I toilet trained my baby from day 1

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 BABYBJÖRN 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.

Comments on I toilet trained my baby from day 1

  1. 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!!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 🙂

    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! 😉 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 🙂

    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 🙂

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

  5. 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 🙂
    But it’s best for me and my kids… and hey- now I’m trendy! 😉

    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.

  6. 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.

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