What’s More Convenient: EC or Diapers?

Elimination Communication is often seen as inconvenient. It's different. Unknown. Mysterious. Potentially...{gasp}...dirty.

The Truth

Let me debunk this myth clearly and calmly: pottying your baby (when started and practiced properly) is actually less messy and takes less time than dealing with diaper changes.

It causes less struggle throughout the day (um, yeah, most babies *hate* laying down for the old diaper change, don't they?).

And then later on, when other kiddos are engaged in months (and even years) of conventional toilet training, while your kiddo regularly goes potty on the...well...potty...you probably won't be sitting there hemming & hawing about how Elimination Communication was inconvenient.

Elimination Communication Does Take Effort

Yes, EC takes a bit of up-front effort to get started. Yes, you need to sit down and learn EC. But it's kinda like any good investment: you put in effort and energy up-front and you get a huge payoff later on.

That is, if you start in the right way. Go get some free info off the internet and try to wing and write me in 12 months with an update. I get these all the time. "I don't know where I screwed up." "It doesn't work anymore!" "We gave up." Elimination Communication can totally backfire.

So, if you've winged it, or you have a friend who has winged it, I take it all back. In this light, yeah...EC IS inconvenient.

Potty Learning Is Inconvenient, No Matter the Age

And let's get back to a real basic concept here (one that may come as a shock):
Potty learning, no matter what age you begin, is just plain inconvenient.

In our society, we ALL want convenience, short-cuts, best practices, tips, tricks, and to plain avoid the hard stuff. (I do!)

We don't want to deal with poop (I don't!). We don't want to get peed on (nope!).

Whether you start at birth, 12 months, or 36 months...you have to deal with poop and pee. Period.

Disposable Diapers Are Convenient...but...

Disposable diapers were invented so mothers didn't have to stay at home and wash laundry all day long. It was part of the feminist movement.

They are indeed very convenient yet are proven to delay potty training. (Especially these wonder diapers that can be worn for up to 12 hours!!!!!)

Take away the feeling of wetness, erase the instincts that encourage the baby to resist sitting in his pee or feces, and hush the communication about it...and your baby will comply.

She will learn that her potty is her pants. When you decide that her potty shouldn't be her pants any longer, she just might get confused.

Then...the convenience...magically...disappears....

Babies: Not the Most Convenient Crowd of Humans

Birthing a baby. Taking care of a baby's needs. Feeding. Helping to sleep. Consoling. Building trust. Communicating. Getting them to do what we want. (ha) Dealing with spit-up, poo, pee, messy eating, messy house, mess mess mess.

Babies are not convenient, are they?

But we try to make them convenient.

Put them in a crib, stick a pacifier in their mouth, feed them this formula to save your boobs and get them on a schedule, let them cry it out, stick a diaper on them for at least 3 years til they say "I want to go in the potty now, Mom."

Not throwing judgments here. We all do what we can. Balance.

But, the reality is that in our society, we make it a habit of making things convenient. We just do.

Constantly feeding a newborn is inconvenient, too, but every baby needs feeding. Being a responsive parent is certainly not always convenient, but it reaps the highest rewards. Helping a baby take a nap is inconvenient, but we do it or we'd all go insane.

Some Tricks to Doing EC "Conveniently"

Here are some things that can help you do Elimination Communication with balance, convenience, and sanity intact!

  • do it as often as you can. Part-time? Once a day? Poops only? Weekends only? Full-time? Sure, whatever YOU can!
  • do it with a diaper "back-up." A diaper-free baby can still wear diapers. The difference is that he's not dependent upon diapers. Many parents (myself included) use diapers "just in case." But we're not married to them.
  • learn how to do it right, from the beginning. Please do not wing it. I'm not exaggerating.
  • be present with your baby, connected, (while not hyper-focusing on your baby, or on EC) and EC will flow smoothly. Conduct your life in a busy, distracted manner and it probably won't work. In fact, most things about parenting will likely crumble in your wake.
  • get support.

The Key to Balancing Convenience & Care

Slowing down around life is key in our bustling society...and realizing that nothing about pottying (or having) a baby is convenient. With pottying, it’s just a matter of when you choose to begin. With babies, it's just a matter of staying present and providing what the baby can't provide for himself.

Elimination Communication could very well seem less "convenient" in the beginning months and years...but it results in more convenience earlier than conventional potty training.

And more connection. And more trust. And more hygiene. And more clarity.

If your baby is 0-20 months, start EC today.

If your child is 20-30 months, start non-coercive potty training.

Andrea Olson

About Andrea Olson

I'm Andrea and I spend most of my time with my 4 children (6, 3, 2, and newborn) 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.

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19 Comments

  1. Lana on November 14, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    We sort of “winged it” when we began, we had no one to turn to and honestly couldn’t afford to buy books and learn, we couldn’t really even afford diapers. But I’d heard from a friend of ours who runs the rose of Sharon Orphanage in India that their babies where all potty independent by about a year. So I looked it up on the net and committed to studying it as best I could.. for my entire pregnancy. When our son was born I committed fully to his needs from breastfeeding to eliminating. It was difficult at first but by 4 weeks old we had our last regular poop accident, he’s only had a few “dirty” diapers.. ever. I can probably count on my fingers how many times.
    Perhaps those who “wing it” and have it fail simply where never committed in the first place? We where independent of diapers almost completely by just 4 and a half months and he’s now 16 months and takes himself to pee/poop and asks for help with wiping and pulling his pants back up- he can get them off pretty good though!
    Occasionally we have an accident but its not everyday and so it worked for us. We cannot imagine diapers on our son now!

    • Andrea on November 27, 2011 at 2:00 am

      Yes, Lana, I think you’re onto something when you mention that most folks who wing it might just never have committed properly to the practice. I’ve also noticed that some people try *everything* they read, sorta all at once, on the fly, and don’t spend an entire pregnancy sorting through exactly which techniques make most sense. Many already have young babies and just take tidbits of advice from here and there and then give up or go down a dark path…haha…you know what I mean. One lined with poopy diapers.

      Your story sounds just wonderful. And I believe it lies in your baseline commitment. And handing off responsibility to your son at the appropriate age, yes?

      At what age ~did~ you begin handing off the potty baton to your son, and how, Lana?

  2. EC on November 16, 2011 at 6:55 am

    I like this post.

    Modern society has a way of really messing up the perspective of convenience. The work/effort to reward ratios are way off. I see it all the time with my math students. If there isn’t instant gratification they get frustrated and don’t see that investment of time now will mean smooth, seamless, easy, and effortless transitions later. I must always address the importance of setting up a strong foundation first to reap the rewards.

    Diaper companies have really had a big hand in erasing mother’s wisdom. They are a business, they want to sell their product, that is what they do. Even if their claims are bizarre or untrue. Quick fix with no thought to the consequences. Take those 12 hour diapers. Wow. That makes me so uneasy. Um…all I keep thinking is being old, infirm, in a nursing home and being left in a depends for 12 hours. I’d be livid if my grandmother was in a home where they left her like that–heads would roll. Yet you can see how in the commercials that the advertising paints this as a positive convenience. I know people might say…oh I’d never leave a baby in that long…but don’t realize that it is really easy to take away that taboo in 1 short generation.

    Starting EC from scratch is like a game of Pitfall. You have to know what obstacles are best avoided and how to avoid them. If you aren’t aware of what conventional behaviors to avoid — it can easily be blamed on EC instead of the diaper-influenced behavior. When you start out with no experience its going to seem like a lot, but like anything new it becomes part of you with practice and you stop thinking about it.

    And here I’ve babbled on again :)

    • Andrea on November 27, 2011 at 2:22 am

      But I love your babbles!! You can babble here all day long. :) It’s true that if grandmothers were left to sit in their refuse all day long, many people would be upset. Then again, that’s what was said about disposable diapers for babies when those first appeared in the late 50’s. No parent would put their baby in paper! Then plastic! Never. Only cloth. But that changed fast. Wow, what can happen in one quick generation!

      I’m learning more and more that problems with EC are actually problems with parenting, and that we’ve lost our *overall* parenting wisdom in the western world…or at least bits and pieces of it. These are amplified in and show up in EC, eating, discipline…everywhere.

      Ah, well.

      So, when did you stop “thinking about” EC and it just became natural for you, anyway?

    • EC on November 27, 2011 at 4:15 pm

      Gosh, it is getting hard to remember. Like anything it was a graduated process. Breastfeeding was just like that — doing it every day I thought about it less and less until I couldn’t remember the last conscious thought! Even nursing lying down I remember it being awkward and difficult and then it was old hat.

      I can say with confidence that putting the diapers away 100% at 9 months greatly accelerated that subconscious “knowing”. Maybe 6m until then it was 50/50 ? We had a lot of mishaps at first but I gave myself no “easy out” to confuse the issue and solutions *had* to be sans diaper. Every miss was a reminder, every clean up a lesson, and every success an encouragement. How’s that for waxing poetic?

  3. Elizabeth Guilbeau on November 17, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    GREAT post, thanks. When I tell people about EC they tell me how inconvenient it sounds…and I want to get all defensive on them about it… your post has some helpful “polite” wording I can use and maybe help me be a little better at explaining it. ;)

    To your question: How do you balance convenience and care? One thing I’ve had to do is take a tiny break from EC when I’m out with family or friends. I love how everyone wants to love on my baby and hold her, but it was driving me crazy to see her cues and no one would do anything about it… even when I would tell them! My choice was to let her go diaper free (then no one holds her :( ) or put a disposable diaper on her so she wouldn’t be too uncomfortable.

    I hope this doesn’t lead her to a thinking that she isn’t suppose to use the bathroom when others are around.

    • Lana on November 21, 2011 at 6:51 pm

      Hey we had that SAME issue infact at 17 months and out of diapers we STILL have that problem with family and friends when out n about. I found with our boy Edward it DID cause a slight confusion but what happened eventually was we would “turn up” without him diapered. Then after he had been potty and done a decent wee I’d pull out a pair of trainers with a waterproof lining and put them on so everyone can love on him. Or a cloth diaper without a cover so I can immediately see if he’s had an accident and change him without anyone getting wet. but thankfully he started to pull down his pants so soon no one will be able to prevent him going potty when HE wants to go. I love these posts they’re awesome and as Andrea says demystifying! Good luck

    • Andrea on November 27, 2011 at 2:25 am

      You make a good point, Elizabeth, and I think the answer also lies in what you’ve already decided to do about it. What is best for your baby and least stressful for YOU is always a good choice!

      As your baby gets older, she will become more and more communicative with EVERYONE. Meanwhile, if this works for you and for her and for others, it makes sense.

      Wondering, if you notice she needs to go, have you tried excusing yourself and your baby, pottying her, and then returning her to your loved ones’ arms? Or pottying her right when you arrive somewhere and pull her out of the action every xxx hours/minutes to offer a pottytunity without breaking the flow of the party?

    • Andrea on November 27, 2011 at 2:29 am

      Lana, thanks for sharing your story too! At 17 months old, I’m surprised that others are surprised that your boy isn’t in diapers. I kind of feel sad even. But I like the way that you take the bull by the horns with such class…sounds like you’ve struck a good balance too!

      We experienced the confusion you mentioned just last night…we are visiting family in Bangkok and both of the older women playing with my 15 mo son sort of ‘felt’ his bottom (he had pants and undies on) and had this semi-confused look on their faces. They didn’t say anything but the unspokenness was quite amusing!

      Even in Thailand, upper class folks diaper their babies for many, many years, up to 4 yrs old (from what I’ve seen so far). Therein lies the upper class’ ‘balance.’ I hate to sound so critical…and I know that these folks are trying their best with what info they have too. We all are. :)

  4. Lana on November 27, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    They age Edward started to become potty independent was early actually. at about nine months old he would try to climb onto his potty and would make a complaint cry to get me to help him. After this began we still had misses of course but it was the real start to his own knowing of his body.
    He KNEW he needed to go and that was enough to make him shift his own activities. We had a “potty strike” at about 10-12 months where he would not want to stop playing very well and I relied on timing a lot. Also he would still cue but he wouldn’t move, torn between playing and potty and would become a little distressed if we had a miss but my husband and I never made a big deal we just wiped up and moved on. I found that when baby takes a “potty strike” that the best thing to do was to pick them up a few minutes before I think they need to go and carry them for those few minutes. then there’s no conflicting interest it’s all business to them and after they go back and play. by 15 months he was taking himself regularly and announcing to me that he had done it. (we have a potty chair rather than a standard potty as you can sit a child in it as young as 3 weeks quite easily with it supporting their back and head so you don’t have to. but it was harder for him to climb onto) So it waa a bit stop and start but my 15 months he had it down and the only time he has a wet is if he’s in a DIAPER. If he’s in a diaper he knows what it is and will fill it.
    I hope some of what I’ve said makes sense it’s kinda difficult to explain as like all babies development this came along in a series of jumps and plateus

  5. Lana on November 27, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    so i guess that said I never HAD to hand him the baton.. it just happened, outta the blue. he just began to take on the responsibility as he felt ready to do. and we have never looked back.

    It’s exciting to think he has never had a diaper on a full day in his life and doesn’t need them now so long as he has help when he asks for it.

    • Andrea on December 1, 2011 at 9:59 pm

      Beautifully said, Lana!! I loved reading about how your son just started doing it all of a sudden, and that no baton was necessary to be handed off.

      And I didn’t even realize that we do the same thing with potty resistance…I carry my son around for a few minutes and then gently offer or sit him on it. This is GREAT advice for others and hope you don’t mind me using it officially? :)

      Sounds like your attitude and presence and non-reactivity (yours and your hubby’s) contributed to your son taking charge smoothly. We can all learn from you, Lana. Thank you!!

  6. Ginger on November 30, 2011 at 10:53 am

    I am finding that the thing that makes EC the least convenient is clothing! With my 2 month old, getting the diaper off needs to be a quick, one handed endeavor. And if there is the possibility of getting wet (no cover) I am definitely more committed. But sometimes I also need to diaper up and take a break.

    I started by reading The Diaper Free Baby in pregnancy, and decided to try it as I could. It worked for us and I was catching most poo and about a third of pees. I just got your book and am finding it very helpful in figuring out the rest of the pees! Much is review, but good reminders, and there are a few little new nuggets that are really helping me get what my baby is trying to tell me and not frustrate the both of us.

    Just like anything, I’m sure it will get more convenient as I get more practiced. Out and about is the hardest now but everytime she poops in the potty outside of the house it is so worth it. I imagine cleaning up that poopy diaper wherever I am- now that is inconvenient!

    • Andrea on December 1, 2011 at 10:23 pm

      Yes Ginger!!! Ever tried changing a poopy diaper when you’re in a public bathroom with no changing table? Yeah. Totally inconvenient.

      Thanks for posting your experience and sharing how it’s going. And how my book is filling in some blanks for you – that’s why I wrote it! I also started with TDFB book. :) With clothing, we’ve always used the Grovia velcro covers with a prefold folded inside. Actually, before that, we used 7th Gen disposables (but they were usually dry for multiple pees). Over time, you get a hang of how to get ’em all off with one hand! Heck, you even learn how to cook a full 4 course meal with one hand!!

      Wondering…when you’re out and about do you wear your baby in a carrier?

      xx Andrea

    • Ginger on December 2, 2011 at 1:23 pm

      We are using carriers some of the time – I am still trying to find one that is most comfortable for us since she is growing out of the sleepy wrap.

      I am using the trifolded prefold method, as well as all in ones and some bare bottom time at home. It’s the pants/tights/onesies when we’re out that is difficult. I just got a pair of Ecapants to try and I think we are going to love those under dresses with leggings for outings. Absolutley one handed.

      Sometimes having her go in the diaper is more convenient, or easier than explaining to whomever you are with that you must drop everything and take baby to potty when they signal. But I’m trying to mininize those times and commit to give it a try when I can.

  7. Lana on December 3, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Feel free to use my “carry toddler around a few minutes prior” thing, advice, what ever you’d call it. :-) to me this has been an enriching and also LOGICAL experience.

    I only try things that make good sense so most have worked though every child is different.

    @ Ginger perhaps some split pants/chaps with a pre-fold or two underneath baby’s bottom. then you don’t have to get anything off. It’s makes life a lot less frustrating than having to “lie them down and get trousers or onesie off only to have a wet diaper or a baby who you miss read and doesn’t need to go so that you have to put everything back on and then undress again later”
    We found chaps worked really well for us when out because you can use a kinda “sumo” belt and have a prefold diaper or no belt and a Modern Cloth Diaper (though they are trickier if they have snaps) over top the chaps.. then you just pull the front out and baby can go… and if not- no big deal, you just do the front up again.

    Keeping newborns cozy in winter is tricky but that’s how we did it anyways. I’m sure you’ll work it out good luck.

  8. Andrea Olson on April 26, 2012 at 9:47 am

     yes!

  9. jessie on July 25, 2012 at 9:14 am

    I only learned about EC with my 5th child, and I’m doing it with him.  I’m sorry that I won’t have a chance to do it again now that I sort of got the hang of it!  Since he is my fifth, and the two above him are not much older than he is, I did have to do a lot of EC in a “busy, distracted manner” ;-) and I’ve never ever, even during his most amenable phases of EC, gotten better than about 80%. 

    But I’m not sure that I think it is more convenient.  My other children were not exactly toilet “trained.”  I pretty much waited until they decided they were ready.  When they decided, it was their decision and there was no fuss, no accidents, and a basically immediate and stress-free transition from diapers to underwear.  Yes, they “trained” late.  But there were no battles and no inconveniences.

    In terms of expense, it was definitely more expensive than EC, especially as I used diapers for more years than even standard “late” Americans.  And I agree it is lovely not chasing a writhing toddler.  And knowing what I now know about how the babies know when the have to eliminate, and viewing it as a biological need that I respond to, it would be difficult for me to ignore when I see signals. 

    And not changing soiled diapers is a pleasure.  (Though when I miss, it can be a pretty wild cleanup!)

    But there is a LOT of initial investment time.  My son is only 13 months old, and with my other children I never, ever, ever had to deal with wet clothes or bringing a change of clothes, because by the time they decided, there were no accidents and they could tell me, “I have to go to the bathroom” and easily wait the 10 minutes until we got home or until I found a bathroom.  So although I love EC and would choose to do it again and wish I knew about it before this, I am not totally convinced about it being equally convenient.

  10. áswa on August 6, 2012 at 8:17 am

    I have a 7 week old and got your book about a week ago (haven’t finished yet, but will soon, haha) and posts like this are so encouraging. In general, not just in regards to EC.
    If you parent the way I do, especially as a first time mom, you are sometimes met with eyerolling, or that “knowing” look that says, “she will eventually understand that this is not going to work”.
    It can be frustrating and it can make you feel unsupported, so I’m glad there are places online where reason, sanity, compassion, and a natural human approach prevail.
    Thank you for that.
    I’m really excited to start ECing soon!
    And yes, I have already ben in situations where I knew she was going to poop in a bit and had I had a potty, I would have offered it and it would have definitely saved me time and mess, because changing diapers with explosive poops is certainly not convenient, haha!

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