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Toilet Training Before Verbal Skill Development

For some families, toilet training comes early.

The stinky perils of diapers and potty training are something that we usually accept is part of raising a child.

But a movement of dedicated parents is starting to skip that step, learning to interpret the signals that their child has to poop or pee as early as a few months old, and ditching the diapers in the process. Known as Elimination Communication (EC), it’s not for everyone, to be sure, but its advocates swear by it as a way to communicate and bond with their child, and be more environmentally friendly.

Elimination communication - toilet training before verbal skill developmentLisa Baker has been using EC with her three-year-old daughter Anastasia since she was just a few weeks old. “I started out wanting to use cloth diapers because I wanted to be more environmentally conscious. But I didn’t have my own washer or dryer at the time, so it was a real struggle. I then came across an article that said ‘babies don’t need diapers.’ ”

Intrigued, Lisa began to look for the cues that her baby needed to go. As an infant, this included waking up, not latching on during breastfeeding and flatulence. She also recorded when her daughter usually wet the diaper and noticed patterns.

Lisa would also use techniques such as making a hissing sound to help remind her baby to relieve herself. “It blew my mind that my newborn was communicating with me,” says Lisa. When Lisa read the signals that Anastasia had to go, she held her over the bathroom sink, a plastic container or even the bathtub.

There were lots of false alarms, leaks and laundry along the way, and Lisa did use diapers when they were out, or in the night to avoid getting peed on while they co-slept. By a few months, Anastasia could reliably indicate to her mom and dad when she needed to have a bowel movement. At age two, Anastasia was completely diaper-free.

Lisa says the main difference between EC and regular toilet training – besides that it’s done before your child’s verbal skills begin developing – is that the focus is on the process, rather than the result.

Lisa is now a mentor for the not-for-profit organization, Diaper-Free Baby ( which links mothers around the world who are willing to share their expertise with new moms. The group has members in over 11 countries, including more than 750 in Canada.

Lisa credits EC with helping her become attuned to her daughter’s needs. “Sometimes I am not sure who has to pee, but I know one of us does.”

Interested in EC?

Elimination Communication requires keen observation, lots of time together and laundry detergent. Here are some tips for success:

  • Be patient, not every pee or poop is going to go in the toilet.
  • Use sounds, such as hissing, to help cue the baby to relieve him or herself.
  • Use cloth diapers to begin the process because they are less absorbent than disposable. This way your baby will feel the wetness.
  • Use EC once a day if you are not able to stay at home with your baby. Even a little EC time is worth it.
  • Don’t do EC with your child if you are frustrated or upset. You want to be as calm as possible with your baby.

Published in May, 2011

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