Mess-free potty learning from birth, using part-time EC
Enjoy! xx Andrea
Potty training doesn’t have to begin with older toddlers. EC is a gentle, child-led method of infant potty learning, suitable from birth to 18 months.
If this is the first you’ve heard of Elimination Communication, it probably sounds a bit weird! But once you get used to the idea and consider the benefits for baby, parents and the environment, you might never look at nappies the same way again!
There can be a misconception that EC only works alongside attachment parenting, and that it takes constant attention and work. I pottied my two little boys from 4 months and from newborn. I absolutely love EC, it made our life easier and I can’t imagine doing it any other way. I wanted to share a brief introduction to the basics of EC, along with a more in-depth personal account of our experience of part-time mess-free EC.
*Disclaimer* I’m not a healthcare professional (although you will find medical professionals among the active advocates of EC). If you have any medical concerns about your child you should always seek professional advice.
As new parents these basic functions will quickly seem to become your whole world. While most parents become very attuned to cues for hunger or tiredness, the cues for toileting are mostly overlooked. It’s something parents can be instinctively aware of (how many times have you heard parents point out a baby’s ‘poop face’?!), but it’s not acted on until after the deed. Instead the focus is on dealing with the aftermath (sometimes with catastrophic results, and a once adorable onesie going straight into the outside bin!). Most parents probably aren’t even aware that there is another option.
Potty habits vary historically and across the world – and have been massively influenced by the introduction of disposable nappies. In other societies around the world, parents will notice a toilet cue and act on it. When you think about it, this makes more sense. Instead of waiting then cleaning up the aftermath, why not help babies eliminate more comfortably with less mess? If you’ve ever changed a newborn’s nappy (particularly boys), you probably know the jeopardy of timing it right so you aren’t in the line of fire! This is an instinct babies have from birth to avoid soiling themselves. It’s not unique or remarkable, it’s a fact of nature that many animals have.
In a nutshell, EC is giving babies the opportunity to ‘eliminate’ outside of their nappy, usually in a potty or toilet. To help figure out when baby will most likely need to go, carers can use a combination of cues, common timings, and natural timings by observing baby’s own rhythms. For example, on waking and after a milk feed are good times to offer the potty. If baby pees or poops in the potty, it’s often called a ‘catch.’ A newborn baby can be cradled snuggly over the toilet, a baby that’s sitting confidently can sit on the potty or seat reducer. Go Diaper Free offers loads of information and resources to find out more and to help you get started, including an easy to follow EC handbook.
There are so many fantastic advantages, this barely scratches the surface. You can find more benefits here.
One of the top reasons that makes me want to share EC is the easier transition to potty training. It’s something that a lot of parents dread, and I know many families who’ve had stress and tears all round. Waiting for signs of readiness, failed attempts, waiting longer, worrying it’s been too long. If a child has only ever experienced ‘going’ in a nappy, no wonder it can be confusing and scary. Of course some kids aren’t phased at all, but for others it can be genuinely distressing. Potty training is very different for children who’ve used a potty from infancy and who are used to peeing and pooping without a nappy. EC helps to avoid the confusion and fear of introducing something brand new and scary. Children should already have a positive relationship with the potty/toilet, it’s just a case of building on skills they already have.
The Potty Training Spectrum
‘Waiting for readiness’ is the most common method currently in the UK. This usually means nappies being used for 100% of waste up to around 2 or 3+ years, with little emphasis on building any familiarity or skills before starting the process.
EC approaches vary widely and can be flexible to suit your circumstances. At one end of the spectrum, some families practice full time EC. This can involve little (or no) use of nappies, and using the potty whenever possible. It takes a firm commitment, and is best suited to parents who are laid back about accidents!
Part-time EC usually means using a combination of potty and nappy, with various tools at your disposal to help – such as using cloth nappies instead of disposables, regular nappy-free time, baby wearing, co-sleeping and special clothing for quick easy removal. While these tools can work well to tip the balance from nappy to potty, it’s important to know yourself and what you’re comfortable with, and to be realistic and relaxed to help make it a positive experience for your baby and family. Again, accidents are to be expected!
Within the spectrum of part-time EC many families choose to potty less regularly, but with enough consistency to bring many of the benefits. This could involve using disposable nappies, limited nappy-free time, more reliance on common timings over natural, perhaps pottying during the day at home but not when out and about or during the night. Even if the potty is used just a few times a day, children become familiar with the process. This can develop into naturally building up more potty visits over time, or can continue part-time until ready to potty train – without fear of the unknown.
There are also other alternative methods of potty training, such as the hybrid approach, the Montessori approach, and many more, which may offer benefits over the readiness method.
Why Haven’t I Heard of EC?
Before the introduction of disposable nappies in the 1960s there was more of an incentive to keep babies clean, due to the workload involved in washing cloth nappies. Ask an older relative or friend and they might be able to share their experience of pottying young babies. Methods varied and throughout history there were practices that were rigid or even punitive. The concept of waiting for readiness was introduced as a more gentle child-led alternative by pediatrician Dr Brazelton (who worked with Pampers – the study was used as the cornerstone of their marketing campaign. If you find this conflict of interest disconcerting, read more here).
The readiness method is the only one currently endorsed by the NHS. At the outset of my EC journey I got in touch to find out their position on EC. The response was that they would take it under consideration if new guidance was published by the Institute of Health Visitors or ERIC. While ERIC acknowledge EC as a recognised technique, they conclude that few people’s lifestyles are conducive to EC in the UK.
However, EC is increasing in popularity as more people become aware of the benefits. Celebrity parents Mayim Bialik, Alicia Silverstone and Gisele Bundchen all practiced EC. There are many thousands of members of EC Facebook support groups, including from Yorkshire based Little Bunny Bear (25.7k), Born Ready EC UK (5.9k) and Go Diaper Free (3.3k – previously restricted to book owners, recently opened to all). It’s my hope that in the future EC becomes recognised by healthcare organisations as an accessible approach, so that new parents can be given more balanced information on their options.
Like most things with kids, there will be obstacles. Like when your sweet little angel suddenly hates the pram and/or car seat, or starts throwing their favourite food on the floor, etc etc. Most people will experience resistance at some point with EC. A ‘potty pause’ may come along when you least expect, when things have been going fine then all of sudden it goes downhill. There are ways to try to get back on track, or it’s fine to scale it back to just the easiest catches, or to even take a break to reset then try again later.
Bear in mind that if your early experience of EC doesn’t go well, it doesn’t mean it won’t ever work. Children change so much over a short time, it could be a different experience a few weeks or months later. It isn’t any sort of failure, and nobody should feel undue pressure to make EC work. However, it doesn’t mean being restricted to the readiness method. By keeping an open mind you may find that over time EC (or a different alternative approach) works for your family and circumstances.
To read Louise’s full EC story with both her boys, visit the original place of publication of this post over here.
Now we’d love to hear from you!
What is the #1 thing you are going to borrow from today’s post and implement in your own home?
Please comment below.
PS - here’s the video version of this episode in case you prefer to YouTube it. ;)
This is not necessarily related to the question, but I can see the effects of medical professionals becoming more open to the practice of EC. I took my daughter to the doctor’s office in undies for the first time a few months ago – nervous for them to notice and PRAYING we didn’t have a miss – to find that both the nurse and our pediatrician had heard of EC and were super interested to know how I was liking it!
This is such a lovely overview / intro story! Thanks for sharing, Louisa.
My pleasure! 💕