How To Go Diaper Free With Your Baby

Day

Are you considering trying elimination communication (EC) with your baby?

Congratulations! You’ve already taken the hardest step – opening your mind and embracing an alternative to diapers. Modern parenthood has become synonymous with the burden of poopy diapers and babies’ bottoms with rashes and infections. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

EC offers a natural, gentle and logical approach to taking care of our babies’ needs. And it gives us an incredible opportunity to connect with our babies, honouring their instincts and letting them know their communication is understood and respected. From a global perspective EC is the standard, with most babies being potty independent at around 12 months. In most parts of the world, EC is so ingrained it doesn’t have a name – it’s just what parents do as part of caring for their babies.

But, chances are you don’t know anybody who’s practiced EC with their babies. And it can be daunting to try something so new. So revolutionary. So radical. The good news is, it’s not difficult at all.

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO START?

There’s no right answer to this question. Babies communicate their potty needs from birth so you need to decide when the right time is for your family. You can begin at birth, wait a little while or start whenever you find out about EC. We started practicing EC when our son was 10 days old, which allowed me to recover from his birth, master breastfeeding and find my feet as a new mother. With a second baby, having EC experience already, I’d start on day one.

Some say there is a golden window of opportunity from 0-4 months in which it’s easiest to start EC. Young babies are very cooperative and less likely to be distracted. As they get older babies are more interested in crawling, exploring and walking rather than sitting on the potty, but it’s still possible to start EC any time.

Andrea Olsen, of Go Diaper Free, has written two age specific books which take this into consideration. I used her first book, Go Diaper Free, when our son was a baby. And I’ve also read The Tiny Potty Training Book which is for toddlers 18 months and older. Both are excellent and extremely practical.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO GET STARTED?

Here’s a short list of a few things you need to get started with EC:

  • Baby Potty – most potties are designed for older toddlers so you’ll need to find a potty for small babies. We used (and still use) the Baby Bjorn Smart Potty. I like it because it has a removable bowl making it easy to tip pee and poop straight into the toilet. I also like the Beco Eco Friendly Potty. It’s made from bamboo husks and when you’re finished with it you can bury it in the garden and it biodegrades naturally. The only downside is it doesn’t have a removable bowl.
  • Cloth Diapers – using cloth diapers when practicing EC means your baby will feel wet helping to maintain awareness of their elimination. We used G Diapers and loved them. They come in super cute patterns (we loved the Hawaiian print) and come with the option for a cloth insert or an eco “disposable” which can go straight into the compost.
  • Disposable Diapers – when practicing EC with our baby we used disposable diapers as a back up, at night time (although we did do night time EC) and when we were on long journeys. My favourite are Seventh Generation as they are free from many of the nasty chemicals used in disposable diapers. As a result, they are less absorbent helping babies maintain a connection with their elimination needs.
  • Baby Legs Leg Warmers – these leg warmers are adorable and perfect for EC. They allow easy access for a quick potty stop without needing to remove pants.
  • Keekaroo Change Pad – this is the perfect change pad. It’s soft but impermeable to fluids and can go straight under a tap to be cleaned with water. And it comes in bright, fun colours.
  • Tiny Undies – you’ll need some tiny undies for your baby’s tiny bottom for the day you ditch the diapers. For babies and toddlers 6 months – 3 years.
  • The Diaper-Free Baby – I read a few books on EC before getting started. Andrea Olsen’s books are fantastic as is The Diaper-Free Baby by Christine Gross-Loh.

HOW DO YOU GET STARTED?

Babies express their needs constantly letting us know they’re hungry, cold, crave comfort or need to pee or poop. Like all communication with babies it takes time and patience to decipher exactly what they’re asking for. So, the best place to start is with keen observation.

Natural timing. Most babies eliminate at certain time points throughout the day. Learning your baby’s natural rhythm will help pinpoint a natural “potty-tunities”. Common potty times are upon waking, after a car journey, during or after feeding and after being in a baby carrier or stroller.

Diaper-free time. Nothing will heighten your senses or powers of observation more than diaper-free time. Liberate your baby’s bottom and give her some free time on a waterproof mat or outside on a sunny day.

Learning signals. Every baby has their own signals before they need the potty. Some babies become fidgety after being quiet. Others may grimace or grunt when they need to poop. And some may suddenly have a blank expression on their face. Most parents, even when using diapers, know when their babies are pooping. I’ve been with friends who have announced their baby is pooping, watched them do it and then changed and cleaned them. How much easier (and kinder) is it to just take babies to the potty and flush?

Introduce cues. When you observe your baby eliminating it can be useful to introduce a cue sound for pee (“pss”) and poop (“hmm” or a grunt). Your baby will start to associate these sounds with “letting go” which can be especially useful if you find yourself in a unique potty situation in the future.

Trust your instincts. Many parents, myself included, have felt as if we’re suddenly wet when our babies are sitting on us. More often than not, this is your intuition telling you your baby needs the potty.

Wear your baby. Baby wearing is a useful tool for learning your baby’s rhythms. Most babies won’t eliminate when held close. They’re usually quiet and alert when they don’t need to eliminate but will become restless and show signs they want to be taken out of the wrap when they need to go.

Start with an open diaper. Depending on the age you start EC with your baby, I’d suggest you start with peeing and pooping into an open diaper before moving to a baby potty. We started using an open diaper at 2 weeks and moved to the potty at 9 weeks when our son had strong neck control to sit on his own. If you’d like to start younger over a toilet or sink, Go Diaper Free outlines how to hold a young baby to do this.

START WITH BABY STEPS

Like all attachment parenting approaches, EC is about strengthening and deepening your connection with your baby. It’s about letting them know they’re understood, that you’re listening and their needs matter. It’s another way we can show our unconditional love.

Catching pees and poops in the potty is the objective but the most important and rewarding part of EC is communication. EC promises to strengthen your family bonds and have long-lasting positive effects on your child’s attitude towards elimination. You don’t need to catch every pee and poop. Don’t worry about the misses – they are not a sign of failure. What matters is that you tried to help your baby when you saw her communicating her needs.

I’d encourage you to try EC whatever age or stage your baby is at and I’d love to hear how you go in the comments below.

Let’s support each other as we liberate our baby’s bottoms two cheeks at a time.

COMMENTS
  • April 29, 2016
    Dani

    I’ve just recently started EC with our 12 month old son. It’s been an up and down journey mainly for me. Always wondering if I’m doing it right and helping him enough or if I’m just confusing him. Anyway, after days of nothing we had some big wins today. Even though there were misses in the day I took the time to explain that our wees go in the ‘pot pot’ reinforced the sign and gave him a little treat for trying his best. Anyway after dinner I asked him if he needed pot pot and his body language completely changed. We got to the bathroom, cloth nappy off and not a moment after his bum his bum hit the seat we had our first wee if what felt like forever. He usually does he’s poos around this time too so we wait around, chatted and read books. On, off, on, off and all of assudden he made an urgent crawl for the pot pot for another big wee
    Followed by lots of celebration and laughter. I was so proud. HE was SO proud of himself. It was a wonderful moment and well worth all the patience and perseverance. Thank you for your encouragement and wonderful articles. You have really reinforced and inspired us as a family.

    • May 02, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Hi Dani,
      Congrats on a great day and well done! Don’t worry about the misses – we had loads of them. What matter is that he knows you’re trying your best for him which you are. It’s not a race to the end. Having said that, I remember wanting to finish ASAP but now my son is a little older I can see the huge benefits EC has given us. Sounds like you’re doing an amazing job and wishing you all the best on your journey. I’m happy the post helped! 🙂

  • May 02, 2016

    I really liked this article. I was looking for an article to help me go diaper free on my baby.
    I am trying to help him some body language, so I can understand when he needs to go to the bathroom.

    Thank You!

    • May 02, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks Tina – I’m happy you found it helpful and wishing you all the best with EC. We did sign language too when our little man was a baby and loved it.

  • May 04, 2016

    This is a nice summary of how to get started with elimination communication. We started EC with my son when he was about one-month-old. I wanted to start from birth, but didn’t know how to go about it. I like the open-diaper idea, that would work nicely with a prefold diaper. Even though I knew I wanted to do EC, I had the attitude that diapers were the default and EC was an extra bonus. If I have another baby, I’ll start right away, with EC as the default, and think of diapers as secondary.

    We also used gDiapers as back-up, and loved the Hawaiian print, especially since we live in Hawaii!

    • May 05, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks Heidi and I’m the same – next time I’d start from birth too. The open diaper was great. I think Andrea at GDF suggests some sort of pad as an option too but the diapers worked well for us. Happy you enjoyed the post and awesome you liked G diapers and the green Hawaiian print too 🙂

  • June 22, 2017

    I never like changing diapers, and I had always been curious if there was an alternative. This article was very interesting, and I think I’ll try to see if my baby can work with EC. I’m a bit nervous about the learning curve, but I figure the results could be worth it, right?

  • November 19, 2017

    My second baby boy took a lot of time to go diaper free…it wasn’t a fuss, i knew babies can sometime take a bit longer… but i was just worried that how long it would take… the habit was eventually off and he was diaper free 🙂

  • January 28, 2018
    Laura Cairns

    Hi, my little one is just coming up to 6 months. I wanted to do EC from the start but was unsure how, this article was great and has helped me to get going, so for the past few weeks my little one has been using the potty I put him on after each feed and sleep, he generally does his business every time, I have introduced the ‘pss’ sound and am wanting to introduce sign too. In between he does wear a nappy, how do I encourage going nappy free full time? Also what about when out? I do take a travel potty it’s just bulky.
    Thank you x

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge