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Potty pauses: A refreshing new perspective – why when things go wrong…could mean something totally surprising!


A potty pause in Elimination Communication is similar to a potty strike in potty training. Neither are fun. But in EC, potty pauses can have a deeper purpose.

You see, in potty training with an older toddler, potty strikes indicate there is something behavioral going on that can be very difficult for a parent to endure, and leave her very discouraged.

With infant potty training, potty pauses occur when there have been several consecutive weeks and/or months where the baby outright refuses to use the potty, and even in some cases prefers the diaper (or floor, or underwear, or you).

In our private readers' support group, we've found that potty pauses often indicate the baby needs more ownership over the process, and to be trusted, and perhaps that something else (developmental) is going on that needs our attention. They are very important, yes?

While in an upcoming episode I will address how to get through an EC potty pause, in this session, I share with you long-time DiaperFreeBaby Mentor Kerste Conner's refreshing perspective on potty pauses as part of the process.

Yes, you heard me correctly.

Potty pauses may be part of the process for some babies, if not most.

So, I hope you enjoy listening to this episode of the Go Diaper Free Podcast about potty pauses. The main story was used with personal permission from Kerste and is also excerpted from my book, Go Diaper Free: A Simplified Handbook for Elimination Communication.

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Til next time....big hugs and hang in there. xx Andrea

Resource Recommendation

Potty Pause Resolution is my minicourse that will help you get thru that wretched potty pause, and on to more harmonious days.

Go Diaper Free: my popular EC book that simplifies EC, beginning to end.

Andrea Olson

About Andrea Olson

I'm Andrea and I spend most of my time with my 6 children (all under 12 yo) 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. (And I love, love, love, mango gelato.)


  1. Avatar gina on June 20, 2014 at 1:22 am

    Perfect timing. We are going through a potty pause (I think) during nap time w/ our 22 month old. He has been diaper free for a few months, only diapering at night. He usually naps for 2, sometimes 3 hours during nap time in underwear staying completely dry. Recently he has been wetting the bed during his naps which is frustrating for both of us. His sleep is interrupted because he’s waking too soon because he is wet. I take him to the potty, change the bedding then put him back to bed but he doesn’t go back to sleep. I reverted to putting him in a pull up during naps now but feel as if I’m going backwards. Is it considered a potty pause when sleep is involved? What do you suggest for getting back to staying dry during naps/ling naps?

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on June 20, 2014 at 1:35 pm

      Hey Gina! Thanks for asking. I think it’s something other than a potty pause here. Pauses mean that there is a *refusal* to go, not necessarily a consistent miss at a certain time. I would watch his fluids prior to putting him down to bed, *always* have him do what I call a “final peepee” before going to nap, and continue using underwear. If you need a touch of added protection, use a wool soaker on top of the undies, but I do not think pullups are going to help. They are diapers, and you are done with those except for at nighttime. Continue using them at night until you are ready to night train, but in the naps, remind him beforehand to hold his pee the whole nap, and use something to protect his bedding that you can more easily change, like a wool puddle pad with a sheet tucked over it, which can be quickly changed. I’m sorry this is happening but you can get thru it! xx Andrea

  2. Avatar Jenny on July 19, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    I think we are going through a potty pause. My daughter just turned 1. I went back to work and she’s at a home daycare during the day.
    The first couple of days at daycare, she continued going on the potty like at home. After that, she’s been peeing and pooing only in her diapers. She wakes up every morning at 5am. I nurse her, and she falls back asleep until 7 am. Somewhere in between, she poos in her diaper. She used to be very uncomfortable like that, doesn’t seem to bother her any more.
    It was going so well! Sigh

  3. Avatar Sarah on September 28, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    OK. *Whew.* I have seriously been considering stopping EC altogether. Just like you said, barely any misses before the 6 month point, and now… yikes. We’re doing good to catch one a day. I am very grateful for you, Andrea Olson. I think we’ll continue.

  4. Avatar Priyanka Yadav on August 31, 2017 at 9:43 pm

    Hi Andrea’s,
    I really feel like a failure. Please help. I had started ecing partially (pooping) my baby boy at 3 months. I could catch all the pops then. Then when he turned one I started full time ec including pees. He was fully trained, didn’t need any diaper at 15 months. But we shifted from east africa to India when he turned 19 month. First he stopped telling me when he wanted to pee. And now when he is nearing 20 months since last week he has stopped informing even when he wants to poop. I can catch his pee only when he wakes up from a nap or in the morning. Rest of the time he will signal me to pee but if I take him to the toilet he resists to sit on the potty, arches his back that it’s difficult for me to make him sit on the potty. Please help

  5. Avatar Amanda on May 7, 2018 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks for the information. It all makes lots of sense to me. I can totally see my baby going through this as we continue our EC journey. It is good to know that letting go of the control can help if a “potty pause” is ever to occur. I also like your advice to state to the child that it is time to go to the potty instead of asking them if they need to go, since it gives less chance of them refusing.

  6. Avatar Tina on April 9, 2019 at 6:54 am

    Hi, my almost 18-month old is definitely going through some kind of potty pause, though I’m not sure if it still counts if she’s still been in diapers the whole time? We’ve been doing a soft version of EC since she’s 3 months, mostly catching no. 2’s with about 70% success but only started doing no. 1’s about 2 months ago. She was indicating well and willing to go at the potty-unities for about a month but then I started introducing the portable potty on the big toilet so that we could potentially do it whilst out but then she was scared, then intrigued, then kind of obsessively interested. All the while she slowly started standing up on her potty, and refusing to go on the big toilet so now we’re all confused! She now doesn’t really indicate when she needs to go, and I suspect almost holds to avoid using the toilet, though she’s still interested in the toilet paper and flushing lol, just not sitting. The 2 times we ‘caught’ the no2 on the toilet she had a big cry and freak out… thinking she may just need a break or is this a sign that we should now stop using nappies to give her more autonomy? Not sure if we’re ready for that though!

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on April 10, 2019 at 2:00 am

      Hi Tina! This behavior is very common at her age. It is a sign that she wants more independence and it is time to wrap up EC. I know it seems like a daunting task, but once you ditch diapers and dive in you really get used to the new normal quickly. xx Andrea

  7. Avatar Siobhan on April 12, 2019 at 11:40 am

    So I think my 10 month old boy may be going through a potty pause, but I’m not sure. We started part time EC in January and caught about 50% of the pees right off the bat. We haven’t caught a poop yet as his schedule is very inconsistent- some days no poop and other days 4 times. I felt like things were going great, but unfortunately, we were only able to EC for less than 2 weeks before I broke my arm. We took a 7 week hiatus from EC and cloth diapering while I healed. We started back about a week ago, but he fusses and arches his back anytime we put him on the potty. The past few days he is fussing as soon as we bring him into the bathroom. He is holding his pee at night and the only catch we’ve had is one morning when I stood him in the tub for a change of location in an attempt to relax him. I feel like we are forcing potty opportunities and I don’t want him to be traumatized.

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on April 13, 2019 at 11:00 pm

      Hi Siobhan! I’m glad your arm is feeling better! If you didn’t, I would start with observation. It may be that you aren’t offering at the right time. Another thing to try, switch up the potty. Sometimes a simple adjustment makes all the difference. My book covers this in-depth if you don’t have it, and I also have a minicourse on Potty Pauses that you may want to check out. Bottom line, EC doesn’t traumatize babies…it’s allllll communication and you are learning from it, so that is always a positive! xx Andrea

      • Avatar Siobhan on May 1, 2019 at 2:38 pm

        Thanks! I’m glad to have more normal use of my arm!
        And thanks for the suggestions!! We haven’t done observation yet as he’s at daycare most days and honestly I’m a bit intimidated by observation since I’m already cleaning up so many “misses”. I’ve been following the “easy catches” path and have been trying to switch between your mini potty and holding him on the big potty. He seems to protest the big potty more often. We had a partial catch this morning when he peed in the mini potty (yay!!), but then he immediately peed two more times on the floor while I was trying to clean up. Learning, trying and learning some more!! Based on one of your recent podcasts, I think it’s time to buy a seat reducer and give that a try.

  8. Avatar Justina on May 27, 2020 at 9:40 pm

    Hi.. My LO is 19 months old. He is resisting the potty. Maybe he is going through a potty pause? I am not sure. I am doing Phase 1 Step 1 for almost a week! I am about to give up! I do not know what else to do! When he has to go potty he says no no no and runs away. I don’t want to force him to go on the potty against his will. When I kindly bring him to the potty and provide new fun toys/books, he cries and says no no no. He is a very happy and easy going 19 month old. When its time to potty he turns into a completely different child. I makes him so upset. There is no other underlining issue. No UTI, no change in household, nothing development leaps, no teething, NOTHING. I am about to give up because I do not know why he is resisting so much. He even says bye bye poo when he poops on the floor! He shows me where he pooped and peed. I am not over offering and I am not hovering. I give him privacy and even allow him to watch his favorite songs during the process. However, at times I feel that I am forcing him to sit! Its so uncomfortable to watch. I do not want to give up! Please help!

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on May 28, 2020 at 6:27 pm

      Hi Justina! Potty training is a big transition, it is totally normal for them to resist. He is testing the new boundary to see if you will stick with it. It sounds like he has great awareness so I would move on to the next step. Keep at it, you’ve got this! xx Andrea

  9. Avatar Jess on April 18, 2024 at 11:48 pm

    I have a 6 month old boy and we’ve been doing EC a couple months. Before starting EC he would hold his poo for up to 8 days, which I know is the “realm” of normal (so they say) but as soon as we started EC he started pooping daily!! On the potty or outside. I couldn’t believe it!! I was even able to catch most wees. But, over the last week or two he is completely refusing. Initially I thought he was uncomfortable so I got a smaller potty, but no difference. He will even be starting to push a poo but when I offer the potty he does straight stiff legs, arches his back, tries to stand up and cries. Then he’ll just poo on the floor instead or in a nappy. He doesn’t like going over the sink either and does the same thing. I feel like I’m physically forcing him and he’ll just try to stand up anyway. I don’t know if I’m making it worse. I think I was over offering but now i don’t know what to do or even start again. I’m thinking I just stop and go back to some observation. He’s usually such a chiller so it’s all very weird. The only thing that’s changed is we started solids (bone broth) and I wonder if his poop feels more intense for him and stings or something?! But he happily goes in a nappy. Any input would be appreciated.

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on April 21, 2024 at 10:06 pm

      When there are life changes or developmental changes it is totally normal for babies to resist or just refuse the potty. There are bigger things going on that he’s working on. Stay the course momma! It sounds like he knows when he has to go, offering a distractions while on the pot might also help him calm down and let go. You got this momma!

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