When do you think a child goes in the potty for the first time? Two years old maybe? When do you think they start being able to control when they go? …again, two years old maybe? How about two months old… or two weeks old! Say whaaaat?!
Another wonder of the natural parenting world that I learned of through my Bradley Birth teacher was EC: Elimination Communication. EC is a different approach to pottying, not potty training, by the way. It’s not about training, it’s about communication.
EC has two principles that go against much of conventional pottying thinking. Babies are born with the instinct to not soil themselves and they are born with the ability to hold it. Think about it, traditionally the belief is that babies have no control of their body elimination functions. They just go when they go and that’s that. And they end up sitting and wiggling in their own filth, and they seem pretty dandy with that too.
But here’s the thing: babies don’t like feeling soiled. However, they get put in a diaper where they feel it all the time, and they get used to it. It basically ends up making no difference whether they hold it or not, so they just go. They learn that it’s ok to soil themselves any time, any place. And then, roughly two years later, they have to unlearn it, and learn how to use a potty instead.
According to healthline.com, in the US, average starting potty training age is somewhere between 18 months and 3 years old, most commonly around 27 months. It’s often advised to look for signs of when a child is “ready” to start using the potty. But some kids (who are now toddlers, at this point) have a tough time letting go of the diapers they have gotten so used to.
I was inspired to write this post because I recently came across some blasts from my daughter’s past:
This came up in my memories today. My daughter was five and a half months old. You can see in the picture how little she was, and you can see that on that same day, she went in her potty for the first time!
I remember that she would “pee on cue” waaaaay before then, but unfortunately I have no “evidence” of it. :/ We used to check her diaper (lying down, on her changing pad) and we’d say “psss, pshh, pss…” and quite often, she’d pee! Just into her actual diaper, and then we’d put a fresh clean diaper on her, and go on with the day. I don’t know how old she was, but she was just a couple weeks old when we started.
I would also bring her into the bathroom with me when I had to go, and I noticed that more often than not, when I would go, she would go too. This started creating an association for her that the bathroom is the room you go potty in. We would also check her diaper often, and change it as soon as we noticed it was wet. We went through a LOT of diapers this way, but it nurtured her instinct to stay clean. This was before she started sitting on her own potty, because she was too little to sit up at all yet.
I remember when she started sitting up on her own, I took her to Babies R Us and sat her (diapered and fully clothed) on a little potty, on the floor, in the middle of the potty aisle. She wiggled and fussed. Not ready yet. I went back a few days later and tried again. Same reaction. Still not ready yet. A few days later, I tried one more time. This time she just sat calmly on the potty. She was ready! I bought it, took it home, sat her on it and nothing happened the first try. But the second time I sat her in it, eureka! There was pee in the potty!
I found this in my memories too:
By now she was a year and three months old, and I just couldn’t help myself in sharing. I had one of my (non-mommy) friends comment that she got I was proud, but gross. But the point is, just-over-one year olds aren’t typically using the potty yet, especially not this successfully. But they can be!
The C for Communication in EC is all about having a closer connection to your child when it comes to pottying. It’s another line of communication in getting to know each other. You learn to pay attention to the signs they show when they need to go, especially when they’re tiny. You set up “pottytunities” and learn when they are likely to need the potty. The easiest place to start is to give baby a pottytunity right when she wakes up, either from a nap or from overnight. The next easiest thing to do, is to put baby fully clothed on a potty (or something similar to it, like a Bumbo or a bouncer) when you go potty, and keep them right next to you, and then check/change their diaper right after. As baby gets a little bigger, they’ll be comfortable sitting in a potty. Either their own tiny one, or the actual grown-up one.
This was the other blast from the potty past that I recently found:
This is from her first day in her new Early Pre-School class. At this point, she was 27 months old. Most toddlers are just starting to learn to use the potty. You can see her teachers were impressed that she went on her very first try. But she’d been using the potty for almost two years.
She still wasn’t fully potty independent (as they say in the EC world) until about two and a half years old, but it was a super smooth transition, especially at home. She had some shyness issues to work through at daycare. She also almost never would go overnight (even when she was a baby), and never had night accidents once she was fully out of diapers.
I learned about EC through my Bradley teacher, but I learned all about it from the Diaper Free Baby by Christine Gross-Loh. It was super interesting and a really easy read.
You can also visit diaperfreebaby.org for more information and to find a local EC support group.
As with many things, EC is something you can jump into headfirst, or something you can just dip your toe in. In other words, some parents actually go diaper free, and others do EC here and there, when they can. It’s really just another tool for your parenting toolbox. More than anything, to me, it’s a shift in perspective. Babies CAN have a part in keeping themselves clean and using the potty early on. It’s something that made my life easier (less soiled diapers!) and a way I felt more closely connected to my baby. It’s something that I didn’t know existed, and I’m happy to have found. So I pass it on to you! I hope it brings you closer to your baby… and farther from their dirty diapers!