Natural Potty Traning Alternative: Elimination Communication

I came across this book, Diaper Free Baby, entirely by coincidence. Fifteen minutes before setting out for our long flight to the other side of the Atlantic,  I was looking through potty training section in the library to find a solution to my son’s terribly delayed potty training situation, I got my hands on this one. Funny enough the other books I was specifically searching for weren’t on the shelf. I quickly picked up Diaper Free Baby and other books to keep my son busy on the plane and left the library.

As if it were a sign from above, the next day an article came out on Yahoo News about this book. So I immediately started with it. When I read the book, I realized  I had heard about this concept a long, long time ago… My mom was trying to convince me to do exactly this – Elimination Communication – when my son was barely a toddler. When I praised the book to her, excitedly, she plugged her infamous, “Well, I told you so!” and even added, “Oh, so now that you’ve read it in a book, you’ll listen to me.” But mom, you didn’t lay it out in a step-by-step, idiot-proof manner like this book did.

I was convinced the concept would work but I wasn’t sure how I would be able to run through with it while I was working.  so I gave up. Now I’m left to deal with a 2-year-old kid who can hold his pee and poo in; sits on a toilet or a potty only for play; knows what pee and poo are very well and can say them; but who prefers to go in a diaper rather than the toilet, and who prefers to call me, not before he needs to go, but after he is done.

I really liked this book. I highly recommend that you read the book itself and not only the posts, articles, reviews and comments about it. The reason is, blog posts (like mine), articles and reviews add their own interpretation of the method and might leave out essential information that might be useful to you. The book, not only explains the science, logic, and traditions behind the concept but also lists the actions that need to be taken step by step for each age range.

Here is the message that this book and books about the same movement (links below) give about toilet habits in a nutshell:

The need to use the toilet is a natural born need. Just like eating, drinking and sleeping. Babies and children give certain signs, even when they cannot yet speak, to satisfy this need or while satisfying it, the same way they communicate their need for sleep, food or attention. If the mother, father or the person who is taking care of the child observe the baby carefully, they will notice when the baby needs to go, much like they understand when they are hungry or sleepy.

This is the starting point. Put on a diaper, or don’t, use disposable diapers, or cloth diapers, have them go on the toilet, or sit them on a potty, or make them go in the backyard; that is entirely up to the parent. What the book guides you through is how to understand the signs of child’s need to go to the toilet. If you get this and use your observation skills carefully, then all the auxiliary options I mentioned above all are up to you.

Here is what the book isn’t saying:

Diaper Free Baby doesn’t claim that you’ll get your baby out of diaper, like, now It doesn’t claim that your toddler will immediately get used to going to the bathroom on their own without you having to monitor them ever again. You’ll still need to keep observing.  It says ‘potty training alternative’ on the cover of the book anyway. This means that it is an alternative to my currently failing potty training of my two-year-old. Finally, it doesn’t claim to get babies out of diapers as some media outlets might reflect. And there, definitely, is no such thing as forcing the children to do something they don’t want, etc.

The important thing is to observe your baby or child, understand them, and communicate with them for potty as you would do with sleep, nursing and feeding. This system is mentioned as “Elimination Communication (EC)” in the book. So, “communication” is the key.

Since I’ve already dragged this post on quite a bit, let me also do a short summary of the method.

Potty training alternative elimination communicationThe method has been shaped for different needs with different alternatives. Book provides different suggestions for working mothers or stay-at-home-moms as well as full-time and part-time application. Also,  the book has been divided into four childhood stages according to age group: newborn, baby, active (crawling or walking) baby and toddler. You follow the guidelines in the appropriate age group of your child when you start executing the directions.

The steps during each period are roughly the same:

  1. Observe your baby or child and understand the signs before they pee and poop, and, if there is any pattern. Learn their schedule and at what times they go more.
  2. During this learning period mentioned above, form a connection /link between cue sounds  you might use such as “pee” or “psss”  with the act of peeing, or grunting sounds  for poop.
  3. When you notice a certain pattern or observe the signs of pee or poop coming, help them by placing them anywhere you will use as the toilet and making the cue sounds you associate with elimination.

The place they will use to eliminate could be a cloth diaper (especially for newborns), a toilet, a potty, plastic containers or the backyard. It doesn’t matter at all.

The author suggests adding sign language to the cue sounds, whenever babies can use sign language. Because apparently, as soon as they grasp the connection between action, sounds and signals, they will start notifying you when they feel they need to go to the toilet by using the signs you teach them.

10 reasons why you should try Elimination Communication method: 

  1. It’s free. No additional gears, gadgets or tools are needed.
  2. Reduction in diaper use. Save money, protect Earth.
  3. Eliminating the discomfort of cleaning your baby’s bottom with wipes
  4. Reducing the chances of diaper rash
  5. Reducing the risk of urinary tract infection because of sitting in pee and poo, especially for girls
  6. Not  having to deal with the challenge of changing the diaper of an active toddler
  7. Not having to deal with the struggle of power, frustration or bribes for potty training. EC comes naturally.
  8. Independence and self-confidence for kids. Learning the connection that elimination needs are taken care of in the toilet and not in a diaper, at an early age.
  9. Observing and getting to know our child better as parents
  10. Our grandparents and parents also did this. They’ll be happy that you take their advice.

A claim mentioned in this book made a lot of sense to me. Babies are not actually born with the condition to pee or poop in a diaper and sit in their own dirt until someone cleans them up. Parents of boys are very familiar with the accidental spraying whenever they open their babies’ diaper and see the diaper would be dry early in the infant stage. This shows that babies tend to pee or poo when their bottoms are unclothed. Besides this intuition, with the new science babies don’t even feel that they peed in their diapers anymore. We as parents miss the whole thing and change them whenever it’s convenient for us, but not to them. After a while, babies and children learn that they are supposed to pee and poop in diapers. Then around 2 or 3, we try to reverse this conditioning back to original settings.

Putting on a diaper, keeping your baby in a diaper and changing it, are not particularly easy either. On top of that, when they start to turn, and especially start to walk and run, it becomes a huge challenge to catch them to change their diaper. Not to mention, how unpleasant it is to clean a bottom covered in smushed poo. Especially when you could have them go on the toilet or the potty instead. I don’t think this takes any more effort than diaper change. Especially considering we have to play tag in the house to change them.

The book explains that the learning process and the execution aren’t all that easy and that sometimes there can be setbacks in communications, even for parents that start EC from birth. Extra hints are provided for working parents, families with multiple babies and those with multiple children. The experiences of other mothers are also covered in great depth which is very helpful.

I’ve learned a lot from this book. I have started applying some of these – as I said, the devil is in the details – with my son. The three most important aspects are to “observe, learn and be patient“. That’s how we took care of breastfeeding. That’s how we tackled sleeping. It’s not unreasonable to expect that it will be any different for going to elimination.

If you plan to go for it, there are support groups for diaper free parents.

Books on Elimination Communication:

Diaper Free Baby
Natural Wisdom
Potty Whisperer
Infant Potty Training
The Diaper-Free Baby: The Natural Toilet Training Alternative
Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene
Infant Potty Training: A Gentle and Primeval Method Adapted to Modern Living

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