Skip to content

Teaching baby to signal: If your baby doesn’t signal, you can teach them how!

Teaching baby to signal

You may have been wondering how to teach your baby to signal.

Pottying your baby is a whole lot easier when they can tell you that they need to go...but if your baby doesn’t already signal, or has suddenly stopped signaling, how do you teach them to do so?

Today we're going to talk about exactly that, and hopefully increase the level of communication between you and your baby in the process!

You will learn:

  • What to do if your baby does not signal
  • How to teach your baby to signal
  • How to curb your expectations
  • How to select which signals to teach your child
  • What to do while you are signaling
  • When to expect your baby to start signaling back
  • Tips from two of our readers

Links and other resources mentioned today:

Download the Transcript

If you can't listen to this episode right now (um, sleeping baby!?) and read the transcript here:

Transcript download: Teaching baby to signal

Watch the Video Version

If you want to watch me record today’s podcast episode, you can do that on my youtube version right here:

Thanks for Listening!

To help out the show and help more parents find out about EC:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes
  • Share your thoughts by leaving a note in the comments section below!

How are you planning to teach your baby to signal? Which signs are you going to use? Which words are you going to use? What is your plan? Please leave a comment below with your experience!

I look forward to chatting with you in the comments.

xx Andrea

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 Stefane on June 18, 2019 at 7:39 am

    Thank you for all of your help Andrea! My 10 month old has exclusively pooped on the potty since 7 months. I’m currently working with her how to climb onto the mini potty herself. She has already done it twice. People cannot believe she is potty trained. Now if I could only get her sleep trained. Ugh.

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on June 18, 2019 at 5:54 pm

      Hi Stefane! That is fantastic! It’s so great she is already working on independence. If you continue to have sleep issues, I really recommend the Baby Sleep Site, they helped me so much. xx Andrea

  2. Avatar Siobhan on June 18, 2019 at 8:17 am

    I just started potty signing with my son last week. We’ve been using the signs for more, all done and hungry for about 6 months and he just started reciprocating them a few weeks ago (around a year old). I had that ah-ha moment that he should have a potty signal too! We use the word potty and the shaking t sign to indicate we are headed to the bathroom and then say poops and pees while on the toilet.

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on June 18, 2019 at 5:56 pm

      Hi Siobhan! I’m so glad to hear your son is picking up sign language. It really helps so much to increase communication. xx Andrea

  3. Avatar Renee on June 18, 2019 at 12:17 pm

    We have been doing EC since birth with verbal signals psss and mmmh. At 3-4 months old we added the sign for potty and for poop while sitting him on the top hat or a toilet seat reducer. I also sign more and all done for eating and all done for as pottying as well. HE is 10.5 months old and in a big potty pause. He just wants to crawl everywhere and won’t stay still for sitting on his baby potty (which he loved at 7-9 months old) or the toilet. The only place I can potty him without him struggling is outside while I hold him so I can only verbally signal. I do try to remember to say and give the signal for potty as we walk outside because I want that to be the signal before he goes. I’m really hoping he starts signing once this potty pause is over since he does not sign for anything or really signal. We have relied on natural timing and intuition. Before the potty pause I was getting almost all poops in the toilet.

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on June 18, 2019 at 5:58 pm

      Hi Renee! Potty pauses are rough, it sounds like you have come up with a good solution. You might try having him sit on the tiny potty outside, it could help get him back sitting. If the potty pause doesn’t improve and you feel stuck, check out my Potty Pause Resolution course. It will help you work through. xx Andrea

  4. Avatar Jane on June 20, 2019 at 8:42 am

    Hi Andrea- I’ve been practicing EC since about three months, when a friend told me about it. I listen to your podcast and have your book- thank you! Writing because I ran across this article that I’d love to hear you talk about. I believe you that this EC practice is done world-over, and don’t think I’m psychologically harming my babe, but his comments about babies holding it at daycare has me a little concerned – we are starting daycare soon (baby is 6 months).

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on June 26, 2019 at 1:49 pm

      Hi Jane! Yes, you are correct. You are NOT harming your baby by practicing EC. This article makes the rounds every so often, it was written by a urologist. You have to keep in mind that he only sees children with severe problems, severe enough to need a specialist. That isn’t a sample of children that represent the norm. The other key thing is that EC is not potty training at all. You are not training your baby to “hold it”, you are responding to baby’s signals and timing to offer the potty. Very different process.

      Don’t worry about daycare. If your daycare provider is unable to offer the potty, it will be fine. Your baby will not hold to the point of damaging her/himself. Babies are very smart, they learn who offers the potty and who doesn’t. They will use a back up with caregivers that do not offer the potty. xx Andrea

      • Avatar Jane on July 8, 2019 at 9:52 pm

        Andrea- thank you so much for this thorough reply. Honestly I’m relieved that you had seen the article before and it wasn’t anything new to you. And you are right- I’ve noticed that around other caretakers he just goes in his diaper, no problem.

        Also- lately we are on a roll with poops. Every evening in the toilet. It seems like he really knows what to do when we put him on the toilet- it’s saving an awful lot of laundry! Thank you:)

        • Avatar Andrea Olson on July 14, 2019 at 8:39 pm

          I’m happy to help! I hate for anyone to worry about EC. I’m so glad that EC is going so well for you! Every poop in the potty feels like a win. xx Andrea

  5. Avatar Bethany on June 23, 2019 at 10:59 am

    What is my plan? I have noticed that if I say the word “potty” my baby will go on our way to the bathroom, so I’ve been a little stuck in how to communicate before we’re actually going. Listening to this brilliant podcast gave me the inspiration to break it into two words- I’ll use the word “bathroom” when I notice her needing to go. “Do you need to go to the bathroom? Let’s go to the bathroom.” I loved everything about this podcast and am always so encouraged by your perspective and non-pressure approach. I also love how you said that EC is non-linear. Maybe one of the things I love most about it. It’s purely relationship based. (Not rules ;). Thank you again for all you do!

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on June 26, 2019 at 1:51 pm

      Hi Bethany! That is great that your little one responds so well to a verbal cue! I think your plan is great, change up the terms a bit. I’m so glad this podcast resonated with you! xx Andrea

  6. Avatar Jennifer on July 1, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    I think your book is awesome. We’ve taught our daughter the sign for toilet and use it for everything (need to go, going). Our hurdle is she doesn’t seem to know that she needs to go, until she is going. Because of this, we’re focusing on the 4 “roads” which means that she is often on the toilet without going. Also, when she starts to go, it is a huge gush and she seems to not know, she can stop and restart or control when she goes. You indicate in your book, and I agree, that her sitting there when she doesn’t go, teaches nothing. How can we teach her when she needs to go, e.g., the feeling of fullness? How can we teach her that she can delay going, until we reach the toilet? Or, are these skills she will learn through our repetition? Thanks so much!

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on July 14, 2019 at 8:42 pm

      Hi Jennifer! If your daughter is 12 months or older, you can do the hybrid plan. It will help build her awareness. If she is younger, just keep at it as you are and you can do the hybrid plan if necessary later. xx Andrea

  7. Avatar Kristina on February 28, 2020 at 11:02 am

    We show the toilet sign and say it’s to go to toilet. Then once he is on the toilet, we show the pee or poo sign (depending on what we think he wants) with the words pee pee or caca. We are multilingual family, so i think it helps him to understand better when we Both use the same signs :)
    Thank you for the podcast, it is really helpful!!

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on March 1, 2020 at 2:36 pm

      That’s wonderful Kristina! I bet you are right, he’s getting reinforcement from both languages that the sign means potty, pee, etc. I’m glad you found this helpful! xx Andrea

  8. Avatar Jonah on January 29, 2023 at 2:08 am

    Hi Andrea! I have this problem with my baby. She is 13th months. She will say wee-wee when she goes on her pants/undies/trainers/ or whenever she gets wet. She will say wee-wee too and go to the toilet but will not pee. We’ll bring her to the potty because we thought she will go when she say wee-wee but she will not although she will sit on the potty. Any advise about this? Thanks!

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on January 30, 2023 at 10:50 pm

      Hi Jonah, First of all you are doing great! Trying some diaper free time where she is in trainers or undies so you can focus on her timings and signals would be a great place to start. This way you can catch her right as she is going to help solidify that mind body connection.

  9. Avatar Colleen on March 28, 2023 at 3:32 pm

    Hi! I’ve got a “pooping signaling whilst eating” question. Background: We are new to EC at 16 months, starting mostly with just one easy catch a day (post-nap, pee-only, during naked diaper-free time for about 30 minutes); this is going well with exciting catches and some “oh, well” misses (all great practice, learning, and connection for us). My question has to do with moving forward with poop signaling and “making hay while the sun shine.” Our tot really takes his time eating, which is great on many levels (main meals typically last 30 minutes) – but often the poop comes halfway through (signals: the classic pause, grunting, red face, gripping the sides of the high chair). This is especially typical during breakfast, his biggest and longest meal of the day – and home of his most predictable poop of the day. So far, we have yet to take him to the pot mid-meal – just thinking about the logistics is terrifying. And even if we tried, it seems like we would miss the boat (like by the time we wash oatmeal-caked hands, get him out of bib/high chair, clean up poopy butt, and then finally sit him on the pot… what’s the point?) – and then having to get him back into the high chair to finish a meal. All that effort (at the expense of interrupting his best meal) seems like “too much” (and perhaps moving into “becoming too potty-centered” territory). My gut says to forget trying to catch the mid-meal poop, and continue to focus on easier (though less predictable) catches. But I am curious if there are any tips or tricks or another perspective on this scenario that might be helpful or encouraging as we move forward with trying to catch at more times of day, and catching more than just pee.

    Thanks for all the freely accessible resources you have out there, especially at this “neither here nor there” in-between 16 month mark when it’s so confusing to know where and how to start!

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on March 29, 2023 at 8:40 pm

      You are doing great! Understandably the logistics of getting a tot to the pot mid meal is a big undertaking. Here’s an idea, it may not be ideal, but have you considered keeping a tiny potty close by? This way when you see the inevitable mid-meal poo on it’s way, you can pop him on the tiny potty near by, then as he is sitting, take care of cleaning up his hands and removing the bib. This way he can really center in on the mind body connection and learn to give you a heads up with more time to get him to the toilet.

Leave a Comment

Scroll To Top