Nappyfree, Parenting

Elimination communication is stress free potty training

23 April, 2015

Let me bend your ear for a few hundred words about how Elimination Communication sounds quite fierce but is truly one of the most gentle potty training methods out there.

We have done elimination communication for over five years now and this week something momentous happened. I packed up our cloth nappies and gave them away. Oh, how I relished that. I was like “LATER LOSERS!” Actually, I hope never to clap mine eyes on them ever again. I don’t hate our cloth nappies, in fact they have been IDEAL for what we have done with our little ones…. but they seem to be everywhere I look at all times, in the laundry, on the line, in piles. And we barely use them at all! The reason is that we have opted for no nappies, most of the time.

I also experienced that special sigh of relief reserved for parents whose child has become toilet trained. This realisation has come slowly over the last couple of months.Just last week my husband said “Hey, Juno’s pretty much potty trained now, eh?”  Ah. Yes, yes, she is. In fact, we were along time noticing properly (or wanting to say the words aloud) sine around 21 months she was getting her wees and poos on target the majority of the time.

See, we have been practicing the most gentle, stress-free, quiet way to potty train ever: Nappy Free – ness. Hmm. Nappy Free -dom. Or just… Nappy- Free babies. It truly is attachment parenting potty training, beginning from newborn, if you like. Read our new born elimination communication story here and our three month old baby elimination communication story here. Elimination communication is stress free potty training!

I don’t even really know what you mean by Nappy-Free. It sounds kinda dangerous
If you think “Nappy-free” sounds dangerous try “elimination communication” HA! That sounds like we are raising talkative assassins. The best term for this kind of potty-training is “Born Ready” – I love it as it captures the fundamental belief that no living thing wants to lay a cable on themselves.

We witnessed this first hand when we tried to save a baby bird, fallen from the tree. It was a tiny, weeny speck of a thing, but even so after it had munched on a quarter of a teaspoon’s glob of food it would shuffle over, put its butt over the edge of the nest we had made for it, and squirt out a Number Two. Our children are born communicating with us about all of their needs- their need for touch, food, and their need to release their bladder. They will shuffle and squirm and squark, and if we respond they continue to communicate about it long after you’ve packed up the cloth nappies- until they are grown ups! (If they are anything like me, that is, for I do love a good poo story.)

How is Nappy Free gentle potty training?
People who practice Nappy Free just accept that regular visits to the loo/ holds over the potty are a part of everyday life. There is no song or dance to be made of it. It is something as common as drinking or eating. There are no bribes or reward charts, no punishments for accidents or shaming. This shaming thing is something I see all the time (no judgement, I know it can be frustrating when our children pee their pants and you’ve run out of spares and it was in a neighbour’s house and it was already a rubbish day) – an almost accepted part of teaching our children that weeing in their pants isn’t acceptable. Mu understanding of the culture within Nappy Free families is an unconditional style of parenting – no shame allowed, ever. Nappy Free families just do trips to the loo when it seems needed and don’t make a fuss when the wires of communication are a bit tangled and a poo ends up in a shoe. Families take it at the child’s own pace, listening to them and helping them until they are ready to be entirely toilet-independant.

It could be more respectful
Elimination communication is stress free, gentle potty training however I think it could be even even more respectful. It is common practice with Nappy-Free world to simply feel “in tune” with a baby and whip off their pants and urge them on if we are sure they need to go. I don’t think this is right. I think we need to potty our children with the utmost care and respectful touch and we need to allow a lot more space for consent. I think Nappy Free families could aim to always ask their babies, even newborns, if we can help them go, and if they clearly show they don’t want to we should leave them be- even if that ends up as wet pants. We need to prioritise them receiving the knowledge that they, not us, are the boss’s of their own body.

Is Nappy Free for everyone?
I’m not in the business of telling people what to do. I like to share stories of what we do but I believe each family needs to weigh things up and consider their family’s own delicate dance of needs and then decide! I do think there are principles of nappy free that will make for a much, much less stressful potty training for everyone. Things such as acknowledging when a baby is clearly doing a number – keep up the communication, respectfully. Don’t let them forget what it feels like to relieve themselves.  (It seems to be the case that children can lose the sensation.)  Give children a go when it seems like they want to but need some help. Model toilet use. Be child led. Avoid forcing and coercive tactics.

Take it off
But how does one begin such a thing! You know what they say: a journey of a thousand poos begins with one poo. Begin that journey today! It can begin with Day 1 for a newborn or with toddlers even. I have written a whole post on how to get started with elimination communication, but here are a few tips:

  • Give your baby a go on the loo whenever you go. You modelling toilet use is the number one way they’ll pick it up!
  • This also makes a bit of a regular rhythm, and you will soon pick up their rhythm.
  • Create little points in the day that they can become used to going – before meals, after meals, before the car, after the car, before the buggy/wrap one getting out of the buggy/wrap.
  • Create a little sign that you begin doing whenever you talk about the potty.
  • Have potties lying around the house – sometimes the sign is them patting or going to the potty.
  • Thumbs up for “tree wees” – it is my experience that it is very natural for kids to wee outside. It might feel like an accident, but they might have gone outside just to wee!
  • Don’t get too into it. Hehe. Just relax. You’ll have heaps of us and downs, really awesome in-sync days and them days where teething pain interrupts the brain-bladder signalling and, well, you know: wee. Spend loads of time outside where misses don’t count.
  • Put nappies on if it helps you relax in between. We always had nappies on hand for when we were at someone elses house as we dodn’t want to be super stressing about getting wee on someone elses carpet. You’d think this would make for mix messages but it didn’t seem to. Both our girls were fine with or without nappies.

Do check out my friend Jenn’s new online classes, of Born Ready. The Born Ready website was basically my homepage when I first got into this!  She is the absolute GURU of nappy free and offers loads and loads of advice.  She also sells flaparaps– the perfect nappy/pants inbetweener for babies.

Real Nappies and Nappy-Free are mates
It is Real Nappy week this week and I wanted to take a moment to encourage all the cloth-bummed baby mammas and pappas to consider this gentle form of potty training. I know you, you and your gorgeous stash of nappy covers in every crazy pattern, your ever-so-slight addiction to animal print cloth nappies. Real Nappy lovers and Nappy-free lovers are cut from the same cloth – we care for our babies bums and our earth. And we are not afraid of poo.

Go for it, go on. Take it off and liberate your baby’s butt! Nappy Free = Stress Free Potty Training.

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!

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  • Eline @ Pasta & Patchwork 23 April, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    This post makes me want to cheer, it really does! I was petrified of potty-training because it’s made out to be a super-stressful things that HAS to be cracked in a week, until I read your poo in a shoe post and had a lightbulb moment. The Bean was 15 months at the time, and we just started doing exactly what you describe: bare bottom at home, potty when he felt like it, nappies when we couldn’t deal with any messes easily. By 24 months we were done and dusted with nappies and I feel like it was the easiest, most stress-free thing ever.
    The only thing we still haven’t got sussed is nappy-free nights – the Bean weed in bed one point and got so upset at the sensation of a wet bed (and at being woken up!) that he now asks for a nappy before bed. I’m okay with this as it’s his choice and I’m sure he will switch to pants at night when he’s ready, but I wondered how you’re faring at night with Juno? Is there anything we could encourage him to do that might make the switch easier?

    • Lucy 23 April, 2015 at 8:24 pm

      Oh, how flipping awesome to hear! I so felt this would be magical for older children too! *HIGH FIVES* Well… the weeing at night thing does very much seem to be related to the release – or not- of a hormone… some kids get it early (ours since months old were dry at night) and others not till really really late – like even seven, eight, nine. If he is happy for a night time nappy then go with the flow – but do reckon that any crying out or squriming at night could be his sleepy signal that he needs to go for a wee. Seems like you are on to it though!

      • Eline @ Pasta & Patchwork 23 April, 2015 at 9:08 pm

        Thanks Lucy, that’s really interesting! He does seem to have set times at which he semi-wakes and cries out for me. It never occurred to me this might be a sign he needs to go, but I think it could well be. If he’s okay with it I’ll try to put him on the potty then, if not I think I’ll just wait until he’s happy to lose the nappy himself.

  • libi 23 April, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    Thanks to your blog we always knew we would EC although Im only now ‘coming out’ to people. I found it so hard at first – feeling like I was failing or something. Then I met another ECer and she really helped me relax.

    We do use nappies most of the time but hover over the potty at each change. Recently we’ve had more and more days where one nappy wil last a whole morning and we catch lots of pees and then I will tell someone that arlo has done every poo in the potty for weeks and he will immediately fill his nappy. Ha haha haha.

    I’m trying much harder to be respectful with nappy changes as well. It’s hard sometimes but the more I disconnect with ideas of success and failure the easier that becomes. Also, at 8 months I feel like arlo is far more involved in pottying. He loves watching his wee come out (soooooo cute!) And if he doesn’t need to go he will squirm and cry so I’m learning to respect that – and deal with the occasional changing mat flood when he changes his mind seconds later.
    My sister gave me the Gina Ford (gag) potty training book and it gave me and my partner hours of entertainment and outrage. I know she has to sell a magic system ” to sell her books but talk about setting parents up for failure. She claims if you can’t “train” in a week then you did it “wrong”. Yeah because its parents and kids who suck. Not the crazy lady who wants to treat you to treat your kids like subhuman beings to be trained like a dog.
    Thank you so much for introducing us to EC. I love knowing my boy spends far less time sitting in his own wee than he might otherwise have.

  • Anna 25 April, 2015 at 9:07 am

    I think you are all so brave and commendable for choosing to do EC. I love the concept, but I just didn’t have the nerve – never mind convincing my OH! Our little girl is in nappies and getting to the age where we are thinking of moving on. Similarly to pp, somebody gave us the gina ford book *also gags* but I’m just waiting for warmer days so we can just hang around nappy free in the garden and not get all stressed about it. x

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