About Elimination Communication

This page contains everything you need to know about Elimination Communication from what it is to how to do it – follow the links to specific pages to find out more.

What is baby pottying and when can you start?

Elimination Communication (EC) is the practise of introducing a potty (or holding a baby over the toilet) from birth, rather than rely on nappies. Sound messy? It doesn’t have to be.

Why offer your baby a potty?

Helping your baby use a potty instead of using a nappy means you save money on nappies. This significantly reduces the environmental impact of producing disposables or cloth nappies. From birth, babies can show us through their body language what they are doing and we can respond to them in the same way we do when they are hungry or tired. Using a potty takes seconds, is quicker than cleaning after a soiled nappy and less harmful to baby’s skin. Helping infants and young toddlers to use a potty is not a new concept; it was the norm in the UK until the introduction of disposables in the 1960’s. In fact, baby pottying is still a mainstream practice in many cultures around the world. Here is how to hold your baby safely during baby pottying.

Is it potty training?

No it’s not potty training, but when your baby is old enough (from around 18 months), you can ditch the nappies completely. Formal potty training at this age is usually easier and quicker if your baby is already familiar with using a potty. Despite what mainstream thinking may suggest, you CAN potty train from around 18 months, and it DOES work. Doing it at this stage will save you you (and the planet) years of unnecessary nappy use.

When should I start baby pottying?

Many parents practice baby pottying (elimination communication/EC) from birth. Starting within the first 3 months is good because once they can crawl or walk potential misses will travel with them! Also, their signals tend to be at their strongest during this phase. However, it’s never too late to start, or apply the same gentle principles for babies who are ready to learn independence (anytime from 12m but usually the best ‘window’ is sometime between 18-24m). Here’s some advice on the practicalities of baby pottying at night, during feeds and when out of the house.

When should I start potty learning?

From 18 months is the best time to stop using nappies altogether, starting at this age pre-empts the time when babies typically become resistant to instruction.

How do you know when they need to go?

Just like when your baby is hungry, tired or just needs a cuddle, you can learn to recognise when your baby needs to eliminate. Young babies (under 3 months) often give the strongest elimination communication cues and signals, but these can change over time. Some babies give very subtle signals, in which case the timing method may be most useful. Read more on how to spot when they need to go here. 

Common signals

Young babies: Crying, fussing, arching away during feeding, squealing, squirming, going still/staring into space, pulling your hair/grabbing at you, slapping themselves on the body, breaking wind, bearing down.
Older babies and toddlers: Pulling on your clothes or leg, crawling towards you as if to be picked up, seeking privacy, crotch grabbing, ‘dancing’ e.g. shifting weight one foot to another, squirming in your lap, stopping playing, sitting or crouching down, playing near or pointing and going towards toilet/potty, pulling on nappy/trousers/skirt/pants, breaking wind, bearing down (the poo face).

How to spot your baby’s cues

Some cues are obvious, others are subtle. The younger a baby is, the stronger the signal usually is, but this can change as they develop, or if they have been using nappies for a long time (especially disposables which can dull the senses over time). So this is where a little nappy free time will help you connect with what your baby might be telling you. If after trying this, you are still not confident in knowing when your baby will eliminate, you can use the timing method. In fact, using a combination of signals and timing works very well. Read more here. 

The timing method

You are likely to have success if your offer a potty when burping, after a feed, on waking, when changing their nappy, before a bath. Babies often go when you take the nappy off so this is a great time to try. Remember, that like cues, frequency of elimination can change over time. For example, young babies can go very frequently – even every 10 minutes, and the time between eliminations usually increases as they grow. A little nappy free time, or close observation of your baby can help you become familiar with your baby’s timings. Once you understand how frequently they go, you can be ready with a potty to catch the next one when you think it’s coming.
For parents who practise baby signing (makaton/BSL/ASL) with their children, here’s a great article on communication from Born Ready.

How should I hold my baby for pottying?


What to wear for baby pottying

Having the right clothing definitely helps. In particular, Split crotch clothing makes pottying quick and easy. When your child needs to “go”, simply hold them in the squat position or sit them on the potty and the clothing opens up at the crotch seam, allowing your baby to eliminate straight in the potty! When they are not squatting, the discreet overlapping design keeps your baby warm and covered. Little Bunny Bear has spent over 4 years refining the design of our split crotch trousers and unlike traditional elimination communication clothing like open crotch baby pants worn in China, our unique (registered) overlapping design gives more coverage than any other split crotch trouser design available.

You can buy split crotch clothing from Little Bunny Bear’s Etsy shop, or make your own by purchasing one of our sewing patterns. If you would prefer to try nappy belts and cloths. these are also available from Little Bunny Bear’s Etsy shop or you can make your own by purchasing one of our sewing patterns.

You might also want to check out The Big List of EC supplies via www.thelooseend.com for a fully comprehensive list of all EC-friendly products and where to buy them.

Find out more from other experts:

Try Andrea Olson’s comprehensive guides:
Go Diaper Free 0-18 months
Go Diaper Free 18-30 months
the Tiny Potty Training book
Try the Born Ready website: www.bornready.co.uk and/or  Nappy Free baby www.nappyfreebaby.co.uk