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Privacy on the potty: How to know your baby needs privacy to use the toilet, and how to give it

Privacy on the potty

Tell me if this has happened to you:

Your baby has been using the potty fine and all of the sudden is resistant and won’t sit on the potty, perhaps peeing on the floor 5 minutes later or in the diaper soon after the pottytunity has ended.

She fusses and you get nervous that you’re doing the wrong thing.

Does EC work? Is my mother-in-law right? Am I permanently damaging my baby? Why is she screaming and trying to run away?

So much second-guessing!

The thing is, this is pretty normal. It’s a sign.

Why Your Baby is Really Resisting the Potty

9 times out of 10 in situations like these, your baby is telling you he needs privacy and doesn’t know how else to say it - other than resisting, withholding, or outright screaming.

Babies actually start desiring privacy for pees and poops around the time they begin to crawl.

It makes sense, actually: in intact, indigenous cultures, babies will begin to crawl off to the outdoor facilities once they become mobile, and no longer need your help (or your watching eyes) to go potty. The baby will simply crawl right outside the door to go, or an older sibling or child will assist the baby until she can do it on her own.

At around 7 or 8 months old and up, if your baby starts to resist, it might mean he wants some privacy.

And this especially applies to any toddler - 18 months, 2 years old, 3 and 4 years old (it is insane to me that our culture teaches us to keep kids in diapers that long. It goes against ALL their instincts for privacy).

How do I give my baby privacy on the potty?

Now you’re probably wondering, “How in the world can I give my baby privacy on the potty? She can not do this alone!”
And you’re right.

But there are ways and they are all listed in my book, so right now I’m going to make it easy and just share some excerpts from the most recent version of my popular EC book, Go Diaper Free, to help you wrap your mind around why to give privacy and how to give it.

Some of this is repetitive, but I am insistent that repetition is how we learn (that and doing it! So after you take all this in, go give it a try with your baby!).

Now for the book excerpts:

Nothing happening…baby not relaxing?

Take deep breaths with baby (to calm you both) or sing a potty song. Other parents like to engage their own stomach muscles while they grunt their cue. Some believe when the baby feels the muscles contract (as she’s up against your stomach in the classic EC position) it helps her push and release. You can also offer your baby privacy by averting your attention to something else while she goes.

You can also switch from a mini potty to the big toilet with a toilet reducer on it. This keeps baby on a less-escapable receptacle. Turning your back or leaving the room for a moment (if baby can safely sit on the big toilet with a reducer) will provide privacy.

What helps your baby relax + focus?

17. Discover what helps your baby relax & focus on the potty. Sing potty songs, keep a bin of potty-only toys next to her potty, run water in the sink, turn your back, or possibly leave the room (because sometimes privacy helps babies relax and focus best).

Allow Baby to Sit Separately From You

When your baby can sit very well independently, you can (obviously) let go and allow her to sit without holding her. (Sitting a baby on the toilet seat reducer can often help if she has begun escaping the mini potty.) If an older baby tries to dive off the toilet into the parent’s arms, parents will usually pad the floor with towels or something soft and back off, busying themselves with something to give the baby “privacy.” Parents have found that if they are within arm’s reach, the baby will typically dive into their arms, so backing away helps them get past this impulse. If you’re going to try this, please do it carefully and at your own risk.

Pay Attention to Requests for Change

When you realize something needs to change (such as transitioning to the big toilet), guide your baby and lead the way. As she will try to tell you (in some way) when she is hungry or sleepy, she will also try to tell you when she needs, or wants, to potty (be it body language, fussiness, stillness, delayed urgent requests, etc.). Your baby will also indicate when things need to change (such as resisting you as her way of seeking privacy). Your job is to figure out what she’s saying, respond, and work as a team with your baby.

Any way you slice it, EC is a team effort.

Our EC Has Stopped Working

Give your baby privacy if things stop working. You can turn your back, busy yourself with something else, or leave the room if baby is safely on the potty. Often this will get things back on track.

My Older Baby Protests When I Offer A Pottytunity

Give your baby privacy if he protests the potty. You can turn your back, busy yourself with something else, or leave the room if baby is safely on the potty. Often this will give him a sense of control.

My Child Withholds His Poop When I Take Him, Or Stops Pooping And Won’t Continue

When you see him get into position and start to get quiet, pick him up, take bottoms off, and walk for about a minute or so with baby bare-bottomed, in a relaxed and calm manner. Make your way over to the potty. Sit him down on it and sit next to him on the floor, making the cue noise you've been practicing (grunting “mm, mm”) or saying nothing, even averting your eyes if you choose (some prefer more privacy). Breathe deeply. Get calm and relaxed yourself. If he doesn't go for it right away, walk him around a bit more. If he insists on running around free, keep an eye on him and pay attention to any second attempt to poop on your floor or in his pants. Then transport him again. Eventually he’ll get the message.

Give privacy.

Babies want privacy at much earlier ages than you’d think. Close the door with both of you in the bathroom. Set your child on the potty and immediately turn your back, “busying” yourself with something else in the room (I like to pick at the grout between the tiles, my back turned to baby). If your child is safe on the toilet reducer, and older, consider stepping out of the bathroom to quickly retrieve something you’ve “forgotten,” or stand behind the door, out of sight, listening for baby to go. Make safe choices, obviously, while trying to give privacy by averting your eyes, ignoring him, or stepping out/away.

So there you have it! How to give privacy. All excerpts from my book.

How Far Away to Sit When You Give Baby Privacy on the Potty

In my potty pause minicourse, I have a video of my middle child, Cooper, and how far, exactly, I would sit away from him while he was going was about 8 feet.

With my other children, it varied from about 2 feet to leaving the room completely. Some would go potty with me in the room, some wouldn’t have it and would actually tell me “get out!” at ages as young as 16 months. LOL.

Now it’s your turn:

What piqued your interest in today’s topic? What is one small thing you’re going to apply today?

Please comment below.

xx Andrea

PS - here’s the video version of this episode in case you prefer to YouTube it. ;)

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 viviana on March 16, 2021 at 10:54 am

    My 25-month-old son began to poop in the toilet or potty since about a year and a half, I was attentive to his signals, I was wearing it and he was doing very well. at home lately he did not do in his cloth diaper, he even began to warn me with a signal and then with the word in Spanish our language. But a month ago, that is, since he was two years old, he refused to poop in the toilet, now he is in the naked phase at home and with clothes at times and always warns when he is going to urinate, but when he goes to poop he becomes restless and if I take him to the bathroom he cries. Would the mini break course help me or what would your products do for me?

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on March 21, 2021 at 12:34 am

      Your best bet is buying the Tiny Potty for 18mo+ book, it talks in detail how to wrap up by doing a full on potty training. At this age, I may also recommend a consult with one of my certified coaches, because as they get older things become more complex. Also, when you get the book, you can ask specific questions to certified coaches. 😊

      • Avatar Viviana on March 21, 2021 at 12:58 am

        I have the book for a couple of weeks, so I will ask certified trainers in the group

        • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on March 22, 2021 at 5:03 am


  2. Avatar Jennifer Konvalinka on March 16, 2021 at 11:14 am

    We are gearing up this week to potty train next week. The times I,ve tried part time EC with my baby (no 20 month old) she will stop pooping in the middle of a poop. She likes to be away from me and hide in a nother too. Ot at least a few feet away when she goes poo and she will per 2 minutes later after understanding she should pee on the potty and sitting on her potty for a little while with me. Compared to my first child she hasn’t been an easy EC. And I am thinking she likes her privacy

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on March 21, 2021 at 12:35 am

      Yes, sometimes it is just that simple 💕

  3. Avatar Laura on March 16, 2021 at 11:58 am

    Will try the poop thing, thank you! Our 16 month old has a persistent diaper rash, I work full time but have been doing the evening diaper and giving him a pottytunity then, if nothing else for the diaper rash. The first day he peed on the floor, the second day he held it 15 min then pooped afterwards. Will try walking around bare bottomed holding him and wait for cues! I had already tried the privacy thing but he just gets off the toilet and plays

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on March 21, 2021 at 12:37 am

      Great you are going to try the poop thing, and I hope his diaper rash heals up quick! Those are no fun. Great to hear you gave the privacy thing a chance, and way to listen to your little one when he said that wasn’t it. 👍👍

  4. Avatar Kirsten on March 16, 2021 at 4:33 pm

    How do you maintain safety on the regular toilet with a reducer? Ours did a nose dive about a month ago (luckily didn’t get hurt), so I am very hesitant to leave her there for privacy. If she is put on the mini potty she stands up.

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on March 21, 2021 at 12:41 am

      Often times I recommend pillows, and usually one hard fall stops them, but your little one know best. So if that is not you, you can offer privacy by looking away and distracting yourself mentally/emotionally, while physically holding your little one on the potty. I compare it to when people are on their phones and you are talking to them, but it is like you’re talking to no one.

  5. Avatar Becky on March 17, 2021 at 8:04 am

    Tried giving my little guy privacy last night and it was a game changer. I sat him up on his little potty facing the hamper (he likes to fidget with the wicker) while I held the back of his sweatshirt and stretched so I was mostly hidden behind the sink and he did one big pee. normally for us would’ve been three trips to the bathroom and lots of starting and stopping. Thank you Andrea for this great reminder of the importance of privacy, I remember this section in the book but just had to get creative about how to set it up for my little guy in our bathroom.

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on March 21, 2021 at 12:42 am

      Yay!!🙌🙌🙌 Happy to help 😁

  6. Avatar Tera on March 17, 2021 at 7:34 pm

    This is us right now with our 10mo who is newly mobile. He’s gone back to not peeing during pottytunities but in his diaper within 5min of being changed. Grrr. So I suspect he’s looking for privacy. Will try this with the potty. However, how can I offer privacy for in-arms pees in the bathtub? That was our new favourite spot?

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on March 21, 2021 at 12:44 am

      For in arms, look away and distract yourself on something other than your little one. Think about your to-do list, contemplate life, close your eyes and breathe, etc.. Basically anything to keep your mind and eyes off your little one. ❤️

  7. Avatar Amber on March 18, 2021 at 2:15 pm

    Such a timely message. I introduced EC to a foster child who had just started walking. She started signaling strongly in cloth diapers and we were making good progress. Then all of the sudden she stopped going. She would fuss on the potty and immediately get up or wait until after going to tell us. I dismissed privacy since she likes being close, but after nearly a month with us she seemed more comfortable being alone. Today I put her in trainers and used a seat reducer instead of a potty so I could “busy myself” at the sink or turn my back to “tend to something.” Well the little stinker started having more success. She was calm when I would give her privacy and when she started to fuss I knew she was done. A good reminder that it’s okay to change things up if something isn’t working!

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on March 21, 2021 at 12:45 am

      Great reminder! ❤️🥰

  8. Avatar Scarlett Katharine on March 26, 2021 at 12:00 am

    Hi Andrea!
    I read your book while I was pregnant and have been EC’ing my daughter since she was 7 weeks old. It’s been going really well until just recently.
    She is now 8 months and this is exactly the post I was needing. She struggles against me on the top hat potty and then pees in the diaper shortly after – so frustrating! I didn’t realize maybe it’s time to switch things up!
    I’ve got one of your mini potties that I haven’t tried yet because she wasn’t sitting up without help until just recently. I’m excited to try it.
    Thank you for your awesome work :)

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on March 29, 2021 at 7:01 am

      My pleasure, and thank you for sharing your story. ❤️😊

  9. Avatar Shelby on May 26, 2021 at 4:13 pm

    Thank you, Andrea! I appreciate this episode. My 10 month old has been on the mini potty or tiny potty since 4 weeks. We only EC part time, but recently she’s been in full refusal. I think privacy may be the issue after listening to this! One question… where do I put my tiny potty for use? Is it weird to have it on the floor in her room? I used to potty her in front the bathroom mirror, but now I’m thinking that’s maybe not the right thing if she’s desiring privacy. Thanks so much!!!

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on June 3, 2021 at 3:51 am

      Not weird to have it in the floor in her room. At 10 months old it is nice to have it near by, and easily accessible.

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