Infant potty training, often called EC, is catching on. But as more and more moms hear about babies going diaperless, there’s plenty of skepticism, too. Many feel it’s too much to expect. After all, who has the time to sit around and watch for baby’s signals constantly?
I won’t suguar coat it. Elimination communication is hard, for most parents.
But that doesn’t mean you have to give up completely on introducing your baby to the potty concept. In fact, you can do it as gradually as you want, from as early on as you want. And you can keep diapers on your baby 24 hours a day if you want, too.
Though your baby may not be diaperless, you’ll be taking natural, gentle steps that can make potty training a breeze later, and ultimately a lot less work for you.
As your baby grows, they’ll come to understand that using the toilet is a natural thing to do. Why keep it a secret until they’re older and you’ve essentially trained them to go in their own pants?
An alternative to elimination communication
Elimination communication is about understanding your baby’s signals to poo or pee and then giving an alternative to going in the diaper (an alternative to peeing or pooing all over herself, essentially).
I started EC with my first baby at 4 months. Though perhaps I shouldn’t call it elimination communication. I never understood his signals (aside from his obvious “I’m pooping now” face).
Regardless, he declared he was done with diapers at 16 months and only had about 3 accidents after that. I realize now it was not EC but actual infant potty training we were doing.
How’d I do it if I didn’t understand his signals?
I’m busy and I’m tired most days. I’ve got a preschooler and an infant. I have to keep things easy or they just won’t get done.
Now I have a 3 ½ month old son, who I’ve been taking to pee and poo since he was 1 month old. I still don’t get it most of the time when he has to go. But he knows when it’s time to try, and he can sometimes stay dry through several diaper changes. It’s looking good if I’ve got my eye on a smooth transition out of diapers down the road, even if it’s still a year away.
So here’s what I did with my first son, and what I’m doing with my baby now.
Talk about the potty like it’s the normal thing to do
When your baby is small, always say the same thing in potty situations. You’ll be setting up cues to help him or her know what to expect. I always say, “I’m going to change your diaper now”, when I set him on the changing table and take off his diaper. Then, “Let’s go for a pee pee in the potty”, as I then carry him off to do it. As I hold him up, I turn on the tap a bit and say, “Time to do a pee pee”. He does his business, if he’s got to, and then I diaper him back up. (If nothing’s happening, I don’t linger or put pressure on him to go.)
If you’re starting with an older baby, they can benefit from understanding how mommy and daddy go to the bathroom. Tell them they can do it, too, and get a potty seat right away so they can try. Better now than later when they’re defying everything you want them to do, right?
Find a good spot to let your baby pee and use it consistently
When my babies were tiny, we used one of the bathroom sinks for potty training (we kept cleaning supplies handy, too!) Then we held them over a potty from four months of age.
I’ll admit, this routine is the first thing to go after a miserably long night. But even with just a few times a day (at a diaper change when you’ve already got the diaper off anyway), our little guy knows to try when he’s in position. I can feel him pushing. And if there’s something there, it will invariably come out.
Hint to get you started: The best times to try are right after they wake up. If you can catch them while they’re a bit groggy and coming out of it, they’re still relaxed and might not have peed yet. Also, after sitting in the car, in the high chair, bouncer, etc.
Try some diaper-free (or cloth diaper) time
We did this with our first son. He’d usually pee and I’d have to clean it up, so we just set him on waterproof pads. I hoped we’d eventually get to learn his signals this way, but we never did. The big benefit was that it was easier to put him on his little potty frequently when his diaper was already off. And the air helped enormously if he had a rash, too.
I’m not doing any diaper free time with my second. But this time I’m using cloth diapers. So in between naps, I use prefolds on him. That way I can see immediately if he’s wet and change him. I can also use my cue if I see the diaper starting to get wet (oh, a pee pee!)
Change diapers frequently
We did this even when our first son was in disposables. I felt it was sending him the message that we didn’t want him sitting in his pee. (“Oh, you’ve peed. Let’s change you out of that.”)
Now it makes a lot more sense using cloth diapers, since you know you’re just going to wash them and use them again anyway. (Another advantage of cloth diapers, the baby can feel that he or she has gone, helping to keep that body awareness.)
If you’re tense, your baby won’t relax and go naturally. Just make it a matter-of-fact part of your day’s routine, and eventually they will catch on. Don’t put pressure on yourself, and don’t put it on your baby.
Seek out more resources online as you go…
There’s a whole world of people doing EC and infant potty training now, so try Googling your questions.
I know this saved my sanity a lot with my first. I remember at around 12 months he started refusing the potty consistently. I thought all our efforts over the previous 8 months were in vain. Then I found out it’s common to have a “potty strike” around this age. And voila, he woke up one morning asking for the potty and never wanted to go back to diapers!
UPDATE: My baby is now 6 months old and has stayed completely dry through the night two times recently. (I fed him thrice those nights between 7 pm and 7 am and each time took him to pee after!) But the best part is that I am understanding when he needs to go during the days now. We have some tiny underwear and sometimes just wear those and pants during the day, except for naptime, when we use diapers. (Also, if we’re having a busy day and I can’t get him to the toilet much, he’s in diapers.)
I think by starting so early (1 month versus 4 months old) it has taken much better effect. So, mom, if you have a choice, start your baby as early as you can!