Oh, the potty-training journey. It’s for sure a roller coaster ride. I am in no way an expert, but I did things a little differently than most people, so I thought I’d share my experience. At first, this was something I did not intend on telling anyone. A month or two in, I told some close family and friends. Some things you just want to keep private, but the longer we did EC, the more I saw how much it benefited my life so I thought I’d share our experience with it. Which is why I waited to write about it until Hazel was fully potty-trained and give you the full story. I am still crazy nervous about publishing this online. Please be nice to me!
I did start writing this blog post when Hazel was 15-16 months. She was doing really great with EC (I’ll explain all about what that is below) and the title I had for this post was “I Haven’t Changed a Poopy Diaper in Months | Why EC Worked for Me“. I laugh at that now because boy did things change once she hit 18 months and I was pregnant and then had a newborn. I lost all my consistency and Hazel went through a very long “potty pause”. Months later, we picked it back up, and with a few bumps along the road, we are finally fully potty trained with very minimal accidents!
**Scroll down to the very bottom of the post for my Potty Product Recommendations!
My EC Journey
Most people have never heard of EC (which stands for Elimination Communication). I sure hadn’t until I randomly came across it only a few weeks away from having Hazel.
EC is a practice where the parent uses timing, signals, and intuition to address an infant’s need to eliminate waste. They try to recognize and respond by helping them go in an appropriate place, like a toilet. I was surprised to hear this was a thing, I had no idea that people had their baby pee into a toilet or baby potty so young. I asked a few of my friends and none of them had heard of it either. I was very intrigued, a little skeptical, but curious to find out more.
After reading about it, it totally made sense to me. The majority of the world do not use diapers and are potty trained by around one-year-old. Being a baby that wasn’t fully potty trained until I was 4 (and my family loves to tease me about it still), I knew as a mother I would not want to be changing diapers on a 4-year-old. I am not as sweet and patient as my own mom!
The idea was placed in the back of my brain and I prepped for the birth of our baby. There were a handful of reasons why I decided to give EC a try:
- After Hazel was born, I consistently noticed that before I nursed, she would have a dry diaper and before I was even finished nursing I would see her diaper had gotten wet.
- Even as a tiny newborn, she hated having a dirty diaper. Not getting her diaper changed, like most babies we had seen, but having a dirty diaper. As soon as we started changing her, she would even smile and laugh! She rarely fussed or moved around.
- I had greatly underestimated the number of diapers I needed. I had to go to the store twice for a box of diapers in just the first month.
- Learning that every single diaper since the invention of diapers in 1950 are still sitting in landfills and not a single one has decomposed was mind-boggling. It takes a disposable diaper 450-500 years to decompose!
- I vowed to be a parent who didn’t take the convenient road. When it comes to parenting, at least in my opinion, taking the easy route usually just makes your life harder in the long run. Being an intentional, purposeful parent was my highest priority, and I felt that just because diapers were convenient, they weren’t right for my daughter at this time.*
*Of course, sometimes you need a few things to be taken off your load in order to be the parent you want to be. So I do not recommend EC to every and all parents. All of these reasons above showed me that it was the right decision for me and for Hazel at that moment of time in her life. I did not do EC with James when he was a newborn because it was too difficult to figure it out with a boy while getting wrestled by a toddler. Do what feels right to you!
Okay, back to the story. When Hazel was two months, I decided to give EC a try. I bought the Go Diaper Free book and read it in just a few days. I found a container and held it between my legs while I nursed my baby. It wasn’t perfect, but I was amazed by our first successes. I was catching pees almost instantly! True, it helped that Hazel would pee while I nursed her but I started to get very in-tune with her cues, signals, and schedule and was able to anticipate that she was about to pee or poop. If I wasn’t at home or around the potty, I would just let her eliminate in her diaper but soon realized how much more annoying that was to clean, especially poop! I bought the top hat potty since I wanted something to use while nursing and after a few tries to get the angle right, it was completely mess-free.
Once Hazel learned how to sit up, I bought a potty seat that would go on top of the toliet. She would sit up on her own, me kneeling nearby to keep her safe of course. She loved the new perspective; we had a few books to read and it made her new solid-food poops much easier to clean. I would only have about 2 poopy diapers a week while the rest went straight into the toliet.
Of course, there were some moments that were tough. When she started screaming as I tried to put her on the toilet, we gave it a break. I observed that my daughter really thrived on having systems to support her desire for independence, so I bought the mini potty. She learned how to walk up to it and sit down and she enjoyed having that as an option to eliminate.
Potty Learning/Training after EC
Towards the end of my second pregnancy, I just didn’t have the energy to keep things going and consistent. It’s common for 18-month-olds to go through what is called a “potty pause” and refuse the potty. The book mentioned during certain developmental milestones their signals will change and exactly that happened. Once Hazel got more indepedent and walking well, it was harder for me to observe her or notice when she needed to eliminate. Slowly you just start missing all of them. I gave myself some grace and wasn’t too bummed about the potty pause and we took a break.
Right before Hazel’s second birthday I realized she was ready to be done with diapers. I was sporadically using the potty trainers, and bought a second one for our second bathroom when we moved into a bigger apartment. It was difficult for me to dive head first into it. The biggest issue was that I wasn’t consistent with it. I would put her in diapers one day and then underwear the next. I would keep her naked which worked best, but then couldn’t keep that going when we went out, so she’d have accidents.
I tried a few other tactics from the advice of friends and family – rewards and other incentives (like buying underwear with her favorite TV characters so she wouldn’t want to pee on them). Nothing seemed to work. She didn’t care about getting a treat, and she didn’t really like all the attention after going pee. She kept telling me “Go, Mama!” and waving me to leave the room and the lightbulb went off. She wants privacy and she wants to do it all by herself! So I then set our home up in a way that she could use the bathroom independently: both bathrooms have a stool and a seat that she can put on herself, the stool can also be pushed up for washing hands. During her naps and after her crib was converted into a toddler bed, we keep her mini potty in the corner of her room where she will go pee as soon as she wakes up (and then we’ll dispose of it when she walks out of her room). I should have known that what worked for her before would work now!
For those of you interested in EC, here are a few pros I wrote back when Hazel was 1 year old and doing really well with EC. These are the pros that led me to start EC as well as what has ensued because I did EC from 2 months old until 18 months. I am going to keep it in the present tense although just know I wrote it a while ago.
It has been more rewarding for our family that I could have imagined. It has given me more skin-to-skin contact, fewer diapers, no diaper rash, and best of all, a deeper respect for Hazel’s abilities and a finer attunement to her signals.
It’s common sense that if you use fewer diapers, you will spend less money on them. The first two months I saved us over 100 diapers! On average I was saving us about 3-4 diapers a day. May seem small since the average cost of one diaper is about 20 cents but it adds up. I decided to still use disposable diapers than cloth diapers as her “back-up” because I wasn’t ready to make that big of a commitment. I have plenty of friends who do cloth diapers and like it!
I was shocked to find out that every single diaper since the invention of diapers still exists on the earth; they take 500 YEARS to decompose! Ryan and I have been trying to find ways to be more environmentally friendly and this was a huge step towards that. I caught so many pees in a row, sometimes over 24 hours in just one dry, clean diaper. I also would end up using less wipes which has saved on waste and money. Most children who do EC are completely finished with diapering at age 1 or 2 instead of 3, 4, or 5 – so you can imagine how many diapers that will save you!
When she poops, it doesn’t get ALL over herself and then I have to scrub her tushie to get any dried poo off. She has had 0 diaper rashes in her lifetime (up until our potty pause at 18 months) and when she poos in her potty, it’s just one swift swipe and it’s done! More hygienic for her and for me! Sure there are times I get poop on me but it is because of my own clumsiness every time. It is much much less messy than if I had to change a blowout, which hasn’t happened since I started EC.
Deepen Connection & Content Baby:
I feel like I am more in-tune with Hazel and can interpret her needs better because I am doing EC. It makes my heart full realizing I have this unique type of communication with my baby. I know that when she’s crying she is trying to tell me something and because of the extra observation I’ve done from EC, I believe I can interpret her cries better. When we respond to her cry correctly, she is (obviously) a much happier baby.
I also could see the beginnings of Hazel connecting her bodily sensations and had an awareness of going pee and poo. As soon as she started standing, I noticed when she was wearing a diaper, she would stop and look down at her legs. A few seconds later her diaper would get wet. She was looking to see why pee wasn’t dripping down her legs. Most kids who have always worn a diaper wouldn’t be familiar with that sensation, and I think that helped me when I began to potty-train her.
Gained Higher Respect Towards My Baby:
I can just tell that she enjoys bladder relief just like anyone does. I am the type of person who believes that babies are much smarter than we tend to give them credit for and I can tell she would rather pee into her potty than in her diaper. How you may ask? She will be whining around 6 or 7 am and I am too lazy to get out and get her. After about 5 minutes of it, I finally pick her up and see her diaper is still dry. I take it off and sit her on the potty and almost immediately she will relieve herself. So the fact that babies do not have sphincter control is a myth in my opinion!
Every person who goes through EC will say there are cons or challenges, here are the ones I have experienced so far.
- Every Baby is Different: There is no one answer or way to catch every single pee. Some babies signal certain ways while others may not signal at all.
- Things Change Frequently: Their potty signals change pretty regularly; I’ve noticed that when Hazel started becoming more mobile, it was harder to notice her signals and we would have days before she would go in the potty once.
- Time Consuming: It takes more time (depending on your diaper-changing routine) and you have to be attentive to notice their cues and catch their pees. I sit her on the potty and sometimes it can take a while. Or I guessed wrong and I sit there for a few minutes and she doesn’t pee, then I put the unsoiled diaper back on and added an unnecessary diaper change to my already full day.
- Always on my Mind: I shouldn’t say it’s always on my mind, but I think about my child’s bowel movements a lot more than the average parent I would assume. I am keeping track of how much time has passed since her last pee/wet diaper, days when she hasn’t had a poo, etc.
The Bottom Line
EC is not for everyone. It requires a lot of patience and dedication. Because I work from home, EC was the right choice for my family. I don’t differentiate Hazel’s need to eliminate and stay dry from any of her other basic needs. I thought I’d try it since right now I have the time and energy to do it and the pros outweigh the cons for me. I also think that EC doesn’t have to be an all or nothing, I definitely don’t do it all the time, for example, I don’t potty her when in public or at other people’s homes.
If you are interested, I would look into the Go Diaper Free blog, podcast, and Instagram. Andrea is the EC guru and she gives all kinds of tips and teaches you all you need to know. My tips would be to make it work for your lifestyle, take a break if it’s not working, and don’t stress too much about it!
Tips on EC / Potty Training / Potty Learning
I have had a few friends ask me for advice when they start potty training their toddlers. I am not an expert at all, but I do have a few tips I think have been helpful and are worth at least giving it a try!
01 — Give potty opportunities at consistent times
Hold your child to the bathroom right after a nap (even if their diaper is wet!), right before you put your toddler in the bath, and right after getting out of the carseat/getting home after being out. Giving them these consistent opportunities will help them understand that they can wait and hold until then. It’s also all about observation, observation, observation! Stay off your phone while they’re awake and watch for the subtle cues they will give you. Sometimes if my child is just a little cranky or whiney for no reason, I take her to the toliet and I find that she just needed to release her bladder!
02 — Make sitting on the potty fun (but not too fun!)
I never force my child to sit on the toliet if she does not want to. But it sometimes can take some time for them to relax their muscles and release their bladder. So I have a book to read to her, I have 1 toy if she needs it, and if all else fails, I can always get her to release and pee by watching a video of herself pushing and peeing on the toliet.
When I was potty training toddler Hazel, books and giving her privacy were the last puzzle piece for her being officially potty-trained!
03 — Normalize the bathroom and our bodies natural waste elimination (everyone poops!)
We have an open-door policy (when it’s just our family at home of course) when it comes to the bathroom. My child is going to want to be in the bathroom with me anyways, why make her cry outside the door? She has seen me sit on the toliet time and time again and finds the process of wiping and flushing and washing hands so intriguing. She copies what I do and having it normalized will help take away that fear that some children have when it comes to pooping on the potty.
04 — Follow your intuition
If I had only one piece of advice to give you, it is to use your intuition for what you think will work for your child and their personality. Of course, getting advice from others is great for brainstorming ideas. However, you know your child best and you will be the one doing the grunt work for it so don’t follow someone’s advice if you hate doing it, it’s not working for your child, or you don’t agree with it!
Products I Used Throughout our EC and Potty-Training
These are all the products I bought and still currently use. It’s a little pathetic that I have this many items in my house that are specifically for going poop but, these will last through all of my children and each have been so helpful for me!
This little seat is much smaller than all other little potties and since I was teaching Hazel while she was so small, I wanted this mini potty. What’s great is even at almost 2.5, she is still using this. It is the potty that sits in her room at night so when she needs to go pee, she has access to a potty. She has actually walked over, pulled her pants down, and gone to the bathroom all on her own a couple of times.Shop Now
I bought this one so that I could fold and slip it into my diaper bag when Hazel started going to the restroom in public. We keep it in the guest bathroom right next to the front door and it can sit folded up on top of the toliet when not in use. Hazel likes to push down the suction cups and this flat style makes it possible for her to climb onto the toliet herself without my help, which is what she prefers. This is probably my top 2 favorite purchase out of the group!Shop Now
I like this one because it folds up if you don’t need it, is tall enough to use for Hazel to use to climb onto the toliet herself, and is a great height for the sink. Hazel likes climbing onto it to help her get on the toliet, then pushes it over to wash her hands. The fact that she can do all of this by herself was a big part of how potty-training worked for her.Shop Now
Most underwear start at 2T but this company has sizes as early as 6 months and up to 5T. I love these ones because they are designed to teach your child how to put them on and pull them up on their own. Hazel knows to pull up the orange tabs and she likes the little bear on front, which is actually facing her while she wears them – genius!Shop Now
Whew, I didn’t know I had so much to say about my kid’s bowel movements. For those maybe thinking if I’m doing EC with my currently 8-month-old son, no I am not but I have been observing him lately and have learned the consistent times he poops. Finishing and publishing this post has motivated me to start it up with him!
I hope this post was helpful for you and comment below any questions or advice you have. Let’s help each other get through the trenches of potty learning and training!