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EC from scratch: DIY elimination communication, budget-friendly!

Natalie-Robbins

If the budget is tight, or you want to try EC but aren’t sure you’re committed, here are some simple solutions you can try using items you already have at home.

Like many, our family started practicing Elimination Communication with the perspective: “Why not? If it saves a couple of diapers, what do we have to lose by trying?”

Also like many, we were skeptical if it would really work, and we didn’t have the cash to spend on extras to get started.

I googled question after question, read dozens of Andrea’s blog posts, and researched all sorts of DIY options to make EC work with what we already had at home.

Once we were committed, we did invest in some cloth diapers, training pants, a mini potty, and a seat reducer – but the cost has been incredibly low compared to what we *could have* spent if we diapered full-time.

entire EC diapering gear - DIY Budget EC

We’ve spent a total of $105 on our EC gear so far (not including the disposable diapers we were gifted from our baby shower – we used them sparingly and saved SO many that we have not spent a single penny on disposables ourselves) ….and we don’t plan to spend a penny more until we need to size-up the training pants.

Today I’m going to share various DIY potty options, diapering choices, information sources, and clothing preferences that will allow you to practice EC in a VERY budget friendly manner.

Here is a quick downloadable PDF I made for you to make this information handy: [DIY EC handout]

Potty Options

The EC Hold - Over Anything!

Positions

The EC hold is magical – you can use it practically any time, anywhere....over the sink, toilet, or outdoors. Commonly used for newborn babies, it’s STILL our go-to at nearly 9 months old when our baby isn’t super interested in the potty.

Over the sink is especially easy because the height is just right, and you have the benefit of being able to run a little water over their feet to help encourage a pee.

You can do it over an open diaper, prefold, or a towel, too, if another receptacle isn’t readily available.

The Mixing Bowl, Repurposed

plastic mixing bowl (with rounded edges so it was comfortable for baby), and a DIY potty cozy using an old t-shirt - DIY Budget EC

When we first started EC at 3 months old, we used a plastic mixing bowl (with rounded edges so it was comfortable for baby), and a DIY potty cozy using an old t-shirt. We could support our baby in a seated position on it, perfectly.

You can use a large mixing bowl held between your legs while nursing as well. We keep one regularly in the car for pottytunities there. I also recently saw a Facebook comment about using collapsible dog water bowls for a potty on the go – never tried it myself but it may work if you have good aim. ☺

The Mini Potty – A Versatile Investment

our bedside mini potty makes nighttime and early morning EC much easier - DIY Budget EC

A mini potty truly DOES make life easier…a mixing bowl is a little more prone to spilling if it’s set down off-balance (we learned that the hard way). If you were to invest in ONE potty, I would highly highly recommend the baby bjorn smart potty.

We purchased it for $20 after much research. That’s approx 80 diapers at a per diaper cost of 25 cents each – 80 diapers that would last you LESS THAN TWO WEEKS at a rate of 6 diapers per day. We figured once we saved $20 worth of diapers, we’d gotten our money’s worth. The mini potty has paid for itself OVER and OVER and OVER again.

PLUS, the insert can function as a top hat potty for a newborn, and then the mini potty is perfect from 3 months old (or when baby has head control) all the way through potty independence. It’s small enough that it’s sufficient for a little baby, but big enough that even a 2 year old can sit on it without a problem.

The Potty Seat – A “Big Kid” Option

(c) @jeffsbrat
(c) @jeffsbrat

Around 6 months, our baby decided the mini potty wasn’t for her anymore. She would happily use it first thing in the morning, and occasionally after naps, but otherwise? Wasn’t too interested.

After two months of primarily using the EC hold, we purchased the Munchkin Sturdy Potty Seat (check out my review here) for $10 – it is small enough for our 8 month old to use, has a good splash guard, fits securely on the seat with no jiggling, and we can now flush poops straight down the toilet. It’s not soft, as it’s made of hard plastic, but as long as it’s a short pottytunity, that hasn’t been a problem at all.

Our mobile baby LOVES sitting like a big girl on the real toilet, and this seat has also quickly paid for itself in saved diapers.

Diapering Choices

Sumo Style Diapering - Getting Into the Rhythm

How-to - sumo style diaper step 5

When you’re just getting started with EC, a Sumo Style Diaper (with a cloth and elastic waistband) is perfect for observation at any age. It can work as a temporary diaper backup if you don’t want to waste your precious disposables but don’t have any cloth diapers.

T-shirts or prefolds also work great for a sumo style diaper, as a cost-friendly option, but pee definitely leaks, so it wasn’t a good full-time solution for us.

After probably two weeks of sumo style diapering, we went ahead and purchased cloth diapers.

Cloth Diapering – Way Cute and Saves Money

You can use ANY kind of diaper backup for EC. However, the most cost-friendly option is cloth diapering. I know lots of mamas love their fancy cloth diaper stash, but you don’t need much - we purchased 3 cloth diaper covers, and 1 dozen prefolds.

If you get prefolds, buy newborn size. I cannot preach this loud enough – the regular-sized ones are huge and bulky, and unnecessary if you’re changing after a single pee.

cut up one old tshirt to make cloth wipes - DIY Budget EC

We cut up one old tshirt to make cloth wipes, and we also used about 24 old-t-shirts as backup prefolds. I appreciated that they were more lean than our prefolds (since we bought too large a prefold size) and since they can be unfolded like flats, they dry way faster.

For the 3 one-size covers, 12 prefolds, and the bonus of 6 training pants that were on clearance, we spent a total of $75 on our cloth diapering.

They wouldn’t have worked for the newborn stage, but this stash has been completely sufficient for our needs between 3-8 months and will certainly fit for many more months (although…I’m hoping to ditch diapers by 1 year, so we hopefully won’t need them for too much longer).

Disposable diapers – A Convenient Tool

disposable diapers

Disposables certainly are the least budget-friendly, but they are SO convenient, requiring no washing at all. If money is tight, you can put the diaper back on after a pee catch, even if it’s wet, for a couple of pees before throwing away.

I personally throw the diaper away after every pee when we do use disposables because my baby gets a rash if she sits in pee too long, and it’s not as good for her health – but it’s also not the end of the world if she does.

After one single pee miss, the diaper is still pretty dry – touching the inside I can’t feel much of a difference. So putting it back on to catch a second miss isn’t a big deal, as long as it doesn’t cause a rash.

Information Sources

Go Diaper Free – Your One Stop Shop

5 babies all ECd from birth - our 10 year journey

Andrea is amazing, y’all. I cannot be more grateful for all the information she has gathered from her experience and research and shared with all of us, free of charge.

We relied primarily on the blog for the first few months of EC, and then got her book. (We would have avoided some hiccups had we gotten the book from the get-go - like the newborn prefolds. That’s one thing I definitely wish I’d done differently.)

Her resources on YouTube, live classes/ Q&As on Facebook, and the blog and podcast are incredible, and the additional EC information created and shared by other Go Diaper Free Coaches on their own platforms are super helpful as well.

I’m working on my own – ASL Pottyventures – which would absolutely not be possible without the depth of knowledge I’ve learned from the book, the coaching program, and directly from Andrea, herself.

Invest in the Book – Trust Me, It’s Worth It

invest in the go diaper free book

Support groups are great, but they’re not the ideal place for finding robust information about the ins and outs of EC.

Your EC practice changes so much throughout the baby’s developmental stages, and there’s no reason to wing it when all the wisdom is right in front of you.

That’s why - even when going DIY for EC - I still recommend her book – all the information you will need in ONE place. It’s worth it, I promise.

Clothing Preferences

(c) @cataleya_craig
(c) @cataleya_craig

We learned very quickly when we started EC that onesies are not your friends. We switched to using tops and bottoms. We have never used any EC-specific gear, like split crotch pants, legwarmers, etc., but we do look for dresses, shirts, pants, and shorts that are easy to use in an EC setting.

Clothing with snaps beneath the diaper simply hindered the process and either caused a missed pottytunity OR more often, ended up hanging around unsnapped, which isn’t very sightly.

We are grateful to friends who have passed down clothing to us, as well as grandparents who enjoy thrift shopping for our baby, so we have not spent anything ourselves on clothing either, but if we did, garage sales and thrift stores would absolutely be our go-tos.

I’m not much of a seamstress, but I’ve also seen some great DIY EC gear patterns, and may be trying out a fleece soaker pattern soon.

My Question for You...


Which of these cost-saving options have you used in your elimination communication practice? Are there any other budget-friendly diapering or pottying ideas you can share with us? Comment below!

 

Thanks so much to Natalie for this wonderful guest post! xx Andrea

 

PS - here’s the video version of this episode in case you prefer to YouTube it. ;)

Natalie Robbins

About Natalie Robbins

Natalie Robbins first stumbled across EC when her daughter was 3 months old, and has been an enthusiastic advocate for it ever since. She has a background in Deaf Education, and is now a certified Go Diaper Free coach, working to provide ASL access to the hidden gem of EC for the Deaf Community. Natalie is also a strong proponent for Natural Family Planning, particularly for the knowledge it provides to pinpoint and address any hidden fertility difficulties. She hopes to one day be certified to teach NFP and share this love with others as well. Natalie enjoys hiking and reading books aloud with her husband and daughter, visiting beautiful churches, teaching elementary students (in ASL....she could never handle the noise of a regular classroom), and reading up on breastfeeding, natural family planning, and of course, elimination communication. She vlogs about her EC journey at ASL Pottyventures.

13 Comments

  1. Laura Durkee Laura Durkee on September 15, 2020 at 10:38 am

    My budget brain is eating this up, Natalie. I’d also add, if it doesn’t gross ya out (an EMT assures me pee is sterile): rinse cotton pee diapers/undies/pants immediately, hang (or drape over a floor air vent, if you can, safely) to dry, and re-use! Saves wash loads when you’re PT-ing or almost done with EC and only getting one or two wet diapers a day.

    • Avatar Rebeka on September 15, 2020 at 4:22 pm

      I do that too! 😆

    • Natalie Robbins Natalie Robbins on September 15, 2020 at 4:49 pm

      Thanks Laura!! Appreciate the tip! I half do this – I immediately rinse wet trainers, and hang in the shower (or put in a wet bag, if I’m almost ready to wash), and then throw them in our regular laundry. They’re barely dirty, so no need for a separate wash, but they don’t take much space in the washer, so I don’t mind. Gives me peace of mind at least. :)

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on September 19, 2020 at 8:00 pm

      Hand washing is a great way to save some money Laura, wonderful suggestion!

  2. Avatar Leslie on September 15, 2020 at 12:44 pm

    I purchased lightly used snap diaper covers from the Calgary Cloth Diaper Depot that are sold in bundles as well as previously used prefolds, pull up covers, Snappis, training pants, and some waterproof diaper bags from Craigslist. A friend also gave me a few used covers – wool, velcro – that she used with her kids. The pull up covers are very inexpensive even to buy new and were my favourite to use until my little one became very squirmy during diaper changes when he was 6 months old. Now I preload snap covers and don’t bother with using a Snappi. I have seen patterns to make your own prefolds out of old tshirts but don’t realistically have the time to do this! Also, instead of using the fancy waterproof diaper bags, most of the time I use a plastic grocery bag or dog poop bag for wet diapers when out of the house as it takes up less space in my backpack!

    • Natalie Robbins Natalie Robbins on September 15, 2020 at 4:35 pm

      This is great, Leslie!! Thanks for sharing!! The T-shirt prefolds we used didn’t require any prep at all – if you’d like to check that out, I demonstrate how to fold them for diapers in this video: https://youtu.be/XzYjAoaGYQE

      Grocery bags are perfect! I finally got myself a wet dry bag on clearance, and love it, but until we got that, plastic bags were also our go to! :)

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on September 19, 2020 at 8:01 pm

      It sounds like you found some great deals Leslie! Used cloth is a wonderful way to save some money.

  3. Avatar Rebeka on September 15, 2020 at 4:14 pm

    I am definitely on a tight budget! Love this podcast. Here’s some things I’ve done and more tips.
    I agree with EC hold over anything. My favourite EC hold with all my babies has always been over the sink -cradle, while breastfeeding or in the classic style- right from birth. Super convenient. I’d also do it outdoors right over the sand if at the beach or in the grass… keeping it discreet.

    I’ve always used cloth diapers. Some I bought brand new others I bought secondhand. For newborns I’d use prefolds (hemp and cotton are my favourites) and snappis with covers newborn size.
    Later I’d use pocket diapers with adjustable rises stuffed with the prefolds as inserts. Those can fit until baby is 2 or 3 but won’t need them till then. Plus I reuse them for several babies.
    I only used disposable diapers when traveling and camping, usually biodegradable ones. Although I’ve done cloth diapers too in those situations.And I do reuse diapers if it was barely wet.
    I use cloth wipes too which makes sense if you’re cloth diapering. If like me you received way too many washcloths at your baby showers then you know what to do with them. Otherwise there’s a lot of easy ways to DIY. Cut off any soft fabric that you no longer need into small squares. And honestly I only use warm water from the tap to wet them since I’m holding baby right over the sink anyway. Sometimes I don’t use wipes at all just water and soap. For travel I have a small spray bottle filled with a mixture of water and a few drops of essential oil, or just water.

    I’m so fortunate that with my last baby (7th and surprise baby) I had made a new friend who happens to be a retired seamstress. She was happy to custom make stuff for me for free including my own designed diaper pail liner and wet bag for on the go. Upon request she also found me a micro fleece sheet which I cut out into many liners for the diapers. Those are absolutely great for saving diapers! There would often be a little bit of poop smear on it when I took it off baby but the diaper itself will be still dry and unsoiled and I would catch the pee or poop in the sink. Sometimes I double the liner which can then hold more poop without ever getting stains on the diaper. So I just replace the liner and put the same diaper back on. You need to try it! There are plenty of video tutorials for DIY diaper liners. It’s very cheap and easy to make.
    She also had all these scraps of Minky which were perfect to use as liners too since they don’t stain at all. But I found them a bit too warm in the summer, however they’re really useful in the first few weeks of naked time observation, where I’d just slide one Minky liner under my son’s bum and over his penis to catch any water jets, lol. No need for an elastic like sumo diapers. It worked great while my baby laid over a waterproof mat. Minky is just so soft and wicks moisture away.
    One of my favourite trick and I was wondering if anyone else was doing it (thank you for saying it in the article!) USE THE INSERT of your mini potty as an alternative to the top hat potty for newborns!!!! It’s actually better for boys since it has a splash guard. And by all means find yourself a mini potty to begin with. I found mine for free on VarageSale, in perfect condition and similar to Babybjorn.
    Side note: Definitely look for free items or deals online in your community. Varagesale is my go to platform where I live. Why, I even found an awesome diaper pail for free.
    Back to the Potty insert, because it’s my favourite trick, I use it anywhere just like a top hat potty. On the bed, on the couch, in the car, at the beach, even in the tent while camping… ours is so small and light, it’s perfect for newborns and easy to transport. I place mine in a small wet bag attached to my diaper bag. And I’d even add a trick from Andrea, to prevent spills or avoid getting up to toss like when you’re in the middle of the night in a tent, just place something to absorb inside. I use a cloth wipe or just paper towel. Another idea which in my opinion is totally fine for babies not eating solids yet especially if they poop, is to simply dump the content of the potty back in the disposable diaper if it is already soiled before tossing that one away. I’ve done it in the car or while camping but ONLY if using disposable diapers of course.
    I realize I am sharing too much, sorry. It was supposed to be all about ECing on a tight budget so I’ll stop now. The tips listed in this podcast are all great 👍
    ECing is way easier on your wallet!

    • Natalie Robbins Natalie Robbins on September 15, 2020 at 4:57 pm

      Wow, thanks for sharing your journey, Rebeka! You have so much wisdom to share, especially raising 7 kids! :)

      I will DEFINITELY be checking out those DIY liners, especially for the next newborn. Sounds amazing! We didn’t learn about EC until a little later, so we missed that poop smear stage lol.

      And I agree, garage sales are the best! This summer if found a minipotty for 25 CENTS – it even has a better squat than my baby bjorn, and it’s so convenient to have a little potty in both bathrooms.

      SO glad we found EC – easier on your wallet 100%.

      • Avatar Rebeka on September 15, 2020 at 5:45 pm

        You’re welcome Natalie. Thank you for your great article in this podcast.
        I should be an expert on EC by now but I’m still learning from others. Anyway I’m always happy to help.
        Another good thing about the micro fibre fleece liners is that you can rinse them well if it’s just pee on it and you can dry them on a rack and reuse fairly quickly like an hour or less later because they dry extremely fast.
        By the way, yes I love actual garage sales too but just to clarify, Varagesale is a virtual garage sale app where you can buy or sell items in your community, very family oriented at least in my city, and can be a very convenient way to shop. For those who aren’t familiar with it, check it out. I’m personally so glad I found out about it since that’s how I found basically everything I needed to EC on a budget and more.

        • Natalie Robbins Natalie Robbins on September 15, 2020 at 8:19 pm

          Thanks for clarifying, Rebeka. I knew it wasn’t quite the same, but appreciate the extra details. That sounds like something we could all benefit from – I’ll have to see if Varagesale is around here!

          • Avatar Rebeka on September 15, 2020 at 8:59 pm

            👍👍All the best!



    • Avatar Andrea Olson on September 19, 2020 at 8:02 pm

      Those are all great tips Rebeka! Thank you for sharing.

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