Elimination Communication: should you be embracing nappy-free toilet training?

At Hippychick, we believe that every parent should take the approach to potty training that is best for them and their baby. Elimination Communication won’t suit everyone, but when we heard about this trend, we wanted to find out more about it and let our Hippychick community know what it is so you can decide whether this method is for you!  

What is elimination communication?

So, let’s start with the fundamental question that a lot of you will be asking – what is Elimination Communication? According to Motherlove, Elimination Communication, often shortened to EC, involves learning the times of day and the signals that your baby gives off when they are about to poo or wee, and when you spot these signals, you take them to a toilet or potty. The Bump says that this is a way to help your baby move away from just randomly going to the toilet in their nappy throughout the day. In theory, it eliminates or reduces the need to use nappies whilst practicing this method, because you spot the cues before they then go in their nappy.

To make it easier to track your babies cues, some parents keep a log to help them identify patterns in their baby’s toilets habits.

Child sat on potty with hands up, mother kneeling next to her smiling and a teddy bear on a green potty as they practice elimination communication

How to start Elimination Communication

They say that you can start practicing Elimination Communication right from birth, but this can really be done whenever you feel comfortable starting it. The Nappy Lady says that the earlier you start, the more instinctive it will be for your baby to go on the toilet. But there are no hard and fast rules.

Remember to look out for those cues – some of the typical ones you might see are wriggling and squirming, they might pull a particular face, often known as the ‘poo face’, or they might stop what they’re doing altogether. Every baby is different, and you will tune into your child’s cues.

Katherine Ryan famously practiced this method with all her children and said that she started this once they could listen to a story or look at a book. Once children have awareness of their surroundings, you can guide their instincts towards the potty, rather than a nappy.

And it’s important to note that you don’t have to do this method full-time. You can make it as flexible as you want to, fitting in with your lifestyle. Some parents will do it for every poo or wee, however some will do it only for poos, only for wees or do it only in the morning, afternoon and evening and then rely on nappies during the night or during naps.

Make sure you’re ready with the best potty from day 1, so that you are ready to go as soon as you want to start your Elimination Communication journey. There are so many potties out there and you need to find the one that is right for your baby and your lifestyle. We’d like to give you a helping hand with making that choice. The award-winning Bumbo Step ‘N Potty will help from day 1 right up until potty training is complete. It is a 3-in-1 potty training solution. Start off with the potty, then move to the removable toilet trainer, which sits neatly on your toilet, and it also transforms into a step, making those high up places that bit easier to reach for your little ones.

Little boy sat on a Bumbo Step 'N Potty on a white floor and white background, mum is kneeling next to him

What are the benefits of Elimination Communication?

1. Can speed up the potty training process

Lots of people think that this method speeds up the potty training process as it teaches children from a very young age that they should do their business on the potty or the toilet. Katherine Ryan said that she had potty trained her baby by the time he was 8 months old.

2. Can be a cost-effective and more environmentally friendly solution

By reducing the amount of nappies you burn through, this will significantly reduce the cost of having to go out and buy disposable nappies, as well as the number of nappies that go into landfill. Not to mention the huge environmental benefits.

3. Decreased risk of nappy rash

Your baby will spend less time sitting in their own waste, therefore making it more comfortable for them and reducing the risk of nappy rash.

4. Can help strengthen the bond between you and baby

It will encourage communication between you and your child, helping you to better understand cues for all their needs.

Wendy, from The Nappy Lady, the UK’s leading reusable nappy expert says “Elimination Communication can be an incredibly rewarding journey for you and your child. Don’t worry if you can’t commit to it full time, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Lazy EC is popular with busy families, but even just sitting baby on the potty first thing in the morning can mean catching all the day’s poo for some babies, and any poo caught is less poo to clean up from both nappy and baby! You don’t need lots of equipment for EC. A potty and later on a trainer seat are essential but there are also specialist EC nappies and traditional split trousers to help for extra quick access when it’s potty time.” If you are interested in discovering more about EC, The Nappy Lady offers online EC demonstrations so you can learn how you can make it practically work for your family.

That’s not to say that there aren’t drawbacks of practicing the Elimination Communication method. Firstly, it can feel like a very daunting process and you might find it too overwhelming, particularly if it is your first baby and you are just finding your way in parenthood. It can also be time consuming. When life get’s busy (because let’s face it, time is a premium when you’re parenting), it is far easier to just let your baby go in their nappy. And if you are planning to go back to work, it might be nigh-on impossible to fit this into your routine and your schedule.

Little boy with blonde hair, sat on the Bumbo Toilet Trainer on the toilet

To sum up what we’ve found, Elimination Communication definitely has a lot of pros, however we believe that every parent should choose the method that suits their lifestyles. There is not one hard and fast way to do this, and we need to remember to be kind to ourselves, even if you give it a go and realise it’s not for you, don’t be afraid to go back to your original method.

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