Adventures in Elimination Communication. Or, Why My Baby Sits on the Toilet and my 3-Year-Old Doesn’t.


elimination communicationIt should be said that you may think I’m a crazy person. You might not be wrong. 

In the first few weeks after my eldest was born it became clear to me that I had no idea what I was doing. In a search for guidance, I scrolled through the parenting ebooks available at the library. I came across a book called The Diaper-Free Baby. I had never heard of Elimination Communication before, but it made sense to me. I read parts of the book to my husband who is notoriously skeptical of things that are “hippie-dippy” and he said it seemed reasonable. The gist is that like many mammals, babies are born with the ability to hold their pee and poop the same way adults do. When we put diapers on babies they lose this ability and learn to poop and pee freely into their diapers. Then they have to relearn how to hold it again later in life. However, if they use this ability in the first six months of life then they can keep it and transition to using the toilet easily. It seems simple right?

Eh, Sort of. 

Fast forward to when my first child was 3 months old. He was able to support his head on his own and it was easier to hold him in a seated position. After my son woke up from a nap I took off his diaper and sat with him on the toilet. I made the “ppppssss” and “uhhnn uhhn uhhn” sounds the book described and what do ya know! He peed into the toilet. He continued to regularly pee and poop into the toilet, eventually sitting on a potty seat solo while I held him to make sure he didn’t fall. Let me be clear that at no time was he a diaper-free baby. While we did catch many pees and poops in the toilet, he always wore a cloth or disposable diaper for all the pees and poops we didn’t catch. At about a year old it all started to fall apart. As soon as I would sit him on the toilet he would grab for the toilet paper holder or squirm around in a fashion that made it nearly impossible for me to hold him on the toilet. Eventually, I gave up and he stopped sitting on the toilet altogether, for about 2 years. 

Cue baby #2. When my second son was born we did pretty much the same thing we had done with my first son. The only difference is that my second son will almost exclusively poop in the toilet, instead of a diaper. He’s one of those babies who only poops once every few days and when he does he waits until I sit him on the toilet to do it. At 5 months we’ve gotten into a pretty consistent routine that I think we’re both pretty happy with. However, big brother who is now well past his third birthday was still in diapers. 

I was pretty adamant about letting my 3-year-old stay in diapers until he would let us know when he was ready for underwear. Mostly out of respect for his bodily autonomy, but also because let’s be real, diapers are convenient. Not having to ask a tiny human if they need to pee every 30 minutes really appealed to me, especially while adjusting to having a second kid around. We are also fortunate that we didn’t have any outside pressures to potty train, like daycare or preschool asking about it. 

That’s how I found myself sitting on the floor of the bathroom, holding my baby on the toilet while my 3-year-old asked me to change his diaper because he pooped. Parenthood has really changed what I considered normal. 

As of this writing, my three-year-old is no longer wearing diapers. He started leaking through size 6 diapers, leaving us no choice. The transition from diapers to underwear only took two days before he had it figured out and has been smooth sailing ever since. Did his time sitting on the potty at an early age help this transition later? Who knows. He could have just been ready. 

So is Elimination Communication for everyone? Absolutely not. Is my experience typical? It’s hard to tell. Is EC a useful tool? It sure can be! There are many products and resources available for all EC commitment levels. I personally haven’t bought any of them, though the tiny undies look super cute. If you have experience with EC or want to try it out talk to me! I’d love to see what other potentially crazy people do!

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