I toilet trained my baby from day 1

June 28 2010 | Guest post by Hillary


When I was pregnant, my partner Bubba and I were reading about parenting on various different websites, when we came across the initials EC, and we had no idea what it stood for. After some searching around, we found out it stood for Elimination Communication. [Note from Ariel: this is why I hate the over-acronymification of women's online communities! All those acronyms can be so alienating.]

We went on to read about how some parents go diaper free, and teach their babies to use the potty. While Bubba was interested, I was more than skeptical. He checked "The Diaper Free Baby Book" by Christine Gross-Loh, out of the library, and I ended up reading it. This was the beginning of me changing my attitude.

I'm not going to teach how to do Elimination Commication here, there are plenty of other venues for that. However, it is impossible to talk about it without a little instruction.

The theory behind Elimination Communication is that babies, like all mammals, are born with the instinct not to soil themselves, their parents, or where they sleep. In Western culture, we teach them to ignore this instinct, and then 2-4 years later have to reconnect them with it. Parents who use this method with their babies maintain this connection by paying attention to what the baby's signals are when s/he wants to go potty. They then use two sounds (one for pee, the other for poo) that the babies learn to associate with the bodily function. After a while, you can use the sound to cue the baby to go potty.

We bought the book, I took an Elimination Communication class, and by the time Aspen was born, we were pretty committed. OK–Bubba was more committed than me. He put her on the potty as a teeny, tiny, floppy 1 day old baby, and she peed. It really worked!

When our friends came over to meet Aspen, every single one asked if they could watch when we took her to potty. The expression on their faces when they asked was priceless! If Bubba thought Aspen might need to pee, he would hand her over to someone and tell them to take her to the potty. Many of our friends have pottied Aspen, and her grandparents are absolute converts.

We'd heard about the meconium poos, and we caught them all in the potty-no tar to clean off the diapers or her delicate little tush. From day 1, she was a poo in the potty kind of girl. I can almost count the number of times she went in her diaper, and we never had any up-the-back blowouts.

She was much more inconsistent with the pees, but when your bladder is the size of a pea, it's hard to hold it. When she was awake it was hit or miss, but when she was asleep, it was obvious when she needed to pee. She squirmed–we called them the potty squiggles. When she got the potty squiggles, we would get her on the potty and cue her. She would pee, and we'd put her back to bed. Usually, she slept through the whole thing.

When she got mobile, pottying went out the window for a while. She would get mad at us if we disturbed her playing with going to the potty, and would refuse to go, even if she had to. We didn't even try pottying her for a few weeks when she was awake. And when we started up again, it took a couple days, but she remembered, and we were back on track.

She's been through phases. There was when she refused to use the BABYBJΓ–RN Little Potty, and would only go in the sink. Now she refuses to go in the sink. There was a brief no-pottying-at-night phase that took us by surprise. She will always pee on the curb before we get in the car, because she hates peeing in the car. She went through an only-pooping-in-the-bath phase. Now she's in an only pooping in the diaper or on the floor phase.

I'll say here, that every baby is unique, and this is just our experience. One of the things that has made this easier for us is that we have hardwood floors, so we feel comfortable leaving her diaper free, even if it means she may pee or poop on the floor when we're not paying attention. She grunts when she poops, so I always know if I need to run over to keep her from playing in it!

We might have started this thinking it would help reduce diapers, and therefore laundry. Sometimes this is the case. There have been times when it caused more laundry. We also might have started thinking that it would help us with potty training, and that maybe she would be out of diapers sooner. We still hope that is the case. The thing that is really cool about it though, is that through doing Elimination Communication with Aspen, I've gotten to know her needs and behaviors in ways I didn't expect to.

  1. This is amazing! I avoid parenting forums because I never felt like they were telling me something I didn't already know, or could figure out on my own (or with a pediatrician's advice)– which is probably why I never knew this concept existed. I didn't start as early as you did, but by around 8 months I had my daughter peeing in the toilet, and we were completely diaper free by 11 months. People at my church (and my Dad) thought I was being cruel by forcing her to be trained early, or that I was some lazy teen mother trying to get out of changing a Pamper. They refused to believe that a 17 year old girl could have more success with potty-training her child than they did. Man, I really need to read up on EC now… I may have been doing that all along.

    I'm glad I've found Offbeat Bride and Offbeat Mama, because both sites feature such a wide range of lifestyles, that I no longer feel like a freak for not going along with the parenting norms in my super-conservative and religious/Latino/Midwest community. Hell Yeah!

    6 agree
    • My dad and his cousin(who is a nurse) were giving me the 10th degree for taking my then 6 month old son potty saying Id ruin him 10 months later my son is happy healthy and has no issues . I feel your pain. People just are scared of change and have been taught to only think what "Old Science"has said . especially in the Midwest . Congrats on the early potty training ! I wish I was there ! oh well I'll keep trying !

  2. I have never heard of this before, and already I'm sold! Thank you so much for posting your experience with this. It's really fascinating.

    1 agrees
  3. I have a little girl due any day now and we're planning on ECing. Thanks for sharing your experience with this!

    1 agrees
  4. My husband Andreas is doing some part-time Elimination Communication with our son Tavi, and the other morning I walked into the living room to find Dre hanging out next to Tavi, who was perched on a little potty.

    "How's it going?" I asked the baby. He looked at me and farted.

    "Whoa, crazy!" I said to Andreas.

    …AND THEN TAVI TOTALLY POOPED INTO THE POTTY. At six months old. I think it was a semi-coincidence, but it was remarkable enough that we're definitely going to keep trying at least a bit of Elimination Communication in the mornings.

    I'm still dubious, but the fact that you can do as little or as much diaper-free time as you want makes it feel much more feasible for me. "Part-time EC" means it's not all-or-nothing … and even one less poopy diaper is awesome! I like non-binary parenting philosophies.

    2 agree
    • "Non-binary parenting philosophies" – GENIUS! I meet so many moms at work who are intimidated by things like babywearing and cloth diapering and organic clothes, and I always throw the part-time/as much as you can option out there… I may steal your phrase. LOL!

      4 agree
    • I am a huge fan of non-binary parenting philosophies too! I have a hard time with all the dogma surrounding parenting advice/philosophy.

      Aspen spends the majority of her day in diapers, and we potty her when we think she needs to go. A lot of the reason she gets naked bootie time every day is because she has very sensitive skin, and gets rashes easily, even with cloth diapers.

      1 agrees
    • Seeing as how "Non-Binary Parenting Philosophies" (NBPP) is such an awesome phrase, I think it calls for a t-shirt… #justsayin'

      Black shirt with white text (Okay, maybe a little heavy handed with the binary bit) "Ask me about my" Rainbow text "Non-binary Parenting Philosophy"

      3 agree
  5. i've been waiting to do EC for a very long time! i wanted to do it when aiden was 1st born BUT he was in daycare then after i switched my whole world so he wasn't in daycare it didn't work out because i was too busy with well a mobile baby!

    now that we're going vacation that involves a very long car ride, i have put it off yet again! but when we get back from vacation we're starting EC, i figure that since aiden is almost a year old and i don't want him to be the 3 year old who can use a potty but chooses not to because he's lazy

  6. My neighbor (from Ecuador) did EC with her kids. We all thought she was crazy. She though we were all crazy.

    She ended up being the smart one in the end lol!

    2 agree
  7. I like the idea of part-time EC. It's our first child and I don't even understand how I'm going to work the cloth diapers… but it would be interesting to try.

    1 agrees
  8. How do you keep your house from smelling with the pooing on the floor. I am not being critical – I would just think that it would eventually smell pretty bad despite the cleaning up you may do.

    • Aspen is a very "regular" person. She poops once a day, usually in the morning now. And she might poop on the floor once a week (she's gone back to some bath poos). Because her dad or I are always with her, if she poops on the floor, it is cleaned up right away, and barely even touches the floor. Because she's eating some solid food now, her poo is relatively solid, and we just pick it up with toilet paper, and wipe with a cloth and vinegar, and it's clean. Sometimes we can catch her and put her on the potty, sometimes we catch her and hold her over the toilet.

    • For us, since we're only doing it part time, Tavi is never without a diaper unless he's sitting on his little potty. No poo ever hits the floor. It's either in a diaper, or in his little potty.

      1 agrees
    • 6 month Caspar has been part time EC'd since 6 weeks old, and a poo will never hit the floor. He will grunt or squeal and make sure I know that is what he wants to do before ever letting it out in the floor. In general, he only poos right after a breast feed, and I always put him on the potty for a spell after a feed, regardless of if he needs a poo or not. He always does a wee at this point. No poo on this floor! And this is with a part time EC'd baby – he wears a nappy to all naps/sleeps and when out and about in the car or at social functions. He won't signal he needs to poo if he is in a nappy.

    • I guess you don't have pets or you wouldn't be asking! We have two dogs and a cat, and the people who owned the home before us did too. There has already been some poop and pee on these floors! There are a lot of great products out there to clean up even the ickiest stains/spills.

      2 agree
      • To be fair, many pets never have "accidents" though. My cat has never gone anywhere but his litter box. I have smelled some god awful cat-owners' homes though, and it's always the urine that's the biggest issue (not poop at all). If you don't have a relatively fresh seal on the hardwood, it soaks in and never comes out.

        1 agrees
  9. I'm fascinated by this. But the peeing/pooing in the sink part kind of grosses me out. Kudos to the parents that do this with their kids!

    1 agrees
    • Don't get distracted by the idea of the sink. You totally don't need to use a sink — you can use your toilet, or (as we're doing) wait until the baby can sit up on their own little potty.

      1 agrees
      • I totally agree. The thing that's so great about this is that it can be done any way that works for you.

        The sink just happened to work for us. We never went into it thinking we'd potty her in the sink.

        • It only grosses me out because of how alien and weird baby poop can be. It must have been hard to clean up the tarry meconium poops out of the sink. I remember trying to get it of my baby's bum and in her diaper…yucky.

          I have a friend who is using a potty. I might consider this a little later. Can you start it any time?

          • You can start at any time. I know people who found out about EC at birth, 3 months, 8 months, and 11 months. I would suggest starting by making the cueing sound when you know your baby is going pee or poo. Maybe try some diaper free time in the yard, since it's summer.

            The meconium poos went in the potty (and I totally don't remember them AT ALL! I'm not sure if this is because I was sooo out of it or because it was pretty easy for us. I do remember oiling her little butt with olive oil, and how the meconium didn't stick after that). It took us a while to discover that the sink worked well for us. When I say we put Aspen on the potty when she was one day old, I mean that we held her over the potty because she was so tiny and floppy (the sink worked so well then because we could brace her against us, and just tuck her legs up into the peeing position-a squat).

  10. I do this with my son, started when he was about 8 months. He's 11 months old and refuses to go in a diaper now. Which i LOVE, because washing diapers is my least favorite thing to do in the whole world! He'll hold it until he sits on his potty. The sign for poop is a grunt (lol), and the word for pee is… well… pee. I never read up on EC, though I had heard about it. I just started putting him on the toilet when I noticed he woke up dry from naps.

    1 agrees
  11. We're part-time EC'ers as well and it's going AWESOMELY! Gus is six months old and poops in the toilet almost everyday. I haven't had to change a poopy diaper in almost a month. I'm not worried about getting him to pee in the toilet just yet; I figure if I can at least get him to make some sort of a connection now it will be one less battle (and won't be a completely foreign concept) later. I never knew there was a whole EC movement… in fact, I didn't know there was a name for it! We just started to put Gus on the toilet when I noticed him grunting & pushing–it was one less stinky diaper. WIN!

    • You're way ahead of the game if he's pooping in the potty/toilet. Waiting until a child is 2 1/2 to 3 almost guarantees that you will have a child who will pee in the potty but always poop in his/her pants. And honestly, after changing a lot of diapers and soiled underware, I'd rather change a wet diaper/wet panties than poopy ones.

  12. Were doing some light EC, putting her on the potty for a minute or so between diapers.Only caught half a pee once, and it doesnt help that she LIKES to pee on the floor ( yay hardwood) but slowly and surely were are becoming aware of her cues, and so is she.

  13. I'm not a mama, but when reading the story and getting to the part where she likes to pee in the sink I thought: Well that makes sense, look at the picture, when she pees in the sink she can see herself pee in the mirror above the sink. Not to be too gross but it would be kind of cool to see yourself pee, especially as a little person learning about your body. πŸ™‚

    5 agree
    • That's a really interesting point! My mother teaches special needs preschoolers, and she found that if she video taped them doing things that she wanted them to do, like tying their shoes or playing nicely with their friends, and then showed them that video tape, they would engage in that behavior with a lot more gusto and regularity. The same thing worked with taking pictures of them doing things and showing them pictures of themselves. There must be something going on with seeing the representation!

      5 agree
  14. I love this! I work at a Montessori preschool, with the infants, and we have had kids as young as 8 months old in underwear who regularly and successfully used the toilet. I think when I have my own kids though that I'd like to try the EC part time.

    • I live in a small house in Seattle, and we are turning our front yard into food production, and our back yard was until recently, inhabited by egg-laying ducks (and will be again, next year hopefully). We're planning on bee-keeping, and my partner is dying to get a miniature goat for milk. Our lot is ~6000 square feet, and our house is only ~900 s.f. of that.

      • Okay, that's awesome! I am so jealous of people who can grow plants. I got a bonsai gardenia from my mother one year for my birthday. I followed all the directions to the letter, and it still died about 6 months later. πŸ™

  15. I read about EC when I was pregnant & thought cool, but I doubt it would work for me. At 8 weeks old I tried it with Corinne for the first time and she peed in the toilet. I was hooked. She wore diapers til she was a year old, but only pooped in them a handful of times. At just over a year she was walking well and starting to talk. She started pointing at the potty and/or saying pee most of the time if she had to go pee or poop. So I put her in thick underwear and that was the end of her wearing diapers during the day. She is 16 months old now and sometimes goes more than a week without wetting her pants, other days it seems as though she is experimenting with how long she can hold it and this results in several accidents. But its all part of the learning process and I'm so glad that she has gained control over her elimination and feels proud of herself for not needing diapers. I'm glad I gave her that opportunity and actually feel sad for her peers who didn't get that chance.

    1 agrees
  16. Cool! When I was pregnant, I read all these articles about EC. They were written in this really pretentious sort of "I just mystically know my baby's every wants and neeeds" way that made it seem really out there. But your article made it sound really easy and approachable! I might start trying it out-my son always grunts-grunts just before a poo.

    2 agree
    • I was totally the same way about Elimination Communication until I realized you can do it as little or as much as you want. TOTALLY changed my perspective!

      1 agrees
    • I know what you mean about the being so in tune with baby that you just know when they need to go – that never happened to me. My girl never gave any cues that I could read so I just went by timing. I just determined from observation over time when & how often she needed to go and would try to potty her then as much as possible. If we were out somewhere and it wasn't convenient we didn't bother and it still worked fine.

  17. I learned about EC when my daughter was about 8 months old. We were successful with poop, but she continued to have pee accidents until she was 3. When my son was born, I thought, "This time we'll do it from the beginning and it'll be so much easier!"

    It was not easier. My son hated pottying. He did not want to sit on the potty and he hated being held in the potty position. We ended up doing traditional diapering and toilet training with him. We probably could have been successful at EC if I was able to focus exclusive attention on him, but unfortunately that's not possible with a second child.

    Anyway, I just wanted to share my story since everyone else has only had positive experiences with EC. I still believe in EC and tell people about it, because I wish I had known there was another way when my daughter was a newborn. Don't feel too discouraged if it's too hard for you. You can always try again later or go with something else instead.

    3 agree
  18. We started doing part-time EC with our son when he was around three months old, and while I love that it cuts down on diapers, I was surprised by how much he loves it, too. You can tell that he's happy/excited about pooping in the toilet or on the grass in the backyard. It's so much easier to clean him up, too. I gotta say as well, when he bears down and grunts it's pretty adorable.

    • I've been ECing my daughter since about 3 weeks and I have to agree about how cute it is when she's "trying." I love the look of intense concentration as she grunts!

      2 agree
  19. As grandmother of baby Aspen who was started on the potty at day 1, I have to admit that I was skeptical at first. After seeing the first poo in the potty before she was a week old, I was converted. Her bottom was clean and there was no messy diaper to clean up. Ten months later (and many days of babysitting), I have only had to change one poopy diaper! We don't worry too much about it; we just give her the opportunity to go when she is likely to and change her when she is wet. The beauty is that when we put her on the potty she knows what she needs to do there and, if she has to go, she does (most of the time!) She has made a connection and one day she will be totally diaper free. Meanwhile, it's a blast and her bio sibs gather round to watch her "perform" (as do many adults who are amazed). Actually, now it just seems pretty normal to me. Who knew?

    4 agree
  20. Loved it Hillary, fun to read and fun to watch and cool to be a "hippie mama on an urban farm"
    I look forward to the next time!!

    1 agrees
  21. Update: the poo on the floor phase is over. It lasted about 3 weeks, but now she's gone back to pooping in her little potty. Whew!

    Aspen's made some connections recently, and she is almost never wet anymore (at 11 months old). She wakes up in the morning dry, and waits until we put her on the potty to pee. I'm sure there will be more hiccups in the future, but I'm really happy that she understands her body's needs.

    1 agrees
  22. I am pregnant with my third child and had never heard of EC until a few days ago. However, with 2 potty trained bigger kids, this idea just made sense to me… this is essetially the same process you teach your toddler when they are ready to potty train, except with EC you are offering your baby positive reinforcement of their communications from the very beginning, rather than ignoring what they are telling you for the first few years of life.

    I have been watching a series of documentaries filmed in developing/un-industrialized countries around the world, and all of their babies are diaper-free but never messed/wet. This is a skill that is so inherent in other cultures but we have just lost touch with it in the US. It's awesome to see more people becoming interested.

    2 agree
  23. I just heard the term "Elimination Connection" for the first time tonight- so I got on the web and started searching. It's really exciting to see that my family is not the only family out there potty training early!
    My son (now 10) started pooping on the potty at 9 months. We figured "We know when he is going, why sit and watch him go, just to clean up the mess after?" Once we started training we rarely changed poopy diapers and by 20 months he was in underwear night and day with no accidents.
    My daughter who is now 28 months started pooping on the potty at seven months and was in underwear *completely trained* by 19 months.
    My youngest daughter is now 10 months and is "poop trained" and will pee on the potty most of the time. She has 2 days (full 24 hours) with no accidents night or day. I'm thinking I will kick my self in the pants after reading this and try to have her completely trained by her first birthday πŸ™‚

    The difference for me is that we do use disposable diapers and as they are closer to being completely trained we moved to Pull Ups (My son at 18 months and my daughter at 15 months- the Pull Ups would often be thrown out after a day or so even if not soiled). I was/am not interested in naked babies (no hard wood floors here!) and I am chasing 3 kids around… BUT I am slightly considering it after reading this. My youngest loves going on the potty and will make it if I am consistent in taking her every 50 minutes. I am a stay-at-home mom, but that doesn't mean I am always home. I shop, I go to restaurants, I go to friends houses, I coach 2 nights a week… So I have always felt safer with full coverage on their bottoms. I have often excused my self to take my 8 month old "poo poo in the potty" at restaurants (and yes I get crazy stares in the restroom), but I'd rather a stranger think I'm nuts then frustrate my child and have to clean up that mess! πŸ˜‰ Other than my son's first poop being on a potty seat, I have always taken my kids on a regular toilet (I wasn't thrilled about cleaning the potty seat either- looking to eliminate work here!) and they have all been fine with that. Never tried a sink or anything else… wasn't that creative! We sing a song and celebrate every time they made it- which is now very fun for my older 2 as the baby is training πŸ™‚

    Both of my sisters and my sister in law followed my tips (which apparently is a widely know procedure!) and all of our 8 (plus one in training now) were all trained by 22 months. 5 of those were completely dry night and day by 19 months.

    I'm not trying to be weird here… but all 4 of us moms are what you would call "normal". We aren't bound to our homes. We go out to parks and malls. We like taking the kids out to eat, to the movies and to the beach. We leave our kids with grandparents and sitters… What I am trying to say, is that anyone can do this. I don't know that I could nurse my newborn in public with a bowl in my lap, but I chose not to and my kids were still early trainers. ***No offense to you who do those things- just letting the moms who may feel intimidated by the time/ work restraints of training babies know, that they can do it too! It's all about reading your baby's signs and being willing to run to a potty when the moment arises πŸ™‚

    Glad to know I'm not alone AND Good luck!

    1 agrees
  24. PS-

    I'd like to add a few things after thinking for a few minutes…

    This process can be frustrating. I remember crying (actually crying tears…) when my daughter had an accident on the sixth day of no accidents. I was SO excited to say she had made it ONE WEEK and then she peed in her Pull Up. Ok… maybe it was because I was pregnant… BUT it can be frustrating and discouraging some days, but don't give up! I had to talk my sister through some of these same frustrations when her 18 month old had 2 accidents in one day at my house after doing great all week. Sometimes they have accidents- it's not our fault, your child hasn't lost all ability to control their bladder… Sometimes it's just that, an accident.

    I get embarrassed when people tell others about how I potty train my babies. I never bring it up. Even just tonight my husband was telling someone I was training our 10 month old (after she was already surprised our 2 year old was trained) and it embarrasses me. I am glad he brought it up though- she was the one to mention that EC is trendy in Seattle.
    It's strange.
    It's different.
    Do they think I'm crazy?
    Maybe πŸ™‚
    But it's best for me and my kids… and hey- now I'm trendy! πŸ˜‰

    And I have a question for you other EC moms:
    What do you do at night when training babies? With my youngest she is starting to wake up at 2:45am to pee. I want to take her, but I don't want to risk her fully waking up. She is in a diaper in her crib and has been sleeping through the night for some time. I know that it's peeing that is waking her up. Just wondering how you all handled this with your young babies. (Obviously I took my others if they woke at night, but they were older)

    Thanks again- I'm excited to hear back!

    • Gina, I haven't checked this post in a long time, so I'm sorry it took so long.

      When possible, we always responded when Aspen needs to pee. If she wakes up and needs to go, we have a potty with a home-rigged fleece cover over top (because no-one wants to put their tush on a cold seat!). We keep this next to the bed, and Aspen would doze while she peed, then fall right back asleep.

      She went through a phase where she didn't want to pee when she woke up, even though she had to, and during this time, we let it go, and she would hold it longer than I thought possible, or pee her diaper.

  25. I loved reading this article! My children are now 9 and 10 years old. We practiced elimination communication from birth with both. And both were out of diapers at a year old… With the occasional set back here and there. I probably had 1 or 2 poopy diapers ever with my second. However, we went into it thinking "potty training" will be a great side effect but it's really about creating a bond with your child and showing them in a very real way that you see and hear them. We used the opportunity to teach them sign language as well. My children learned that they can communicate their needs and they will be heard at a very young age. I would do it all over again if I have any more children.

    This is not for everyone! You have to be careful to be very encouraging and not show frustration when they miss. Shit happens! You also have to able to be very attentive and it helps to have the whole team involved (mom, dad, grandparents, babysitters.) We had a great team. They all thought we were crazy at first but bought into it really quickly.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.