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When the first time is not the charm: I held her over the toilet and she didn’t go!

Photo credit @voveryte2000 (not resisting here, but chillin’ it!!!)
Photo credit @voveryte2000 (not resisting here, but chillin’ it!!!)

(Please note that the below is a transcription and reads like I talk - please pardon anything that would make sense on the podcast but not here in text. ;) )

You've heard all this amazing stuff about EC, it sounds fantastic, you maybe even read the book, maybe you just got my EC easy start guide…and you're like, okay, I'm going to try this.

You hold your baby over the receptacle and they don't go.

When your first time trying EC is basically an absolute flop, what do you do?

This sounds so perfect, but why isn't it working?

What do you do when the first time is not the charm?

I've heard this so many times, too many times to count:

"Andrea, I held my baby over the toilet and she did not go. What am I doing wrong?"

If this has happened to you, or you fear that it might happen to you if you haven't started yet, I have some solid advice to share today and some tough love (in that little-engine-that-could-kind-of-way, don't give up, persevere, keep trying, etc). 

Why did your baby not pee when you offered?

First, let's talk about why your baby did not pee.

1. You offered at the wrong time

The first reason a baby would not pee the first time held in EC position, even if you think it's the right time, is that it was the wrong time. Basically your baby doesn't need to go that often, or doesn't need to go at the time you offered.

There are two different kinds of timing. There's something called natural timing, which is when your baby, specifically, needs to go. How often do they go throughout the day? This can be pretty standard for some babies.

With a newborn, it's usually about 10, 15 minutes, every 10 to 15 minutes. And they aren't awake for very long. So during the time they're awake, you probably have like two or three pee's and then they go back to sleep. It's not as intense as it sounds, and you don't have to try to get them all.

Now if you're starting with a mobile baby, maybe around six to eight months old, they probably go every 20, 25 minutes.

A 14 month old probably will go every 45 minutes or so.

If you're just guesstimating, actually, I'd like to rewind a little bit. If you've read my book, usually the first time you try EC, it will work because you know baby’s natural timing.

And the other timing I just want to mention is transition times. Aot all babies go at every single transition time, like before or after getting in the high chair, or the car seat, or whatever.

So, wrong time, that's number one. 

2. Baby was uncomfortable

Number two, your baby did not pee because she was uncomfortable. Maybe she didn't like the EC hold you had her in, which means you should probably adjust to the cradled EC hold or doing it a little bit differently.

She could have been uncomfortable in that position or uncomfortable on that seat. If you're not using a potty cozy and you're using a mini potty, that plastic can feel really cold and hard to some babies, especially the younger ones.

Maybe a newborn doesn't want to feel like they're being held over the air, just out in the open. It feels scary and they're uncomfortable. So a top hat potty might be better in that situation with a cozy on it.

Maybe you don't have baby leaning up enough against your chest. So they are too far out and they feel uncomfortable.

3. Baby needed more privacy

So number three, she needed more privacy. Now typically, six, seven month old babies, especially when you get into eight and nine months old - babies actually need privacy. I bet you didn't know this.

I've taught hundreds of thousands of parents how to do EC all over the world, over the last 10 years. And doing this with my own five babies, I've realized it as well. Privacy is something that we humans, as mammals, need and desire as soon as we're mobile, as soon as we're able to get out of this house and away from people and do this where everybody else does it, which would typically, over all of human history, be somewhere outdoors.

Hello: toilets are a pretty new invention!

We seek privacy to do our pee and poop, especially our poop. So, the third reason she didn't go when you offered is that she may have needed more privacy and has no way of telling you that she needs that. In fact, babies don't really ask for privacy, I've noticed, until like 18, 19, 20 months, when they'll say, 'No" and make you get out of the room.

4. No connection between cause and effect

The fourth reason is that he has been in a diaper so long that he does not connect cause and effect. So with a 14 to 18 month old, he’s lived his entire life in a diaper so far. You can imagine that it's a little bit difficult to know what's going on down there anymore. When I feel this pressure, then I release, then this pee or poop comes out.

That cause and effect loop has been disrupted by the diapering, and maybe they don't pee because they don't realize anymore that, Okay, my bladder feels full. I'm going to release, and this stuff it's going to come out.

They just sit there on the potty and they're like, and what do you want me to do?

So, this is where some naked diaper-free time would be helpful to establish that cause and effect and to do it responsibly. Definitely see my book for doing that. 

5. Baby was distracted

And the fifth reason why your baby didn't go when you offered: she was distracted. So, a lot of times when you get into the mobile stages, everything is just in technicolor all of a sudden, and you've got major distractibility factors with everything - trying to nurse, trying to feed.

You get into 12 months and they start walking - major distractibility!

So, distraction could be part of it. And this can be solved just by routine and being consistent. But we'll talk about what to do here in a second.

6. Baby prefers a different receptacle

Number six, he prefers another receptacle. Now, there's no way of knowing this because he can't speak yet, but maybe he wants to go on the big toilet like what he sees mommy and daddy do.

Also, maybe he would rather pee in a top hat potty as a newborn than over the sink or over the toilet where he doesn't feel very secure. There could just be a receptacle change that could solve this.

7. Baby prefers another room or location

And the seventh reason why baby won't go when you offer the first time is that she prefers another room entirely, or another location. Sometimes, especially when we're starting with an 8-10 month old, a 12 month old (and it's fine to start EC at these ages - people do it all the time), there is a very strong awareness of Hey, you guys all go to the bathroom in this room here. So, why are you having me go out in the living room?

Usually, between 12 and 18 months they start to really notice that Hey, I'm not in the right room for this.

They could also prefer to go outside for a little while. It's a nice intermediary for some kids who are just not into the potty inside because of instincts being so strong. So, if you change the location or the room, it can often solve this as well.

So, there are seven, there are so many possibilities, right? What do we do about this?

So, what do we do when the first time it's not the charm?

What we want to do is just rewind. And if you haven't already gotten my book, and you haven't already read the beginning of it, which is how to do EC, I really recommend you do it. The reason is that we need to start at the beginning and keep it simple. These two things will bring you through the entire EC journey, I promise you.

Starting at the beginning means not missing a few certain things that are really essential. I'm going to go over those right now, and I'll go over them rather quickly - you can try to do all of these eight things or some or most of them, and see what you learn. Because EC is all a learning process, right?

1. Do some observation time to learn natural timing

So, number one, do observation to learn natural timing. I'm going to pull up my other podcast title from my list. Okay. We've got episode number 80 and episode 83.5A (this was during a week when I did a lot of podcasts all in a row). So, we've got 80, no signals, no patterns, what to do when observation time yields nothing. And that'll actually tell you how to do it. And then 10 golden rules for observation time - it's a guest post, 83.5A.

Observation time is also covered in my book. It's very easy to do and there's a free observation log you can download here:

Download my Free EC Observation Log

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

You do observation time to learn your baby's specific natural timing. This will give you so much information. You will also notice if they signal during this time (which, without the diaper honestly, why would you signal? But some of them do signal during diaper free time, when you're doing observation.).

2. Practice cause and effect during some naked time

Number two thing to do - do some diaper free time that is naked to connect cause and effect. I mentioned this before. Especially with an older baby, you want to let them feel the sensation, let it out. And maybe you do this outside or over a wood floor.

When they go, if you would like to transport them to the potty or the potty to them during this time, you can, if they're more mobile. If you don't want to, just let them see how it is to pee freely outside or something. Just a couple of experiences of this and they'll understand.

3. Choose the appropriate receptacle

All right, now, number three is to choose an age-appropriate receptacle.

The top hat potty is for newborns. I highly recommend that over anything else. You hold it between your legs, hold your baby over it in classic or cradled classic EC hold.

With a baby who is able to sit on their own, or even before, if you want to hold them on it and support their weight, or hold them over it, use a mini potty. The top hat potty and the mini potty that I recommend are both available at my shop at I created them, brought them to market, because they are the best. The mini potty is very short so a baby's feet can touch the ground. This can be very helpful.

Now, if you have an escape artist, their feet are on the ground and they're like, woo, I'm going to get up and walk away or crawl off, then you want to use a toilet seat reducer over the toilet.

So, there are your choices for receptacles.

4. Move the receptacle to the bathroom

And number four, move the receptacle to the bathroom where you all go, because babies are not stupid. ;) They know and they're like, you guys do your business in there, I'm going to do it too. 

5. Normalize potty time by having an open door policy

And that leads to number five, normalize potty time and have an open door policy during your own potty time. Of course, if you're pooping and you want some privacy (I haven't pooped alone in 10 years though. Let's be honest, all my babies try to come in when I need to go to the bathroom!), if you want to lock the door and have that private time, great. But when you're peeing, just open the door.

Normalize potty time; let your baby see you do it there. So that is number five.

6. Try one of the 4 easy catches

Number six - try one of the four easy catches. Remember the first reason why your baby didn't go the first time? Because you tried the wrong time.

If you've got a newborn, try at wake up. It is usually 100% of the time going to give you a catch.

If you know when your baby's pooping, just gently say, wait and take them. That's the second easy catch - poop.

Another easy catch is before or after getting in or out of something. So, when they get out of the high chair, offer and see what happens. When they wake up from a nap, offer.

And then, what's the other easy catch? Oh yeah. The diaper changes. At every diaper change, just try. Because a lot of times, especially the younger they are, they're holding it and waiting for you to take the diaper off and then they will go.

So, try one of the four easy catches for sure. You can find those on my YouTube channel and my podcast as well. They're also in the book (and there's a whole new section in the book about the easy catches).

7. Give privacy

And then number seven: give privacy. We talked about this before. How do you give privacy?

When you set your baby on the mini potty or the toilet seat reducer on the big toilet, turn your back. Pretend like you're doing something else.

If your baby is trying to dive off at you, of course, you line the floor with pillows or something. If you are far enough away, they will typically not try to jump off. If you are right there, they will probably try to jump into your arms. So, use your own discretion. I'm not responsible for any falling babies. :) Definitely pad the floor if you fear that.

From my experience if I say oh, just forgot something in the other room and I go, and I've got a 14 month old on the potty, right when I leave that room they usually go. Privacy.

But if you don't feel safe with that, and that's totally fine, and I've done this as well, just turn your back and pick at the grout on the tile on the wall - do whatever you need to do to avert your attention from them and give privacy. I've even had the mini potty on the ground and baby has used the shower curtain around them to get privacy. 

8. Relax!

And number eight, relax. You relax, take a deep breath, parent, and then your baby will relax. Run water, sing a song, take a deep breath. And then notice how you both relax.

And also, just have some confidence and know that, billions upon billions upon billions of babies over all of human history have all gone through this process. What you're doing is not potentially damaging, all the stuff that the diaper companies tell you is not true. You don't have to wait for readiness, babies are born ready, and you just have some confidence that billions have gone before you, and that this does work. You just don't know how to do it because we've lost our potty wisdom, we've grown up in a diapering culture, and we just need to learn how to do this. And that's what I'm here for.


And that’s it. Those are the eight things that you can do to give your child an opportunity to go and find some success. When the first time it's not the charm, try those eight things now that you also understand why that might happen….

It's not because you're bad at EC or you don't know what you're...well, it's probably partially because you don't know what you're doing yet...but it's not because you're a bad parent. You're not a bad ECer, your child isn't just “not cut out for EC.” What you're missing is some of the pieces of the puzzle. And hopefully those eight things will help you.

And remember, you can do EC completely part time. You can do EC with a diaper as a backup. It's just not a toilet anymore. EC is not all or nothing. You do not have to be perfect at it. You do not have to have the track record that I have.

I'm a quadruple Virgo. I've also made this my work and my study and my life, and have five children under my belt. So, your journey will not look like mine. (Your journey may look better than mine!) Your journey may look very different.

Do as much as you want to do and do it consistently. And don't compare yourself to other people, especially not me. If the first time didn't work out, give it another shot. Remember, babies are mammals. They have instincts. We have instincts too, and they've been buried by marketing, and diaper companies (...funded by the billions of dollars they're trying to get from us. It's not a conspiracy. It's the truth. I have valid sources who've worked for diaper companies who've told me it's the truth.)

But. No use shaming or blaming anyone right now. Let's just learn better, do better. We have more information now. Let's go forward and potty and enjoy it. 

Let me know in the comments below: What one thing are you going to try TODAY to get that first (or next) catch?


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 Shayla on August 4, 2020 at 10:25 am

    Loved the post! Exactly what I was needing! :)
    Question though – I have an (almost) 14 month old, Started EC almost exactly 1 month ago, (got and read the book). I got a mini potty from Amazon, (before I read the book and knew about your minipotty) but the Amazon potty was too big, and he couldn’t mount it effectively. So I took him outside (or into the shower) every time he needed to pee. It worked great, and he caught on very quickly, soon having a 99% pee catch rate. It was very hard though to catch the poos as he seemed to be very privet about it, and would NEVER go during hours of naked time, even during the times of day that he always needs to go, but as soon as the diaper went back on, he’d walk away from me, and poo in his diaper. Two days ago I started the Hybrid plan and got your mini potty, did naked time in the house to catch him when he’d poo and transport him to your mini potty. I caught him all the times he went poo the first and second day (today is the third day of doing the Hybrid plan) But when I would place him on the mini potty to finish, he would straighten out his legs and protest loudly about not wanting to sit down on the potty.
    So my question – He _has_ poo’d now a couple of times outside during observation time over the last couple of days of doing the Hybrid plan, and I think that now since he’s gotten used to not going poo in his diaper anymore, that he would much more easily go poo outside than in the potty. So should I just take him outside now whenever I see him going, and introduce the minipotty later once he’s gotten the hang that, in his pants is not the place to go? Or do I continue to let him practice sitting on the potty during the day, and hope that eventually soon he won’t resist sitting on it when he needs to go?

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on August 4, 2020 at 5:39 pm

      Hi Shayla! Yes, you can take him outside or in the shower. Bring the potty too and put it behind him. Slowly work towards having him sit, it will take some time. xx Andrea

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