When EC Stops Working: The Elimination Communication “Potty Pause”
Potty Pause. A not-so-great word. Let me share what it is and what to do about it....
So you're doing Elimination Communication with your baby and everything was going great for the last few weeks or months. You caught every poo and almost every pee, or the majority thereof. You may not even have studied up on infant potty training...you've just had such great beginner's luck!
But now...oh my. Now. Sheesh. Your baby pees right after you take her off the potty. On the floor. She arches every time you try to put her on the mini potty.
Hello, potty pause. (Or call it a potty training strike. Because it darn near is!)
Before she happily went along with you. You were in harmony. But now...let's just call it the opposite of harmony, and it's gone on for several days.
You are royally frustrated (understatement?). You need help. So here it is.
An Alternative View of the Potty Pause
I'm not going to teach you how to address or fix a potty pause in this article. Instead, I'm going to pass on vital information that was handed to me from a long-time DiaperFreeBaby Mentor in Seattle, Kerste Conner.
It's an excerpt from my book, which covers how to simply begin an EC practice with your baby. Here it is:
by Kerste Conner, long time DiaperFreeBaby Mentor in Seattle, WA
I've noticed that there seem to be two times in a child's life with EC when problems arise. And I think that during both of these times, it is frustrating for the adults involved (and also for the child involved, but they can't tell you clearly) and with life being busy, it is easy to decide to put the diapers back on and wait until things improve. However, it would be better to continue doing what you are doing - this time of discord is very important to the process and even though there may be more misses, this is a time of great strides for a child.
When your child begins to walk or talk, they stumble and stutter and make mistakes. You wouldn't see your child struggling to walk and then think - she's not ready to walk yet (cuz she isn't perfect at it yet), so I am going to confine her to a safe environment where she cannot walk and I will keep her there until she is ready to walk. Instead you do what you can to keep her safe while she stumbles and falls and learns to teeter and totter and finally eventually walk. She fails while she is learning and as parents we tolerate these failures because we know it is part of the learning process.
However, when it comes to the EC process and we've been having success, somehow as our child begins to learn that they are a part of the process and they can control both when and where they potty, parents become confused - why is there now failure when before there was so much success? I think what we fail to realize is that our measure of success needs to change at this point.
Children learn how long they can hold the contents of their bladder by holding it so long, they can't hold it any longer.
They are in touch with the elimination process, they know what it feels like when their bladder is full, but what they don't know is - how long can I wait before it is too late? They get involved with other activities and they don't want to stop, even if they have that full bladder feeling. They may be involved in this experimentation process when, based on timing or intuition, an adult decides to potty the child - who protests vehemently. Then as soon as you take the child off the potty, they realize that they have exceeded their potty-holding limit and they pee on the floor. The adult reaction is frustration - why is this happening? But in fact, the learning process is happening. And this is a great time to continue your communication with your child - "Oh, you are peeing. Next time, if you let me know, I can help you put it in the potty." Very low key.
So my theory is that this part of the learning process happens sometime between 7 and 12 months. What we did during this time was try a few different locations (mini potty, then sink with mirror, regular toilet with insert, then outdoors). We were trying to distract her from her bladder holding experiment long enough for her to pee. If she peed, great, if not, we used either diaper back up, or we put her on some sort of impervious surface, or lived dangerously, knowing that we'd be cleaning up a miss in the near future. Sometimes she surprised us and held it much longer than we suspected that she could - and we both learned. Sometimes she peed almost as soon as we let her go back to her chosen activity - and we both learned. The process smoothed back out again for a time, but our success rate was probably never as high as it had been before our daughter learned that she could delay the inevitable, if it suited her.
Then between 12 and 16 months, the misses begin to increase again and for us this was the real key to our daughter graduating. She became very resistant to us ECing based on timing (which we had done from birth with her). Although we had been signing with her and talking with her about elimination throughout our journey, at this stage she was really acting out that she wanted control over this part of her life. It resulted in quite a few misses, but instead of diapering her back up and waiting until later when we thought she was ready, we gave her MORE control, instead of less. We would ask her if she had to potty (when we thought she should have to go, or if we were heading out for a trip) and if she gave us a negative response, we would believe her (even if we were skeptical) - we allowed her the ability to have confidence in knowing her body. Even if, sometimes, it turned out that she was wrong, the amount of time that it took her to realize that this was her thing and we were no longer the ones in control of where and when she pottied...she was completely diaper free within one month, and about two and half months later, she is completely miss free.
I'm not saying that this time table will apply to everyone. My point is just this: When a child who is on the EC journey has a series of misses, instead of considering it a "potty pause" maybe consider it as part of the process and that the child is really expressing that they realize they are part of this process and support that, instead of backing off and diapering them up and waiting - sending them mixed signals that they aren't trusted to learn this skill because it is simply too messy.
Thanks for the amazing contribution, Kerste!
So what do you think about this concept? Does it resonate? Do you have other thoughts or experiences of how to end a potty pause or full-on potty strike?
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I agree 1000%. Giving my DD more control rather than less autonomy was really so important. The bladder capacity really jumped when we began to notice irritation from her and both my DH and I were really flabbergasted at how much and how long she could hold. My DD is 2 and I’ve not had any control over her pottying decisions since she was around 17 or 18 months except for occasional suggestions before we go out and I STILL see her dash to the bathroom as fast as she can go when she’s almost waited too long. I am convinced she has it perfectly timed…she knows exactly how long it will take to get to the bathroom when she decides to do a little experimenting. A few days ago she was playing with her daddy upstairs (we keep a potty up there — no bathroom) and he said she suddenly blurted, “I got to pee!” and then ran to the next bedroom to potty saying to herself “hurry hurry hurry!” I didn’t even know she knew that word. LOL
Hahahah!!! Thanks so much for sharing your story with us here. My son is nearing 14 months and just learned how to sit on it and yet we are still playing the ‘dance’ of learning where it goes and how he can get himself to it now…bridging the gap! Bladder capacity is so high when we don’t hover and ask so much, yeah? Sometimes it’s a challenge to give toddlers more control because many of us fear that they will royally mess things up (literally). But it’s amazing what happens when we let go and chill out. Thanks for your comment! Looking forward to hearing more about what you’ve experienced on my blog. :)
This makes so much sense! Our sweet girl after about two months of older baby ECing is starting to get to this point. Thanks for the tips on how to cope! It makes so much more sense to see it from this point of view – give her more responsibility and help her learn how to use it, rather than taking it all away and utterly confusing her. Thanks so much for this great post!
You’re so welcome, Dalas! And thanks for stopping by to check it out. Yes, part of EC that is underemphasized (IMHO) is that we can help our babies learn how to use the potty. While we give the responsibility of telling us or taking themselves to the potty, they are still young and need some direction on how to sit on it, pull down pants, wipe eventually…all that. We did a potty sitting dance this week and our boy is finally sitting on it on his own (although he still cues me to bring him to it)…it went something like “back, back, back, squat!” with the “backs” being about stepping backward, or backing his rear into the potty. :) It’s so much fun! And, yay, good for you for not taking it all away and showing her you don’t trust her. That feels like an appealing “out” at times, but kinda defeats the purpose. Warm hugs!
i have read this in the book more than once and again here. it is a great reminder. we had a very long “pause” of discontent from about 7 – 13 months! just in the past week, he has decided it is not such a big deal and we had our first (nearly) miss-free day! part of the key for us was a huge breakthrough in communication on his part and letting go and trusting on our part. also, as you mention – different locales keep things interesting. he does not want to sit on his little potty anymore and only sees it as a toy. so, we give him choices – “do you want to go to the bathtub? out front? out back? the big toilet?” i am anxious to see what walking will bring us (he is almost there….) i will probably read this again when times get tough. thanks for the ideas and support!
I really appreciate you chiming in with your story, Mindy! After such a long “pause,” most parents would have given up. Heck, I might have even given up! Your patience and, as you wrote, your letting go and trusting have made all the difference with your son. With development comes ebbs and flows with many things…I look forward to hearing how it goes when he begins walking. And, glad you are enjoying this piece from the book!! Hugs!
Thank you so much for posting this! We too have been experiencing a very long “pause” in which we will have days (or hours) where she will happily go on the potty, but for the most part refuses to go. Any breakthroughs we have had have been giving her more autonomy – a big breakthrough happened when she learned to say no. But then she wants more and isn’t big enough to do it yet, gets frustrated and back we go again. She is 12 months now, so I am hopeful! (She has been doing this on and off since 4 months…ugh.)
Rachel, yes…you’ve got quite an independent there! I have no doubt that she’ll just snap into it after a few months at most…that there will be a point when she can finally DO and retain all these skills. You are doing great and keep it up! And a great resource for discipline, even at 12 months, is Mean Moms Rule! ~ the title is intended to be funny, but the message is so awesome, about choosing a path and sitting with it and setting boundaries when it’s not easy. Anyway…if that helps! Hang in there! xx Andrea
Thanks Andrea, she is beginning to get much more insistent about it, which is WONDERFUL! A great switch from being insistent about NOT going, haha. Of course, this is only when it’s her idea, but I’ll take what I can get.
Mean Mom kicks in when she stops peeing mid stream (on the potty!) and I make her finish, lol.
We’re hanging. :)
Nice Rachel! So funny. I think it is indeed wonderful that she’s being insistent…YAY! Keep hangin….xx Andrea
Thank you for your insight. I have been doing EC since 3 months or so, my boy is 13 months now, but has been in a potty pause for about 3 months.
He doesn’t like to sit on his potty and he was letting me know when he was wet or dirty, but now I think he is too busy playing to want to do that either. I don’t want to force him to sit on his potty, but I am not quite sure what to do instead.
My hubby does not participate in the EC. We do cloth diapering except when out and about. Any insight or suggestions would be appreciated.
My son also doesn’t talk and or sign (although I have tried to teach him), so I don’t know what to do.
Jan, thanks for posting. Sorry it’s taken me *forever* to reply…but here we are. I’d love to know how things are going now for you. My suggestion is that you do a full-on day of diaper-free time with your son (no facebook, no email, no phone, no outings) and every time he pees you calmly, physically take him to the potty and say “potty.” Sit him on it each time and try to get at least a drop in it….even if he pees all the way to the bathroom (on the floor). If you want to do it for 2 days, go for it…but no more than 2 okay? This will establish the general direction you’d like him to go. Also, teaching a “sitting” dance is a good idea. Make it fun. Show him how. Have an older kid show him if you know one who could help model it for your son. Eventually, he will get back on track and will want to do what you and dad do! I’d also try to do cloth when on outings…and at night. It will help keep him sensitive and encourage intrinsic motivation to stop using a diaper naturally (although these other things will teach it better!). Hope this helps you!! Let me know how it’s going! Andrea
This makes SO much sense.Definitely keeping it in mind. It’s scary sometimes to realise how much our actions convey, without us even realising it. I’ve gotten into the habit of questioning my motivation when I feel myself tense up about something. When I am conscious about my intention and choose consciously, I find I am more the parent I want to be… one who lovingly empowers her child is definitely top of the list!
Thanks for your comment, Ajira! I really like what you’ve said about noticing when you feel tense about something and questioning your own motivation. This is a brilliant way to raise our self-awareness as parents in general. Our babies definitely pick up on these things when most of us (at times, myself included) are too busy or unaware to notice our vibe. And lovingly empowering your child…that is wonderful. So many times ECing parents do all the work for their babies instead of empowering them…I’d love to see that shift! <3 Andrea
Hello everyone! I need some thoughts, opinions and/or advice. My 9.5 months old son has been doing EC since he was 1 week old. He had a potty pause when he was about 3 months old that and we resolved it. He was so good that we eliminated his cloth diapers day and night. We used his training underwear during the day and he was free at night. He only had 1-2 accidents per day- sometimes more. We even gave him more control over his potty and he had different signals (he started to pull on our clothes, would go up to his potty and look at us, he looked at me and said Ma a few times, even contemplated to use it during play by looking at it while being offered and went during transition pees.) This went on for about 2 .5 months. Lately, he’s been standing and exploring ALOT and he’d resist his potty by becoming a rod while crying, he’s been standing up and watching himself pee (he would look right before peeing until he was done, which told me he knew and is exploring peeing while standing up) He looked at me a few times while he was peeing a few times. We caught 90 something percent of his poops since birth, but he will do it standing diaper free now on the carpet. Oh yeah, the kicker, he would quickly crawl away when asked if he needs to go potty to pee somewhere but his potty. Lol. Clearly he understands what he’s doing. Lol. So I decided to take a step back to put on his cloth diapers again to wait for him to signal. He immediately didn’t like wearing it and would signal to remove it. Today he was shooting around with his potty to get his diaper off and resisted the potty after taking him. We’re not sure if a reset is appropriate for him now and we’re thinking of getting a urinal trainer, so he has more control, can watch himself pee standing up etc. Thanks for in advanced!
Hi Justine! You can try using a seat reducer to keep him sitting. Then use distractions to keep him happy. It is so common to see this resistance when they are working on mobility. Just do your best to work through it, it won’t last. If you are feeling stuck after a few weeks, I do have a Potty Pause Resolution course online. xx Andrea
I really,really enjoyed this article!
So my son is just about to turn 7 months and we started ECing at 6. We have days where we catch every pee and poo, and some days miss almost all! Lol, but my husband and I are having a lot of fun with this. Two nights ago my son started protesting night time EC. I have a soft night light I turn on when I know he needs to potty. He would usually be okay for a pee before nursing back to sleep. Now he gets very heartbroken when I try to pee him before nursing(literally, he cries his heart out!). I don’t want to force him, but I know he has to pee(been awhile and gets peeny wheeny), and he gets upset when he pees in his diaper. Plus his crying disturbs the rest of my family. I have tried nursing for a bit, then peeing him, but he gets just as upset if not more. Should I pee him while breastfeeding for a couple nights, then try the potty again?
Yes and sorta-yes!!! Try peeing while nursing and see if it works. Then, after a few more nights, try holding him in a relaxed EC hold (slightly reclined) while you hold him over the big toilet (you can do this while nursing over the sink, too!). Otherwise, I’d also put the diaper back on if he resists and nurse back to sleep. He may just need a week’s break! :) Any more issues…I think you own the book so hop on over to the Forum and post there so we can get you sorted! And maybe review the Nighttime EC section in my book once more to see if there’s something that strikes a chord? Keep us posted!! Andrea
We’ve been doing EC with our little one pretty much since day one and she is now 7 weeks old. It’s been going great up until about a week ago, when the normal cues (wiggling, squirmy legs and a high pitched yelp) letting us know that she needed to pee completely stopped. I’ve been trying to observe her as much as possible to figure out if her cues have just changed, but there’s nothing. She just goes. I’m getting frustrated and was curious if anyone has suggestions with how to get us back on track.
Things are constantly evolving. Have you tried wearing her more often (for several hours at a time) to get reconnected with her *new* cues? Try turning off the computer, phone, and facebook for a day and see if you catch on to the new ones. Wearing the babe always helps re-set. And, have you ever recorded her timing? I have great timing logs in my Book Owners Section and can also help you more on my Forum, but I think my book has what you’re needing to get re-situated, if you haven’t already got a copy. But try these suggestions and we’ll take it from there! xo Andrea
Hi Andrea, I am in the same boat as Dona. My daughter is 5 weeks old and we have been doing EC since day 1. Everything was fine until a few days ago that she still makes signs of going potty, but cries everytime I set her up to potty in the bathroom. She just goes when we are no longer there. Her potty frequency are also more spread apart, unlike before that she goes every after a long nap and feed. I am starting to think that she is scared of the bathroom, but maybe it’s some development stage that she is going through? The article makes sense, but I am not sure if a 5-week old can already hold her pee or poop. I am with her almost 24/7 and carry her a lot in the a baby wrap.
I am not sure how long your 5 week is holding it for, but a lot of resistance often comes from over offering at that age. I would try to back off a little and see if that helps. You can also try changing the location. Maybe when you notice she needs to go you use the top hat potty instead of taking her to the potty. Lastly, make sure to check in with yourself. Are you are relaxed, calm? Babies pick up on how we feel so easily, it is good to check in there as well. It is great you carry her! Keep it up, and remember there is NO perfection in EC. 💕
I just came across your website and was so excited to see it all, and in particular this post! We’ve been doing EC since our daughter was 2.5 months old. She was so on it for so long, and had this glorious four month stretch of never once pooping in her diaper, from about 5-9 months. Then it ended, and while she still was doing both on the potty for us, it wasn’t nearly as consistent.
She’s now a good 16 months and I have noticed more resistance in the last month or two, so I’ve been trying to ask and trust her. There have been a lot of “no”s and a lot of no answers, but on the rare occasion that she says “yes” it’s so exciting! We’ve decided to move away from diapers to training pants and underwear (probably too late) and I’m hoping that we have the same success as the family in this excerpt. I suppose this whole long comment was just to say I’m so excited to see someone with similar issues at similar times!
I’m so happy to hear that this has helped you reframe things! Potty pauses suck. Just plain suck. One suggestion is to *stop* asking if she needs to go and to start prompting by either doing it all without saying a word, while relaxing yourself, OR teaching her the little pieces of the process so she can start to do some or most of it herself. No more questions, k? Toddlers LOVE saying NO!!! Good luck! Andrea
This post really helped progress my EC practice with my daughter! Months ago I was stumped as to why my daughter was having so many misses since I knew that she knew the routine. After reading this post I immediately changed my perspective and by giving up control I thought my daughter would eliminate all over the place whenever and wherever she chose. That was not the case. She took over control at that point and has ever since. This post was extremely helpful!
Owner, Naturally Diaper Free
Oh Jenay, what a wonderful story! Thanks so much for sharing about how this worked for you and your daughter. By giving up control…she gets to take over…and it’s not a disaster! Hooray! xx Andrea
This makes a lot of sense to me. My baby is 5mos and we’ve been ECing since 1mo. He’s been able to stand up with support almost since we started with ec. With the increased awareness, communication, and responsiveness between us that ec fosters, we have learned to talk to him about almost everything we do or he does, so learning the phrases “all done” and “stand up” (as well as a host of others) came naturally and early to him. We generally use signals to know when he needs to go to the potty, and when we think he’s finished, we ask, “Are you all done on the potty? Do you want to stand up?” or even “Do you want to lean forward so I can wipe you?” and he responds accordingly. By doing this, we have pretty much always given him control over when he goes and when he feels finished. If we are wrong in interpreting his signals, he may choose to sit awhile anyway and give it a go, or he may stand up immediately when we sit him on the potty.
I wonder if, in light of this approach, he will skip the stage of asserting an independence he has always been given, or if it will manifest some other way…? Just musing. Any thoughts?
Hey Sarah! Somehow I didn’t get notified of this comment. Hmph. But…I am so curious about how your son is doing now that he’s older? Please share if you’re around! And if not, my thoughts on it are that there is no reason to assert your independence if you’ve already got it. Mastery is so helpful for those brilliant little minds. I hope to hear back on how it’s going now…to see if we’re right! :) xx Andrea
He’s 8 mos now. He pretty much acts like he always has, with mild variations. One of those variations is that he’ll stand up and sit down throughout pottying now, since he’s practicing standing by himself and had learned to brace his legs against the potty to help him. So it’s a little harder to tell when he’s “all done” than it used to be. Usually, I ask him if he’s all done and if he’s not, he’ll sit back down. Just to double check, I’ll ask, “No? You want to sit more?” And if he does, he’ll usually not stand up again right away, so I’ll know. He still has the last say-so about when to get off the potty most of the time.
Regarding when to get on the potty, we will certainly put him on if he signals, but then other times I’ll just be pretty sure that he needs to go and just take him. But because he has the option of getting off again, he still does a lot of the initiating throughout the process. Sometimes, I do urge him to stay on when I know he needs to go, and that usually works, unless he’s having a potty pause.
My thoughts are that kids will always assert independence, but it’s usually less volatile and aggressive if they are given a proper degree of independence at proper times. That means not too much and not too little for the circumstances that apply and the age and development of the child. For an 8-month-old who is pottying, there’s a lot of room for independence, but he’s not the only one who gets a say.
I told my 20-yo at-home college student today: “Sometimes we disagree, and it’s not necessary to determine which of us is right. Sometimes we disagree, and it’s your life and your call, and I will just disagree. Sometimes we disagree on a matter under my authority, and then you have to do it my way.” And you know? He agreed. :)
Interestingly, it’s much the same with my 8-mo, I find.
So, reading over a lot of these comments there are many similarities and many differences in our son’s “potty pause.” I really think he is going through more of a total refusal to potty (strike), than a “pause” because it has been going on for 3 months now, with maybe 3-4 times of pee in a potty and one poop. We started ECing with him at 3.5 mos and it was blissful from the start. He took to it immediately and was calm and relaxed the first time I put him on a tiny potty and he peed. Anyway, lots of success as far as outcome of eliminations in various potties and also lots of great communication and fun, focused time on him at every potty time. He began to have some actual pauses around 11 mos when he took his first steps and at 12 mos when he starting running! Anyway, now he is 17 mos and for the last 3 mos refuses to go potty. Both my husband and I EC with him and he is almost never left with other care providers, but when he is his grandmas and aunt are comfortable ECing with him. We have 2 small Baby Bjorn potties, one larger one with a back, and a toilet reducer seat, as well as a fold-able reducer seat for public toilets on-the-go. We also are content to hold him “in-arms” and have for “nature’s toilet” outside just about everywhere. So, needless to say he has used and been familiar with various potties and liked them all. The big toilet with the sturdy reducer seat had definitely become his preference and he liked to mimic having seen me wipe in front, so he even used toilet paper on his own and wiped his penis before pushing the paper between his legs into the toilet (cute and funny). His first sign, at 6 mos, was ASL for potty (with his own twist) and we recognized it and responded from then on. This sign morphed over time and he chose to use different signs or no sign at all, but we still could mostly tell when he had to go and would make a potty available for him. We gave up on the whole “potty-tunity” idea where we would determine when and where WE thought he needed to potty months and months ago, when he was probably 6-7 mos and would simply trust him to tell us, even if without signing. That is, we weren’t just saying “ok, we’re about to leave the house, so you have to try to go potty now.” So, that suggestion for giving up control makes sense, but we’ve done that. We also ask him if he wants to go on the little potty, or big one, or the red one, or outside, as suggested. Anyway, he does NOT want to go potty on a potty period! He will scream, arch his back, make his body go limp or stiff if we try. For awhile we tried to continue talking about potty and offering it all the time or saying “oh, I see that you’re peeing in your diaper right now, Would you like to use a potty next time?” We are almost always aware when he is pooping and he prefers to do it standing and running back and forth until it is out, like another 16 mo old baby talked about here. He also seems to try and hold it sometimes, so a poop is smaller and then he has to go again only a short time later. He is in diapers all the time now. I tried totally naked for awhile, but it wore me out and made me tense and frustrated around him because he was peeing on the floor right after having been next to the potty or made no effort to use it at all. Too messy. I already did diaper-free for hours of everyday when he was tiny and wasn’t ready to go back to that, with no positive communication or elimination in the potty happening. So, anyway, he’s diapered. He does not sign potty anymore or only on rare occasion, which we respond to positively and as casually as possible, but with interest and enthusiasm. But, once we ask for him to go to his potty or if we should take him there etc, he runs the other way or ignores us, continuing to play. So, we tried NOT mentioning the potty next, which was hard and would just casually note “You’re peeing now, so let’s change that wet diaper.” And, like the other standing/running/potty pause baby his age, he also often fights even getting his diaper changed. We exclusively cloth diaper him and many of his diapers are a style that leave him feeling wet, but he shows no issue with this and although he knows the sign for “change” which I always use with him for diaper and clothes changes and he uses it back, he NEVER asks to be changed. On a good day he will listen when I ask him to lay down to be changed or “wait please and do not roll over” while I am wiping his bottom, which he hates having happen. He is a VERY active and communicative baby and can be fierce about wanting to be independent with his activities. So recently (another attempt at making it work for him), I even set up a separate area with his bigger backed potty, his own toilet paper stand, a small chair for us to sit on close by to sing, do finger play, read him a book, and a basket with books and toys within reach, which I called his potty space. He can lower himself, by walking backwards onto the small potty and sometimes, rarely, does so with his diaper and clothes on and will go pee like it’s no problem, but in a diaper. However, these small successes are very infrequent and mostly he runs right past his potty space showing no interest. When he’s around another baby friend who ECs and he sees her on the potty he has increased interest and will pick up, or “use” (seated on it with clothes on) her potty, at her house and we talk about it, but he gets super annoyed if I try to remove any clothes to help him go more effectively. I am trying to work with him on being able to pull his own pants down, so maybe the independence will help and I have a stool that he can climb to get on the big potty. He likes being in the bathroom, with our open-door policy he is in there with us for all of our pottying and he is into regularly washing his hands, but again no pottying. We are really struggling with this HUGE set-back! PLEASE, if anyone has any advice let us know. I know this is the longest post ever, but there’s so much to say and we’ve been so desperate for help and ideas. This strike is super tough and makes us feel like we’re doing something wrong or EC has “failed.”
Hey there Ginger! Wow, that must be super-intense for all of you. I can see what the issues are and have some thoughts on solutions, but you’ll have to bear with hearing what you might not want to hear. There has been too much talking. Too heavy on the communication side for too long. He is sick of it all and is telling you that in much more than words. This totally sucks for all of you, and thus to help the situation you’ll have to stop narrating everything potty-related. There’s also been extreme inconsistency and he’s asking you for firmer boundaries (believe it or not). I know you were trying to make things comfortable for him, but instead of taking the reigns and leading him yourself, you’ve been following his lead, and he is rebelling against this. The cool thing is that he is so fiercely independent. Stop trying to communicate and do EC (it’s no longer developmentally appropriate…no worries…nothing you did wrong!). Go grab a copy of Jamie Glowacki’s book, Oh Crap! Potty Training, and read the whole thing. Then schedule your potty training. You will need to drop EC and start a new program: non-coercive (yet clear, forceful, and brief) potty training. He is perfect for it (that independence!) and you are at your wit’s end (I’d be too!). It has a section on what to do if you’ve done some EC in the past. This will work absolutely but since he’s 17 months might take up to a month instead of a week. Also, pick up a copy of Mean Moms Rule! – it will give you some great pointers on setting those much-needed boundaries. He and you will both be happier. Hope this falls on willing ears! Let me know how it goes!!! And best of luck…you’ll get thru it! You deserve a medal for all you’ve gone thru lady! xx Andrea
Have you read the contiuum cocept? From first impression it sounds as if maybe you are being too baby focused and inadvertently putting too much pessure on him. The theory in the book is that babies need to feel they are learning to fit in with the adult world and too much attention on them is supposedly bad for their psychy. just a thought.
Hi Ginger! Thank you for sharing your experience. I have a similar case at home, who is 16.5 months right now. Could you kindly share your journey after this post? I just ordered all the books recommended in responses to you by Andrea and the others. What did you find helpful and how / when did things start to work out for you?
I know your post was from 8 years ago so you might not even see this .. but thank you in advance!!!
Hi Gail! It is very common to see potty resistance at this age. I’d definitely move into wrapping up EC/potty training. If you want to do a two week reset to give everyone a chance to de-stress around the potty that is a great option. xx Andrea
I have ECing since my daughter was 6 weeks old. I feel that we have a 3 day “potty pause” about once a month. It always makes me question whether any of this is worth it, but then I remember what I’ve read from your book. If I relax and stop trying to take her so often (which usually results in having to do the diapers a lot more frequently), usually within a few days, we’ll be back on track and she’ll start signaling and accepting the potty again.
Yeah, Sarah, it can be frustrating but we don’t exactly have a tribe of other parents and children helping out…so we often need to do little relaxation breaks as you’ve described. I’m glad that it’s working for you though! Thanks for sharing so honestly. :) Andrea
We’ve been actively ECing our little guy since he was 2 weeks old. From the age of 4 weeks, he’s always only pooped in a potty.
At 15 months old, we flew to Asia for a vacation and for the first leg of the flight (which was 17 hours), he indicated each time he needed to pee and stayed dry the entire time.
Now at 20 months, he will only indicate sometimes when he needs to pee and other times when we ask he says no and but then goes in his diaper shortly. I feel like he’s “unlearned” peeing in a potty. HALP!
Hey there! First off, he can’t “unlearn” pottying…it’s not lost to him, so don’t worry about that. Secondly, I would stop asking him if he needs to go and start taking him or telling him you see his peepee dance and it’s time to go. It’s become a disciplinary thing and that is one skill we all have to shore up on when our babies become toddlers! If you need help wrapping up EC go ahead and get my friend Jamie’s book at http://jamieglowacki.com where she has written a chapter on how to potty train (non-coercively) if you’ve done some EC in the past. Good luck! Andrea
We’ve been actively ECing our little guy since he was 2 weeks old. From the age of 4 weeks, he’s always only pooped in a potty.
At 15 months old, we flew to Asia for a vacation and for the first leg of the flight (which was 17 hours), he indicated each time he needed to pee and stayed dry the entire time.
Now at 20 months, he is always on the ball with his number 2s, but he will only indicate sometimes when he needs to pee and other times when we ask he says no and but then goes in his diaper shortly. I feel like he’s “unlearned” peeing in a potty. HALP!
Hey there! First off, he can’t “unlearn” pottying…it’s not lost to him, so don’t worry about that. Secondly, I would stop asking him if he needs to go and start taking him or telling him you see his peepee dance and it’s time to go. It’s become a disciplinary thing and that is one skill we all have to shore up on when our babies become toddlers! If you need help wrapping up EC go ahead and get my friend Jamie’s book at http://jamieglowacki.com where she has written a chapter on how to potty train (non-coercively) if you’ve done some EC in the past. Good luck! xx Andrea
EC-Ed with my babe since she was around 2 months. At around a16 months old I realized she hadn’t had a missed poop in a long time and few missed pees. And then at 19 months she stopped pooping in the toilet about half the time. We are now on the road for a month (2 and a half weeks left). She is in pull ups. She is now peeing in the toilet most of the time, but she won’t poop. She tells me she has to poop, we go to the bathroom, she won’t go. Pull up her pants and she poops.
My DD has been ECing since 3 weeks very little dirty diapers starting from 3 months and signaling by 5 walking at 7 so we would go to the toilet when I felt it was time or when she would signal that she had to go at 10 months she would say poopoo if she had to go to the toilet and we have not had any dirty night diapers since 3 months now at 18 months she is not signaling and just goes in her cloth diaper both per and poo and be cause she has not signaled at all I take her every hour and as soon as I take her off and put on CD she goes she will tell me after she has done her business and only after what can I do
Thank you for all this fantastic information. My spouse and I are one of very few parents we know who are trying EC. We have been working with our daughter since she was born and have seen all kinds of cool, empowering benefits of this process. We’ve had great success with a few short “pauses” in the past (often coinciding with teeth, movement milestone), but has always come back to the potty. However, we are now in about month 2 of increasingly severe pause, dwindling down to where we are now: if we’re lucky, a poop first thing in the morning. She hasn’t peed in a potty much for at least 2 weeks. That’s it. She is 14months, mostly walking, pointing and speaking in her own language like crazy (except “no”, she’s quickly mastering that one!). Developing in leaps and bounds. In the early weeks of this latest pause, she started homecare (setback not surprising). Now, her diaper is soaked in the mornings after previously going ages without peeing at all over night. She seems happy as a clam to sit in a wet diaper or I can’t pick up any signal that it bothers her. Her babysitter is lovely but not vigilant to potty her or change a wet diaper quickly as we would (her babysitter has other kids to care for too!) The pause we can handle- now it feels like a full blown strike. And her reaction to pottying is most worrying. She is obviously communicating that she doesn’t want to go (squawking, arched back, kicking) and if we “ask”, the answer is always No. We have stopped asking and tried telling her it’s time to try. Recently only, if she’s said unequivocally No, we don’t push. Sometimes we try anyway which she fights us on and it feels like we’re ignoring what she’s trying to tell us, even if we know she has to go. She’s also increasingly fussy about diaper changes, as others have described. I’ve recently tried potty games, specific toy, books, singing- no great luck. I take off her wet diaper as soon as I notice and usually give her some time without a diaper every day. I have tried to spend a few hours diaper-free to see if I can pick up on her signals again. I’m having no luck. We are adamant that we want to keep on this journey with her but I’m at a loss as to know what to do. She seems to be showing similar behaviour to “Ginger’s son” (Dec 9, 2012) but she’s much younger (not ready for potty-training?). Do we honour when she tells us No and just keep cleaning up after her? Do we potty her anyway despite her objections? Any guidance or advice would be gratefully appreciated. Thank you!
How did this work out? This is the situation closest to mine. I have a 13 month old who is suddenly arching her back and does not go even when she is climbing up onto the potty herself. It’s life she just wants to look at it instead of use it. She’s also at day care that didn’t do EC Andi know she routinely sits in a wet diaper for a lot longer there than she would say home… Suggestions anyone?
Sigh, I have a 13 month old who is on potty strike and thinks the best thing ever is peeing on the floor.
We have been EC from birth and she was very good before she started walking. The day she was able to just walk off the potty was the day she just decided she prefers the floor…
I know it’s a control issue… she laughs at me when I tell her pee goes in the potty.
My husband gets her to go on the potty, but she cries and he holds her down.
I don’t know what to do with her. I don’t hold her down, but she always goes after getting off the potty. We were sitting there for 10 minutes with a clock and she will sit nicely for me, but she will not pee until she gets up.
When she wears diapers she gets a yeast rash right away, even with cloth diapers.
I prefer to keep trying, but it’s hard because she isn’t trying at all to use the potty and we are completely out of sync. She is just starting to sign and talk, but it’s clear she is rebelling. I actually tried treats already, because I don’t mind them, but she didn’t care for them. I already give kisses and praise if she uses the potty, but that was so long ago with me…
I’m almost at the point of stopping ec, because either we are forcing her or we have no effort from her part. I don’t mind cleaning, but why do it if she isn’t trying at all and especially if she is trying to pee on the floor?
Thanks for the book, I read I started the Potty training with my twins when they are 7 month old they are almost 11 months now and still no clue when they can point to me that they want to go the wc.. any advise
Andrea, not sure if you are still reading the comments but I am stuck! My 26 month old little has been in underwear since 14 months and has been pooping on a potty since 2 months. Suddenly this past month he will not poop. He feels the urge and will accidentally let a little out before he makes it to the potty then change his mind and off he goes. We talk about going to the potty when he first feels like he has to go and his toys will still be there but he just will not stop playing to poop (he has no issue stopping to pee) We are having a lot of dirty pants because of it but I feel like we are too far past training pants/diapers, and he won’t finish with pants on anyway. Any advice would be welcome!
I think that this makes sense. It is natural to want to have some form of control in our lives. Letting go and allowing our baby to carry the reigns might be just what they need, even if it means some extra misses along the way.
Hi! Thanks for writing this article, I appreciate it! I’m wondering how to help my nearly 18 month old son “graduate”? I started him at 6 months, was religious with it to start and he did very well, then after a couple months I switched to “part-time EC”, really I was waiting for him to age up a bit and be able to tell me he has to go and walk himself there, so once he started doing that a few months ago I became more serious with it again. He asks to go potty every 10 minutes, sometimes immediately after having just gone. So due to this high frequency taking up so much of our day, if it’s been less than 5 minutes since we’ve last gone and he’s asking to go again, we tell him “oh yes, you just went, you did a good job going potty!” Lol, for our sanity. He has been doing really well, and we’re able to reuse 8/10 diapers. But one thing he’s regressed on is pooping in the potty. He used to go in the potty, but these last few months since it’s gotten more serious, he hasn’t pooped in the potty. Just now I had taken him potty 4 times in a half hour, only to find he pooped in his diaper the last time. I’m not taking him off the potty too soon either, because he tells me “all done” and even if I try to have him stay on and say something like, “are you sure” then he gets whiny and is like “all done all done all done!!!” So this makes me not want to switch to diaper free, but I also feel like it’s time to go to the next level and graduate him. How do I go about this?
I am having this same problem with my 15 month old. She only goes in her cot upon waking from her nap! It happens every month or so and usually has to do with developmental things happening. She’s not walking yet. Since 10 months she’s needed privacy to do a poo so holding her on the big toilet doesn’t work, and she freaks out when I leave her on the seat reducer. Also freaks out when I leave her on the potty. So I’m at a loss as nothing I’ve tried in the past is working. Gigi, did this sort itself out or did you find something that worked? I’ve started taking her with me to put the poo in the toilet and talk to her about how that’s where it goes. That’s about all the ideas I’ve got lol.
Hello, we have been ECing our daughter since she was 3 month old, she is almost 11 month old. Everything was going well, on good days we would have 1 miss, on bad days maybe 2 or 3. At home she never wears diapers and outside home she wears training underwear. At daycare and at night she wears cloth diapers. She now stzys dry at night by the way!
We have been going through a potty pause for about a month, we even have poo misses now, yuck, which would never happen before. Once she even peed while looking and smiling at me!! I think that since she is developping several skills at the same time (standing up, communication…), she is too busy to waste time on the potty. She also refuses the bath, getting dressed and undressed, it seems that even meals sleeping are a waste of time for her!
This article gives me the hope that she will signal soon again and stop arching when i try to sit her on the potty. It is interesting also to see that maybe she is doing bladder experimentation. We are aware that she wants more control, as she now expresses frustration very loudly! I keep in mind that we should let her decide more and more about the right moment for potty.
Thank you for all the tips, i hope we will be back on track soon.
I’ve been trying to EC from my little guy’s third week. We’re using your book EC 0-18 months.It’s been pretty smooth with no poop misses, but plenty of pee misses. Even with the many catches we are still going through 10+ diapers in 24hrs, though most of these are only slightly damp. Lately (almost 2 months) I’ve noticed that he seems to not be peeing completely – several pees in a row either on the potty or in the cloth diaper, or stopping his urination mid stream. We are also spending longer on the potty waiting for him to potty and seem to be misreading signals more often. Also, for the first time nighttime pottying has become an issue. He used to potty directly after waking up and then fall asleep breastfeeding. Now he screams and struggles on the potty or while I change his wet diaper if I didn’t wake up soon enough to catch his potty.
I’m worried that this could lead to long term elimination problems or even UTIs. Could this simply be a potty pause or a bigger health issue. (We’re due for his 2 month dr visit soon, so I will be asking his ped as well.)
Seems like we’re in the beginning stages of a Potty Pause. Been trying Tiny Trainers at home then attempted one day at parent-led preschool with Tiny Trainers/Tiny Ups. At home, we’re doing about 25% of #1’s in toilet w/reducer or her little floor potty. The one day I attempted TT/TU at school… thinking she was too distracted or I didn’t ask or take her to the potty soon enough : ( I need to purchase more TT’s and TU’s. I don’t want to go back to cloth diapers… don’t want to seem like we’re going backwards on this EC journey.
Night time pottying got to the point where she’d wake when she needed to go, so we’d take her and she’s be dry all night. Now I think we need to go back to a dream pee at specific times.
This interpretation seems in line with Aware Parenting as set forth by Dr. Aletha Solter and also with RIE. I’m excited to be embarking on my 1st official EC journey after cloth diapering twice (and going to 90%+ potty around 18/19 mo). That was mainly based on timing and intuition and just trusting my toddler’s lead. Not wanting to wash diapers is a great motivator to tune in!
Hi Shannon! I’m so glad to hear you are starting EC! You are going to love it. EC and cloth diapering really work well together, so it is wonderful you have that experience already. xx Andrea
Our son is 15 months old, and we’ve been casually ECing him since 2 months (transitional moments, mostly). Since he started signing and especially since he started walking, we’ve been trying really hard to catch everything in the potty. He’s had quite a few days of no misses since around 12-13 months, and then he’d start teething again and regress. Lately he’s been doing really well with holding his pee and signing that he needs to potty (whether asked or not), but a bigger problem has emerged. The ONLY poop we’ve been catching in the potty is right when he wakes up in the morning. His mid-morning and afternoon poops are always done in his tiny trainers/diapers (I’ve started putting diapers on him because I’m pregnant and find it very hard to deal with poop in the fabric undies), even if I have just put him on the potty to pee he’ll still poop in whatever he’s wearing. What can we do to help him poop on the potty instead of in his shorts, and how should we react when he does poop in his shorts? I’ve told him that we don’t poop in our pants, we poop on the potty, and that he needs to tell me when he needs to poop so I can help him do it on the potty. It doesn’t seem to change his resolve to poop in his shorts (yes I have given him privacy on he potty – I help him with his pants and “undies” and sitting on the potty, then turn my back or leave the room after signalling him).
Hi Cayla! Congratulations on your pregnancy! Often at this age giving independence really helps. Working on teaching pushing down pants, have him commando in loose pants. Set up a potty station he can access himself, etc. The other option is to offer the potty around the time he usually goes to try to get it on the potty. Use distractions to keep him sitting long enough. If things aren’t improving after a few weeks or more, you might want to do a potty training experience. xx Andrea
I am so glad I stumbled on EC and your book/ website! My 8 month old is pulling herself up and walking along the furniture, so we are going through phases of a potty pause (we’ve been practicing EC since she was 3 months old). My real question is, does this apply to poops too? We used to catch all poops, but lately she’s been going in her diaper backup, or removing her diaper (Velcro) and going on the floor without any signal. I just tell her to let me know next time she has to go while I clean up, and I’m guessing it’s part of the back and forth of baby learning and growing, but I’ve only seen potty pauses with reference to missing lees. Thanks for all your help and available resources! Finding EC has really improved my life as a parent and this is only my first baby 😁
Hi Ashley! Absolutely it can effect poops too! It may help to do some observation again, see if you can get her on the potty for those poops. This article goes over how to deal with potty resistance. If you’re still feeling stuck after a few weeks or so I do have a Potty Pause Resolution course online. xx Andrea
Hey. My baby’s 9 months old and we’ve been doing EC since she was about 3 weeks old. She wears a nappy but I put her on the potty. It was going really well until she started crawling. Now before she goes for a nap I put her on the potty and distract her with toys, otherwise she jumps off, and she doesn’t do anything, so I put her down for her nap and then she poops and I have to change her nappy before she sleeps. It happens almost every day now and sometime a couple of times. She had a cue when she needs to poop, she blows raspberries and when she does, I put her on the potty, but she doesn’t go very much anymore and it seems to be getting less and less. Do you have any suggestions?
Thank you 😊
Hi Tiffany! This is a very common age for a potty pause. You can try changing up the potty or potty location, use distractions. This post has some great ideas for working through potty resistance. Just keep working through the pause, it will get better! xx Andrea
I started EC 2 days ago and I’ve missed them all. My daughter prefers to pee on her training panties instead of the toliet. And she pees extremely fast. How can o get her use to peeing in the toliet
Hi Yadi! Yay for starting EC!! It takes some time to learn your baby’s signals and timing, it will get better. There is a learning curve for everyone. If your baby is 12 months old or older, you can do the optional hybrid plan. It is a download from the book owner’s area. xx Andrea
Ahhh I’m so glad I found this! Up until late last week, we’d been catching all the poops and about half the pees.. suddenly he no longer poops on the potty. It’s so super frustrating, but the is breakdown is really helpful to understand what might be going on in his world. We already potty him on the big toilet, but will definitely be trying some distraction methods.
I’m so glad it helped Allison! I know it can be frustrating but I promise it will get better. xx Andrea
“she was completely diaper free within one month, and about two and half months later, she is completely miss free.”
This a) astounds and astonishes me given my 2 yr old daughters extreme pause and b)gives me hope that’s there is actually a light at the end of the pause tunnel!!
Yay for new perspective. Thank you. 🙏🙏🙏
Yay to new perspectives! 💖💖
This perspective was really helpful. My daughter is 19 months now and we were sure that we were done with EC. We had done a bit of a hybrid with diapers and underwear, but my daughter was almost always peeing and pooping on the potty.
She started daycare part time March 7 2022 and I was very happy that the daycare was more than happy to offer the potty. To my delight my daughter exclusively uses underwear at daycare (minus nap time) and asks for the potty when she needs to go since day 1. However, here at home we are experiencing quite a potty pause. I have tried backing off because I know that I can be potty centred. My daughter is very obvious about needing to go, whether she grabs at her crotch area or straight up says “pee pee” and sometimes will walk to the potty and then run away before I can put her on it. I’ve tried the firm approach here and there, sometimes sitting behind her on the potty or sitting her on the potty and hugging her whilst she pees, but I truly hate it. I can see that she is trying to test how long she can hold it.
We are trying to do exclusively underwear at home, but at this point there have been so many pees on the floor and we feel a bit defeated. I know that at 19 months we are more at potty training stage and not EC. But she literally is potty trained at daycare…. So I’m at a bit of a loss and think maybe we continue easing off for a few weeks and see where we are. Any suggestions would be amazing.
I agree, it sounds like she knows when she needs to go and is testing boundaries. If you don’t already, perhaps incorporating natural consequences and having her clean up herself when she goes on the floor may encourage getting to the potty on time. Otherwise perhaps some redirection, and early prompting could help.
Our baby girl is most certainly asserting her control and being a part of this process (after such success we are now having mainly misses)..but she is 10 weeks old.
Is this still a potty pause or too early on?
We started at day 6 of age..and by week 3 had 80% success.
Until this week we were having dry clean nappy for uo to 20 hours…now we maybe catch only 20%.
She refuses, arches back, cries…then immediately after being put down…release.
Please help, we really dont want to give up now.
Thank you for this article…already feeling more optimistic again.
Hi! First of all you are doing great! During the first few months through the first year, babies go through so many developmental changes which can definitely cause some resistance leading to potty pauses. Staying focused on the easy catches, maybe changing up the ec hold or receptacle could help. EC is not a linear journey and there will likely be a few pauses, or even regressions, however keeping EC in your life, even on a part time basis, will make wrapping up so much easier as she gets older and more independent. You got this momma!
Thankfully, two days after thai post, she began to cooperate again. But better than before.
She cant talk, but now uses her voice, very loudly, to let me know when she needs the potty. She jas even created her own sound for a poop 😁
Thank you for your reply..i am greatful to get some reassurance and now know, if she pauses again, how to respond.
Halo! First thanks so much for all the information you have been sharing, it’s been a blessing in this journey of mothering a beautiful creature.
My child is now a full power toodler of two and a half years. Since one year she’s out of diapers day and night.
And now… she started to pee in her pants again, and again, building frustration and doubts. We already put all the diapers away in the attic, getting them out feels really uncomfortable… We lately changed homes and also I stopped breastfeeding, so I could connect this with the changes. Still, it’s sometimes very hard to contain the frustration, since this was something that was finished and gone with…
Do you (or anyone reading this) have any tips, ideas, storys to share about this?
Much love to all of you,
Hi! Yes, all the life changes can definitely cause some regressions! Getting your little one back on a consistent schedule can help as well as doing a brief reset. Have her help in the cleaning up process as a natural consequence, and focusing on the communication aspect has helped many. You can’t help her to the potty if she doesn’t tell you she needs help. Asking her to help you by communicating and being sure to focus on getting to the bathroom as soon as she feels she needs to go, instead of waiting until it’s too late, can also help get her back on track.
Thanks for such a quick answer.
I was getting really uncomfortable with my own frustration… Rationally it’s easy to find the reasons why it’s happening, it’s finding the core of my own reaction that I have to go for.
I will follow your advise and refocus on the communication, also getting her involved in the process 9f cleaning and maybe putting her own wet pants in the laundry basket…
I already feel that today was much easier, just because of sharing my own insecurities and droughts! Thank you for opening this platform.
Glad to hear today has been better and that things are looking up! You are doing great!
Any advice for a fiesty 6 month old? She’s having a pause for the past month, since she started to really focus on trying to crawl. She can’t sit up on her own yet so we have to hold her on the potty, which makes distracting her difficult (unless you count pulling Mummy’s hair and glasses), so I’m not sure what I can do to give her more control. She’s definitely holding it on the potty – I’ve tried putting her down on a towel after and she pees as soon as she rolls over, so I know the timing was right. She yells and wriggles 24/7 so I haven’t been able to distinguish any particular cue – except that she always pees immediately after rolling over, before I can do anything to get her to the potty. We’ve been going for timing and transitions with great success until now. She also poops now when she knows I can’t get to her – in the pram on walks or in the car seat! It’s becoming a battle of wills and I’m worried my insistance is making things worse, but I don’t want to stop offering even though it’s become rather demoralising.
I found out about EC from your youtube videos while I was pregnant and we’ve been doing it since our daughter was born. It was amazing while she was little, for a few weeks she was in one nappy the whole day! We saved so many nappies, and she’s never had any nappy rash. Thank you for all the content you put out, it’s very inspiring.
Thank you so much for all your support! 6 months can be a tricky age, especially with baby going through so many developmental milestones, from crawling to teething, all of these can cause some potty resistance. When hitting a bit of a rough patch many parents have found that going back to focusing on the easy catches is a great way to keep EC in your routine without the constant battle. Starting with offering the potty upon waking and after naps then once baby is comfortable with these, adding in before bath time, after nursing / meal times can be other good easy catches. Remember EC is not a linear journey and will definitely have it’s ups and downs, however consistency is key. You got this momma!