Just START: How to get out of your own way and start EC, already!
Recently I got on the phone with around 40 parents who follow Go Diaper Free on Instagram or Facebook and asked them a billion questions.
I was surprised at how many people had been following me, downloading my free guides, even purchasing my books and potties...but hadn’t even begun EC yet.
If you’re sitting on all this information but haven’t gotten up the gusto to start elimination communication with your baby, and you maybe don’t even know what’s stopping you, this episode is for you!
By the end of it, I hope you will feel empowered to JUST START.
Let’s start by discussing what could be stopping you from starting EC with your baby. (Because if we don’t know what we’re dealing with, we can not overcome it!)
Different stumbling blocks to starting elimination communication with your baby
If you’re like my mother, you will read up on something and gather all the gear until you can’t read up or gather any longer...and the sheer mass of information you’ve learned will have frozen you in your tracks.
Stop learning about it. Stop dreaming about it. Stop everything and put this down and take that diaper off. Take your baby at the very next wake-up. You have enough knowledge - stop ingesting information and collecting inspiration and START TAKING ACTION.
(Then come back and geek out some more once you actually get your feet wet.)
The Desire for Perfection
A lot of the parents I interviewed, especially the mamas, said that they were so worried about effing it up that they haven’t started EC yet for fear of failure. The thing is, you can’t be perfect at EC...it’s not built that way. It is a learning process, and most of our learning, unfortunately, happens through trip-ups and missteps.
Guess what? If your baby misses (ie: has an accident), you LEARN! If you misguess, you LEARN! It is ALL learning. EC is a longer game than potty training, so trying to be perfect at it is a recipe for disaster...esp if that desire for “don’t try it unless you can be perfect” keeps you from ever even beginning EC. Sounds crazy, but a lot of us have this exact block creeping around in our subconscious minds.
Safety on the Sidelines (hello: reality TV! hello: social media!)
I’ll use my mom as an example again (don’t worry, she owns this). She lives vicariously through other people (and constantly calls me to tell me how such-and-such is doing, even though she’s never met the person...er...bachelorette). It is sooo much easier to cheer from the sidelines, and coach or critique from the sidelines, than to be IN THE GAME.
Social media allows us to be voyeurs and never leave our safety zones. So does reality TV. I remember when reality TV became a thing in the 90s...MTV, anyone?...and people became so vicariously fed through others’ drama, mishaps, loves, and follies. It was crazy, and still is. Instagram influencers have us all worried about the fact that our own homes aren’t bathed in natural light with white and tan furniture that our babies NEVER mess up...and that they’ve clearly had a shower and we haven’t in days...when this simply isn’t the case in real life.
So, back to elimination communication - watching from the sidelines is safe - it is reality TV. Getting in the game is harder and less predictable - it is, however, real life...which is way more rewarding.
This Baby is So Fragile! (And small! How do I handle a newborn?)
Geez I feel like what I’m about to share is so controversial that it deserves a disclaimer: I am not responsible for how you handle your baby. Do so with care, calm, gently, and with respect to baby and his/her safety. Thank you.
Now, I will tell you a quick story. I was in Ghana, West Africa, in a remote village, back in 2000. I was 19 years old. Brand new newborns were strapped snugly to mamas’ backs with a 3 yard piece of fabric - the moms danced so briskly and energetically that the babies’ heads were bobbing all over the place (and I felt very worried about them!). These same mamas’ babies and toddlers were also very mobile very early, very happy, and healthy as a whip. I came away from that experience feeling that maybe newborns aren’t as fragile as we think.
(You can probably criticize my unscientific findings...that is fine. With my own babies I was taught early on to not be afraid to “handle” them, and for me it’s worked out just fine...they were all mobile early, healthy as whips, and very well-cared for.)
Even if you don’t buy my story, no worries. Most every baby over 99.99999% of human history was pottied from babyhood, didn’t soil the den or cave or hut, and didn’t wear a diaper as a toilet. Babies over human history have been pottied from birth...yours can be, too.
But more importantly - be courageous. I’m encouraging you to be courageous. Hold your baby gently*, securely, and take a deep breath...relax...make the sound of shushing water or grunting, bearing down...and know that billions have gone before you.
Once you try it, you’ll probably chuckle at how natural it felt to give your baby this wonderful bit of dignity and respect. Respectful Parenting...welcome to it.
*This is a picture of how to hold your newborn gently and securely - loosely hold their thighs without holding them open, but moreso supporting their weight, and lean their back and wobbly little head against the front of your torso. This is the Classic EC position - point and shoot. You can even cradle them in the nook of your elbow and then hold the thighs and aim - the Cradled Classic position, below that.
I’m an Overplanner (I mean, the stakes are high!)
If you are the type of parent who read 13 books while pregnant and still google every single little thing that veers from normal, and you’ve got developmental toys stashed away for ages 0-4, this is for you honey.
You can’t plan for everything...the stakes aren’t that high...and EC will teach you the beautiful art of letting go and going with the flow!
Overwhelmed...why add one more thing?
“I feel so completely overwhelmed with ALL the things I’m supposed to be doing - I am afraid adding one more thing will break me.”
If this is you, you are soooo not alone. But the newsflash is: EC takes the overwhelm OUT of being a brand new parent. It helps you know your baby on this other level that actually informs everything else. It provides a rhythm to your day, another piece of the mysterious puzzle (um, where is the handbook for this new baby?!), a point of deep connection, a great conversation starter (with baby), and it really helps you focus on the very few things that matter most - is my baby eating, pooping, peeing, and sleeping enough? EC is like half of that.
I’ve heard so many moms say they felt way less overwhelmed with ALL of being a new mama once they started doing even very-part-time EC.
Part Time, With Diapers
I don’t even know if I have to say it after saying it SO many times in the past...but you can do EC part-time, with diapers as a backup. You can use the clothes and diapers you currently have and do EC successfully. You can do it so part time that it might feel like nothing, and that could make getting out of diapers by 18 months a piece of cake. You can just do the poops. Or the wake-ups. Or the before- and after- daycare parts of the day.
It all works out in the end. If thinking elimination communication has to be all-in, no-holds-barred, 100% full time, no diapers...any of those things...you have been misinformed. Do it your way, anyway.
And OMG, what will people say?
Please do EC in private if this is what’s keeping you from starting EC. Be what I like to call a “closet ECer.” Then, when your child is completely done with diapers, or when you’re completely over this fear, tell the world, yell it from the mountaintops...and enjoy being the bearer of good news to people who need it.
Okay, now that we’ve discussed what could get in your way, if you didn’t already know, let’s talk about the easiest way to begin EC today.
(Because once we rid your subconscious of all this shadowy blockage stuff - all of the above - you can truly begin EC without so many unknown barricades.)
The easiest way to start elimination communication with your baby
Take off the diaper. There, you’ve started.
This may sound funny, but it’s what one mama I interviewed told me she was told when she posted about her apprehension on an EC Facebook group. Truly the very best advice I’ve ever heard. Take off the diaper. There, you’ve started.
Open it up, see what you can see.
This is what that advice-giver meant...once the diaper is off, and you’ve started, you can bravely look at what’s been hidden from your view since your baby was born. You can begin to look for signals, feel less worried about having the diaper off for more than a moment while you change it, start to get the hang of your child’s natural potty timing. Stuff like that.
Get into the mindset - the diaper paradigm shift.
What is this diaper for? Well, when you start EC, it quickly becomes a back-up, whether 24/7 or for whenever you’re not actively doing EC...for when you miss each other...for when you are making dinner and can’t possibly look out for signals or signs while cooking...for when you’re in the car or baby’s sleeping...for those times when baby is whipping through developmental milestones like it’s no thang, and that is allll they’re focused on. Times like that.
When you start EC, the diaper is no longer a full-time wearable toilet (OMG, who EVER thought THAT was a good idea????)...it is now a back-up for when you miss each other.
The reality is that all babies over all of human history were pottied - so get over your fears and just do it!
Seriously. All babies for all of human history. Whether you know where to begin or not, know that billions have gone before you.
This is a little something I learned in grad school at Pacifica Graduate Institute. By naming something that has been tripping you up, you bring that something into the conscious mind. It’s like shining a light on the shadow, on the darkness. When you name whatever stumbling block you’ve had or you currently have, it brings it to the conscious mind where it can no longer control you and wreak havoc on your best-laid plans.
So, take a moment and name which one of the blocks I’ve named is yours (or one that I may have missed) to diffuse its power over you and allow you to take that diaper off. There, you’ve begun.
More specifically, here are some specific ways to begin EC after you’ve bravely taken off the diaper and begun.
Specific approaches to beginning elimination communication with your baby
Decode your baby.
What does it mean when your baby cries? Potty time is part of that. The need to go and the desire to not have to do it on themselves...this is so primal and important for us parents to tune into.
Look up Dunstan Baby Language on YouTube and you’ll see the cry for “discomfort” - that is the closest to a potty signal that I’ve ever heard.
Also, observation logging can only help. Download my observation log below and learn how to use it over here on this episode (#83.5a). Learn your baby’s signals and natural timing, which will inform you about when to take him or her potty.
Download my observation log here
Worst case, start with one of the 4 easy catches and go from there.
If you don’t want to do observation time, or if observation time has yielded nothing, take a look at the 4 easy catches:
Pick one of them and do it every day for a week. Then add another if you wish. See how it goes. This is probably the easiest way to build confidence and habits around when to potty your baby.
Get really good at EC.
You could also do well to learn the big picture and all the necessary details of starting and doing EC, day-to-day, with my popular book on EC: Go Diaper Free. If you want to skip the learning curve, this is your best bet.
Add on my newborn minicourse if you’re in the 0-12 week age range.
Now I wanna hear from you!
Have you been waiting to start elimination communication, and are you pumped to get off this screen and take off that diaper?
Comment below and I’ll see you there :)
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, so I used the toddler Go diapers free on my first son when he was 18 months old and it was a success. My second son is now 7 months and I planned to start him at 18 months too like I did his brother. Is it too late to start EC now? He just started eating table foods.
We actually started when my LO was 9 mo old. You can definitely start now!
Well I definitely need the book because I’m kind of confused on how to start because I only know about the potty training for 18+ months. I shall be looking into it.
Yes, you’ll definitely want the Go Diaper Free book. EC is a different process from potty training. I know you’re going to love it! xx Andrea
Go for it, Shawna! You can start any time between 0-18 months. Enjoy! xx Andrea
I was reading this post while nursing NY 6 week old. After she was done eating she started fussing so I changed her diaper but she was still unsettled so decided to just try EC in case she had to go but was trying to avoid going in her diaper.
So I grabbed our little potty insert and held her as you described above and she used it on the first try! Boy was I pleasantly surprised!
Will definitely give her more opportunities to use the potty during the day. Thanks for the encouragement to just try it!
Yay Sarah! Way to follow your instincts!! This is such a great age to begin EC, newborns have very strong signals. Congratulations on your new arrival! xx Andrea
I love the EC info. We do pt EC with my 9mo old and she loves using the potty. She signs potty often and goes 1-2 to.es a day already!.
Yay you guys! Baby sign language makes it SO much easier…hope you guys are having a great day today! xx Andrea
Being home has been an awesome opportunity to take our 17 month old out of diapers and into tiny undies and trainers! The first week we did quite a bit of carpet cleaning (but still not as much as I expected!) and now she tells us when she has to go AND is into the routine of going at in’s and out’s and transition times! Soooo grateful for this resource and for using less diapers in a time when they’re already getting harder to find! Thanks for doing what you do! My friend is potty training at 3 and I’m like noooo thank you! We love EC!
Oooooh I am sooo happy to hear that, Gloria! Yay! You guys have done all the hard work and deserve what you’ve earned. Enjoy the FREEDOM! <3 Andrea
I took the plunge two weeks ago and went diaper free right after she woke up for 2 hours for 3-4 days but have been only having misses throughout observation time. I also can’t figure out her signals still. I feel a bit discouraged but I will try to do general timings and to try to follow baby’s natural timings too.
Don’t worry, it can take some time to figure it all out. It sounds like you are doing a great job with observation. If you aren’t seeing signals try to focus on the timing. xx Andrea
This is just the message I needed to hear today! Thank you! We’ve been doing part time EC for several months with our 12 month old (wake ups, and other random times) but I’ve wanted to take some time to learn cues and get natural timing down a little more and to be able to catch most poos too. Perfectionism has gotten in the way of me doing more. Thank you for the encouragement! :)
I’m so glad it helped Joy! Such a great age to bump up your practice, have fun with it! xx Andrea
I got called out in the first 3 minutes of this podcast. After a couple of weeks since I started learning about this I finally just made a plan and tried it and caught my first pee. I’m excited to see how this goes for me and my newborn.
Yay!!! So excited for you, you got this momma!