what was about to happen it would only be a matter of time before he would be able to communicate it to me or take himself to the potty to go.

He is now 15 months old and that is pretty much where we are. In the morning when he wakes up we go to the potty and he almost always goes pee, same when he wakes up from his nap in the afternoon.  He spends a lot of time during the day diaper free and almost always looks down before he pees, sometimes I am fast enough to put him on the potty other times I wait until he is done and then put him on the potty anyways and explain to him that the potty is the best place to go. I can usually tell when he is about to poo and if we are able to get his diaper off and get to the potty in time we do. I honestly don’t see us being diaper free outside of the house for a long while, it isn’t something I am pushing for and I am all about making things as easy and convenient as possible when it comes to being out and about with a toddler. I believe as he can start communicating more he will tell me when he is ready! I know he is only 15 months which is still very young when it comes to “potty training” but at this point it is not a stressful thing for us and I hope it continues that way over the course of the next year.

Letting child follow his body's cues

Letting child follow his body’s cues

Our EC story is a very part time one, but I am grateful to have come across the knowledge early and give T the opportunity to get comfortable on the potty and relieving himself outside of a diaper from a young age.

What are your experiences with EC? Have you heard of it, tried it? At what ages? We would love to hear your story!