Ten signs your baby needs to go to the toilet

12 October, 2013

We have done elimination communication with both of our children and here are ten signs your baby needs to go to the toilet!

My husband and five month old baby were playing Humpty Dumpty last week. At some point between sitting on the wall and having a great fall Humpty became Trumpy. As we always do upon hearing Juno’s little farts, Tim took her to the potty for a go. As she filled the potty with sweet caramelly goodness she tilted her head to look up at daddy and gave him an enormous smile of relief.

Juno is going to be half a year old in a couple of weeks and we are still in that blissful, pre-distraction, stage of Elimination Communication where nearly everything is going in the potty. When inside the Campervan or someone’s home we do normally keep a nappy on (well, specifically, a cloth nappy outer with an Incontinence Pad inside- an elderly chap we know was chucking a few boxes out and we felt we could put them to good use… They work brilliantly and it has saved us spending our whole trip away in a laundromat washing and drying nappies!) People often assume that parents who do Elimination Communication (nappyfree/ EC) have a mysterious connection with their babies (and also too much time in their hands!) when actually it can be a lot more practical then that. Here are some ways that babies let us know about their potty needs, the point at which we can whisk off that nappy and give them a go:


1 – Trumpet Pants
When I was a teen I used to hoot with laughter when every time we tooted my dad would get all worked up insisting that we go to the loo as if pops = poo. The thing is, with tinies it actually very often does. A little trump can signal an impending wee or poo, as if their insides are relaxing getting ready for a Number.

2- Potty Mouth
When my eldest daughter, Ramona, was about one month old we took a picture of her pursed little mouth, forming a perfect O. We wanted to remember the face she pulled when she did a poo- why on earth we thought it better to take a snap rather than take off her nappy and give her a chance to poo in the loo rather than all over her own bottom I’ll never understand. Fortunately it was only another two months before we discovered EC. It is common for babies to let you know the happenings of their bowels through their facials, either by pulling different expressions or going a bit pink or purple.

3- Ghost Wees
Okay, this one is a little on the mysterious side. Every so often you get this warm, wet patch appear on your lap or wherever baby is sitting and you think you have just had a big wee miss. Quickly you realise it is actually nothing BUT giving a go on the potty after this often results in a wee. Even Juno’s Nana has experienced the strangeness of a Ghost Wee. What is this about? All I can think is that maybe it is to do with the rush of blood to the bottom area that happens when a wee is about to come. Alternatively there are ghouls roaming about whose primary calling in Valhalla is to help parents catch their babies Business.

4- Popping on and off the nipple
The very first sign I knew Juno needed a wee, and the very first wee we ever caught, came just a few hours after her birth when she just kept latching on and off in an unhappy way. We held her over the potty and she did a big wee, latching on straight after and staying on. This signal stays with a baby from newborn to a year old, although by then babies often prefer other ways of communicating.

5- Pat-a-bum
Juno has just begun this one and it is a pretty cute one. When she is lying in her back, when she needs to go, she begins patting the front of her nappy insistently and gleefully. I remember Ramona doing this for quite some time, and I know traditionally potty-trained toddlers also play with their bits when they need to go.

6- Cough, cough, hint, hint
I am writing this post on the train, Tim is sitting with Juno on his lap across from me. I asked him if he felt I had missed any signs and just as I posed the question, Juno coughed. “Oh, of course, coughing!” Tim said “I think I’ll give her a go.” He returned with the most incredulous expression- Juno had just done an enormous wee in the train toilet. Paharhaha…

7- Fidgeting
Even now, as a fully toilet-independent almost three year old Ramona fidgets like mad when she needs to go, performing a wee dance that is sort of reminiscent of a turkey walking. This fidgeting begins as a signal really early, particularly if baby is in a sling. They really don’t want to go in the sling so even as a newborn Juno would arch and wriggle when she needed to go. When lying on her front Juno will often tilt her bottom up into the air as if she doesn’t want to be in a position where she might end up lying in it.

8- Stillness
Conversely, and commonly if baby is lying down somewhere happily playing, you will notice an aura of calm or concentration come over them. Their whole body will still, their eyes will lock and they will go. As if doing their business is serious work indeed and commands all their attention.

9- Grunt and growl
It can be hard work getting your bowels to move all on your own- sometimes babies need a little vocal help much in the same way as some tennis players do as they serve. Grunting and growling often come hand in hand with a poo, becoming increasingly normal as poos solidify. So common is it that some ECing parents use grunting as the “cue” for a poo- employing it as a prompt to help their babies go.

ten signs your baby needs to go to the toilet
10- Waking up
I know, I know, this is not a communication from the baby but it is pretty much a guaranteed wee. We always give a “pottytunity” upon waking.

11- Coming out of the sling
Just like offering the potty upon waking we offer the potty when she comes out of the sling. As an ECing parent you find natural rhythms and patterns to your nappyfree days and this is one of ours. Juno will only wee in the sling after a lot of crying and wriggling so I tend to give her a chance to wee whenever I take her out.

Do you do elimination communication with your baby? What are some of the ways your baby communicates with you about needing to go?

PS Read all my posts on elimination communication:

Beginning Elimination Communication
Ten signs your baby needs to go to the toilet
Elimination Communication with a newborn baby
Elimination communication at three months old
Elimination Communication at one – the highs and lows
Elimination communication at one –  (a poo in a shoe!)
Elimination Communication at 17 months old plus seven elimination communication tips
Elimination Communication is stress free potty training!

ten signs your baby needs to to to the toilet

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  • Circus Queen 13 October, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    Thanks for this! I’m planning to try EC with the new baby so gathering all the info I can and this is really helpful.

    • Lucy 14 October, 2013 at 6:15 pm

      Exciting! It is gonna fly by!

  • Xanthe 13 October, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    Brilliant, as ever. Love ghost wees, weird and wonderful 🙂

    • Lucy 14 October, 2013 at 6:16 pm

      Aren’t they!?

  • Katy Beale 13 October, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    Yes, agree with all of the above!

    Laughing at the stillness one. So true. If a child is still at any age, it usually means they’re up to something! He he.

    I also find my 8 month old Ada goes sort of purple/red in the middle of her forehead – basically her ‘push’ muscles – before she needs to go and also on the potty.

    • Lucy 14 October, 2013 at 6:16 pm

      Ah yes, totally! Juno has this but Ramona didn’t – too cute 🙂

  • Ali 13 October, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    Our boy is 3 months old and we havent gone nappy free. We have, however. used some of your past tips to help us helping decifer the weird demonic growling and grunting that would occur in the middle of the night. We were concerned there was something up – babies dont generally sound like dinosaurs do they? After talking to doctors and a health visitor who could offer no explanations other than ‘some babies just make noises when they poo’ I read your blog and thought ‘Hey, we’ll give a poo-hold a go!’ and hey-presto! It worked a treat, so much so, my partner now calls me the ‘poo whisperer’ (as pet names go it’s better than some!). Every time he starts to get a bit restless and the grunting starts, we hold him up and out pops a poop or trump (he farts like an old man on a diet of sprouts) He’s so much happier and calmer as a result.
    Thank you, a million times, thank you!

    • Lucy 14 October, 2013 at 6:17 pm

      No way! Wow, what an incredible comment, thank you so much for sharing.

  • Thalia Kehoe Rowden 13 October, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    Very helpful for demystifying EC (which we didn’t do but which still fascinates me – maybe another time?). Thanks!

  • Hollie Adams-Hylands 14 October, 2013 at 8:43 am

    Fascinated as ever by this! I kinda meant somewhere between our daughter being 1-14months to give it more of a go. Love to know your thoughts on doing it now? We communicate really well and she understands way more than we thought she would by this tender age. She isn’t a fan of being held in the squat position, if I remember correctly from trying it a few times over the toilet before. Not quite sure of the line between EC and potty training at her age, as obv she’s still a bit wee (pardon the pun) for that.

    • Lucy 14 October, 2013 at 6:19 pm

      I don’t think the hold is that comfy over the toilet as they are kinda dangling, they need their back firmly against your tummy, so sink or small bowl! They can get antsy if they feel insecure.
      I reckon EC can begin any time as it is simply an incredibly gentle way of helping them be toilet independent. All the principles apply I reckon!! Xx

  • Janine 16 October, 2013 at 7:38 am

    We’ve been doing terrible EC-ing with little Zeke (5 months) and I’ll be looking out for these signs! Some I know well, others I hadn’t heard of, like coughing.

    The pull off and on the boob is a classic! Zeke does this only if he is cold, needs to burp, or is wet/needs to go. Fix all 3 of those and we’re golden, no pun intended.

    He’s reaching the age his brother was when we began using the potty consistently so hopefully it works out for lil bro as well.

  • Katy 19 October, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    We call the stillness ‘peeing in a lake face’ because when I was at summer camps where we washed in the lake, you tended to notice that when people were struggling to focus their eyes…just so you could move out of their vicinity!

    We did EC but then hit a big patch where it didn’t work and I got a bit discouraged until my son decided to potty train himself at 2 1/4 and we could skip all the difficulties about how to wee in a toilet and just worry about when.

    • Lucy 20 October, 2013 at 6:41 am

      Hahahahahahah yeah, the old “Ooh, this is a warm bit” lake scenario! Cool x

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