EC (Elimination Communication) Update

LeoneOnThePottyI haven’t written much lately about our adventures in Elimination Communication (EC), probably because all the travel Leone and I have been doing, the polemical issues in the news, and the joy of cloth diapering have sidetracked me. But we’ve been continuing to do EC with Leone, which we started when she was about seven weeks old.

“I wish I had known how much time it saved with my oldest,” my friend Shannon said the other day. “It just seemed like too much trouble. But then when we started doing it with our second, I realized it actually saved us time.”

What is EC? If you’ve been checking in on the blog or if you read this month’s Mothering magazine, you already know that Elimination Communication is when parents respond to a baby’s innate signals about when they need to pee or poop. You “catch” the pee or poop in a potty or chamber pot and you simultaneously make a sound (a cueing sound) so the baby starts to associate eliminating with the sound that you make every time she goes.

How Does EC Save Time? If you get in the habit of offering your baby a “Pottytunity” (I love that word, coined, I think, by my friend and colleague, Christine Gross-Loh, who wrote the article in this month’s Mothering and who has EC’ed all four of her children!) after diaper changes, before baths, and any time he or she would be diaperless, you’ll be changing many fewer diapers in no time at all.

Since you have to take the time to change them anyway, it makes sense to give them a chance to pee or poop without a diaper on.

You’ll also be especially surprised to realize that the baby will often wake up dry from naps. You save money by not needing as many diapers (if you’re using spousies) and time and money by not needing to wash as many cloth diapers (if you’re using cloth).

So How Has it Been Going with Baby Leone? Baby Leone is six and a half months old. She babbles and talks all the time now, she sits up and plays with toys, she can move herself backwards in a crawl-like way but not forwards, and she has started waving. It’s more of a hand up and then flopped down than a wave but it’s a wave.

She’s sturdy enough now that she can sit by herself on our little green Baby Bjorn potty, which she loves. The problem is that I can’t ever cue her when she’s on it and going pee because I have no idea that she’s actually peeing. But I’d say 9 times out of 10 she goes when she’s on the potty so I think she has been starting to associate the potty with peeing.

Our EC adventures are anything but consistent. Sometimes I catch all the morning pees (I find this hard to do as Leone, like most babies, pees copiously and often in the morning) and sometimes I change a lot of diapers and miss all of her signals until after she has already gone. This morning, unlike yesterday, she did all of her pee on the potty.

She also did a poop in the chamber pot. She started having little farts right before I thought she was going to take a nap. She got very still, like she does when she has to pee or poop, and seemed to be paying attention to her own internal signals. On a hunch I held her over the chamber pot. She did a huge poop, gave me a toothy joyful smile, and then finally conked out. She’s sleeping on my back as I write this post.

Last night she did not wet a single diaper. She fidgets and bicycles her legs when she needs to pee and she’s asleep. Each time she did that, I woke up and held her to my breast with her tush over the chamber pot. She peed in it without waking up, nursed a bit without enthusiasm, and settled down to sleep.

I definitely don’t have the nighttime EC’ing thing down but last night was an exception. I’ve heard from dozens of EC’ing parents that their babies tend to stay dry at night very early on. Leone has gone seven hours without wetting a diaper at night. But then the next night she’ll be peeing every hour. The only constant with babies is change.

A Word of Caution: We’ve several times knocked over a full chamber pot in the middle of the night. Either I trip over it on the way to the bathroom or Etani comes barreling in the room in the morning and kicks it by mistake. This. Does. Not. Make. Mommy. Happy. There was another unfortunate chamber pot incident when Hesperus was watching the baby and brought her to me in my office to nurse. I told her to grab the chamber pot. She did but did not empty out the contents, which ended up all over me and my office couch. There’s nothing like cold pee to put a writer on deadline into a seriously bad mood. Poor Hesperus, who noticed the pot was full but didn’t think to empty it, got an earful that time.

“EC is messier than some people make it out to be,” one reader emailed me. I think that’s true. I don’t think you can do full-time EC if you’re uptight about getting baby pee on the floor or on your clothes, but you can still do it very successfully part-time.

Interested in a dad’s point of view about EC? James just wrote this short blog post (and used the same picture, unbeknownst to me) on our Baby Bonding Book For Dads blog.

Now please pardon me while I go clean the poop out of the chamber pot.

If you did EC with your children or are doing it now, do you have any words of wisdom or practical advice to share? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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37 thoughts on “EC (Elimination Communication) Update”

  1. Great work, as always, Jennifer!

    I think it’s awesome that you’re so committed to EC — you’re ten times the mother I am! After four kids, including one still in diapers, the keenest insight I seem to have is: “Beware the child suddenly hiding behind the drapes, for he/she is surely about to poop.”

    Beyond that, my greatest potty-related triumphs seem to be FINALLY getting my 8-year-old son to stop peeing “near” the toilet, and getting 2-year-old Elie to refrain from pooping in the tub. If only they gave out medals for this stuff…


    Leone is a doll, by the way! As one of my writer friends once put it about another baby, “She looks like an edible pixie.”

  2. I find this simply amazing! That a baby 6.5 months old can stay dry all night!!!! Of course, Leone looks like on very happy baby, a baby who could do anything. It must be wonderful for her to be able to release that poop without having to endure the old, “load in the diapers”.

    Good job, Leone, in getting a Mom who will work with EC.

  3. Today I was nursing my diaper-less 4 1/2 month old, (we usually use diapers, but also experiment with diaper-free time), while trying to work in my home office. This definitely does not qualify as paying attention to EC signals! Of course I ended up with pee all over my office chair.

    Hurray to Leone for the dry night!

  4. She is super cute! We used to have a little potty like that for Jake and we encouraged and experimented with EC, although we weren’t very consistent. Still, he potty learned early.
    .-= Lauren Ware´s last blog ..Hello world! =-.

  5. jennifer,

    Aside from the obvious benefits of EC, I think this might prove to be an early stage exercise in learning commitment and responsibility. Just a thought. Whatever. It is amazing.

  6. I was in China last month and saw the little outfits that they use for EC and saw a few babies just pooping and peeing all over with no care and realized that I think we are kind of hung up in the US about our “Business”. LOL.

    Thank you for this honest article about EC and for admitting how messy it is sometimes.

  7. Jennifer, it’s great to read your update! Since my Anna is just a little older than yours it’s always fun for me to hear how Leone is doing.

    For nighttime, have you considered putting a potty (I’m not sure what kind of chamber pot you’re using, but a Baby Bjorn potty should not tip over easily – it can, however, slide across the floor and pee can splash out of it if you accidentally kick it in the middle of the night) on top of something that is skid proof? A rubber mat or even upon a towel, which is not skid proof but would soak up any spills. Another trick some people do is to put a washcloth or some bit of cloth inside the potty to soak up nighttime pees. This does though make it hard to tell if your baby has peed.

    I guess the only other thought I have is that I often empty a potty right after the baby has used it. Most pees go directly in the toilet, though.

    Oh, and by the way, I didn’t coin the word pottytunity!
    .-= Christine at Origami Mommy´s last blog ..Happy May Day =-.

  8. Jennifer –

    This is the most practical and honest article I’ve read about EC. We didn’t try it, but I did read about it and consider it. Honestly, I just didn’t think I could be consistent about it and didn’t know that a person could go about it “part-time.” I might’ve done things differently if I’d known about that.

    I agree with Alma that we are quite uptight about our “business,” but….I must admit that I am, too. Having to deal with the messiness factor of EC would not be a good fit for my temperament.

    Great reading, though. I look forward to updates (and yes, Leone is freakin’ adorable!)
    .-= Codi´s last blog ..Aaaaand

  9. Thanks for the update! I enjoy hearing about other babies close in age to my daughter. Love the pictures!

    I can totally see how going diaperless would be messy. For us, doing part-time EC has been much easier and far less messy. It’s so much quicker to rinse out the potty than to carefully wipe all baby’s creases and folds, then soak the poopy diaper. I’m spoiled- I only have to deal with occasional wet diapers, and I’m fine with that! We’re somewhere between full-time ECing with diapers as backup and part-time ECing, but it’s a realistic compromise that works for us :)
    .-= Mama Em´s last blog ..Drop-Side Cribs Legislation =-.

  10. When my girls were babies, I was too intimidated to try EC. I’m glad there is such a plethora of information nowadays.

  11. I am about to start the whole diapering journey all over again with the birth of boy #2 and have been considering trying EC, along with our cloth diapers. I think I’ll be a little to casual about it for it to be fully effective, but maybe we can “catch” a few pees and save some laundry.

    And yes, that is one cute baby!
    .-= Nicole J.´s last blog ..GIVE AWAY ALERT! Etsy is a Green Mama’s Best Friend =-.

  12. This was so amazing being a 44 mother of a 9 and 8 year old – I did not even know this was out there. I wish I would have doen this with my children- dry all night – love that.

    Jennifer can not wait to here more and get the offical date that she is out of diapers.

  13. Christine, thanks for the suggestion. The only way Baby Leone will pee at night is if I nurse her with her tush over a bowl. She won’t go in any other position (she gets mad and screams if I try) so the little chamber pot actually works well. It does have some skid proofing on the bottom. It’s actually a plastic mixing bowl I bought for a dollar. It’s just when my six-year-old comes rushing in in the morning that the accidents happen…

    Who DID coin the term potty-tunity? It’s such a great word. This afternoon I had to drop off a contract with an editor on the campus of the college that is five blocks from our house. Leone came with me. Afterwards I offered her a pottytunity: I sat on the bench, peeled off all her layers (it’s been cold here) and she very obligingly and happily peed in the grass. EC continues to amaze me, as does my baby girl.

  14. Im glad to see so many people interested in EC!!! little baby Phoenix (5.5 months) has been doing well with it, we just bought her first little bjorn potty which is pretty much the best purchase I have made as a mom, and she is taking to it like a champ :) however it has made me exceptionally lazy because I no longer need to stop what Im doing, get up, grab her and run like hell to the nearest toilet every time she has to go…Another recent acheivement for her is that she has been verbally cueing me so although there are still times that Im distracted and recieve a special present in my lap our EC endeavors continue to delight and enchant me and keep getting easier almost weekly! Thats what I call rewarding

  15. We’re ECing our second child. (Our son was potty trained by 18 months after ECing from birth). She’s 7 1/2 months old. Some days I can go to town and pee her in public bathrooms and put the same dry diaper back on her multiple times. She does pretty well with pooping in the potty too. It’s really more a matter of us paying enough attention to her signals. If I’m busy with my 3 year old, I often miss the opportunity to pee her. It’s pretty easy to catch morning pees and the ones right after nursing. Right after she wakes up from a nap is also a good time, as long as she’s not too sleepy. I like the idea of holding her over the potty while holding her to the breast when she’s tired or sleeping.

    I love using split crotch pants and a prefold cover at home, or a prefold belt. carries these EC products. They make changing wet diapers really fast and make giving potty opportunities so much easier b/c you don’t have to remove all those clothes. Naked time hasn’t been a real option in our cold house this winter and spring.

  16. I did EC with my oldest son who is now 2 and a half starting when he was six weeks old. He was so regular that I didn’t have to change a poopy diaper EVER until he began crawling and became disinterested in sitting on the potty– everything else he could crawl to was too interesting. So I thought it was so much cleaner than spraying out poopy cloth diapers. He learned to pee on cue at about 2 months old (if I remember right). All of this ECing was so nice… but once he started crawling everything changed and he still now at two and a half is not potty trained! It could be that we had to switch to using disposable diapers because in our humid climate he would get a heat/sweat rash. … but I am really not sure if the early ECing made any difference except to make my life easier with not having to wash poopy diapers and fewer pee diapers.

    Now with my second child, we did not EC at all and he is showing a little bit of interest for peeing and pooping on the potty. For me, life was just too overwhelming with two babies fifteen months apart, so ECing was out of the question because it does take time to notice body cues and time to stop everything and sit the little butt on the potty. I love the idea of EC, but it just didn’t seem to make a difference for us in the long run. That’s just my opinion for my family only, so I cheer anyone on who wants to do it.

  17. I think going part-time is a great way to ease into EC – I’ve done it on and off many, many times with three of my four children. In fact, I think the rhythm of EC changes for us every day depending on what is going on in all our lives, and that’s the beauty of it for me – its flexibility.

    Like you, Mama Em, I have used cloth diaper backup use, so honestly (and just as you say), most of the mess for me would occur in diapers, not in potties!

    I do think that some cloth diapers are too bulky to comfortably get on and off easily for quick pottying, and quick pottying makes EC easier, so for us now, using underwear or regular training pants (along with a stretchy pull on wool cover if I want to avoid leakage but also want to remain aware about any misses right away) are more conducive to EC. The wool covers I’ve been using are by Loveybums ( and Continuum Family also sells pull-on wool covers too which are nice and thin.(

  18. I have a 4 month old son. We’re going to try EC. I had him diaper free today in an effort to pay better attention to his pre-potty cues. I thought I had missed his post-nap potty when he peed all over the floor. Still, one less diaper to wash (and wood floors are easy to wipe up).

    I’m waiting for Gross-Loh’s book to arrive (it’s in the mail!) before we go full time. I’m excited about the opportunity to learn more about my son. I think there will be lots of pee on the floor in the process, but that’s okay. All in good fun with good intentions, right?
    .-= heather´s last blog ..naughtier than I thought….or not =-.

  19. I did EC with my older son (now 5) and now again with my 6 month old. I love to be able to catch the poops because it is so much easier now that he is eating solids and poops need to be rinsed from the diapers. My first son had a lapse in EC when he became more mobile and didn’t want to sit on the potty and wasn’t totally potty trained until age 3, but I also had no cooperation from his dad (we went through a divorce during our son’s second year). This time I feel that my experience makes me more able to catch the signals plus I have a more cooperative partner this time which I think makes a huge difference.

    My 6 month old loves to sit on the potty now that it is getting hot out and he is also starting to make the cue sound sometimes when he sits on the potty which means he is associating! For a cue sound I do the “pssss” and I also do a pat the groin hand signal.

    We have much of the same experiences- some days we are “on” and catch 80-90% of elimination in the potty and some days we only catch 30-40%, but it seems to depend on a lot of things- how busy we are, how much sleep I got…

    With my son he arches his back and starts grunting a lot when he has to pee and gets quiet and starts grunting while staring off in the distance when he starts to poop. He is starting to hold his poop when I say “lets get you to the potty” and immediately take him! Its wonderful. And he always gets this special proud smile on his face after he uses the potty- it seems to be a huge “thank you mommy for keeping me comfortable” <3

  20. I highly recommend the covers you can get for the baby bjorn potties. A cold potty in the morning might discourage them. :)

  21. I part time EC’ed my daughter starting at 6 months and she has been diaperless since 22 months. I probably changed 10 poopy diapers since she was 6 months old!!!

    It is great as she feels comfortable to go to the bathroom anywhere – held on the side of the road, held over a public toilet rather than sitting on it :)

    One tip I can share is that I found wrapping an old recieving blanket over the toilet seat was great to provide comfort, rather than sitting her on the cold seat – nobody likes that!

    Using the sign lauguage sign was helpful as well – once she started signing to me when she needed to go it was great!

    Good luck everyone and have fun!!!

  22. Kris, we make a “PSSS” cueing sound (sort of like the sound of peeing) and I usually also say “pee-pee!” When I think she needs to poop, I make a sort of soft grunting noise. My older kids get in on the action and make noisy grunting sounds, which is kind of funny. But I suddenly had a dreadful thought that Leone might start copying that noise and I’m not sure I want her to start sounding like Sloth Fratelli from “The Goonies,” if you see what I mean…

  23. Hi! Am exploring/researching EC’ing and thinking about trying with my 6-month old daughter. I can usually tell when she’s going to poop, but have no idea how to tell when she needs to pee! I probably need to do some diaperless days with some blankets on the floors and really watch her I guess.

    I have a few questions:

    1) What is the sign language sign people use?? (We are starting to sign other things as well, would love to incorporate this!)

    2) I will be returning to work when my daughter is a year old, wondering if it’s possible to continue EC’ing when she’s at daycare, or if she would throw a fit having to go in diapers there if she has gotten used to communicating and using a potty at home??

    3) Is there one (or a few) website(s) or book(s) that give a comprehensive and practical look at EC’ing?

    Any advice would be appreciated!

    Thanks so much

    ~ Katherine

  24. Glad to see this! We were “late starter” ec-ers, though our use of coverless cloth in the initial months of dd’s life gave us a bit of an advantage in that dd had not tuned out her body’s signals and we were probably listening in some way, though not actively. We started ec at 6 months, made no progress for a month, but suddenly got going and were mostly diaper-free by 10 months, though we had misses now and then till around 21 or 22 months.

    The support we got via ec forum on was one impt key to our success. If I had to convey one “tip” it would be: it’s not only about catching, but communicating.

  25. I was shocked about how easy and NOT time consuming it is! I have being ECing since my son was 1 month old (now 10months). I didn’t like the cleaning of the potty so we just use the toilet….saves my sanity. I use a pssst pssst sound to get him to go but really I don’t even think I need to do it because most times he knows the position means potty time, and he just goes.

    Anyway my proudest thing is the fact he hasn’t had a poopy diapers for 5 months!!! We use cloth so that is wonderful. During the day when we stay home we use training pants :)

    I really love it.

  26. We used infant potty training (another name for EC) with our third child and much preferred it to traditional delayed toilet training. We finished sooner and needed fewer diapers. That was over 30 years ago, and I can assure any skeptics that there are no side effects :-)) You can read all the basics and lots of testimonials and anthropological & medical reports in Infant Potty Training: A Gentle and Primeval Method Adapted to Modern Living, or watch the Potty Whispering DVD.

    Here’s my page about EC:

  27. I’ve been part time EC-ing my 7 month old son since he was about 2 months. He associates the potty with elimination and has for quite some time.

    Every time we catch a shatner (our word for poop) I sigh with relief… because I don’t have to clean it out of a cloth diaper. He’s recently started solids too, and shatners are now even smellier. I prefer not to deal with them outside the potty.

    Two bits of advice:

    Using cloth diapers increases your awareness of baby’s elimination because he needs more frequent changing.

    You can use an IKEA potty instead of a Baby Bjorn… less expensive, just as effective.

  28. That little Leone is toooo adorable!! And I must admit that EC is a very new concept for me, I think my children are mostly older than you. You are one brave innovative lady!

    My 3 children were potty trained before they were 2 years old, the girls at about 18 months, Matthew at 2.

    I used the BRIBERY method as follows:

    1) never raise your voice or pressure your child, act like it is the most natural thing in the world (it is). Keep your cool at all times.

    2) make a committment to stay around the house for 2 or 3 days and expect lots of accidents.

    3) buy ” big girl” or “big boy” underpants that fit the child ( could be Cinderella, super hero etc.)

    4) put the undies on the child first thing in the morning after some explanation as to what they are to do. Maybe start talking about it a couple days in advance. When they wet these it is not comfortable so don’t change them instantly. Let them stay in the wet ones for a COUPLE minutes only. So what if you have to clean up, it’s only for a few days.

    5) this is huge…get a little toilet seat that fits on top of the big one and sit the child on it for a few minutes. Say quiet, non- threatning things to encourage them to go. Don’t leave them alone or leave them on too long. Let them help you flush even if they didn’t go.Now ask the child about every 45 min. during the day “Susie, do you have to go potty?” If they say no, gently encourage them to “try”or if you sense that they might be ready, get them in there. Give them a little book to look at if you think they have to poop and need some time.

    6) OK, the bribery part. Put a clear jar of one of their favorite little treats in the bathroom. Whenever they try to go or are successful, give them a treat , a VERY SMALL one. My kids got one or two chocolate covered raisins or peanuts each time. The small amount is critical, of course they want more so …

    7) if you have a boy, he can stand in front of the toilet if there is something for him to hold onto. They (both boys & girls) can’t feel afraid so make them comfortable. Tell the boys to “squirt the fish” by tossing little pieces of toilet tissue into the toilet and having them aim for it.

    I really didn’t have any problems, maybe I was just lucky.

  29. Hi,

    I just wanted to chime in on the origin of the term “pottytunity”. The term was coined by Monica Waggoner on the “big EC list” and while she was a DiaperFreeBaby Mentor. She used it frequently around 2004/2005. It caught on after that as more ECers started to use it. When I started as the Communications Manager for DiaperFreeBaby I loved the term and used it frequently, including in media pieces.

    Also, credit for the popular EC term “potty pause” goes to Laurie Boucke.
    .-= Elizabeth Parise´s last blog ..Tales: Jack’s Birth Story- You Better Work! =-.

  30. Leone is just getting cuter and cuter.

    I love reading this series because it dispels so many myths that I personally would have had about this. I would NEVER have been the type of person to try it, but were I going to have another child (not), I would definitely try this now that I’ve read your series.

    As for the messes, eh. We had plenty of those anyway with diapers. And I would assume baby messes are a little smaller than the messes a toddler makes when she pees or poops RIGHT NEXT TO THE POTTY.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..Poll: What should I name this award? =-.

  31. I’m working on EC with my three year old granddaughter. It’s important that my son, daughter-in-law and I all speak the same language to Anais. She’s doing well and proud of it.

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