Elimination Communication is a baby-led approach to helping a baby eliminate waste. It is NOT toilet training. You simply pay attention, and watch for signs that your baby wants to pee or poop. You then provide them with a choice of where to do it. There is absolutely no pressure on the baby either way. It’s a gentle method that lets your baby communicate a need to you. In EC terminology, a hit is when you catch something in the potty (or toilet), and a miss is when you don’t. There is no negative reaction to a miss. EC is not for everyone, but it’s been a positive experience for us.
A few people have asked me about how I’ve practised this with the Rascal. These steps are the basics of how I introduced him to elimination communication. We began at around 5.5 months old. He took to it quickly, and we’ve been practicing it part-time ever since with a lot of success. A poopy nappy bomb is a rare thing in our house! Pees have a lower success rate, but we’re not that concerned about those.
This approach assumes that: You’re not confident enough to start EC with a newborn (the purist EC approach begins right away!). You’ll probably wait a few months to begin. You’re only doing EC part-time. You’re not working towards any timetable. You’re not adverse to using cloth nappies while working on EC. You won’t react negatively to any ‘misses’. You understand that children usually can’t physically stay dry overnight until at least 2 years old. You’re happy to move at whatever pace your baby sets. If you’re starting EC with an already mobile baby, then this approach would need to be modified to take an older baby into account.
Start any time from newborn onwards. If you know your baby is peeing, make a pssss sound. For pooping you can do a grunting sound. This is called ‘cueing’. It gives them a sound to associate with what they’re doing.
When they can sit up with some aid, put them on a potty with a good back support first thing every morning and make the psss sound. There’s a high probability that they will pee shortly after waking (or about 20 mins after feeding). With a bit of patience and luck, they’ll soon make the connection and pee on the potty most mornings once they know it’s an option.
Put them on the potty and cue them every time you’re at home and are changing their nappy. This is very little extra work for you, and gives them more opportunity to avoid soiling their nappy. Preferably do these steps before your baby is very mobile. By then they’ll be too fascinated with everything going on around them to want to sit still for very long!
This is optional at any stage. If you’re feeling brave, and your house is warm enough – try nappy free time so you can see what they do just before peeing and pooping. Some babies do distinctive things you can watch for once you know what they are. Eg. bouncing around and looking uncomfortable because they feel like they need to poop. Prepare for, and expect a mess…
Start using a sign for toilet/potty that they can use whenever they’re old enough to tell you they want to go (aside from any indication they might already be giving from step 4).
If convenient, offer the potty every couple of hours some days. They may surprise you by keeping a dry nappy. (Cloth nappies are convenient for this. They also let your baby feel wet when they have gone if you take out any extra padding. This is important for older babies that don’t recognise the sensation of peeing any more).
After baby learns to crawl, or as they learn to walk, they want to assert their independence more. If the potty is falling out of favour, a toilet seat reducer may be your friend. Now you can add in the fun of flushing the toilet! At this point nappy changes are probably becoming a big battle, so you’ll be extra glad of any reduced cleanup from using the toilet directly.
Eventually, when you feel your baby might be ready, you can go nappy-free full time and see how you get on. We’ll probably be waiting until the summer rolls around again. In the meantime, every pee or poop that goes into the toilet is a win!