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Baby Signals 101

Elimination Communication Baby Signals 101

Yesterday I was at my 3 year old, Isadora's, t-ball game and I whipped out my top hat potty to see if Branson needed to pee or poo. He's just 10 weeks old.

The other mom in the dugout noticed what I was doing (and clearly had no idea what to think). So she asked about the top hat.

"What is that?"

I tried to explain.

This is a baby potty. I am pottying Branson. Hubs and I have pottied all our babies from birth. It's rad. We love it.

You know, the usual drill.

(Perhaps you've stumbled thru this explanation before, yourself.)



{clears throat}

{awkward moment passes}

But, how do you know he has to pee?"

In this week's blog post, I cover one small part of this how in my new video - Baby Signals 101.

It's just 6 minutes long and hopefully it will clear some things up for you about:

  • when babies signal strongest,
  • what the most common signals are by age, and
  • why babies stop signaling at certain points.

I also mention using an Observation Log in the video.

Download my observation log for free here:

After you watch the video, please share your baby's current signal** in the comments below.

I look forward to reading them!



**Oh, and if your baby doesn't signal...normal, normal, normal. Just put "no signal" below and then maybe you'll wanna grab my Potty Time Master MiniCourse. Just sayin'.

Your turn: Share your baby's current signal below in the comments!

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Resource Recommendation

Potty Time Master is my minicourse about the "when" behind pottying your baby.

The Bundle: 7 deep dives into the challenge areas (Newborns, Nighttime, Outings, Potty Time, Potty Pauses, Back on Track, Wrap Up) you may face while doing EC with your baby.

Go Diaper Free: my popular EC book that simplifies EC, beginning to end

Andrea Olson

About Andrea Olson

I'm Andrea and I spend most of my time with my 6 children (all under 12 yo) and the rest of my time teaching other new parents how to do Elimination Communication with their 0-18 month babies. I love what I do and try to make a difference in one baby or parent's life every single day. (And I love, love, love, mango gelato.)


  1. Avatar Julia on May 3, 2017 at 6:27 am

    my 12m old ‘suddenly’ crawled away and from the distance looked at me with a weird / unusual look, like she’s looking through me, not at me. Great video, thanks!

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on May 3, 2017 at 9:33 am

      Awesome Julia! I wonder what that look is all about – mine do that too and others have said the same. Perhaps she’s deeply focused on her internal processes…and what they’re telling her. Which has got to be so interesting at 1 year old! :)

  2. Avatar Tatiana on May 3, 2017 at 7:17 am

    We are already potty trained (from 18 months) but she still ‘signals’ by touching her bottom when she has to poop, she will let me know, but I know before she tells me hahah

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on May 3, 2017 at 9:34 am

      Nice! Yes, that’s a very good one to bring up. Touching the bottom is such a clear one for the child – and good for you for knowing before-hand so you can avoid surprises! :)

  3. Avatar Sarah on May 3, 2017 at 7:22 am

    My almost 5 month old son has a shift in energy and makes a sound ‘uhhh’ almost like a sigh.

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on May 3, 2017 at 9:35 am

      Very subtle, Sarah. And to think if you weren’t doing EC you’d never have known what that sound really meant… :)

  4. Avatar Taylor Metzler on May 3, 2017 at 7:26 am

    Thanks for the video! One of my almost 9 monthave old’s signals right now is to pull herself up to standing on anything she can find. It’s not every time, but often enough that I bring the potty over when she does it to see.

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on May 3, 2017 at 10:03 am

      You’re welcome, Taylor! Pulling up as a signal – that is a new one for me but I totally get it. Thanks for sharing this!

  5. Avatar Bree on May 3, 2017 at 8:57 am

    Thanks for the video. My 2 week old daughter fusses and won’t eat when she has to potty

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on May 3, 2017 at 10:04 am

      You’re welcome! My 2 year old does the same thing. :) And 10 week old, too. Popping off the breast or refusing to eat makes perfect sense…who wants to eat while peeing/pooping? ;) Thx for sharing Bree!

  6. Avatar Kate on May 3, 2017 at 9:38 am

    My 18-month-old son, who is potty independent, has been touching, grabbing or pointing to his penis and saying, “tss tss,” for a few months now. He will come into the other room to show me. Occasionally, he will start to walk to the bathroom on his own. (Interestingly, if I ask him, “Do you have to go potty?”, he often says no. Everything is “no” these days. So I just led/take him to the bathroom.)

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on May 3, 2017 at 10:06 am

      Wonderful, Kate! You’ve definitely rounded the bend. It’s great that he’s also started walking to the bathroom too. That is one of the most important bits of learning to help him reach full independence. Yay!
      Funny, ours also says no even while shaking his head yes and walking there…he’s 22 months and no is taking hold. Can’t imagine potty training at this age of “no.”
      Thx for sharing!

  7. Avatar Lisa on May 3, 2017 at 10:18 am

    My 3 month old will wiggle, grunt, and breathe noisily when he needs to poop in the morning or the middle of the night. That’s when his signals are the strongest.

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on May 3, 2017 at 10:43 am

      Makes sense, Lisa! We are all definitely much more connected to our internal movings, and nature, when we are in a sleepy state. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Avatar Frances on May 3, 2017 at 10:30 am

    My 3-month old is very vocal! She tells me she needs to wee by cooing loudly, making ah noises :) She also pops off my breast when feeding when she needs a wee. And yes, definitely a shift in energy. Writing timings down on an observation log does wonders as well when I feel like I need a gentle reset coz I’ve been missing more wees than usual.

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on May 3, 2017 at 10:45 am

      I’m glad that logging her timing helps you, Frances! We have a same-age baby, you and I. It’s wonderful that yours coos…mine simply cries. ;) We will also be doing some observation and logging this week. They change so rapidly at this age, don’t they? xx Andrea

  9. Avatar Erin on May 3, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    We live on a farm in a rural area, and the great outdoors is, by far, the preferred potty for my almost-walking 11 month old son (and his dad, incidentally). Subsequently, his most common signal is to bang on the nearest door or point out the nearest window when he needs to go. I always thought I would have dogs instead of kids until my son came along, so it cracks me up to have him and the dog using the same cues!

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on May 4, 2017 at 10:12 am

      Erin that is hilarious! Funny enough, while I was writing my first EC book in 2011, we were living in rural Northern California. My son was also almost-walking and would crawl over to the door and bang on it. He’d then use the shoe rack to squat and go. Same place, outside, every single time. I feel a strange kinship with you now…! ;)

  10. Nechama Nechama on May 3, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    after many months of no signals and sticking it out with EC, we are now rewarded with a 16 month old who either: looks at Mama while pulling on his pants or shirt, walks to the bathroom himself and starts to put the toilet seat reducer on by himself or bang on the toilet and cry, starts to go inside if we are playing outside (a backward version of the intact communities where the babies go OUT to pee!)…
    Thanks Andrea!

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on May 4, 2017 at 10:13 am

      I am so happy your baby is signaling it again! I’m sure it’s because you stuck with it (and got so much support around it – which I hope helped). These are great, clear, and helpful signals, and such a wonderful way to support baby’s communication at this age. I love how you’ve pointed out that it’s a backward version of intact communities – yes! Babies are SO smart.

  11. Avatar Cora-lee on May 3, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    My 5 month-old doesn’t seem to signal consistently, though she does pee and poo on command when we bring her to the potty. We have been doing this since birth- and still trying to figure what her signals are. They seem to change just as we figure them out!

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on May 4, 2017 at 10:14 am

      Yes, they do with every baby, Cora-lee! That is probably a good thing, though. That way we know they are constantly developing. But it’s super-hard to keep up with all the changes. Once you get them, or think you have them, they change. :)

  12. Avatar Tiffani on May 3, 2017 at 2:03 pm

    My 7 month so crawls to the bathroom when he needs to go. Yay!

    I babysit a 5 month old, she stares with a silly grin on her face. Her mom, who doesn’t potty her, actually told me about that cue. She totally loves that I potty her baby!

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on May 4, 2017 at 10:43 am

      That’s awesome! And great that you’re pottying the LO you’re sitting for. Maybe baby will eventually ask mom to do it, too. :)

  13. Avatar Oksana on May 3, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    My 10mo old doesn’t really signal consistently. Most of the time I go by timing and intuition; if I feel like she has to go she usually does, even if I have to give her a toy to get her to sit still long enough!

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on May 4, 2017 at 11:03 am

      That’s wonderful Oksana! Most babies at that age do not signal or prioritize signaling. I’m glad the other two ways are working for you – we use those as well. :)

  14. Avatar Megan Igo on May 3, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    We’ve been ECing since my son was 4 months old (he is now almost 20 months) and we used to catch every poo. We had a crazy shift of schedule in December and he has refused to use the toilet since! This week I decided to give it a try again and am giving him some diaper free time for a few hours every day and putting him on the potty. He squats down when he has to go pee or poo, but when I put him on the potty he will sit there and we read the potty book (which he loves) but will usually get off and squad right next to the toilet and go. :/
    We caught a few pees yesterday so that’s exciting! I’m hoping it keeps getting smoother and smoother. I bought the potty training book but am nervous to go cold turkey since he has been so anti-potty.

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on May 4, 2017 at 11:05 am

      Hey Megan! I think it’s the PERFECT time for you to wrap up EC with potty training. To be honest, I am considering doing the same with my 22 mo old, Cooper, because he’s not having much success at preschool and I want to do a thorough training so he realizes this is the new drill everywhere. So, you’re not alone. I know it can be scary. But hey! You’ve got a bunch of successes on your side already! I’m sure it will be fruitful. Go for it! xx Andrea

  15. Avatar Esther on May 3, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    My daughter points to her crotch, or pulls up her shirt, or pulls down her pants. She is now 20 months but started those very clear signs when she was about 16 months. Recently she also sometimes goes to the bathroom and uses the potty by herself. Today at the library she went to the service desk, grabbed the bathroom keys, looked at me and marched toward the bathroom. A few weeks ago at storytime at the library she pulled down her pants in the middle of everybody. :)

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on May 4, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      Hahaha! That is ADORABLE! What a brilliant little girl, and so expressive. :)

  16. Avatar Angela on May 4, 2017 at 12:30 am

    My baby boy has been using the potty since day one. It’s been pretty easy and shocks our friends. We’ve had a rough month as he is now 13 months where he is now walking and wants to stand while peeing. My temporary solution has been standing him by the sink or on the adult size toilet lid. It’s working sometimes but curious how others have dealt with this standing position. Open to input.

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on May 4, 2017 at 12:19 pm

      Hey Angela! Those two are great options, for sure. Others have let their boy pee in the bathtub or outside. But your solutions are great! Eventually he will learn to sit again – for now he is being 100% instinctual. :)

    • Avatar Stephanie on May 5, 2017 at 1:59 am

      Once my son started walking, he often avoided sitting to pee. I noticed that when he was standing at his toy box he would stop and stand up a little straighter, then a few seconds later there would be pee everywhere. I found a little toddler urinal online, and even though it felt silly I had to give it a try. It just hangs on the side of your toilet with a little hook. Sure enough he would march right up to it, stand up tall and pee into the urinal.
      On a related note, I once entered my bathroom and found our garbage can (same color and general size as the urinal, which was being cleaned at that particular moment) with a puddle of pee in the bottom. So not only did the urinal totally work, the learning also transferred to other receptacles :) So if you don’t want to buy the urinal you could choose a different receptacle and designate it as the pee place in your bathroom. For my son I think that it helped to have the urinal on/near the real toilet so that he associated it with the place the rest of us eliminate.

  17. Avatar Angela on May 4, 2017 at 12:35 am

    My baby boy has been using the potty since day one. It’s been pretty easy and shocks our friends. He usually signals by going “mmmeh, mmmeh” and tapping his lower body. He pats my chest to breast feed. We travel a lot so we are always in different bathrooms, hotels and houses.

    We’ve had a rough month as he is now 13 months where he is now walking and wants to stand while peeing. He’s still too short to stand at an adult potty. My temporary solution has been standing him by the sink or on the adult size toilet lid. It’s working sometimes but curious how others have dealt with this standing position. He also now tugs at his clothes to be removed so he can potty. I’ve stopped putting him in onesies to give him the chance to signal. Open to input.

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on May 12, 2017 at 9:21 am

      Angela – you guys are doing so well!! Thanks for sharing where you’re at. As for standing, what you’re doing is great and he will eventually want to sit again. However, I believe there is a children’s urinal on Amazon that other mothers have used with much success. Yep, here’s one that seems to have good reviews – – let me know if you get one and whether it works and I’ll add it to our Supply List!
      Keep it up! xx Andrea

  18. Avatar Fi on May 4, 2017 at 8:15 am

    Only just starting here (at 8 months) so still looking for signals. We have caught the morning waking wee over the last 3 days and the first poo today – so much easier to clean up than a nappy! Thanks for the video and information and we will keep watching.

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on May 4, 2017 at 12:20 pm

      You’re so welcome, Fi! And congrats! I’ll have loads more videos coming up…next one in a few days. I am happy to help. :)

  19. Avatar Carissa on May 4, 2017 at 11:10 pm

    My nearly-14-month-old is very consistent about signaling for pee by kicking his legs or trying to get out of whatever he’s in (high chair, baby carrier, my lap when nursing). He also walks over to the bathroom or potty on his own sometimes but is great about nodding and going there if I ask him “Do you need to go potty?” He will even put the seat reducer on the toilet. Another signal is that he grabs the crotch of his diaper (or his penis if diaper free), and that’s a signal that is coming SOON, often just a minute or less. And sometimes he can get very fussy/moody when he really has to go. He will cry at the littlest thing and resists the EC hold at first but then suddenly relaxes and lets out a very particular pitched cry right before the pee comes out.

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on May 12, 2017 at 9:23 am

      Wow! You definitely know your child’s signals…I bet all the others reading your comment have a bit of signal envy. ;) I think it’s great that he has different signals for different urgencies. I definitely can relate with my own personal experience with my 4. Yours seems like an expressive little fellow…love it! xx Andrea

  20. Avatar L on May 5, 2017 at 3:07 am

    I have a 5 month old. The only signal I get from her is when she is eating she will pop off and fuss. We don’t catch as much as I would like but I can’t figure out any other signals. We try to do some based on timing though too.

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on May 12, 2017 at 9:26 am

      Great L! I would start integrating transition times as your baby gets older and you go on more regular outings where she is communicating more often. Doing EC out and about can also be fruitful if you’re game. The next video I’m posting will be about the wake up pee, first of 4 easy catches. Hopefully these will all help you get little baby steps better at other ways to potty, and remember it will all change soon anyway!

  21. Avatar Carol H on May 7, 2017 at 10:38 pm

    While sudden fussiness/shift in energy is the most common signal I notice in my 4-month-old, we’ve actually relied more heavily on the other “Roads to Pottying” as described in your book. In particular, we have the most catches by offering the potty shortly after waking, when transitioning from one activity to another, and based on intuition. Thank you so much for breaking it down for us! I’m so pleased that…gasp!…this actually works!

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on May 12, 2017 at 9:27 am

      Haha…you are so welcome! I’m glad you’ve been using the other 3 roads as well…all 4 are useful at different moments in the day, different times in baby’s life. They will serve you well into the future. :) Yay! xx

  22. Avatar Tamar on June 3, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    Hi Andrea!
    I live overseas and would like to buy the right type of potty for my soon to be newborn online so I can practice EC. Any suggestions of which type to buy and what not to buy, as well as where to buy it online? I didn’t see many options on Amazon, nor have I had any luck finding the top hat potty you use.

    Also, I’m trying to visualize how in the world do I do this when we’re taking a stroll in the city or in a car while I’m driving alone. Makes it hard for me to be consistent, no? Any suggestions on where I can find answers to these questions?

    Thank you!

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on June 5, 2017 at 12:27 pm

      Hi Tamar! Yes! First, congrats on your upcoming birth. And second…top hat potty presales are happening NOW thru June 15, 2017, at my indiegogo preorder campaign here at – so grab one now for delivery in September – sorry it can’t be sooner!

      I have several mini courses beginning in a few short weeks. One is Baby Meets Potty and one is EC while Out and About. They will be solve your mysteries. :) ALSO, grab my book NOW because you can start to prepare. It has a digital and paperback version, plus a video library in our private book owners’ section. You’ll be all resourced-up!

      xx Andrea

  23. Avatar Henrieta on June 4, 2017 at 10:39 am

    mine were comonly pointing with their finger to the ground :) nice job, best wishes

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on June 5, 2017 at 12:27 pm

      That’s a good one! Thx Henrieta! :)

  24. Avatar Heidi on June 22, 2017 at 12:29 am

    When my son was a newborn, he would let out a single sharp cry that meant he needed to potty. He would also try to climb out of my arms if I was holding him. Once he was older and eating solid foods, he would pause part way through the meal if he needed to potty.

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on July 26, 2017 at 3:47 pm

      Thanks for sharing you son’s signals, Heidi!

  25. Avatar Tiffany on August 28, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    My baby girl will crawl to the potty door and she tries to stand up in the carrier. At night she cries. I potty her as soon as she wakes as well.
    Currently we are ECing through sickness. We have a lot of misses, but I put her on the potty after every diaper change. Any tips about ECing through sickness? Thanks!

  26. Avatar Kayla on January 2, 2020 at 11:07 am

    I am SO glad I read this. I was originally looking for something in regards to why my 8m old started grabbing her crotch while she’s nursing and I came across this. She displays so many of these signals (we’re also teaching her to sign 😍) and I’ve never considered them to be potty signs! I’m definitely looking forward to taking advantage of her signals and getting her out of diaps! (cloth of course 😉)

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on January 8, 2020 at 2:38 am

      I’m so glad it helped Kayla! It will make a big difference in your EC practice by responding to her signals. xx Andrea

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