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) when they need to “eliminate”. Sound messy? It doesn’t have to be.
You can start anytime, even from birth, and you don’t need to do it full-time. Once your baby is ready, you can gently transition to potty training using a non-coercive, gentle approach. Many babies who are accustomed to using a potty, will be ready to ditch nappies for good as early as 6 months, but most parents find somewhere between 12-18 months a good time to potty train.
Why offer your baby a potty?
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. Before disposables, over 90% of babies in the UK and USA were potty trained by 18 months old. In fact, baby pottying is still a mainstream practice in many cultures around the world, where parents do not rely on nappies.
Helping your baby use a potty instead of using a nappy can save a considerable amount of money on nappies. Even if you help your baby go potty and still use nappies, you will be likely to potty train sooner, meaning you will use approximately half the number of nappies as the average baby. Using fewer nappies also reduces the environmental impact of 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 good for your baby’s skin. Here is how to hold your baby safely during baby pottying.
Is it potty training?
Not in the way we usually think of potty training, although your baby will be learning all the time and working towards independence. it takes on average around 12 months for a baby to be reliably clean and dry, so the earlier you start “potty learning” the earlier you will finish.
Once you get to the point where your baby is ready to leave nappies behind fo good, it is usually a much smoother and quicker process if your baby is already familiar with using a potty. Over 50% of the worlds babies are potty trained by 12 months, and this was normal until disposables were developed that encouraged parents to wait till later. Doing it at an “earlier” stage will save you you (and the planet) years of unnecessary nappy use and will not harm your baby in any way.
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 – and you can apply the same gentle principles to any baby or toddler who still uses nappies. If you can make a definite start to help your baby go potty regularly by 10 months, most babies are independent of nappies by around 18 months or sooner.
How do you do it?
This is a tricky question to answer in one or two sentences. Successful baby pottying is a skill which you can learn and practice, like any other.
The basic principle is the same as learning when your baby is hungry, tired or just needs a cuddle. You can learn to recognise when your baby needs to eliminate. Its not rocket science, but it might feel like that unless you know what you’re doing. So it’s important to read a little on the method before starting, to ensure you get off to the best start. Read more on how to spot when they need to go here. And here’s some advice on the practicalities of baby pottying at night, during feeds and when out of the house.
You can learn your baby’s signals by doing observation time. You don’t need to do this for long, maybe a day or two. As your baby grows, you will probably need to repeat the learning process to keep up with their changes. You can read more about doing observation time here.
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).
The timing method
Spotting baby’s signals is not the only way to learn when your baby need to eliminate. Baby’s have natural timing and you can learn this as well. For example, you are likely to have success if your offer a potty when your baby wakes up. With a little observation, you might also notice that they go after burping, after a feed, when changing their nappy, or before a bath. If you take time to observe these patterns, you can use that to your advantage and help them use a potty instead.
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:
You can also try the Born Ready website: www.bornready.co.uk and/or Nappy Free baby www.nappyfreebaby.co.uk