This post was original written for “The Survival Guide for Rookie Moms” last May.
I stumbled upon Elimination Communication (EC) when I was pregnant. The minute I realised that there was an alternative to years of changing diapers I was sold. Ironically EC is considered to be a controversial stance in infant hygiene although it is far from new and it is practiced by billions all over the world. They don’t have diapers in most countries outside the industrialized world!
Not everyone will understand!
When I mentioned EC to my friends the usual response was “What?” and some had fairly strong views on the subject:
“babies are not aware enough to understand what’s going on”
“children should not be potty trained until they are old enough to be interested in it”
or my favourite “I simply don’t have time to sit around watching my baby for signs that it needs to pee”.
Even my pediatrician told me that babies are incontinent until the age of 18months at the earliest.
What is Elimination Communication (EC)?
Described as a toilet training practice, “Elimination Communication (EC) is when a caregiver uses timing, signals, cues, and intuition to address an infant’s need to eliminate waste”
Basically, you tune into the rhythm of your baby’s need to pee or poop – usually babies need to eliminate 10 minutes after a feed or upon waking so that’s when you whip off their diaper and put them on the potty, over a bowl, over the toilet, in the garden – whatever works for you.
Isn’t it just potty training?
Yes and no. Babies are born with the instinct not to soil themselves and we actuallytrain them to pee and poop in a diaper and then we un-train them to go in the potty/toilet years later.
Through EC your baby starts to become aware of their need to eliminate and will start to let you know when they need to go.
So, when did we start Elimination Communication?
We started EC when Baby in Provence (BiP) was 3 months old. I bought a potty and held her over it 10 minutes after her last feed which was roughly about the time when she would usually pee.
I cued her by making the sound “Psst-psst” and a minute later she peed. I was sold. The day I caught her first poop in the potty I was elated. So was she! She hated being wet so it was a win win!
We take each day as it comes. It is not a competition. I don’t get upset about the misses. We celebrate each catch in the beginning and go with that. Some days BiP never makes it to the potty and that is absolutely fine. Life is stressful enough without adding to it.
What are the benefits of EC?
There are loads of benefits to EC. Too many to list here. For us it was simple. BiP hated being wet so she screamed everytime she peed so we went through masses of diapers so through EC we saved the crying and the diapers! It is much cleaner when they poop. We still have the same tube of diaper rash cream from when she was born as she almost never has diaper rash. I’ve read that it can help prevent UTI’s, thrush and other skin problems. Also the traditional method of potty training will be a stage you will probably sail through.
What are the downsides?
Like everything there are downsides! Once BiP got used to the feeling of pooping outside her diaper she would go crazy if I was missing her signal to go. If I did miss a poop she would cry inconsolably whilst I cleaned her up.
One time we were out and she refused to go in her diaper so I cued her in a car park – she pooped and was happy – I wasn’t. If your baby decides that they want to go when the diaper is off you can face problems when you are out.
Elimination Communication for Everyone
Everyone can do EC. It’s not exclusively for stay at home mothers. You can practice it full time, part time or occasionally – there are no hard and fast rules. It has to be something you can fit into your everyday life. I do encourage everyone to try it before they knock it. Now we’ve been doing it for 1 year and I can’t imagine having done anything differently.
Are you interested in practising Elimination Communication? Are you ECing your baby? What tips can you share?
My mom used the EC method with me and my brother (along with diapers when we were out for long hours). It didn’t have a name at that time though. Most people start when the baby is 3-4 months (basically the baby’s head has to set).
I plan to try it for my second one, whenever I have him/her 🙂
Me too! It’s so interesting how it was considered to be so normal in some cultures but nowadays it’s seemed to be difficult/radical/different!
I knew nothing about EC when I was pregnant with my first, and this time around (or this pregnancy), I feel like I know a bit more, but still not enough as I would like. I plan, and have been planning, to do more research on the topic and would like to consider it with baby #2, mainly because I love the concept and think it makes a lot of sense.
I’ve written quite a bit about it and I do recommend getting the Diaper Free Baby book – it’s really simple. I wrote a bit on it because it seemed a bit daunting when looking at the book or forums – I hope I succeeded in making it easier to consider and therefore start! Here is you need some tips!
I still practice this……….just sayin’…….:)
Bill you have permission to go potty.
Good, because I was getting cranky……..
So my girlfriend told me a couple had taught their child sign language and at age 7 months could sign for hungry, potty etc and when he/she signed time to potty they would hold the baby over the toilet and it would go.
Which is ironic because I get stage fright in front of others. Never been one of those men who could just whip it out and hated bars/clubs with the big bathroom lines and guys behind you saying hurry it up…or the classy Los Angeles Dogders Stadium Mens rooms that have big metal troughs for all the guys to pee in while standing around looking at each other LOL
On that note I asked my neighbor who has a 4 year old and a 15 month old and Jess told me she taught both kids sign language about 30 signs in total. Evan really didn’t talk until he was two so this really helped (btw he won’t shut up now LOL)
So we are thinking this might be good for Lilith just unsure what age to start. Currently when I am with Isadora we have a system. She feeds Lili then I burp her and take her to see if she needs to be changed. She is only 6 weeks so I will talk to Isadora about maybe trying this out. She is using cloth diapers and if we could save using them that would be awesome.
I do regret not teaching BiP some signs – wrongly I assumed it would confuse her with already having 2 languages to deal with. She is still not talking much more than gibberish at 15m which is fine but some signs would have come in handy.
Would love to know what Isadora thinks about ECing!
The moment I heard about ECing, I regretted that I’ve never heard of it. I think it’s because I don’t know anyone who does it. I’m now potty training my kid (3yo) and we’re at the last stage already (night potty). Looking forward to finishing but still I wish I knew about this 3 years ago.
Always next time Carol 😉
We started putting the boys on the potty from about 6 months on, but with greater frequency from the time they were 1. Recognising their cues for wanting to go came naturally and I would have never thought that there’d be an official term for it 🙂 Estonians have a rule that you potty train your kids during their second summer (no one waits for the kids to be “ready” or to start spontaneously “showing interest” 🙂 – so my first one was trained by 2 years and 4 months and the second one by 19 months. A few wet patches on the floors + portable potty always with us when on the go = no dramas.
It’s amazing how in so many countries it’s normal.
I like that you are so chill about it, like me. I can’t follow the #ECchat hashtag anymore because it is a bit snobby, and they are so upset at a diaper poo. I don’t love it when he poops in a diaper but at this stage it happens a lot and feeling guilty about it isn’t helping.
I am a conspiracy theorist when it comes to diapers and potty training. I’ve read about how the larger diapers used to be by prescription only and everyone used to be pottied much earlier. Nowadays everyone waits for “readiness”, which I think is just ludacris. I mean, think about potty training a small puppy! And newborns purposely pee the second you remove their diaper. EC may not be for everyone, but if someone says they won’t do it because it’s too inconvenient, I’m totally judging them as a lazy parent!
I’m sad about the hashtag. When I worked with the few EC mama’s to create it I hoped it was because it would help those who were scared of the concept and didn’t know how to approach it. ECing is a stop start thing for us – we do it when we can and when BiP wants to which isn’t often these days – walking is much for fun.
I feel everyone should try it – it’s not a competition.
Oh, and wanted to add how my mother is always saying how she wished she had known about EC. My parents were so excited and impressed to see Sebastian use the potty in front of them on more than one occasion. It sounds like a fluke, a baby on a potty, until you see that they really do go RIGHT when you sit them on it. It isn’t just dumb luck!
It makes sense to so many people when they see it in practice!
It is great to be reading of your experiences with EC. There are many ways to add a bit of baby pottying into a day and not be overwhelmed.
I have a collection of mothers stories on elimination communication at my Tribal Baby site that I’d like to share with your readers too:
My nephew was a year and a half when he started to show signs that he was ready to potty-train. He would run into the bathroom and try to pull off his diaper, he’d sit on the toilet with his diaper on, and he’d say ‘Hunter wan go poo-poo!’. Unfortunately, my sister-in-law, was not ready for him to not need her in that way. He’s over 3 years old now, and despite being fully potty-trained at MY HOUSE for the past year, he still deficates himself when he is with her and her mother. He can feed himself, sit at the table properly and stay still while eating his meal, and he can dress himself (his clothes may be inside-out or backwards, but they’re on) all at my house. When he is home, however, he sits in a highchair to eat, she will spoon feed him anything that isn’t clearly ‘finger food’, and she dresses him so frequently, he lays on his back, legs in the air, bollocks and bottom totally exposed as he waits for her to ‘serve him’.
From my observations and frustrations with her, and other parents that are similar, I have a theory that part of it that is to blame is our culture of CHILD WORSHIP. We dote too much on our children as a society, and, just like our education systems, we as parents are encouraging the dumbing down of our children by keeping them ‘safe’ from the challenges of life, including their own independence.
Now that I am pregnant with my first, I plan on cloth diapering as primary and ECing when able. Since my husband has a very sensitive gag-reflex and fear of dirty diapers, I’ve told him about ECing. Perhaps he’ll be able to be the primary EC parent which would also give him a special way to bond with our child and their needs while I have my own unique bonding experience through breastfeeding.