The Life-Changing Magic of Early Potty Training

Day

When I was pregnant I had nightmares I didn’t have any diapers for my son when he was born. It’s a typical anxiety dream pregnant mothers have. Worrying we’re not prepared.

But it’s symbolic of how ingrained diapers have become in modern parenthood. Babies and diapers just go together. From diaper “cakes” at baby showers to the rite of passage toilet training represents. Our culture has become diaper dependent. And our babies diaper trained. 

As an environmentally and health conscious mother-to-be I thought my only choice was cloth OR disposable. I cringed at the thought of my baby’s diapers sitting in landfill for 500 years. And I was concerned about the chemicals in disposables and the potential links with conditions like asthma, allergies and cancer.

And then I read about EC. It blew my mind. And made total sense – of course babies are born with the ability to eliminate properly. To go to the potty. I needed to learn more so I devoured all the information I could. And I couldn’t un-know what I’d learnt. I couldn’t ignore it. As unconventional as it sounded I had to try it.

Could we really have a baby without the dirty diapers? And with this knowledge how could I NOT give my baby this natural gift?

So, I told Mr G. and bless him, at 36 weeks pregnant he’d have agreed to just about any crazy idea I suggested. So when our little man was born we started practicing EC. At the start he peed and pooped in an open diaper. And when he developed good neck control we tried him on the potty.

I remember it vividly. On a sunny Monday morning I sat our little man on the potty. I cued for a pee and to my absolute amazement he peed. I shouted for Mr G. to come and see – we were insanely proud parents. That was over two years ago. In the time since, EC has enriched our connection with our little boy beyond belief. It’s been one of the most rewarding parenting choices we’ve made.

Maybe you’d like to try EC but you’re a little nervous about it . You may not know many other parents who have tried it. Or what to expect. And using diapers feels familiar. Normal. Easy.

So, let me share some of our experiences of the life-changing benefits we’ve revelled in and maybe you’ll join us…

01. OH THE FUN YOU’LL HAVE…

Sitting on the potty with our little man as a baby had us in fits of laughter with his “potty talk”. We used to call each other in to see the new potty exclusive expressions he’d come up with.

One of my favourite EC experiences was on a hike when our little man was 10 weeks old. He needed to pee, so I took his diaper off and held him between my legs. As I sat breathing in the mountain views he peed immediately. He was still perfecting his aim so I got a little on my knee but it was such a thrill to have our cave baby peeing in the woods. Oh, and for the hikers among you, no dirty diapers to “carry out”.

02. IT’S NATURAL

Have you heard parents or doctors suggesting to wait to potty train until your child is showing signs of being “ready”? What does that mean? According to the Pampers and Huggies marketing team “ready” is some time around 36 months. But, in our grandparents day, most babies were potty trained by 12 months. So, what happened?

Are babies less “ready” these days? Are we taking an evolutionary step backwards?

No, babies are born ready. In most of the world, babies don’t wear diapers. Instead, they spend all day with their mothers being carried or nursed. And mothers naturally take care of their babies elimination needs as part of parenting, without giving it a second thought.

Doctors talk about babies needing to develop control over their bladders but that would assume babies are born incontinent, which they’re not. That wouldn’t make biological sense. Babies are born with full control over all of their bodily functions and they know when they need to urinate. It’s parents who need to dial into their babies needs and respond to their elimination cues. And it’s a lot easier than you’d think. It couldn’t get more natural than that.

03. IT RESPECTS YOUR CHILD

I try as often as I can to walk in my baby’s booties. So, when I think about the alternative to EC which is soiling oneself, it feels dirty and unnecessary. With the knowledge our babies can eliminate in the potty, giving them the freedom to do so demonstrates our respect for them. Our actions as parents speak louder than words and EC shows our babies we value their non-verbal communication and respond accordingly.

In our time with EC, we’ve had a lot of misses. Babies do pee and poop a lot and it’s impossible to catch them all. In our first year I’m guessing we had, at most, one dirty diaper per month. And we caught approximately 80% of his pees in the potty.

Through EC, I’m respecting my young son’s needs and I think he knows that. I’m convinced it’s strengthening our bond and his trust in us as parents, that we’ll look after his needs whenever we possibly can.

04. IT’S GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

The debates about disposable versus cloth are trumped by the ability to simply flush. Having said that, we still used diapers as a safety net. We used a combination of G Diapers (cloth) and Seventh Generation (disposable).

Estimates suggest half the weekly waste from households with a child in disposable diapers is diapers. EC cuts that dramatically. Throw cloth diapers into the mix and waste becomes negligible.

05. IT’S CHEAP

Even though we still used cloth and disposable diapers we’ve used a fraction of what we’d need to if we relied solely on diapers. Some days, even at 6 months, our little man would sleep in a disposable diaper and be dry in the morning. EC is saving us a small fortune.

06. YOU WON’T NEED TO POTTY TRAIN A TODDLER

It’s easier to teach a baby to pee on the potty than to potty train a toddler. Babies are born with the ability to sense their elimination needs. They’re totally continent.

Babies don’t argue or negotiate like a toddler can. No power struggles with a 3 month old.

Toddlers, on the other hand, are more interested in running around and exploring than potty training. And after three years of  having their elimination cues ignored a toddler needs to be retrained to use the potty. They’ve effectively been diaper trained.

07. NO POO-SPLOSIONS OR DIAPER RASH

When I first overheard a mum say the word “poo-plosion” it took a few seconds for me to realise what she meant. I’m thrilled to say we’ve never experienced one. And no diaper rash, either. I cleaned through our bathroom cupboards when my little man was a year old and came across some unopened diaper rash cream. We’ve never needed it. Not once.

Baby girls commonly get urinary tract infections from contamination with faeces which can be avoided by using EC. It breaks my heart when I see friend’s babies with red welts on their bottoms. All caused from sitting in dirty diapers.

08. DADDY CAN DO IT

Dads often feel left out in the newborn and young baby stage as most things need to be done by mum. EC is something Dad can do – its one of Mr G.’s favorite things and it doesn’t feel like a chore at all.

WILL YOU GIVE IT A GO? 

From a global perspective EC is the standard. Most babies are potty independent as early as six months. Yet, in the West the average age for potty training is three years. We like to think we’re ahead of the curve but in this case we seem… less civilized. 

So, from parent to parent, I hope sharing some of our EC experiences will make your more confident and curious to give it a go.  You won’t regret it. Feel free to email me with any questions or leave a comment below.

Do you EC with your baby? Are you interested in trying it? I’d love to hear your comments and questions!

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COMMENTS
  • February 12, 2016
    Brook McRae

    We were very lucky Tracy and her husband shared the EC technique with us a few years ago, long before children were on the cards for us. We were fascinated by their experience with their son, it is totally logical and natural that babies are born ready. So from birth, we started learning when our baby was going to go and her cues. Our daughter peed her first time we put her on the potty at seven weeks and pooped in the potty before 8 weeks. We still use a nappy but most of the time our baby is in a clean dry nappy instead of a dirty one.

    It has made such an impact on us. We can’t be more pleased about committing to give EC a good try. We will absolutely be using EC when we have our next baby. We wish anyone that reads this to give it a try.

    The happy father

    • February 15, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks Brook and I’m thrilled EC worked out so well for you and your daughter. It takes something parents dread and turns it into such a rewarding experience. Thanks so much for your comment and for reading 🙂

  • February 15, 2016
    Mariah

    I am feeling a little discouraged about EC, our baby is 4.5 months old, we have been trying to do EC since birth, but every time I pick her up to hold her over the potty chair she freezes! We use cues/sounds every time she is going ‘potty’ during naked time or in a diaper and we notice. So far we have only caught one drop of pee. Once I learned about EC it made perfect sense, but so far not a success. I am hoping within the next few months we can make it happen.

    • February 16, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Hi Mariah, thank you for your comment and good on you for trying it. So sorry to hear it’s not straightforward for you and your little girl at the moment. The website Go Diaper Free was amazing for me – Andrea really knows her stuff and she has a couple of amazing books (one specifically for babies) with a ton of practical information. We had times when EC seemed difficult with our son and we’d give it a break for a day or two. Or more – maybe give yourselves a week off, take the pressure off everyone and then start again. And EC doesn’t need to be all or nothing. Even practicing it part time to start with and building up may be the way to go. Feel free to email me any time at tracy@raisedgood.com. Wishing you all the best and I’m sure it will come right. There are also local EC support groups through Go Diaper Free – here’s the link to that page http://godiaperfree.com/find-a-local-group/. A certified EC coach may be able to help as well.

  • February 17, 2016
    Monica

    I think you mean more than one dirty diaper per month in your first year? You said a lot of misses and you caught about 80% of pees. 😀 I am nervous to try this and I have not told my husband my plans yet 😉

    • February 17, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks for your comment Monica. I’m happy to say it’s not a typo – we did have only maybe one dirty diaper a month – I say “maybe” because it may have been less sometimes and certainly decreased as time went on. We have honestly never used diaper rash cream. He’s never had diaper rash. We had a lot of misses with pees as little baby’s pee so much (up to 12 times a day), but yes, we caught about 80% of the pees in the potty. EC has been one of the most shockingly positive things about parenting we’ve done – it shakes your perspective pretty quickly about the “done thing” being completely abnormal. When I see a friends baby now with diaper rash I almost can’t believe what I’m seeing. I wrote another post about EC too, Trust Your Baby And Ditch the Diapers and when I was looking for a nice photo of a baby’s bottom I had to search long and hard – all the images were of red, sore little bottoms. Good luck with your husband and I’m sure he’ll go for it. It’s just amazing. And read as much as you can – I have some suggestions on my Resource page which I found useful. I understand you feeling nervous but honestly, you’re just communicating with your little baby and you’ll be fine. It’s great fun. Feel free to contact me any time.

      • February 18, 2016
        Monica

        Thanks for the response! Maybe a dirty diaper means poopy diaper to you? Not just wet? Otherwise I am not sure how you could miss a lot of pees, catch 80%, and only have one wet diaper a month. But anyway, I am grateful my girls never had rash issues, even with cloth diapers, and they both potty trained around 21 months. Rashes are not always only because the child is in diapers. Thank you for the resources. I look forward to learning more!

        • February 18, 2016
          Tracy Gillett

          Hi Monica, yes, that’s right – by dirty I mean “poopy”. That’s great your daughters never had any issues with rashes and thanks for joining us here.

  • February 22, 2016

    I totally get what you’re saying about potty training happening later and later, too. It baffles me. I followed my boys cues and they were all ready and excited to potty train beginning at about 16 months.
    I wish I’d learned more about EC when my any of my sons were born. I had heard of it, but it seemed so far fetched to me then. If I had looked into it I’m sure I would have seen the sense behind it.
    Amy @ Oh So Savvy Mom recently posted…25 Amazing Kids Books For Black History Month

    • February 22, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks Amy – I remember thinking the same. I was reading The Other Baby Book and coming across one “new” parenting technique after another. I got to EC and remember thinking they must be kidding. But the more I read the more natural it felt. And we’re so happy we gave it a go. It’s incredible how much one’s perspective can shift and new “normals” are created. And 16 months – that’s amazing, good on you for honouring your son’s cues. Love your site as well and thanks for visiting.

  • February 26, 2016

    Great post!! We discovered EC when my daughter was 4 months old. My timing was right — first try was a hit. 🙂 Amazing what thrills you once you have children.

    We ECd exclusively for months, but once she turned one, things got a little bit more attitudy. (word?! should be.)

    That said, she was out of diapers completely at 17 months, and if I could do it over, I would have had her out of diapers when she started saying no to the potty at around the 12-13 month mark. My bad.

    I did notice with other parents that the easiest time to potty train seems to be EC, right around the 1-year mark, or wait until 21-23 months. That in-between time was tough. But worth it!

    Love your writing.

    • February 27, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks heaps Ashley. And awesome you guys tried EC and got out of diapers by 17 months – that’s young and amazing effort on your part. You’re right, the in between times can be difficult when they’re more interested in learning to walk or complete other milestones. We found it easy with our little man being a baby – no resistance at all and he seemed to really enjoy it. Thanks again for reading.

  • March 15, 2016
    Coralee Yates

    Can we start this now at 23 months? What does EC stand for?

    • March 16, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Hi Coralee, yes, you can, it’s never too late. I’d encourage you to visit the Go Diaper Free website. Andrea is an EC expert and has written a couple of books, one for young babies and one for toddlers older than 18months so that would be the one to buy. Here’s a link to it, Tiny Potty Training Book. And EC stands for Elimination Communication. Feel free to reach out any time and thank you for reading.

  • March 16, 2016

    I just found your blog and it sounds like we have a lot in common! We are also world travelers with a toddler son, who we have EC’d since he was a newborn. I love the way you present elimination communication. Once you hear about it, you can’t unlearn it. I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog.

    • March 16, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      So true Heidi – once I’d read about it we had to give it a go. Like you say, impossible to “unlearn” it. So happy you enjoy the blog and your site looks awesome too – will check it out properly. Where are your travels taking you at the moment?

      • March 17, 2016

        Thanks for replying, Tracy. We’re living in Honolulu, Hawaii at the moment, but we may be headed back to Thailand before too long.

        • March 17, 2016
          Tracy Gillett

          Oh wow Heidi! Sunny places by the beach – awesome! We’re hoping to get to Hawaii soon. We love Maui and Honolulu is awesome too. In need of some warmth although spring is in the air here and we’re away for the weekend with blue skies so fingers crossed the rain stays away. Have a swim for me and be in touch again 🙂

  • March 17, 2016
    Jessica

    I really enjoyed this post and hope that many others read it and take it to heart, decide to learn more, and give it a try. We practiced EC from birth and caught my daughter’s first pee at 9 days. We used cloth diapers and tried to let her wander diaper-free as much as possible at home so that she recognized the “misses” that might not be as obvious to any of us if she was wearing the diaper. Some tools that helped us: a few little potties around the house with books nearby, a countoured seat to put on the big toilet, and travelling with a silicone collapsible bowl in the car/backpack when away from home. She was in tiny undies at 18 mos and consistently fully dry all day by 24 mos. (nighttime wetting didn’t end until 4 yrs) My husband was thrilled to be a part of it all and was actually the promoter of EC when I was pregnant. Thanks for spreading the word about how gratifying and logical EC can be!

    • March 17, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks Jessica, I’m so happy you enjoyed the post. Yours sounds like a similar story to ours. I’d love to see the silicone collapsible bowl you used. We always have a potty in the car but our last challenge with EC is for our son to use public toilets. I think the loud flush scares him a little. EC has been so much fun though and so rewarding – I can’t imagine having not done it. A few friends we’ve told have tried it with their kids and had the same amazing experience. And like your husband mine raves about it – such a great thing for fathers to be able to do especially in those early days. Thanks for reading and lovely to meet you!

  • March 19, 2016
    Claire

    Just discovered your blog and must say I love it 🙂

    I did EC with my eldest, she was totally nappy-free by 16mo. Now doing it with my 8mo daughter and 2nd time around its even easier. I posted in my due date FB group that we’d had our first poop-free nappy day when she was about 5mo and the reaction regarding doing
    EC was generally “Wow! That sounds like hard work, good luck with it”. I don’t understand how cleaning a wriggly baby covered in poop is easier than just holding them over the toilet?? I know which I prefer! So much nicer for bub too, not to sit in their own poop (which goes against their natural instincts) and not to develop nappy rash. I try to spread the word about EC and would recommend it to anyone to try. After all, what’s not to love? Your bub gets to follow their natural instincts, they have a beautifully blemish-free bottom, you are in tune with them and therefore avoid a whole lot of frustration – sometimes I think babies must think “Ok, so Mama understands when I chirrup that I’m getting hungry, she understands that when I twirl my hair I’m getting tired, she knows I’ve had enough to eat when I start painting with my food or I push the boob away….why doesn’t she get it when I grunt and stare at her that I want to go toilet?”. Hope you continue to enjoy your EC journey xx

    • March 19, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thank you for such a lovely comment Claire and so happy you love the site! I’m sure you were inside my head writing this as it’s EXACTLY how I feel. And so does my husband and son! Thanks again and hope to see you again soon 🙂

  • March 20, 2016
    Samantha

    I read this post yesterday and another article you wrote on EC. Then I went to the Internet and read as much as I could before my 7 month old boy woke. I then promptly put him on the potty and within a few minutes he peed! We had three accidents yesterday but six pees in the potty! He’s going strong today too. I’m excited. And he is so cute sitting naked on his potty :). Thanks so much for introducing this to me. I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog.

    • March 20, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Oh my gosh Samantha! You’ve made my day. I’m SO happy for you and your little boy! I just read your comment to my husband – we’re thrilled. Keep on going mama! Our little ones are capable of so much more than society assumes. Please let me know how you go. Andrea at Go Diaper Free is a brilliant resource too. Yay! Big smiles!!!

  • November 01, 2016
    Madi

    Hi Tracy!

    I absolutely love the content of your blog- your words touch my mama heart deeply! Can I ask you where can I get the “how to” for EC? Thank you for sharing your heart so openly in this space.. I look forward to reading every blog post of yours!

    • November 01, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks so much Madi – so kind of you to say! Made my day 🙂 I’m planning to write a short guide myself but you have me thinking I need to do it sooner than later! For now I have a post which is more of a how to called How to Go Diaper Free With Your Baby – it has a lot of practical tips and what you need to get started. I also highly recommend Andrea Olsen’s books – how old is your baby? She has a couple of options for different age babies. Here’s a link for EC Simplified. It’s actually pretty simple once you get started – I was surprised. It’s amazing and once you try it and see your baby peeing on a potty you’ll be hooked. Let me know if you have any questions and please let me know how you go if you try it. My email is tracy@raisedgood.com Good luck! xx

  • November 21, 2016
    Pamela

    What are your tips for when you are out in public?

    For example if you are at the park and the restrooms are dirty.

    Or if your baby is in the bar stuck in traffic and he or she needs to poop?

    • December 04, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      We still used diapers when we were out when our son was young as a back up/safety net so I’d do that on long car journeys etc so you don’t need to worry. Out in public – you could take your own potty and there are portable potties you can buy which are easier to carry. Our son still doesn’t like public toilets but its because they’re so noisy – some of them are so loud they sound like an airplane taking off!

  • November 21, 2016
    Pamela

    Also, my son night feeds because we are co sleepers. I think this results in lots of seeing at night. What’s your solution for night? When they have to pee?

    • December 04, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Hi Pamela,

      My son was the same and we used to get up to use the potty in the middle of the night. Some people keep a potty next to the bed but we just used the bathroom as it was close enough. Our son has been dry at night now for a long time now though. Good luck!

  • January 23, 2017
    Shawn Michaels

    Wow! such an amazing post so far. There is so much to read through here. I like your suggestion, tips and idea really much. I have a baby girl 2 years old but we never came up to this idea before, We ll surely try your ideas on our next baby for sure. Thumbs up.

    • January 26, 2017
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks so much Shawn. EC has been SO MUCH FUN. Seriously took something we were dreading and turned it into something incredible. You’ll love it with your next baby 🙂

  • June 20, 2017

    Hi there, great post! We’ve been ECing with our son since he was 6 months old and we’ve had great success with catching poos. He’s 13 months now and on the move. Pees have always been hit or miss. We offer him the potty after every meal and nap. He’s learned to regulate his poos and will go like clockwork in the morning and maybe in the evening. We catch 99% of them. What can I do to get him to pee in the potty regularly? We use regular diapers and thinking of switching to 7th generation as I’ve read they feel it more. We don’t practice night time EC because of this issue. I don’t want to wake him up if he’s not going to go. But he usually wakes up with a full diaper so I’m starting to wonder if I’m sending him mixed signals. Any advice will be much appreciated. Thanks!

  • August 01, 2017
    Rachel

    We started attempting EC when lo was 18 months old. We lucked out that the daycare she goes to was run by a woman who was totally for it. She switches all the children to “big kid pants” as soon as they arrive and although accidents happen we have a lot of luck with EC there, problem is its like she hates it at home. We’ll notice the signs, take her to the potty and she holds it. We’re now at 20 months and have been dealing with some brutal constipation due to teething (cutting 4 teeth right now!) so she holds and holds it because it hurts and then when you see the cues she tightens up her body so much that you can’t even get her to relax on the potty. Any tips there?

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