A toddler + a baby. How to be successful ECing your baby when you have a toddler, too.
When you have your second baby, you’re definitely doing double duty from then on out. Who is with me? It can be a big challenge - keeping up with elimination communication with your baby while you have a young toddler afoot.
But does EC have to go on the back burner while you wrangle your toddler (and possibly finish toilet training him or her)?
I say, “no.”
Let’s compare babies with toddlers for a second.
First, a baby, a sweet, sweet baby. A baby:
- Has immediate needs
- Cries for everything
- Sleeps a lot
- Needs a lot from you
- Exhausts you
- Is still very instinctual
- Needs you to translate for him or her what he's or she's trying to say
- Is so, so worth it.
And a toddler? A toddler:
- Has immediate needs
- Cries for everything (with the added bonus of full-body tantrums)
- Sleeps a lot...in your well-meaning dreams!!!
- Needs a lot from you
- Exhausts you
- Craves order
- May be demanding
- Is somewhat possessive
- Gets jealous easily
- May actually be able to talk with words by now, but still needs you to translate for him or her emotionally
- Is so, so worth it.
To have both the energy of a toddler and the needs of a baby at the same time can really knock your socks off. I've been there a million times.
Add in the dimension of taking care of both of their potty needs - then things can get tricky.
So first I say, “This is not easy, you are not alone. And...I’ve done this 4 times, so you’re in good hands!”
This episode is all about how to manage!
Let’s review 10 points that will help you do EC with your new baby with a toddler in tow, followed by some examples of mamas who are rocking this out at the end of the episode - for inspiration’s sake!
1. Be sure the older one is wrapped up before focusing on EC with the new baby.
This is something that I think we sometimes get out of order because we think, "Oh, the new baby is so much easier to do EC with than our toddler is to finish potty training (or EC) with."
What I recommend is to use my book, The Tiny Potty Training Book, with your toddler while you're pregnant (if you can) or during the first months when your new baby's born.
Do the potty training experience whether you've done EC with your toddler or not. Wrap it up and finish it up. It's really straightforward - just follow what the book says.
Also, I recommend catching the poops and the wake-up pees only with the newborn during your older's wrap-up session. Yes, you want to do EC with your baby, but I want your focus to be on your toddler if they're not wrapped up yet.
If your toddler is still having accidents every day, let's go ahead and do a potty training experience now, whether they're just 17 months old and have been ECed from birth, or they're 26 months old and haven't done a thing on the potty. We want to do “wrap-up” with them first.
While you're going through that process, if you can't help yourself with your newborn, you can definitely catch the newborn's poops (because we know when they're going) and hold them over the sink or a top hat potty.
You can also do the wake-up pees. This is when a newborn wakes up, you hold them over and say “pssss...”, and you're doing EC. There you go!
So, you can do super-duper part-time EC with the baby, but focus on the toddler and wrapping up. Don’t worry about when you'll be able to start your younger one officially, like full-time. Any start at EC with your baby, at any age, is better than none.
It will pressure your wrap-up with your toddler if you’re convinced that, "No, I need to start my younger one before she's three months old." This can cause it to somewhat backfire.
#1 here is the longest of our 10-point list. The others will go a little faster, but I definitely want to make sure I've hit that point home.
We definitely want to be sure the older one is wrapped up before we do part-time or full-time EC with the new baby.
Okay now for number two….
2. Engage your older child in the process and truly let them help.
We want to engage the older child in the process with the younger baby. Just tell your toddler, "I need your help," and truly let them help, whatever that looks like. You might be surprised
We want to normalize potty time for baby.
This is what we do in our family: we take care of the baby, all together.
We want to pick parts of the process for the toddler that he or she can help with, and this can and should be repetitive.
For example, every single time you put the back-up back on, you can say, “Can you hand me that diaper, please?” to your toddler. (Or make it a statement if they are particularly obstinate, like my 2 year old! I will tell him ”Please hand me that diaper” in a chipper tone.)
What part of the process does your toddler like the most? We want to pick just those parts.
“Turn on the lights for me.”, “Pull up the stool so mommy can sit on it.”
Just say, "I need your help." and your toddler will likely rise to the occasion.
3. Get the older one a “baby” that he or she can parent (and potty), too.
Give your toddler a baby doll, whether your toddler is a boy or girl.
“Here you go, here's the baby doll. You're the mommy or daddy of this baby, and you take care of this baby. You take this one's diaper off, potty your baby, and now I’m gonna potty our baby (their real baby sibling).”
When you do this, the toddler would probably want to go potty, too. Giving a toddler a baby so they can copy you is really helpful.
4. Get a second potty, different color, for the new baby.
You can get one of these super-short mini potties from tinyundies.com in one color (like sage green) and then get the new baby a different color (like a turquoise).
Done this way, the older one has his or her color and the baby has his or her different color, and yet the style of the potty matches.
That is a teeny little trick that can go a long way.
5. Have the older one “read” a potty time board book to the new baby.
My fifth tip is to have your older child read the Tiny Potty board book or the Night Potty board book to your new baby. I created these two board books to teach babies how to do the whole potty process, from an early age.
Your toddler can read one of these board books to the baby to teach him or her the ropes. It doesn't matter how old the baby is, it's just a fun way to integrate the whole routine for both of them into the process - and it will give your toddler a much-needed sense of responsibility with their new sibling.
The reason I recommend MY board books on potty time (instead of someone else’s!) is because a lot of the board books out there on the topic of potty training focus on readiness, which is a myth - putting the onus on the child...am I ready? Oh, can I do this?
Most of them also focus on diapers and whether to take them off (usually dictated by the baby, which is backwards).
My board books are definitely different and I think it's helpful to do story time together on this topic that the baby and the toddler are working on together. This will involve your toddler in another special way.
6. Make “the family pee” a thing, on outings and at home.
Do the family pee. This is where I want you to start making the family pee a thing in your family outings, and at home. Everybody gets into that giant stall!
(Hopefully there's no teenage girl or boy in the giant stall taking it up when they shouldn't be. That really bothers me.)
But get in that giant stall and have everybody try...whether they go or not. We’ll also have baby try whether he or she goes or not - at home and during outings.
You have to make time for this. You can't really rush a family pee, but it's definitely a good thing to do.
7. Create a rhythm to your day at home.
Just pretend like you have five children or you have quadruplets and you have to get organized. If this were you, you’d have to make a rhythm to your day or you would certainly go nuts.
Creating a rhythm to your day will help everything go more smoothly.
This is when we do nap, this is when we have meal time, this is when we do X, Y, or Z, and this is when we're getting out of the house.
Creating a rhythm will help you organize your life within the new reality that it now exists.
This is the new now.
8. Try to get out more often!
Try to get out of the house. It's really hard - trust me, I feel you! There are some days when I stay in all day long because I can't even imagine going anywhere with all five of my children without any help. Maybe you only have two, or three, or maybe you have more.
Count your blessings, and get out of the house.
I promise you that it's a lot easier once you get everybody into the car. (Make that your goal!)
You can go to a toddler or baby storytime at your local library, you can go to gymnastics if they have an open gym, you can go to the mall and play on the indoor playground at the food court, or you can go to an outside playground. Whatever the weather, just get out of the house.
I want you to try to do this once a week if you aren’t already doing so, and start to manage “once a week.” It doesn't sound like a lot, but with two kids, getting out of the house is hard. I've been there and done that. Very hard.
Getting out of the house will become part of the day’s rhythm that we named in #7, above.
This will help your toddler, especially if there are other toddlers there, to socialize and let out some steam without driving you nuts at home. It's important for your mental health.
9. Lower your EC “bar” with #2, or try to do it better.
Lower your bar with number two regarding EC. Maybe you ECed your older one, and it went really well, and you did it full-time. With your baby, you're expecting to be wonder woman or wonder man and do the same, but I want you to lower your bar by basically dropping said bar on the ground.
You don't know what EC with this new baby is going to look like. You want to just trust what happens and do as much as you are able right now - just aim for part-time.
Aim for the four easy catches until you get into a rhythm where you're able to manage both kids and do this thing.
On the other hand, if you didn't do EC with your first and you just completed #1 on this episode (where you've wrapped up with potty training your toddler and now you're doing EC with your second)...give EC a good go with your new baby!
Maybe you knew about EC with your first and you were just so overwhelmed, like “I don't even know what cloth diaper to pick,” and EC did not happen with your first.
If this is you, you can try to do it better with your second baby.
Either lower your bar if you had a perfect EC experience with your first, who's now a toddler...or, raise that bar up and try to do EC this time, for real.
Get my Go Diaper Free book if you don't have it yet. I promise that it will tell you everything you need to know and demystify everything regarding ECing your new baby.
If you didn't get to do EC with your first, now's your do-over. Yay! You get a second chance. Go for it!
10. Master naps and sleep.
This is my 10th tip here on how to do EC with your baby with a toddler in tow:
Master naps and sleep, whatever that looks like for you.
If you're co-sleeping with both of them, great. If it's working for you, great.
If your toddler is not getting enough sleep at night or at nap, you're going to have a way harder time doing anything with your baby.
If you have always fallen short in this category (like me!) then please get some help.
I have used the Baby Sleep Site and have gotten customized sleep plans from them before. I absolutely love them. I hope that you will check them out if you’re terrible in the toddler or baby sleep department.
There's also a newer business that just came across my radar, Little Z Sleep. They've got a good thing going on over there. They've got some video courses that you can take for sleep regardless of your baby and toddler’s age.
In the big picture, I highly, highly, highly recommend you (1) shoot for a well-rested baby and (2) get your toddler wrapped up (potty trained) if they’re not already. This will help you enjoy them more, and everything in your day will become easier. I promise.
When kids are tired because they haven't gotten enough sleep, it makes it harder on you. If you're a stay-at-home parent to a toddler and a baby, you need all of the sanity you can get, right?
Some examples of Mamas who are rocking EC with baby + toddler!
And now are the examples of mamas who are rocking at ECing their baby with a toddler in the mix.
- Tiffany Miller says, “I heard of EC before he was born but I was already overwhelmed by choosing the type of cloth diaper we’d use! With my second baby, I decided to go with it now when baby’s already aware, so I won’t have to train her out of them later. I started them both at the same time. Baby was 4 months, my son was 20 mos...I felt they were both ready.” She potty trained and started EC the same time.
- Whitney says, “Our energy extends to them. Getting the mom mind back and adding the play back in - he needs that playful voice from me, my toddler. I, as a Mom, need to be resourced. So anyway, I got him a baby doll - he gets to parent his little baby and then we say ‘It’s Lucas’ turn now,’ and he goes.” Him teaching his baby doll has helped him to want to go. Oh, and Whitney has a baby she’s ECing, as well.
- Leslie - realized after potty training her 3 year old, “Oh, this is gonna be way easier if we build in the baby steps with the new baby.” She started ECing her new baby at 11 mos old, right after potty training her 3 year old. She potties the new baby based on transition times only. Four easy catches, you guys.
- Lindsay Proctor started EC with her first at 5 months. She potty trained him at 17 months, and says, “it was so angelic.” Then she had twins. She started ECing them at 8 months and potty trained them by staggered training them (we will talk about training twins in next week’s episode!). She wrapped up her twins with a potty training experience at 15 months old. The twins are in tune with each other. They're also in tune with what the older brother does. The big brother will tell mom when they have to pee or are wet. It is a team family effort. She has three boys that are all very, very little. This just goes to show that if you set your mind to it you can totally do EC with a baby or two with a toddler in tow.
I don't want these stories to make you feel bad if you're failing at this right now. There is no failure. There is only learning. Use these mamas’ stories as inspiration and get resourced today.
Stay encouraged, stay the course, take some advice from today’s show, and remember: if I can do it with 5 kiddos over an 8 year spread, you can do it with two young-uns! I believe in you.
Get organized, be inspired, get creative! Get resourced and use these four women as extreme inspiration.
Tell me in the comments below: what nugget from today’s show are you going to implement this week with your baby or toddler?
I look forward to chatting with you, below! And see you next week with our episode on ECing or potty training twins.
PS - here’s the video version of this episode in case you prefer to YouTube it. ;)
Disclosure Note: As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from purchases made through the links on this page.
Hi Andrea, this article seems to focus more on newborns, younger babies. I’m wondering if the same applies for having an older baby and older toddler?
I have a 12 month old baby who I’ve been doing part-time EC with since birth and am still finishing up potty independence with my 2 year old (who will be 3 in a couple months), My 2 yr old has at least one accident a day and we’ve been potty training him for months and he still never take initiative in getting himself to the bathroom or saying when he has to pee. We’ve been going through a quick re-do of the steps this week to see where he’s still struggling. I’m starting to wonder though if my baby will pass up his older brother!
Also I have a 4 and a 5 yr old. Send help. Haha. At least those two have been fully potty trained for awhile, thanks to your books!! I’d be going broke with diapers and pull-ups if it weren’t for what I’ve learned from you.
Hi Catherine! Absolutely you can apply the same ideas to an older baby. If you are ready to bump up EC with your baby, go for it! You may find that it helps your 2 year old finish up potty training. xx Andrea
I went through the troubleshooting section of your potty training book and in just a matter of days I finally figured out my almost-3yr-old was struggling with dressing himself, particularly getting his undies on and off. I thought, let’s ditch the underwear and have him just in pants and see what happens. We went from 1-4 accidents per day, to almost NONE. The difference is night and day. He even tell us (sometimes) now when we has to go pee, before he’s started wetting. We’re slowly, gradually having him practice with his underwear. It’s amazing how much better he’s doing now that he’s feeling more confident in the process.
At the same time, we’ve continued with our baby (13 mo, now), and as our toddler is wrapping up, we’ve focused a little more every day on doing EC/early potty training with him.
Amazing!! I’m so glad you figured it out Catherine!!
Just started ECing my 15 month old and I have one due any day now. The biggest thing I got from this is to finish up my 15 month old before I start with the new baby. But isn’t she too little to completely finish up? Plus we have been doing it for a month now and I feel like we are no where near ready to finish up! I did just get your second book for 18+ kiddos though!
Hi Ali! You can absolutely ditch awake time diapers at 15 months old! I would wait until you have baby and have recovered from your birth, no need to add extra stress right now. You can definitely start EC with your newborn right away. When the time comes to wrap up/potty train you will need to make that the priority. You’ll likely need to do part time EC with your newborn unless you have helpers. Wishing you a beautiful birth!! xx Andrea
Hi! I need to connect with Lindsey. I have a three year old daughter who I EC from birth who was out of diapers by 12 months and fully potty independent by 18 months. Then I had twins when she was 2.5 years old (thankfully way out of diapers by then) and have been doing EC with twins since birth. We had fluctuations since birth but we are in a real down right now. My twin boys will be one year in less than a week and I get so much arching and screeching when I try to potty them. Since I’ve already done it and read your book I’ve done all you suggestions and it’s just been a super rough 1.5 months. Barely catching anything. So I’d love to some how connect with Lindsey to get some suggestions. We currently do lots of undies time around the house and cloth diapers on the go.
Thanks for the podcast.
I noticed that both of your sleep recommendations involve sleep training. It’s so important for us as parents to be informed and have options. I want to recommend Georgina May and her Facebook group called Desperately Seeking Sleep. I’m not affiliated with her at all, I just genuinely love her approach and have gotten such amazing results with no sleep training whatsoever. Bedsharing and nursing are both accepted and loved in this group, although it’s fine if you do neither.
What I appreciate about this is that it allows me to continue my biologically normal parenting practices of EC, bedsharing, and nursing on demand, just like every generation has done before us. 💗
Thanks so much!
Thanks for sharing Kay! I’m glad you found something that works for you. I do love the Baby Sleep Site, it isn’t traditional sleep training. It worked wonders for me, that’s why I share it. xx Andrea