Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Elimination communication with two children

I've done elimination communication--also called EC or infant potty training--with both children. I wondered if I'd be able to do it with baby #2. Would I be too busy with a toddler to be able to potty my new baby? So far, it's been entirely doable. Zari loves helping out when Dio is on the potty: brining me a wipe, keeping Dio amused, or emptying the potty once he's gone. For her, pottying a baby is a normal part of life, since that's what she always did.

I started doing EC when both my children were a week or two old, once I was feeling recovered from the birth and settled into having a new baby. Some people also go diaper-free when they do EC, feeling that it helps them better tune into their baby's cues. I prefer to use a cloth diaper as backup. Why? It's easier to wash one diaper than to wash my shirt, my pants, my baby's clothes, my sling, the rug, and/or the floor if there's a missed cue!

When Zari was a newborn, I would hold her over a tupperware container resting between my legs (see this picture). Dio never liked being held in a reclined position, so from the beginning I held him while sitting backwards on the toilet, or for pees I'd just hold him over the sink. It's a bit more tricky pottying a baby boy than a baby girl, since a boy's pee sprays really far and you're never sure exactly which direction it's going to go. I was really happy when Dio was big enough to sit in his Baby Bjorn Little Potty at 3 months old. He loves it and pees right away, nearly every time I sit him down. Dio is much quicker to pee than Zari was, which is nice. He pretty much pees as soon as he sits on his potty. And if he's distracted, running the sink does the trick.

I do EC mainly on timing and schedule: after Dio nurses, and after he wakes up from a nap. Both of those times it's almost certain he will need to pee or poop. And even if we have a miss and he wets his diaper, he almost always can squeeze a little more out for me on the potty. I love seeing how much control he has over peeing and pooping. I make the cueing sounds (psssss psssss for pee and a grunting noise for poop) and he will immediately pee or flex his abdominal muscles and try to poop.

I haven't been doing EC much at night lately. I've been too tired--but if I did, I know we would both sleep better. But I can't convince myself of that at 2 am!

Elimination communication has taught me that there are two distinct stages to becoming potty trained. If your child is diapered, you might not have the opportunity to observe these two stages. The first stage--one that even infants can master quickly--is being able to release on cue. The second stage is one that often comes much later: being able to hold pee or poop after feeling the urge to go and to release it only when it's socially acceptable (ie, in a potty or a toilet). I wonder if these two stages exist because it's easier to relax a sphincter muscle than to deliberately hold it tight? Dio has mastered the first stage but, like Zari, probably will take much longer to master the second.

I love doing elimination communication. I don't do it to be some kind of "super mom." (No one's ever said that to me, but I imagine that some people unfamiliar with EC might see it as a kind of competition to see who has the better/smarter baby or who is the better mom...) So why do I do it? Fewer diapers to wash, babies don't have to sit in a wet or dirty diaper, and they usually are potty trained much earlier. And, most importantly, it's fun! Babies are much smarter than we give them credit for. They can recognize and control their bodily functions from a very young age, if given the chance. 


  1. We need to EC better- she'll ask to go potty in public and sometimes it's just easier not to take her. I need to be more pro-active about it. We've only had 5 poopy diapers since July 1st, though. That's not bad- and you're right- it IS fun! :)

    How do you like the Baby Bjorn potty? We have an Ikea one.

  2. I guess I would fall into the category of a "part-time" EC'er. I've been pottying Birdie for almost a month now, but sometimes I forget or we're busy etc. We do get on the potty several times a day and she just loves it. I just sit her down on her potty seat which sits on the toilet and ask her "Can you pee for mommy?" She grins and pee's. We make a big deal about it and its a pretty fun game. If she doesn't pee right away I ask her, "Can you poop for mommy?" We rarely go away with an empty potty. I make sure to take her right after she gets up. Sometimes, if she's fussy, I'll take her and it turns out she needed to go. I've noticed that on days when we're really into the potty, she holds it for me wont use her diaper. I haven't changed but a handful of dirty diapers since we started. I figure all of this is just laying the groundwork for when its time to go diaper free.

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience. EC wasn't something I really considered when I had Asher, but I've had a lot more interest lately. I'm thinking about starting with Asher even though he is 14 months.

  4. I'm fascinated by EC, but I've never done it. You've definitely piqued my interest... maybe next time... :-)

  5. I didn't do EC, but I did notice the same thing about my son's ability to pee as soon as he sat on the potty. It was fantastic! Esp because his older sister, for whatever reason, had a really hard time letting go to pee & poop and would sit & sit.

  6. I did EC a tiny bit with my younger child, but we had so much going on soon after I started (moving, then a long trip around Thanksgiving) that I gave it up. However, he did potty-train pretty early, and has been dry through the night almost since he started pottying (although he still has accidents occasionally). He's 3, and stays dry through the night better than his nearly-5-y/o brother!

    Next baby, I'm planning on doing EC and getting books while pregnant for help and support.

    One blog I read had a kinda snarky take on EC -- the whole "super-mom/baby" mentality, and, "let your baby BE a baby -- don't force potty-training so soon, when s/he's 'too young' to go!" Uh, yeah.


  7. We used it with our third and enjoyed it very much, were delighted to start and finish sooner than we had with traditional delayed toilet learning. And now my grandson is using infant pottying too :-)

    I'm so glad that some of the worst misconceptions like the ones Kathy mentioned are being debunked in blogs and Internet articles. Others are debunked at http://www.pottywhisperer.com

    Katrina, there is a section on starting at all ages, including with children older than 6 months on this page http://www.TimL.com/ipt

    The wealth of info on all sorts of useful topics in this Stand and Deliver blog is impressive. Kudos!

  8. I ECd my second set of twins. I was "casual" about it, but my they were always cloth diapered and never in a cover or pants unless we were going out and it was winter. I rarely pottied at night, but did cue them to pee, so we could change them when they were cuing. They were still "late" but potty independent in almost 1/2 the time my other three conventionally cloth diapered kids were. I always felt the most important part was the communication and maintaining body awareness, if I had fretted about misses it would have been futile. So amazing, and natural and intuitive, and yet another thing we almost lost and have to relearn -- just glad I got a chance to start re-learning! :)

  9. I am in the process of EC-ing my second as well. I started at birth with her and she wont even use potties anymore and prefers to go directly in the toilet (at 8 mo). I am continually amazed at how great it works. :)

  10. I totally agree. I started to part-time EC with my second around 2 months and with my first around 6mos. I usually only do it at changes but I think it helps in the long run even if it's just part-time. My oldest has been in underwear since about 20 mos and at almost 3 is now using the potty very independently all of a sudden. I love the fact that when others see the success they want to try too! Both my husband and mom EC quite happily for me too.

    I think it's great to introduce the potty as part of your daily rituals so they get use to it from an early age. Big sister loves to help her little sister use the potty as well!

    Like you we use cloth so any cloth diaper that is spared from the laundry is a good thing. I used the Baby Bjorn little potty in the beginning, but since my second is so squirmy I just hold her on the big potty now with the baby bjorn adapter. We make it fun time and play games and peekaboo so she doesn't want to jump off before she's finished!


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