Thoughts on "EC": Guest Post from Word Winding

Hello friends. I am excited to share with you the first guest post in a series on elimination communication/Diaper-Free/infant potty training/whatever you want to call it. Elizabeth J. K. Erickson has successfully "graduated" her baby girl from EC and shares her journey with us today. Elizabeth is a musician and mom in Northern California. Visit her at her blog or follow along on Facebook. Hope you enjoy her story. 


Here's what I get: being patient with your offspring's achievement of goals, whether weaning, potty training, or learning to read, sing, or swim. Here's what I don't get: waiting till they declare themselves "ready" to set foot on the path toward such a goal.

Skeptical about Elimination Communication, the infant toilet training sensation that's sweeping the nation? Tell me, was your child able to demand a bite of spaghetti before you offered it? Did you hold off on board books and the Berenstain Bears until they came home from little Jaden's house and whined so incessantly that you broke down and took that first trip to the library? You certainly would have refrained from the simplest of lullabies for at least the first year or two, lest you be pushing your child into singing too quickly, and as for swimming, well, it just wouldn't be fair to even fill a bathtub let alone visit the pool or the ocean with a helpless infant.

Assuming you offered a tidbit of mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving, read Goodnight Moon, and didn't landlock rubber ducky, you may want to give E.C. a go.

Here's the story of our experience...
We were lucky to hear of E.C. from the family I used to babysit for before having children of our own. Their kids were already on the conventional timetable for loo learning, but they recognized a valuable idea when they heard it and passed it along. My husband was on board, especially when I explained it wasn't an all-or-nothing scenario -- despite the title of the book I was reading, we did not need to go diaper free to do E.C.

Our daughter was born. I had intended to wait until she was six weeks old to start thinking about E.C., but she was so clearly squirming with impending poo that we had our first "catches" (note: no, catching does not mean poop in your hand) before a month had passed. As she grew accustomed to the intricacies of digestion, she stopped signaling so strongly, and unlike most children, never really gave discernible signals for most of the rest of her first year.

No biggie. We just took her to the loo whenever we changed her diaper. We also used common sense timing based on the reading I had done: we offered her a chance to pee before and after bed/nap, car rides, or being held in the sling or Ergo.

At about 3-4 months, we had a phenomenal stroke of luck. Instead of pooping endless times a day, our clockwork child began to go just once, first thing in the morning. Since then, we have experienced a joy unheard of in our culture -- poopy diapers totaling in the single digits. She is almost three years old now, and yes, you read that correctly. Less than ten. Times. Cleaning. Sh*t. Off. A. Squirming. Crawling. Crying. Poo-flinging. Monkey. Child.

(In the interest of full disclosure, our son is almost ten months old and only recently has a sketchy pattern of poo-timing begun to emerge. So I feel ya. I do. He is so impossible to change that we have taken to doing so outside in the backyard whenever the weather allows.)

To begin with, my husband or I would hold her over the sink or toilet in our arms, a leg in each hand, her back against our front. As she got too heavy for me, I began sitting backwards on the toilet in the same position so I could rest my arms on my thighs. (I am five foot two and a half and my husband is six feet tall; unsurprisingly, he never took to this position.) Sometime between six and nine months we transitioned to having her sit on one of those little inserts on the adult toilet and about a year later got a C-shaped stool so she could climb up on her own. For awhile we carried a travel seat around with us, but by 18 months she was fine sitting on the big toilet seat (unless it was filthy; then the in-arms position made a triumphant return). I disliked the thought of cleaning a potty out incessantly and in fact hate the very word "potty" so we didn't use one except in the car.

Cuing is a big component of E.C. I made up a little song that we would sing called "To the Loo We Go" and then we would make a "tsssss" sound and if she had any pee in there, it would come out. If she squirmed or fussed, we waited a second (having quickly learned from experience that that might mean poop was about to explode) and then rediapered her. If she didn't squirm -- and this is just as important -- we stayed there as long as we could bear it. In my experience, a baby who is happy sitting on the loo or being held in the position described above will soon reward your patience. I mean, they seriously pee every ten seconds sometimes, so it could just be coincidence, but still.

For my own amusement and to try (unsuccessfully) to learn what her signals might be, we spent the occasional period of time diaper-free. Pre-mobility, I just put a towel or a large prefold diaper under her and waited, Jane Goodall style. (Note: for us, this did not work as well with, ahem, male plumbing.) Post-mobility, it was easier done outside.

Our daughter was approaching one year old when she began making sounds resembling words. You know what I mean. She says "wa-wuh" and you know it means water; "kih" and you know there's a cat behind you. Well, our child began to say "boo," occasionally accompanied by emphatic hip-patting, and that meant it was time to go to the loo.

And that was the beginning of the end. We went cold turkey on the diapers, first at home and then even while out. When she was 13 and a half months she successfully went diaper free at a family reunion. (We did do diapers for the airplane, but man is it easier to hold a baby and cue them to pee than it is to wrestle them into a diaper in those tiny, disgusting airplane bathrooms!)

The hardest part is to stay comfortable during misses. She peed on the floor at other people's houses several times. She wouldn't reliably say she needed to go when friends or family would babysit until she was almost two. She still occasionally wets the car seat without warning. And twice she hit a period of time a few weeks long where she began to pee as frequently as a newborn and made us feel very, very foolish.

(It wasn't a true "potty strike" either time because she was still willing to go to the loo, just couldn't seem to make it in time. The sort of thing most people are very understanding of in a preschooler but for some reason don't always approve of in a young toddler.)

Fortunately baby pee is not as yucky as adult pee. Fortunately, our friends and family are awesome and understanding despite not having done E.C. with their own children, a fact that humbles and amazes me. Fortunately, we have mostly managed to keep annoyance and impatience from our voices when dealing with cleanup, because that can lead your child to throw in the towel.

Our little girl eats meals but still nurses a few times a day. She still wears a diaper at night. She can recognize letters and read family members' names but it will be awhile before she reads a book from sight rather than memory. She is a wonderful singer with amazing intonation for her age but still lilts off-key from time to time. She can doggie paddle with the best of them but is only just beginning to lift her face out of the water to breathe while swimming.

We are all a work in progress. Adults who didn't learn as children can be taught to swim or sing. But it's harder, and can be frustrating. We all know early, low-pressure exposure to things like language and music and safe places to play result in a stunning, seamless acquisition of skills and knowledge. Why should elimination be any different from all of the myriad other ways we learn to use our bodies?


Thanks to Elizabeth J. K. Erickson for sharing her experience on LittleOwlCrunchyMomma. Elizabeth is a musician and mom in Northern California. Visit her at or follow along on Facebook.

(If you would like to share your thoughts on EC in this series please message me through Facebook.)

1 comment:

  1. As a man who is a third generation breeder of a large breed of dogs it's been my observation that even a perfectly housebroken puppy of my preferred breed will have accidents, again, at the five and seven month stage. The accidents don't last longer than a day or two and have nothing to do with want of making it to the door to do their business in the kennel yard: It's just a matter of that particular growth spurt leading to their bladder growth not corresponding with their body growth (They can't feel the need to pee until seconds too late.).
    I can't imagine human pups being much different?


Comments make me oh so happy! Feel free to comment away. I'd love to hear what's on your mind