Potty Training From Birth or Elimination Communication

potty training from birth or elimination communication


Not many people in the US are familiar with the concept of potty training their baby from as early on as birth, but when deciding between disposable or cloth diapers, it may be worth your time to put elimination communication on the table as an option as well.  Remember parenting is not an all-or-nothing game. There are often a variety of methods and techniques that can be combined to create the right balance for your family.

Historically, humans have used many different methods of dealing with pee and poop or diapering and toileting their young ones. It wasn’t until the 1980s that disposable diapers were readily available and became more affordable for the average family! Maybe you’d like to learn more about a method that saves money, eliminates waste, and makes potty training happen significantly earlier and which has been used throughout time and in many parts of the world. Let’s take a closer look at elimination communication so that you can begin to consider if it’s something that could work for you and your family.


What is Elimination Communication?

Elimination Communication often referred to as EC, is when a baby, from as young birth to up until 18 months old, does not wear a diaper to collect their urine and/or bowel movements. Instead, their caregivers pay special attention and respond to cues that indicate their baby will soon pee or poop and will bring them to a toilet or hold them over a designated bowl when the baby needs to go.  Practicing EC doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby won’t wear diapers, but it does mean that most of the time they won’t eliminate into the diaper; rather the diaper will catch a miss. Most of the time they will eliminate or pee or poop into a bowl or a potty or the toilet with their caregiver holding them over it.

Why Would Someone Consider Elimination Communication? 

Many families report that practicing EC deepens the connection and bond they feel with their baby. Others love how much easier it is to wipe their baby’s bottom. Many report that it adds to their confidence as parents because they become proficient at responding to their baby’s needs.  Other parents are motivated by the desire to parent in an environmentally conscious way and do not want to add to landfills with diapers or use excessive amounts of water and detergent to wash cloth diapers. Many parents like the concept because they have heard that babies often potty train much earlier than babies who use diapers. If any of these reasons sound interesting to you, read on. Remember EC doesn’t even have a name in much of the world because this is a common way especially historically that most cultures toileted their babies.

What Supplies Do I Need For EC? 

The only tools needed to attempt EC are a confident and patient caregiver, your baby, a place to toilet (this could be directly over the toilet you already have, over a baby potty or some bowls to be used just for EC), and some cloths to wipe up any misses. Many parents will still use diapers, Just in case. The diaper will last a lot longer though because it rarely gets soiled once you have figured out how to use EC. A lot of parents like to have leg warmers, crotchless pants, or clothes that are easy to remove or pull up like a nightgown. it’s also ideal to have a notebook to record your observations and timing.

When Is The Optimal Age To Begin EC? 

Starting from birth is optimal. The second best time is today, no matter how old your baby is. Many families notice that it is easier to begin the routine of EC when their baby is in the fourth trimester or within the first 3 months after birth, which some call the “Golden Window” for EC training because it may be easier to notice cues when they are clear and loud, and when there are fewer distractions (such as caregivers returning to work, or your baby beginning to crawl and move around). However, you can begin at any time and you will find that there are rewards and challenges when starting at any age. While it may be easier in some ways to start EC before your baby is crawling or walking, some families take advantage of the language development that begins between 6 to 12 months which makes communication a helpful tool. Using EC when a baby is older is essentially potty training as Americans think of it.

How Often Do Babies Pee And Poop?

Babies pee very often. Newborns can pee As frequently as every 15 – 30 minutes, but typically they will pee every 1-3 hours. Newborns should be peeing at least six pees per day by the 6th day of life. The duration of time in between eliminating or going to the bathroom will increase with your baby’s age. For example, by the age of 18 months, some toddlers may be able to go through the night without peeing. Babies often poop 4 to 8 times per day by the time they are 3 to 4 days old. Some babies poop even more than this; others less. There are many factors that can influence how frequently your baby needs to be toileted, including their age, level of engagement in other activities, etc.

What Are Some Signals That My Baby Will Pee Or Poop? 

When you begin to watch your newborn baby very closely, you will start to see that cues are present for all sorts of baby behaviors. You can start to tell when your newborn is feeling hungry, tired, full, and when they have to pee or poop! Some cues are more obvious than others which is why observation is key with EC. Give yourself time and understanding as you learn your baby’s unique signals, which may include grunting, turning red, squirming, tossing and turning, unlatching while nursing, breathing heavily, body stillness.  It is extremely common for newborns to pee and poop during or soon after feeding. Transition times between sleep cycles, eating, and activities are also good times to expect elimination.

What Are Some Tips To Be Successful With EC?

First, let’s define what success means. Ultimately EC is going well when your baby rarely eliminates into their diaper and most of the time pees or poops in a bowl or over the toilet as you hold them. But, like all parts of parenting, success doesn’t have to mean “All or Nothing”. Success for you may mean getting to learn some of your baby’s cues, using a few less diapers per day, and having a baby who’s a bit more in tune with their own rhythms who will likely potty train earlier than most babies or children.

So What Do I Actually Do To Practice EC? 

  1. In the beginning it is generally helpful to record your observations and timing. 
  2. Note what time your baby often eliminates and also note any sounds they make or things they do right before they pee or poop.
  3. Introduce cues. These are specific sounds you’ll make when your baby is peeing or pooping so they can associate those sounds with going.
  4. Keep a potty or a bowl nearby. It’s helpful to have designated bowls or potties in various rooms in your home. You can also always bring your child to the toilet
  5. When you observe the sign that your baby is soon to pee or poop, simply hold them in a squat-like position over the designated bowl or the toilet. Make the cue sound associated with the act of peeing or pooping. Most people use a sssss sound when the baby is peeing and a bit of a grunting sound when the baby is pooping. 

A postpartum doula with experience in this infant potty practice could be a good way for you to learn the ropes as they care for you and your baby. EC has a learning curve, like learning any new skill will, so patience is an absolute must.

What Are Some Challenges Parents Face With EC? 

The biggest challenge is for parents who are not able to be present and observe their little ones all the time because they have employment circumstances that don’t allow them to be present with their baby at all times. Other challenges include having an unsupportive partner or caregiver, and distractions like older children. If you are having other issues like difficulty with body feeding or breastfeeding, postpartum depression or anxiety, or if your baby is experiencing sleep regressions, these may also make EC a little bit more challenging. Boober can connect you to mental health providers, lactation consultants, and postpartum doulas if you feel you need support in any of these areas. You can join an EC support group for encouragement, support, and tips if EC is important to you but you’re having trouble with it for any reason. 

As with all aspects of life, including pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting, there is no single right way to do anything, there is only what is right for you. Think about your priorities and needs as a family when deciding on how to toilet your baby. You may find that EC is exactly what you want to do or you may find that it isn’t the right fit at all.

The truth may be that you need a few different methods to have the perfect recipe for your baby and life, like doing EC first thing in the morning, disposable diapers at daycare and a mix of cloth diapers and EC in the evenings. Allow yourself time and patience to try different techniques until you wind up with something that feels good for you. 

Laura is a doula, a writer, and the mother of two incredible kids. When not supporting new families or her own, you can find her trying out new recipes in the kitchen. Laura is available on the boober platform for matches.