If you’ve just found out about infant potty training, or elimination communication, and your baby is between 12 and 18 months old, you’re not too late!
You may feel like you’ve missed the boat.
Like the potty train has left the building but forgot you and your little toddler.
But that’s simply not true - you can begin elimination communication at ANY age 0-18 months (and if you’re past 18 months, please check out my book for quick and easy non-coercive potty training and finish rather quickly).
Typically EC for the 12-18 month group is called “Late Start EC.” But I don’t like to call it that here on Go Diaper Free.
All that does is give parents a FOMO complex!
No, you’re not late to the party! You’re here at the PERFECT time to both start and complete EC...during the Montessori sensitive period for toilet learning. Score!
Today I answer one concerned reader’s question about starting toilet learning at 14 months old, and I’ll share my tips for starting EC during the 12-18 month age today!
Q: I’ve been trying to teach my cute 14 months boy to use the potty for about a month now. The morning poop goes reasonably well, but when it comes to peeing he just can’t be bothered. Got no problem going around in wet pants. We end up reading books with him for ages while he sits on the potty holding his pee just so he can spray it over or wet himself later on. Feels like the potty has become the focal point of our shared lives. How do we make him go to the potty and ask for our help when he wants to pee? I think half of the city water consumption goes to our washing machine…Thanks a bunch! ~Tamar, Gal (hubbie) and Noam, Pardes-Hanna, Israel
A: Hey Tamar, Gal, and Noam! Thanks for writing in and sharing your Elimination Communication photo with us:
I’m certain that EVERYONE across the world appreciates this photograph! ECing a toddler can be so much fun…but how to start?
Most of the time, that just isn’t fun, and many give up and just wait til later to potty train (usually very, very timidly).
So, in this post, I’m going to share with you exactly how to start Elimination Communication with a young toddler (ages 12-18 month) and how to prevent many of the problems you’re experiencing (you can use these tools to correct them, as well).
Some call this “Late Start EC” but honestly that just makes people feel like failures. Like they missed some proverbial boat.
I’ll call it “Starting EC Older”. Because it’s never too late to start.
But to more personally address a few of your questions first, Tamar:
1. Those brain waves haven’t yet connected and he’s just plain too busy to mind peeing himself at this age; see below for how to start EC with him the right way so that this is lessened.
2. Reading books for “ages” on the toilet won’t do any good whatsoever. If he’s on there and hasn’t gone within 3 minutes, get on with your day and prompt again when it’s time again. If you are certain he needs to go, tell him to do his business so you can get back to playing. Ditch the books and toys in the potty area. They will only encourage him to play…not pee.
3. Pottying is the focal point of your lives and that definitely needs to shift or nothing will get accomplished! Please continue reading for more on how to start EC with your toddler in the most efficient, sensible way.
Tweaking Observation Time for a Toddler – Starting EC Older
Starting EC with a newborn is a lot different than starting with a walking young toddler.
Obviously, the newborn just lays there. The toddler does not. Making naked time a bit trickier…and messier.
Also, the newborn can become conditioned to pee or poo on your Cue noise. A young toddler has thoughts of his own, and a brain that can’t really maintain those long-term, repetitive tasks until about 14-18 months (when they are finally able to remember and sing songs…if they’re verbal yet).
Newborns don’t throw tantrums, toddlers do. Newborns won’t withhold poop, toddlers will. Newborns are less into feeling wet than a toddler who doesn’t mind because there’s more important things to do.
The first step to starting an EC practice with any 0-18 month old baby/toddler is observation time…and even very young toddlers can be a challenge to observe.
The key is having a plan of action to follow. (And to use Tiny Trainers in blue or purple so you can instantly see when they’re wet and record their timing!)
My book comes with a Hybrid Plan for babies who are in the 12-18 month range who are very active. Otherwise, you just start with plain ole EC. But for the more active group, the Hybrid Plan is loosely outlined below. Again, this is detailed in my book.
1. SCHEDULE DIAPER-FREE DAY (1-2 DAYS STARTING ABOUT A WEEK FROM NOW)
2. IN THE MEANWHILE, EASE YOUR BABY INTO EC EVERY SINGLE DAY for ONE WEEK with the 4 Easy Catches + 30 min of time daily without a diaper
3. THE ACTUAL DIAPER-FREE 1-2 DAYS (AFTER THE 1 WEEK OF GETTING USED TO THE BODILY FUNCTIONS) - during this time you demonstrate moving to the potty with every single pee
4. AFTERWARD – MAINTENANCE! Move to underwear during all daytime hours and a diaper back-up at night.
Teaching the Building Blocks of Potty Independence…starting now
Though EC is primarily about two-way communication, and is not considered potty training, there is inevitable teaching involved.
In the process I shared above, you’ll see many examples of teaching the building blocks of potty independence (such as how to sit, and how to get yourself over to the potty, etc.).
Teaching is a valuable tool and couples with discipline. Pottying isn’t exactly a negotiable thing. We either teach them to continue pottying in their diapers or we teach them that, hey, now we’re shifting to using the potty.
Any in between state should not last long, for everyone’s sake!
Repetition, Repetition, Repetition…Consistency, Consistency, Consistency…and the Crazy, Non-linear Learning Curve
With a toddler, you have to repeat and be consistent.
The learning curve looks very non-linear when you’re working with a toddler, younger or older. You have to be repetitive and consistent with toddlers, because believe it or not, they are learning (although it may not look like it sometimes!).
Special Challenges May Require a Re-set and Gentle-yet-firm-Discipline
Some toddlers are just plain energetic and spunky and, at times, totally berzerk-o.
To get the idea across, you both might need to take a break from EC by doing a “re-set” and then starting the above process again. The exact instructions for the re-set are on my private support Forum that comes with the book.
But what I will share here is the gentle-yet-firm-discipline can also help you a ton in this learning process.
You must be (or at least feign being) confident, you must take charge, and you must turn the boat in the other direction. Your little munchkin will follow suit.
Remain matter-of-fact AND gentle (a sublime balance, for sure).
And, read this post of mine that shares how to help a child sit on the potty who really doesn’t want to.
If the pants continue to be wet from months 12-18…what to expect, what to do
Here’s my advice (again, from my private support forum) on what to expect and what to do:
When starting with a toddler one MUST do the 1-2 day naked time of teaching.
And from then on YES the pants and undies will probably be soiled and wet for a while, could even be a couple of months, so use the proper back-up for YOUR nerves and stress level to be under control, while continuing to work the process.
When the misses occur, LEARN SOMETHING from it and do NOT let your stress show. Communicate in simple short phrases. Have them help clean up instead of playing with the pee.
At 9 months when I was sick of the diapering struggle our son had wet Gerbers for like 4 months!! He eventually got it (brain caught up).
But in the meanwhile we gave him tools such as how to run over to the potty, how to sit on his own, and we stayed consistent. It was better than using diapers for us, and I had to keep my patience level in check…constantly.
33 Tips for Starting Elimination Communication Older
You can get access to 33 tips and much more, including my private video library and private support forum, by getting my book so you can start EC with your young toddler the right way, right away, and avoid all the headache that most folks get when winging it off of fragments of info from the Internet or books.
Two other related questions…
Just a little note that two other mamas also sent in similar questions that I wanted to address right here:
“I personally need tips on ec’ing the older baby/toddler. We started at 8ish months as she was signing so well. She can now sign potty and tell me if her diaper is dirty. But I’d like to know how to tell when she needs to pee. We did the naked time for a few days and she didn’t seem to have any cues for that.
I need any and all advice on starting really late with EC. I’ll definitely start earlier with the next one! DD is now almost 14 months old and I’d love to move forward but am at a bit of a standstill.” ~Bethany H., Travelers Rest, SC, USA
My Answer: Hey Bethany! See all the above and add in some reading at this episode on how to get your child signaling again. If you’re still having problems, best to hop onto my forum and we can work more personally on the challenges you’re both facing!
“I attempted a late start with ecing my son, he was 6 months at the time, and I was unsuccessful. I would like to know how do you begin EC or toilet learning with a 14 month old? Are there any books or resources you can recommend?” ~ Megan S., Cincinnati, OH, USA
My Answer: Hey Megan! Yes, Infant Potty Training by Laurie Boucke and The Diaper-free Baby by Christine Gross-Loh both have tips for starting with a toddler. Unfortunately, at the time those books were written, the information available was very limited and many parents had to EC their children for far longer than even 3 years because there was no wrap-up involved. Also, many toddlers learned to pee on the floor.
Through the research on my Forum with actual parents of toddlers who are practicing late-start EC, I’ve since updated my book with new information. I would (not to toot my own horn, but, hey, I believe it) highly recommend my book and forum for anyone who wants to learn more about toilet learning with a 14 months old and how to begin EC at 14 months.
Thanks Tamar, Bethany, and Megan for your wonderful questions!
I hope this post helps you, and others, start Elimination Communication with your 12-18 month young toddler with ease, grace, and confidence!
Have you had any experience with late start EC that you’d like to share? Or something you learned from this post? Please post them in the comments, below.
PS - here’s the video version of this episode in case you prefer to YouTube it. ;)