We did Elimination Communication with our kids. Also known as ‘EC’.
EC means you communicate about eliminating. It’s not about the number of pees or poos you catch; it’s not about forcing them to be trained early; it’s just about communicating about the child’s potty needs, like you communicate about their need to eat or to go to sleep. It is about paying attention, tuning in. It is a completely gentle, light hearted method. By opening the dialogue early about peeing and pooing, chances are really good that kiddo will be ‘potty trained’ at a very early age. Some graduate as early as 10 months using this method. But that is not the goal. We don’t want to teach our children to ignore their bodily functions, only to have to teach them to tune into them again at a more distracted and defiant age. You will not ‘damage’ your child by doing EC with them and contrary to Western medical opinion, little babies do have control over their functions and prefer not to soil themselves. Who knew.
EC is not ‘parent training’, it is parenting. You can either get this potty stuff done and over with early, or you can do it later. I personally cannot stand cleaning poopy diapers, they make me gag. And so by doing EC and having both of my children pooing into the toilet before we start solids (and the baby poo goes from yellow sweet smelling goo to a regular ol’ human poo) I don’t have to wipe up shit. Pretty good incentive for us as parents, gotta admit!
EC is no more work than conventional potty training. Either way you have to teach them to tune into their functions and communicate their needs with you. People thought I was a hero for making my own baby food too, but it’s the same thing. You have to do it at some point no matter what. I make my toddler a sandwich now – sometimes in several different varieties since he can be picky! You have kids, you have to parent. No matter what you do, it takes time and patience.
Some people do EC by raising their babies diaper free. This is another extension of EC and it is not what we do in our house. We do make sure our kids get lots of time to be naked, but we use cloth diapers. I don’t think one method is necessarily better than the other, I’m just gonna let you know what we do in our house. What works for us.
EC with Bob
We started EC with Bob when he was about 6 weeks old. We started by making little cue noises (peepeepee or poopoopoo) when we noticed he was going. We always make the same noise when we notice him going, when he goes ‘for’ us on the toilet, or when we would like him to go. Consistency is key here.
Bob liked to go poop while he was breast feeding and I tried to catch those poops in a bowl during our innumerable boob sessions, but it wasn’t comfortable for me. Too much of a balancing act. So we started catching poops when he woke up from naps and in the morning. He would wake up at least twice a night in those early days to poop. We share a family bed and I would know Bob would have to go in the middle of the night because he would twist his little hips in a certain way. I kept a potty bowl beside the bed, I’d whip his diaper off (never turning on a light), hold him over the bowl while he went, wipe his butt with a cloth wipe (chuck the wipe into the bowl), re-diaper him and go back to sleep. Eventually he started pooing after breast feeding (instead of mid-feed) during the day and I was able to read his signs and work with his timing and catch those poops too. By the time he was 4 months old we were catching all of his poops in the bowl (we used a mixing bowl) or over the sink or toilet.
I used timing (‘hm, been a while since he’s been’, or ‘just ate lots’), his cues, my cues to him and best of all…. intuition. It really works. I would just get a feeling like it was time to go and I’d take him to go and we would have success. In Laurie Bouke’s Infant Potty Training she asked a mother to describe how she knew when her infant needed to use the toilet and she asked in return ‘how do you know when you need to go?’ It is really like that. I tuned into him and it worked.
The pees were a bit more elusive with him. He would pee as soon as he woke up, so those were easy to catch. We would give him lots of opportunities to pee and were catching a bit more than half of his pees by 9-10 months.
It became really clear to us very early on that he knew what we were asking him to do when we would cue him to pee or poo and that he was able to hold it. At 7-8 months we started teaching him a little bit of sign language. He started signing back to us around 10-11 months and this is when we had a great potty break through. He would give us the ASL sign for toilet when he needed to go, and since he was more mobile, he would also crawl to the bathroom door when he needed to go. By 11-12 months he was wearing little cloth trainer underwear instead of diapers and we considered him “trained”. He would even sit up in bed in the middle of the night, nudge me and sign for the toilet.
We would travel with a little potty or bowl in the car and there were numerous occasions when Bob would let us know he had to go in transit and we would take care of business in the car. When he was little, I would stick the bowl between my legs, hold him over it. When he got bigger I would stick the potty chair on the car seat and stick him on it or hold his butt out of the car door from a seated position myself. Never any mess or fuss.
We had a set back soon after that when his molars started coming through. Teething can put a bit of a damper on EC. Bob started wetting at night during molar hell. The phase was short lived, and as soon as his two year molars were done, night wetting ceased entirely.
EC with Maggie
While there were a lot of disbelievers with Bob, even more eyebrows were raised about our desire to EC with baby #2. People just seemed to think we wouldn’t have the time and we wouldn’t be as successful as we were with Bob. Not the case.
We began from day one, giving Meeps the same verbal cues from birth when we noticed she was going. By 2-3 months, we were catching all of her poops. Once she was just that little bit older she stopped peeing and pooing what seemed like non-stop and started staying dry all night long.
By 5 months old it had been long enough that I didn’t remember the last poo diaper I washed. Some days I caught every single pee, other days I missed a few. But for her age, we were in a totally different place than we were with Bob’s pees as the vast majority of pees went right into the toilet. I use timing, cues and intuition and it works.