When people saw my baby registry, quite a few commented on little green Baby Bjorn potty they found there.

“Wow, you’re really planning ahead,” they said. “Way to be prepared.” 

I’m sure it seemed a little funny to put a potty on my registry, next to swaddling blankets and those newborn baby no-scratch mittens, when the average age that kids are potty trained these days is 3 years-old. But I wasn’t planning to save the potty for Teddy’s third year. We planned to use it right out of the gate. 

If you think I’m crazy, give me a second to explain. Teddy uses the potty. No, he doesn’t jump up from his naps and saunter into the bathroom or ask to make a pit stop while we’re on the road. But we practice elimination communication – or EC for short – with Teddy, a kind of parenting technique where parents respond to a baby’s natural cues for elimination and help them use the potty, rather than sit in wet or dirty diapers.

There are a ton of great books and websites out there on elimination communication, so I’m not going to try to explain it exhaustively.  But in the next few weeks, I’m going to be writing a bit about our EC journey, including a review of a popular book that’s introduced it to a wider audience and a product review and giveaway, so I wanted to tell you a little about it. If you think I’m nuts, stay with me for a bit. I might seem more sane when you get to the bottom of this post. 

So, here’s the basics. Elimination communication (a rather crunchy, touchy-feely name, I know) is based on the idea that babies are born with a sense of when they need to pee or poop, the ability to communicate about those needs, and a natural desire not to “go” on themselves. When kids use diapers routinely throughout their childhood, they gradually stop communicating about their need to go and lose the instinct not to soil themselves, which necessitates potty training. If we’re tuned into their signs – whether it be a behavior or time of day or just intuition – we can help them with that natural desire and avoid or use diapers less.

Again, you may be thinking I’m a nut here. And I understand that. I hear the objections mounting in your head. I was skeptical when I first heard about it too, and even though it’s something we practice, I don’t think that anyone should feel bad about using diapers and not doing EC. But I think it’s pretty cool, so that’s why I’m sharing.

Many many different cultures around the world use EC. If you think about it, not everyone has a Walgreens down the street where they can buy a box of Pampers, nor do they have a washer and dryer in the basement for cloth diapers. In many countries, babies never wear diapers. Their children are also potty-trained way earlier than kids are here.

So, how does it work? Here’s a typical day for us with EC. We do EC “part-time,” meaning that Teddy wears diapers quite often, but we try to “catch” what we can (that’s EC speak for getting a pee or a poop in the potty, rather than in a diaper). Babies don’t pee while they’re actually sleeping – they have to either wake up or rouse a bit for their bodies to pee. In the morning, Teddy usually starts to wiggle and squirm, indicating that he has to go. I pick him up and put him on a little potty that we keep by the bed. When he pees, we say “Pssss…..” and we do a little grunt when he poops. Those are “cues” to tell him that he can go and to acknowledge that he is going.

Throughout the day, we take him to the potty routinely – when he wakes up from a nap, during or after he nurses, whenever we change his diaper, and anytime that either of us sense he has to go by his behavior – squirming, fussing, kicking etc. Every baby’s cues are different. In addition to that, Teddy usually spends an hour or two during the day without his diaper on, and during that time, we try to use the potty when he has to go (usually every 20 minutes or so). During the night, we’ve just started putting him over the potty whenever he nurses. 

This is what works for us. Different families do it different ways. Some families don’t use diapers at all! We haven’t gotten there yet, although it’d be great to be there some day. Many EC babies and toddlers potty train very early. EC goes along with a lot of other attachment parenting ideas – breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing, etc. The main goal actually isn’t to avoid diapers, but to communicate with your child. It’s the main idea of attachment parenting – that when you respond to your child’s cues about their needs, it reinforces those cues and makes the child more confident about giving them and the parent more confident about responding. The more we do EC, the more confident my husband and I are about doing it, and the less we get peed on.

I should also say that EC is a lot of work and can be extremely frustrating. There are days where I’m just not in the mood, and that either means I wise up and put a diaper on Teddy, or I force myself to do it and end up getting pee everywhere. Teddy has peed on quite a few things in our house, which is not something I mind, but I’m sure many people would. He has even peed in my bed, although this has happened when he’s wearing a diaper too. Still, 2 a.m. is a little less fun than usual when you’re dealing with wet sheets. And although many people say it should always work right away, even with a tiny newborn, Teddy screamed like a banshee whenever we tried to potty him until he was about eight weeks old. 

So, what do you think? I’ve left a lot of things out, so if you want more information, there are a ton ofbooks on the subject, as well as great websites like Diaper Free Baby,EC Simplified and Tribal Baby. There’s even a meetup group in Chicago for parents who EC or want to learn about it. If you join, your baby can pee on my floor during our monthly diaper-free playgroups.

I’ll be writing more about EC this week, so check back for a book review, product review and giveaway. 

Gotta get going now. Teddy will be waking up from his nap any moment, and it’ll be go time for the little green potty.

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