Of Potty Pauses

We started using elimination communication (EC) with Leone, who’s almost ten months old, when she was just seven weeks old.

I’d never known anyone who had a diaper-free baby or who practiced elimination communication until my friend Lizzy loaned me Ingrid Bauer’s Diaper Free! The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene and told me about some of her friends who successfully raised their children without using diapers.

At the same time, I discovered that the nation’s expert on elimination communication, Christine Gross-Loh (author of The Diaper-Free Baby: The Natural Toilet Training Alternative), was part of an on-line writing group I belonged to.

Sometimes the universe gives you signs.

James and I are converts and we both wonder why we didn’t learn about this sooner, since EC actually saves you time and money and is an amazing way to connect and bond with your baby.

Everything was going along swimmingly. We were “catching” (that’s the lingo) 95 percent of Leone’s poops, washing far fewer diapers, and feeling very much in sync with our baby. We noticed that we were using less water. And since we make our own laundry detergent and have a healthy stash of raggedy diapers from the older kids, we were spending very little money on laundry.

Catching the pees has been a little trickier since for some reason this baby feels very relaxed and happy on my back (which is how I carry her most of the time, in an Ergo Baby carrier) and often doesn’t give any signal when she needs to urinate but just happily goes. Still, we’ve always been able to catch the (often copious) pees first thing in the morning and usually after naps.

Then Leone went through a potty pause. Kind of like a nursing strike, a potty pause is when a baby absolutely does not want to go on the potty.

Leone’s potty pause meant that she would scream as if being stabbed by a thousand knives if you so much as held her in the potty position.

She continued to happily use the potty first thing in the morning but absolutely refused all other pottytunities (I love that word, it means opportunities to go potty).

At issue was the position. She was busy practicing standing. She was busy pulling up on furniture. She did not want to be bothered staying for one single second with her legs cocked being held over the toilet OR sitting for one single second on her little green potty.

After a couple of trying days I realized that Leone would happily stand in the bathtub. Since we can often tell that she needs to pee based on timing, we started putting her in the tub where she would coo and babble and smile and bounce up and down as she hung onto the side and then obligingly go pee, pausing in her bouncing to look curiously at the yellow stream, when she was good and ready. The standing up pottying worked outside as well, as long as I could find something for her to hold onto.

During the potty pause, Leone had no patience for pooping on the potty. And pooping standing up, as you might imagine, doesn’t really work. So for the first time since she was seven weeks old she started pooping about 50 percent of the time in a diaper.

But just as quickly as it started, the potty pause was over. Now she’s very happy to sit on the potty. She almost always looks at me and makes a sort of strained face when she needs to poop. And I can even sit her directly on the toilet sometimes, which always leaves me gleeful.

We still aren’t completely diaper free because if I put her on my back without a diaper, even if she just went pee, she will often pee on me. I don’t really like being peed on…

Still, I heart elimination communication, potty pauses and all.

If you’re practicing elimination communication, have you experienced any potty pauses? How did you deal with them? Please share your experiences in the comment section below.

Related posts:
Athena Catches a Pee (Sort of)
EC Update
In Sync, Out of Sync: A Dry Night

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16 thoughts on “Of Potty Pauses”

  1. Wow. This is really amazing. I think it’s hysterical that she pees when she’s on your back though:) She just must feel so very comfortable with her mommy!

  2. I love this idea! Not one we ever would have thought of when our 12, 10 and 8 years olds were little, and not one I’m sure I could have handled, but we did have LOTS of “free” time, which meant nudie time, which meant a lot of peeing and even some pooping diaper-free. We weren’t in sync and none of it was planned, but a diaper-freee bottom always seems like a good idea!

  3. YES! We too are going through a potty pause. Our son has been going potty since 1 1/2 weeks. Right before he learned to walk he would sit happily on the potty but wouldn’t DO anything. As soon as he learned to walk he picked right back up, probably better than before even. That lasted for about 2 weeks and now we’ve had absolutely nothing on the potty for about 6 weeks. He is talking a lot more and working on his eye teeth. I’m hoping that he gets back to normal soon!

  4. Yes, we had a potty pause. We decided to start solid foods at 8 months. The change in her diet left her constipated at times. I think she associated the pain with the potty and would scream and arch her back when we tried to sit her on the potty. We took a little potty pause and it seems that was all she needed. She is going on the potty again, although not as often as before. It is a work in progress.

  5. Like Kimberly, my diaper days are long gone, but this is just a great concept. To be honest, I was never a great potty trainer. My second daughter gave me such fits my sister came to my house for a weekend and had her peeing and pooping before she left. I’m sure that’s not the ideal vacation plan, but I will always be grateful. I’m not sure if I would have been able to try it when my three were babies. Good for you for doing this, though.
    .-= MyKidsEatSquid´s last blog ..Firefly snack crackers =-.

  6. We aren’t diaper-free but my 14 month old uses the potty first thing in the morning, after nap, and sometimes other times throughout the day if the fancy strikes her. When she first starting waking with dry diapers in the morning, we started her on the potty. I know some children who have been afraid of the flushing sound, so from the very first time we wave and say “bye bye” to the pee or poop. Now she waves or says “bye” when she needs to go. (Not every time of course, but it is so cool to see her learning her own body’s cues.)

  7. I remember the potty pause! Some parents give up when that happens. They need those two books you mentioned. We had B&B guests last week and their six-year-old still wore diapers at night!
    .-= Alexandra´s last blog ..Who Will Be Cape Cod

  8. We haven’t hit our potty pause yet, but I SO appreciate knowing that there will be an end to it! ECing has been a really rewarding experience for me, and I’ve even found other mom friends now who use it with their kids. We’re just starting to have the potty accessible so Tye can crawl to it when she needs to go- hoping this stage works for us. I always appreciate your updates!
    .-= Mama Em´s last blog ..New discoveries every day =-.

  9. This feels awfully validating. There are fewer folks who share the experience of EC, and so there’s less opportunity to hear about the run-of-the-mill trials & tribulations of this kind of potty learning. My partner and I both struggled with a pretty long potty pause in our two year old, and it’s good to hear it happens. Thanks for sharing!

  10. I heard about EC a bit too late to use it with my son, but definitely intend to try it with the next little one!

    My son, however, did still experience a potty pause, refusing (i.e. actively fighting against us) to go doo-doo on the potty. This happened when he was about 2 yrs 4 months and thankfully only lasted for about a week. He is now just over 2 1/2 and I am so ecstatic that he goes pee and doo-doo on the potty on his own!

    As someone else said, I also heard that kids can be scared of the flushing toilet or be upset that we are flushing away their “creation” so I started making it fun to flush away the doo-doo. Saying: “Bye bye doo-doo!” or “Look! It’s going around and around!”

    It’s so amazing to watch him learn to use the potty and figure out when he needs to go, and then to do it on his own without saying a word to us!

  11. I didn’t do the elimination since I had to work, but my daughter has been peeing and pooping on the potty in the mornings since she was 5 months old. She too took a pause for about a 4-5 days. She still did the morning thing, very quickly, and would not stay if I wanted her to, but found, she was done at that moment. I didn’t force her for a few days, I would just ask her if she had to go potty, bring her to the potty and if she sat – Great, if not, we continued with our day. Within a few days, she went back to sitting on the potty without fighting it again. I think they go through phases at that year mark where there are other things to do and also that independence phase kicks in where it needs to be their decision.

  12. Jennifer,

    This is very similar to the sort of potty pause I experienced with my third child. She stood and walked very early (at 9-10 months) and so she wanted to do everything upright, including elimination. (Actually, the boys did too, but I had been already been pottying them standing up so perhaps that helped. Our fourth has a different personality and path altogether from her older sister and we haven’t really experienced this very much so far….).

    Fortunately, from writing the book and having a supportive EC tribe, I knew this was completely normal, and I tried out many different things to help get a catch, such as pottying outdoors, pottying standing catching in a flexible container or an open prefold diaper, and just maintaining awareness by cueing whenever I could. I also feel it’s important to adjust your expectations if you have a potty pause – I know it can feel demoralizing to go from days of straight catches to a pause, but this journey is not completely linear, and this can be quite typical at this age. It’s a manifestation of your baby’s ability to control her own body and her fascination with her growing awareness and independence!
    .-= Christine@Origami Mommy´s last blog ..Gather- pleat- smock- and sew =-.

  13. o gosh, i was going totally crazy during my son’s potty srike… it lasted for about a month when he was 6 months old (which coincides with the time he was crawling) and ther were pees all over the place in the house… but then, i just relaxed, “whipe it out matter of factly” as ingrid bauer would put it. it was just a phase, and it passed. I am so so so happy we have been ECing since birth, now Matteo is 18 months and goes on the potty on his own or asks for the toilet and i can’t even remember the last time there was an accident in the pants (maybe 2 weeks ago ? no idea)… EC is amazin! i just love it!

    yes saying byby caca is a great thig for him…

    o, recently we put the potty in the living room so he can go whenever he wants and it’s not only me offering a pottunity and that works great!

    and sometimes, when it doesn’t work in the potty or toilet, i take him outside, peeing in the garden always work (the cold also helps to eliminate because of the vasoconstriction).

    also, when he doesn’t poop first thing in the morning, i will breastfeed him again 30 min later and offer him to poop, it’s the “buco-colic reflex”= meens that when you get new food in your belly, your body wants to eliminate the old stuff so offering after a breastfeed is ideal.

    keep us posted, i love reading about Leone’s EC story!
    .-= Joanna´s last blog ..Abitibi =-.

  14. Thank you for posting this! My son has been doing EC since he was 2 months old. I never read a book–my in-laws are Indian and this is the way they do it. They taught me. Since about 4 months old he has rarely pooped in his diaper, but all of the sudden, now that he’s 14 months old, he is going on a potty strike and it has been extremely demoralizing for me, and hard to understand, considering he’s not been pooping in his diaper for 10 months now (with very few exceptions). I’ll check out the books, but are there any more ideas on what to do when they go through this kind of strike? He acts extremely angry if I put him in the position over the potty, all of the sudden. This is true, even if he kinda “asks” for it, by coming up to me and making grunting sounds and farting.

    Thanks for your post and encouragement!

    Mary Anne

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