Baby Elimination Communication: Why & How To Do It

Baby Elimination Communication (also known as infant potty training, natural infant hygiene, and diaper free) is the practice of learning your baby’s potty cues and timing to help teach him that a potty is where he should pee and poo.

EC might sound weird, but consider the global perspective. In most non-industrialized countries, EC doesn’t even have a name because it’s the norm. In these societies, babies can be toilet independent as early as 6 months, while the average in America is 3 years.

EC is a lifestyle that encourages natural toilet learning. Baby elimination communication is not about getting your child to use a potty as soon as possible (although earlier potty learning often occurs). EC doesn’t mean your child has to never use diapers. It simply means freedom from dependence on diapers.

What are the benefits of baby Elimination Communication (EC)?

It encourages a deep connection between you and your baby. Newborn elimination communication is a great way to build communication and trust between child and parent.


It’s cleaner.
Baby doesn’t sit in his waste, which means less chance for diaper rash too!

It’s more comfortable. Diapers are bulky, so it goes without saying that being diaper free would be more comfortable for most infants.

You can use fewer diapers. When you EC, even part time, you’ll inevitably use fewer diapers, which is great for the environment as well as your wallet.

Baby gains self esteem. When she cries for help to potty and is responded to respectfully, she begins to understand that what she communicates has value and, therefore, she has value.

Explains unexplainable behavior. Many babies become fussy, pop off the breast, wake, or have trouble falling asleep when they need to eliminate (or just have eliminated, and don’t like being wet).

How to get started with EC Elimination Communication

There are many ways to practice baby elimination communication. I would highly, highly encourage you to get support as you will definitely be going against the grain. Here is a fabulous resource you can check out!

Many parents begin EC’ing from birth and are glad they did, but many of those who start later have success as well. Some families EC full time (including through the night), while others choose to do baby elimination communication part time. Whichever path works best for your family, getting started is simple.

Begin with observation. Give baby diaper-free time on a waterproof mat so that you can begin to learn her cues. Keep in mind that many babies need to eliminate shortly after a feed and upon waking. Pay attention to your baby’s natural potty times. This is a great way to help baby recognize his own cues as well.

ASL sign for bathroomIntroduce cues. When you observe baby eliminating, consider introducing a cue sound like a “pss” sound for pee and a “hmm” sound for poo. Baby will start to associate those sound with “letting go.” You can also use the ASL sign for bathroom. For some babies, just the act of sitting on the potty can be a cue.

Keep a potty nearby. Many parents choose to have an elimination communication potty in each room so there is always one close. When baby shows signs of needing to eliminate, bring her to the potty (or whatever receptacle you choose).

Carry baby in a sling or other carrier. Babywearing can be a great tool for learning baby’s potty rhythms. Many babies won’t eliminate when held close, therefore will be quiet and alert when they don’t need to eliminate and will become fussy and show signs that they want to be taken out of the sling when they need to go.

What do I need in order to practice the baby Elimination Communication method?

The only thing you really need is a place for baby to eliminate. The Baby Bjorn potty is a good choice because of its size. You can use the insert for infants and then when baby can sit up on his own, you can use the full potty. Some parents choose to use the toilet, sink, a Tupperware container, or other small container.

Other things that may help are:

  • Infant nightgowns
  • Legwarmers
  • Crotchless pants
  • Clothing that is easy to pull off quickly
  • Notebook to record observations about timing and cues
  • A tote bag to carry the potty when traveling

Will I have to buy any diapers at all?

That all depends. Are you planning on full time baby elimination communication including at night? If yes, then you may not need diapers. On the other hand many parents choose to use diapers as backup or to EC part time (while baby is at home for example) and use diapers when traveling or at daycare.

If you choose to use diapers, using cloth can help baby stay aware of when he has eliminated because cloth doesn’t wick wetness away like disposables.

What are the disadvantages?

  • More time and dedication necessary (at least initially)
  • More messes when you’re still learning
  • It can be isolating when you don’t know anyone in real life that EC’s

Here’s what other natural mamas have to say about baby Elimination Communication

I asked the moms on my Facebook page if they’d tried EC and how their experience went. Here is a sample of their responses.

  • We are doing baby elimination communication for the first time with my newborn and I LOVE it. We’ve only been doing it a week and we’ve already had so much success. We still have misses, but for the most part we are starting to learn his cues. He used to be colicky around the same time every night, but once we started EC and realized that was when he had to go number 2 and was getting frustrated and began catching it, then his colicky period totally disappeared. His face when we help him go is so relaxed and happy, it’s really another bonding method for parents and babies. I recommend it 10000000000%! – Meagan Cotterell
  • We are practicing baby elimination communication in our own way. We started at 8 weeks old. My son wears only cloth diapers. Whenever we change him we take him to the potty (we use the sink because he isn’t big enough for a potty yet) and give him the opportunity to go. He goes per about 80 percent of the time. Poops we are still working on. I think it is all about giving them an opportunity to go somewhere other than in a diaper. After when we are done we do a little pee-pee dance in the mirror to make it fun! Really it only adds an extra minutes to the diaper change. I love it! – Alex Stracey
  • We loved EC. Started at 3 months. I rarely washed a poop diaper from then on. My daughter was toilet independent by 19 months, with the occasional missed pee. – Tracy Mills
  • Had never tried it until baby #6. Great success! A lot of work on the front end, but well worth it. She never remembers not going on the potty or even wearing diapers (started at 3 mos. which I highly recommend that age). – Moringa Momma
  • We do part time baby elimination communication. I think of it as just another part of our day. We offer the potty at every diaper change. When we traveled recently–we were in the car for three days!–our 8 month old would pee in her diapers, but she would wait to poop until we could get to a toilet! It sure made the trip easier for us! – Michelle Grimm-Gossett
  • I tried it a bit with both kids. basically, whenever i felt like doing it or remembered to do it, they sat on the potty. During obvious times, like when they woke up in the morning or after nap. Those were easy wins. My son didn’t train early by any means, even though he did start around and on the potty at like 9 months old. With my daughter, at 14 months she showed a lot of interest and told me several times when she had to poop, but then that faded when she got into other interests or something haha. We just play it by ear. She’s in cloth, unlike my son. – Ericka J Iverson
  • I started baby elimination communication with my daughter when she was a month old. She is now 7 months old.. no Poopy diaper changes for us! My nephews are 2 and 3 years of age.. both with no intention of potty training. My family is not a fan of us The fact that most nights my daughter wakes up dry:) I love that I can cuddle my baby, nurse her, and put her down for naps all without a diaper on!!:) – Kathleen Partridge
  • I started baby elimination communication with my son when he was shy of 3 months. I was very aware of his potty times as he would go after every meal. bf’ing lol. When he was 5 months I changed his last poopy diaper. I started sitting him directly in the toilet and waiting till he went, then praised with lots of happiness and kisses. By the time he was 12 months, he would literally get on the potty himself and go. – Cindy Penagos

More resources for baby elimination communication

How about you? Did you practice EC? Know anyone who did? Share with us below!

53 Comments

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  1. Hi there! I think my daughter is on a “Potty Pause”… We have been ECing since she was about 6 months with about a 90% success rate, but always using cloth diaper backups. She has always seemed to be happy to go on the potty. She’s 14 months old now and just when I thought we were getting closer to being diaper free things are moving backwards. She’s less patient to sit on the potty and when she is content it seems more like playtime to her than bathroom time. She seems to always go poop right as she wakes up from a nap before I can get her out of her bed where she previously would wait for me to get her up from her nap before peeing or pooping…

    Any advice? Is this a potty pause? If it is a potty pause how long do they last? Am I ruining my daughter from trying so hard?

  2. We use cloth diapers with my son, which I LOVE – but I love the idea of EC even more!! I’m in the beginning stages of potty training, and it’s definitely time consuming, so putting in the time at the beginning sounds like a much more attractive idea. Baby #2 is due in July, and it sounds like I have a lot of reading to do! Thanks for sharing <3

  3. Started EC when my daughter was about 4 weeks old. She is now nearly 9 months and it’s been a great experience. I don’t have any regrets! She no longer poops in her diaper, and when I’m not lazy, I catch about 70-80% of her pees. I’m also nearly certified to be a Go Diaper Free EC consultant based in Istanbul & part-time in Cyprus!

  4. I have been ECing my daughter since before 3 months and it’s great to be diaper iindependent. We still use clothes regularly because we’re lazy but I think that actually makes it confusing for her when we decide to up the amount of toileting. She pees so often it gets difficult to get her to the potty every 30 mins or so. I think I need to commit to EC more and see if she’ll commit to holding it for me longer. Does that sound likely?

  5. 2 questions, as I am confused. #1: What does a cue look like (esp for pee)? Examples?
    #2: What is the difference between potty/toilet training & EC? Is it just age at start?
    I have a 2.5yo boy that just isn’t getting the potty thing (or doesn’t care, or thinks it’s fun to slip and slide in the pee on the floor), and a 10 month old girl who I would have never thought to try something like this until today with an upset tummy and terrible rash from it. We already cloth diaper, but today we had to let her go free bc of the rash, and I wanted to hold her over the potty once when it seemed she would go, but I fought the urge (going against the grain).

    • A cue is a certain sound (like psss). The idea is that with EC your child doesn’t need to “learn” to use the potty, because it’s always just been the way it is. But if you wanted to start later, it would be more like potty training with EC awareness of signals.

    • Cues are holding legs together, do a wiggly dance, grabbing their genitalia, or acting like there are ants in their pants. You also can go by clock and how long it’s been since their last pee. EC is totally different than potty training in that you generally don’t use a diaper, at least not during daytime/play hours.

  6. Questions: I introduced this concept to our 14 month old recently using our regular toilet due to terrible diaper rash (from daycare). She has a regular routine, so I thought I would use that to my advantage. Unfortunately, she thought sitting on the toilet was scary (even with me there holding her). I do not want to buy a separate child toilet since those are not available when we go out in public nor are they present at the daycare. She is comfortable around the toilet, flushes the toilet for me, and waves bye to poop and pee-pee. So, suggestions? Attachment for the regular toilet?

    • I started my 16 mo old recently, I highly recommend the Baby Throne, it is a potty and we started with the top piece in the toilet, this brand is unique because the seat is in a squat position which actually helps with elimination. I started with lots of diaper free time and developed a verbal cue, then we gave the baby throne a try with the cue and we had success. Make it fun, lots of toys, books and narrate the process 🙂

  7. I must have been living under a rock (or moving my entire household into our new farmhouse!) – just seeing your awesome post on EC here and I want to send you a personal thank you for writing it Mama!!

    I started all 3 of my babies from birth and my first son was out of diapers at 9 mos, fully independent by 17 mos, second (daughter) out of diapers at 13 mos (we were lazy!) but fully independent by 15 mos, and my third (a son), is now about to start walking and we will be saying bye-bye to diapers asap thereafter. All 3 pooped in the potty from birth.

    I swear by EC. It helped my kids with verbal and nonverbal language, mobility, and self esteem. It deepened our connection on a primal level of understanding and communicating with one another. And it taught them what to do with their waste (you could go totally archetypal with that one!!!) from the get-go. It followed their instincts and I have to say it CHANGED how I’ve experienced parenting!

    I am the gal behind Go Diaper Free and my sole purpose is to make it easy for any mama or daddy to do EC. I commend you for an excellent article, and for all you do for all of us Genevieve!! xx Andrea

    • My pleasure 🙂 And I get living under a rock too 🙂

  8. We tried my 18 month old son on Elimination Communication and he did well at first. Then there were problems and he crapped and pissed all over the place! I had to put him back in diapers and do toilet training. I guess I should be happy he did not become constipated.

    • 18 months is too late to start with this method– you will need to do “potty training” at this point. The average 18 month old is too independently minded and will not be as flsxible as you need for EC. However, even with younger babies, there are bumps along the road and each kid is different. My first (girl) was 95% potty trained by 17 months, and my second (boy), now 13 months is about 90%.

  9. Can i start it with a 17 months old child? I did not know it before and had a hard time potty training my second one as he was almost 3. I dont want #3 Having bad memories of it. I love the idea and wish i would have known it before.

      • Meg above this in the comments says very clearly that 17 or 18 months is absolutely too late! Would you do EC with a 10 year old? Obviously there exists “too late”. It’s certainly better to start early and certainly it’s too late once we’re already talking about reaching potty-training age.

  10. Very interesting! I meet a mom in one of my zumba class who was doing it with her son. At that time, my daughter was only 6 months and I thought it was way too early. Now that we had to go throw the process of potty training, I wish I would have started before. I will start sooner with my son.

  11. I have a 10 month old, I had never heard of this.
    I researched it and tried it after reading your article, I wish I had started sooner as a newborn!
    After only 2 days of “trying” today he went pee pee in the potty!
    I was ecstatic! I wish I would have know about this as a newborn, I would have tried it right away!
    Now if only I could get him to sleep longer than 2 hours!!

  12. I also live in China. EC is definitely the norm here. I am starting to see more babies with diapers but my guess is that is only when they are out of the house. Split pants are common. My Filipino husband, and his sister who takes care of our son when we are at work, take him to the potty when he is pooping. He is 10 months now but they have been doing it for awhile. If it makes toilet training easier, I am all for it.

  13. I currently live in a smallish city in southern China where this is a part of everyday life! Split-pants are real and help moms here facilitate EC. Many moms make the “sssss” sound while others whistle a tune as they hold their very little ones behind the knees resting their backs on moms chest so they are free to go. Moving here from the US a very ago I was totally blown away, but now it seems like part of daily life and I am sold on trying when my husband and I have children!

  14. EC worked great for me when my son was a newborn, his signs he was going to poop (and even pee) where obvious. But now he is often distracted by other things (he is almost 4 months old) and doesn’t “tell” us when he needs to go in the same way. Sometimes we pick up on it, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes he strains to poo, but takes really long to actually poo (to long for me to be able to hold him over the toilet for that long, he is too heavy!). Any advice?

    • My daughter is 3.5 months old and I sit her on a tiny baby bjorn potty to poop. I have to hold her carefully but the potty helps support her bottom. It has worked well for us and she now seems most comfortable pooping upright (as opposed to when laying down).

    • My son is also slow with his poop process–takes three “pushes” over the course of a full 5 mins sometimes. We just go ahead and use a potty seat on the big potty, or use a potty chair. I play and sing with him too… I only hold him in the classic EC hold under the thighs when pottying at night or when out. Hope this helps Christie!

  15. My daughter is going on 3 months and we started EC at 3 weeks. In that time we have only missed one poop and I think she thought she was going for a fart but got the end half in the toilet! Now at 3 months we are getting her to potty over her child potty so when she is walking she will be used to the idea that pees and poos go in her potty! We LOVE a diaper belt with a cloth prefold so when we miss a pee we can feel the prefold getting warm and still make the sss cue sound & changes are so much more quick! Check out Amanda’s shop on etsy for a lot of EC wear https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaughingFoxCrafts we like her diaper belts because 1. It supports another mom (she was so helpful with my order!!) 2. wool 3. grows with your child 4. handmade 5. gender neutral options! You should give EC a try! There is nothing to loose-only to gain. I love the communication aspect of EC that is my favorite part.

    • Thanks for the Etsy tip. I’ve just ordered three!

  16. LOVE EC! if i were to do it all over again , i would surely start from birth. we started at 5.5 months and completed EC’ing at 18months (including night time). she is now 28months and has been moved to the next senior toddler room at her daycare (which is cheaper) partially if not mostly because she will go to the bathroom independently. overall, the bonding that is gained and the bodily awareness she has is remarkable and out of this world. when she was done with her night time diaper between 16-18 months i was shocked, my husband was the one who actually had to free us from it because i was in such amazed disbelieve. “no, she cant be?…she’s done?” my husband would say, “yes! she hasn’t peed in it for weeks! that’s it. i’m putting her to bed without it!”…and that was that.

    it’s really an amazing journey. it seems daunting at first, but it just makes so much sense. you know when babies are going poop. it so much easier to have it in the toilet then a diaper or cloth diaper. so much easier!

    i have recently started doing birth work and also do EC consults. i hope to inform ppl and share with them that this can be done and that babies are so intelligent and aware, more than we think! even part time ec’ing can be so effective!

    try it out mommas, you’ll be amazed and in awe of your little ones capabilities.

  17. Wow! I have always thought that I’ll start potty-training my babies when they start to sit up and at expectable times like after meal and after a nap.. but this is a higher level. And I’d love to use as few diapers as possible. Just have to remember the post in a couple of years:D It was very interesting and educating to read even if you don’t have any kids yet (like me)!

  18. That’s so funny you posted this!
    If we are staying at home for the day she is always a free naked baby and always goes to the potty when she needs to go so recently I started doing this at night and my little girl hasn’t pottied(?) once in the bed. However if she has a diaper on she can sometimes soak my side of the sheets. I did this all out of instinct and am so glad because it totally works!! Thanks for giving me a name for it lol!

  19. Hey ladies, just to let you know I have a couple videos I’ve done regarding EC. An Intro and How to Get Started type, as well as one detailing my experience with EC and 4 kids! Here’s a link to the first video. Please check it out. Mama Natural said it was okay to share this here. =)
    If this is helpful to you, or you know others who might like to get started trying EC, please feel free to share these videos with others! Thanks!

    Leila

    Please note this is link is to part 1 of a 2 part video. It should take you to the playlist that has all the EC videos.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PY9GtRbizxE&list=PLWhXzIW2zS-Ll5vFJ-tPRAehBf5Pf

  20. I live in a small village in the Himalayas in Sikkim, India (I moved over here from the US when I married my husband 2 years ago. We live in his home village). I saw my sister-in-laws doing this with their babies and thought it very strange at first. They typically hold their baby with no clothes on the bottom over a bucket or any out-of-the-way location (over some bushes, drain, or dirt area). They then make a “ssssssss” sound to cue the baby to go. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but since they otherwise simply use a piece of fabric or even nothing as a diaper, it really helps cut down on the laundry! Now my husband and I are expecting our first baby and I think we’ll probably try this as soon as possible. My husband would certainly appreciate a few less cloth diapers he has to wash by hand 🙂

  21. Hubby and I have been doing infant pottying since the first week of my daughter’s life an we have loved it! She’s now 22 months and it is time for her to go to the bathroom independently and we’re having a hard time trying to find information about how to bridge a part time e-c baby to a potty ‘trained’ toddler.

    Any advice or tips in this realm?

  22. I am from India nd in our country we dont use much diapers with our baby (except for those who choose, celebrity, rich people nd a few handful). We use nappies from from birth nd then regular panties nd underwear once the baby is a bit big. I preferably did this. I started make my boy wear underwear from 2 and half months. I only used diapers during nap times nd night nd yeah if m out with him. Once he was able to sit on his own (around 7months or so) i started potty training for him. I dont use diapers on him for whole day. So i still do have sm accidents for pee while he s playing. But poo is exclusively in the potty nd no accidents for poo except for those initially. I knew when he needed to poop. He would grunt, get red nd bcm still. So i used to make him sit on potty. Slowly he came to know where the potty belongs. Nd now he would prompt me, call me nd say ‘shhhiiii’ when he wants to go.

    He have also learnt the bladder control during sleeps. But as soon as he wakes up from sleep i have to rush him for peeing. Nd he pees in his potty. Ya at night i make him wear cloth diaper nd he passes out in it. Bt sometimes his diaper is all dry. It i dont rush him quickly to bathroom after he awakes he would pass out. I still need to work for the night time

    • Thank you Minal, your post is very helpful to me.

  23. This is such a high-level intro to EC. But I’m so glad to see it being discussed on such a wide-reaching platform like yours. EC really adds to the connection and bond that we share with our kids, because it means we are that much more in-tune to them.
    Have you ever heard of Andrea Olsen of Go Diaper Free? She has a wonderful ebook and awesome online community that teaches and supports EC families.

  24. I’ve done this with all of my 3 kids. My youngest is 21-months-old, and she’s been potty trained well before her first birthday. I remember when my first child was 8-months-old, I took her to a regular well-child check-up, the doctor almost screamed when she saw panties, and not the diaper on her :-)! I am originally from Russia, and this is how it is done there. The disposable diapers very expensive there, and parents use a lot of techniques to speed up the process, and it is usually more that one person ordeal! Everyone pitches in, if it is time for a baby to go!
    It is so sad that people in US hear about htis method from books, or articles, and not from word-of-mouth of their parents/grandperent!

  25. Genevieve I sent you a pm about this. At least I think I did. I replied to your email, not sure if you will get it?

    Anyway, I practiced EC with three of my four children. I had moderate success with my first attempt, and great success with my two youngest! I also know what it’s like to deal with potty training one child til almost four years old! My EC’d babies did not wear diapers past 5-6 months old, and even wore underwear often, starting at a few months old. Sounds crazy, right? I thought so at first. Having tried it both ways, there is no comparison. EC is easy (once you get the hang of it) exciting, intuitive, even fun (I can’t say the same for diapering). I highly, highly recommend giving it a go! =)

  26. We’ve done EC part time since my 11 month old was 3 months (and got his first terrible diaper rash). We mostly use it for bowel movements, I can’t remember the last time we cleaned a poopy diaper! His straining/grunting is really obvious when he has to go, so we take his diaper off and sit him on his baby bjorn potty (he usually wants to squat over it while hanging onto us). I highly recommend it – totally worth the learning curve to not have to scrape or spray the cloth diapers!

  27. My daughter is 10 months and we have been doing EC since she was 4 months. She lets me know when she wants to go to the potty even at night. It’s been amazing, i don’t have to wash so many diaper and I do not wash poop anymore. Daddy and I are so proud of her! Now, we are teaching her how to crawl to the potty so that eventually she will go by herself. 🙂

  28. I started using some of the ECing principles when my daughter was a few months old. We had to put that on the back burner for about six months half way through her first year, but picked it up again as soon as possible. My daughter is 2 and 3 months and has been going around the house in big girl undies now for a few months. She takes herself to her potty, removes her undies herself, and will come tell me when she need help wiping. We still use diapers when out, but that has been more a confidence issue on my part not hers. From what I have observed with others bathroom experiences who did not use any EC principles, my daughter has had none of the fear or anxiety or fights of using a potty that can occur. I say anything that can make life a little calmer is worth a try.

  29. I’ve been waiting for you to post on this, Mama!!! Since my little guy Jameson is a week older than your Paloma, I was wondering if you’ve tried it. I haven’t….yet…..but will start. Are you trying it with Paloma?

  30. I read about this when I first had my daughter, and a couple of times since. I will admit i gave it a go and it was a BIG fail for us.
    My daughter is a seriously random pooper, and most of the time (even now at 2) gives not a single cue she is pooping.
    You just suddenly smell something or she says “its poopy” No going in the corner, no squatting, she just seems to go while shes doing whatever.

    The only time I have ever noticed it being noticeable is when she has been constipated, and as odd as it sounds I have spent a decent amount of time trying to figure out her “rhythm” and “cues”

    It is making trying to potty train very difficult lol.

  31. Ok I’m convinced!! I’m getting a potty for my soon-to-be 10 month old son ASAP. I think our children are more capable of communicating and making connections than we give them credit for.. so it seems totally natural to just weave it into the day.

    • LOL! I’m convinced too. I was kinda scared of it but once I looked into, doesn’t look so bad!

  32. Always have been interested in EC. My son is about to turn 3 and just potty trained (with a few accidents still), so I’ve been pretty happy with his progression. We started just putting him on the potty at 6 months and have always used cloth. Now with my 7 month old daughter I need to start all over again. I’ve always wondered how the process of EC is started and I think I’ll try sitting her down on some liquid catching pads we have. Thanks!

  33. This is very interesting to me, and I am going to try it. Although my son is 2 now, he had a stroke at birth and all of his development has been delayed about 6 months, so I was figuring that potty training would be a struggle. But with this, I already know his potty queues, so I am going to try it. Thanks for the great article! 🙂

    • Oh good! You’ve got a great start… just knowing his cues is huge!

  34. I had a friend who did this with all her kids. I think the oldest her child was when finally potty trained was 18 months the others were much earlier. I on the other hand pray daily my 3-year-old will see the light!

  35. So, I have heard of this several times before, and I actually met one person that was doing it with her little baby. It kind of slipped my mind when I had my own baby though! Now that he is almost 10 months, and is starting to eat more solid food, his cloth diapers are pretty yucky. I am going to start giving this a try and see how it goes! I didn’t realize you could start when baby is a little older like mine! Thank you for the great info!

  36. Never heard of this method before. Loving the idea of putting in the effort to potty train earlier on. Thanks for the good read and references.

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