When it comes to potty training your baby, there is no shortage of advice floating in cyberspace.
There’s potty training advice about when to start, the best training potty method, what kind of diapers and pull-ups to use during potty training, and even if it should be done on a schedule or not.
Most people are not aware that there's an ancient method of potty training that happens all over the world, at any given time, and starts immediately from birth: elimination communication.
What is Elimination Communication?
According to Wikipedia, “elimination communication (EC) is a practice in which a caregiver uses timing, signals, cues, and intuition to address an infant's need to eliminate waste. Caregivers try to recognize and respond to babies' bodily needs and enable them to urinate and defecate in an appropriate place (e.g. a baby toilet.)” In the English language, this method of early infant potty training has become known as elimination communication, or simply "diaper free".
You may be wondering, “Can an infant be potty trained immediately from birth?”
Well, the answer is double-sided: yes and no.
Yes, it is possible to help your baby eliminate, both pees and poops, beginning at birth, into a receptacle.
No, it’s not really about potty training as much as it is about mommy training.
“Pottying” becomes a verb while baby’s caregivers give the baby opportunities to eliminate naturally and effectively. Not only is using elimination communication healthy for your baby and the environment, it can be super healthy for your checkbook.
Think About This
What did humans do before there were diapers? I’m sure they used some kind of swaddled cloth as a makeshift diaper. I’m also convinced they would have been doing everything they could do to train a baby how and where they should go from infancy.
I’m living proof as a mom who successfully used the elimination communication method, EC, as it is sometimes referred to, from the moment both of my boys were born. Sure, I had plenty of misses and accidents, but diapers leak sometimes, too. And, I had many more “catches” and successes than I did misses. My husband had a deepened bond with our boys because he, too, learned to read the boys’ potty cues.
Do You Use Diapers with Elimination Communication?
When I visited China in 2000, four years before children, I was fascinated with the bum-less baby clothing I witnessed. Babies didn’t wear diapers; their little bottoms had an empty cut-out built into their cute clothing. When I first heard of the EC method from a friend who was successfully using it with her baby girl, it made sense to me.
I did, however, use backup. Snap on/off all-in-one cloth diapers, when out in public, were my standard. At home, I would hold baby or keep him in his swing, bum out but liner under. Sometimes I used a liner like an old fashioned, cotton, cloth folded diaper insert. By baby number two, I used all natural disposables at times when I needed them just to be safe.
What is Parent Training?
The diaper-free method is not as much baby potty training as it is parental training to become in tune with your baby, paying attention to their signs or potty “cues” and simply responding to their need by helping them eliminate.
How did I manage to fully potty train two children before they were eighteen months old? Two words: elimination communication.
Andrea Olson of GoDiaperFree defines elimination communication as “a gentle, non-coercive way to respond to a baby’s natural hygiene needs, from as early as birth. Like all mammals, human babies instinctively resist soiling themselves, their sleep space, and their caregivers, and they clearly communicate about it from birth. With EC, we learn baby's signals and natural rhythms and assist them with this process until they naturally gain independence (usually by 9-18 months of age).”
We had great success and end result with our elimination communication with both of our boys. Our first born was completely out of diapers by 11 months. We discreetly “pottyed” our boy at home, visiting friends, on airplanes, road trips, and even in front of landmarks like the Tower of Pisa. That was a really fun one :)
I know it may sound impossible, but my son did not have any more regular accidents after his eleventh month. I recall having a hard time even finding underwear small enough to fit him. Our second son took a bit longer, and by 18 months he was also out of diapers and onto big boy pants.
How Do You Know When a Baby Has to Go to the Potty?
There are three common ways I used to help recognize when my boys needed to go potty.
1. Baby's SIGNAL(S), Signs or Cues
There can be as many as 60 possibilities of a baby’s signs, from their squirminess and body language to little noises, to fussiness or even a “funny” grimace, your baby will have their own unique signs. My boys would stop nursing suddenly, almost “pop off,”and this was a cue. They would get squirmy in a sling or stroller, and this was a cue. I even remember “peeing” baby multiple times while they were sound asleep based on a squirming signal. We were teaching our babies sign language, so this also helped with cues as they could tell us very early on when they need to go through signing.
2. Baby's NATURAL TIMING
What is natural timing? Logically, it’s when the baby naturally has to go to the bathroom. Think about when you or your baby usually does her business. This is common sense interval training for mom, and includes times like after waking from a nap and after nursing or eating.
3. Mama’s (or daddy’s or caregivers) INTUITION
I’d often just be doing a regular activity like cooking, laundry or writing and I’d have a hunch that baby would need to go, and sure enough, baby needed to go.
Being a diaper free family had some incredible benefits. Many people thought we were “crazy,” but we were persistent and committed, and it paid off in many ways.
We saved countless hours changing dirty diapers and traditionally potty training. We also saved thousands of dollars on diapers, while eliminating much diaper waste from landfills (pun intended.)
But most of all, the bond and trust we built spending the extra effort with our boys was incredible, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. You can do it, too.
Have you heard of elimination communication? Share this with an expecting or new mom and save them the time and money, too.