Diaper Training vs Toilet Training

Diaper Training vs Toilet Training


I have an Instagram Feed (@eliminationcommunication) that has the purpose of education and inspiration about elimination communication (EC) which is the practice of taking baby to a potty earlier than conventionally done in toddlerhood. To read more about what EC is and how it compares to conventional potty training, read my other blog post here.

One fellow Canadian mom, Melba, that I follow also has a blog and has been practicing EC with her baby that is now over 6 months old with great success. She’s pretty awesome and has a great blog that you can learn loads on. She refers to her practice at toilet training. She even learned American sign language to encourage early communication with her little girl and signs to her has she poops on the potty! It’s amazing. 

One day, I reposted either a picture or video of her EC in action and somebody commented that she thought the whole thing about EC was that it was NOT toilet training.

This is what I want to rant about here.

Of course EC is not the same as conventional potty training. No, no, a hundred times no! However, this is only because the way potty training is done now is waiting until a certain age or waiting for certain indicators of “readiness” and is founded on the belief that babies CANNOT be potty trained. However, the essence of the words “potty training” mean teaching to use the potty. This is the same as toilet training. However, ECers tend to get triggered by the term “potty training” because there’s so much that is different between EC and the wait-until-they’re-ready potty training. Also, they don’t like the term “training” because it may imply giving rewards for successes or reprimanding misses as is commonly done in conventional potty training and even dog training. Moms that practice EC don’t like comparing what they lovingly to do animal training which can be done so crudely.

However potty training or toilet training from birth is essentially what EC is. It’s educating, guiding, and showing baby that poop and pee goes into the toilet/potty/sink/whatever. It’s a gradual process and it’s done in gentleness, but it IS training. 

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition defines the verb “train” as the following:

“To coach in or accustom to a mode of behavior or performance.”

This is exactly what we’re doing with EC. We want baby to be accustomed to a particular behaviour (pooping in the potty) rather than using a diaper. 

Now EC-practicing parents aren’t the only ones doing the training. ALL parents are training their babies. They’re either toilet/potty training or diaper training. There’s a spectrum of what we are teaching our babies with full-time active EC on one end and complete diaper training on the other. Let me explain.

ECing parents in certain communities never use diapers! They EC from birth using potties and carry their babies almost constantly. They never slap on a diaper with the intent of leaving them in it for a prolonged period of time to catch a pee. Their babies are potty trained very early. Way before they talk or even walk. Through this lifestyle, babies are learning gradually all day and all night long about where to eliminate and never have the opportunity to get used to or comfortable with a diaper. This is at one end of the spectrum.

On the other end of the spectrum is diaper training. This is when a newborn baby, up until the time they are conventionally potty trained (for every parent wants their child to eventually potty train) is left almost constantly in a diaper. Day and night. They have few moments when they don’t have a diaper on which is usually between diaper changes and bath time. Parents change their diapers after the diapers have been sufficiently soiled to their individual threshold for soiledness. So baby is constantly learning that they must eliminate in their diaper to receive a clean one. These babies are not given opportunities to use the potty or may never even be exposed to the idea that they should eliminate anywhere else but the diaper. Thus they become diaper trained and may show resistance to the potty when their parents decide it is time for them to stop using diapers. Measures such as snack rewards or shaming can be used to try to quicken the process of potty training which is contrary to what they’ve been trained to do by their own parents for their entire short little lives before potty training. Often, toddlers are left completely diaper free and naked from the waist down to not allow them to eliminate into a diaper as they are accustomed to.

Most modern western ECers actually do something in between diaperless EC and diaper training while being more on the EC side. They offer the potty and try to communicate with their babes to show how to use the potty. However they use diapers (usually cloth diapers) as a backup instead of having them naked or normally dressed until they have enough success to put their babies into underwear. Modern ECers have homes, carpets, sofas, and beds that they don’t want soiled and thus turn to their diaper backups in between potty offers. So baby learns about the potty, but still has opportunities to experience eliminating in a diaper and being changed. With a fast-based, individualistic society, this is what parents do in between other children, car trips, cooking, cleaning, entertaining, school runs, and grocery shopping. Babies are still being toilet trained, but less intensely.

Further along the spectrum are parents that EC their babies part-time such as only in the daytime. Or only in their presence and not at a daycare. Or only for poops. Or only on the weekends. Or only after naps and wake-ups. Or even only after they’ve reached a certain age like 5 months and can hold their head up easily.

I share all this to say that all parents are either potty training or diaper training their children to a certain extent. And that it’s not a black-and-white matter, but rather a spectrum depending on how each family lives their lifestyle. Most families that do not do EC or haven’t heard of it practice full-time diaper training until toddlerhood. Within EC, there is a huge range of what ECers do. 

I rant about this because many gentle parents (I consider myself a gentle parent as I breastfeed, bedshare, and babywear a lot) see EC as cruel, stressful, and especially pressure-inducing for a baby without realizing that they are ALSO training their baby. Training their baby to use a diaper. And I’d like to go further to dare to say that diaper training goes AGAINST a baby’s natural instinct to be clean and eliminate when undressed. ECing parents can often feel strange and judged. They can feel afraid to share what they do because they’ll be seen as… hmm.. INSANE and unreasonable. I have felt this way. In person, I don’t have a problem sharing about EC with anybody I meet. However, in the vicious online communities of mommies waiting for some prey to pounce on with their ideology, I find myself withholding the fact that I EC my baby for fear of receiving judgement. Sometimes I do share it, but always with lots of padding of explanations of how I do it GENTLY. However, diaper training parents, the majority by a landslide here in North America, don’t face the same challenges normally unless they potty train super late although they are, in fact, actively training their babies to use diapers, possibly even unbeknownst to them.

So that’s that. My thoughts on potty/toilet training and diaper training. What do you think? Are you an ECer and if so, have you received some judgement for “training” your baby? Does the term “training” bother you? Are you somewhere in between EC and diaper training? Let me know in the comments!

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