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Elimination Communication vs Potty Training

I practice elimination communication (EC) with my newborn baby and I did it with my first baby who is now a frolicking toddler. For those that are unfamiliar with EC, it is a gentle way of getting baby to elimination (poop or pee) in a potty rather than the diaper. It has many names and happens in many ways. It can start as early as birth, like we did with our children. It’s based on the fundamental beliefs that babies don’t enjoy soiling themselves, have the ability to eliminate upon desire. 

When asked about EC, those that practice it in their families will most likely strongly mention that EC is not the same as potty training. The goal of potty training is to get a walking, talking toddler to eliminate in a potty or toilet rather than a diaper and thereby discontinue the use of diapers. The goal of EC is similar, however the way it is done and the ideas around it are different. 

EC is the same as potty training if you just go with the definition of having baby eliminate in a potty rather than a diaper. EC is even called infant potty training or baby-led potty training by some. However, it is vastly different because of the way modern potty training is conventionally done now.

Potty Training (PT)

  • Baby is left to eliminate in diaper until the day potty training starts

  • Diapers are used as the main way of dealing with eliminations

  • Diapers are changed after soiled

  • PT assumes that babies cannot hold or eliminate upon desire (AKA don’t have any control over their own eliminations)

  • PT assumes that babies cannot communicate their need or desire to eliminate

  • Parents wait for “signs of readiness” such as walking, talking, showing interest

  • Potty training usually is jumped into with a toddler older than age 2

  • Sometimes potty training can start at age 4 or later

  • Programs are available for children to be potty trained in 3 days or less

  • PT can includes rewards like snacks and stickers


  • Babies gradually gain more and more independence until fully potty trained. 

  • Babies begin well before potty training age, even from birth

  • Diapers are used as a back-up 

  • Goal is to guide baby to eliminate in a potty before baby soils the diaper

  • Assumes babies can communicate (albeit non-verbally at first) their need to eliminate

  • Assumes that babies have a level of control over their sphincters and can eliminate or hold upon desire

  • Parents work with baby’s abilities and gradually give them more independence as they develop

  • EC takes time until full “graduation” happens however poops and pees are caught in a potty along the way

  • EC is about meeting baby’s need to eliminate and generally not rewarding behaviour with snacks or stickers

In EC, diapers are usually used as a back-up since babies are still babies, however great success can be had with catching poops and pees. For example, my currently 4-week-old newborn poops about 5 times a day. Most days, 4 of these poops (80%) are caught in the potty. Sometimes we have perfect poopy-diaper-free days. Sometimes we have one poopy diaper. My last baby had regular poopy-diaper-free days at 2 months. 

Obviously, I’m all for EC. I’ve chosen to do this with my babies for the following reasons to name a few:

EC is cleaner. EC means less poop gets all over the private parts. It’s more pleasant for me as the caregiver and baby.

EC is healthier. My first baby never had a single diaper rash. Why? Because I never left him in soiled diapers where moisture and microbials linger. Also, now with a girl, I feel more comfortable doing EC because it reduces the risk of having a urinary tract infection.

Babies can communicate. Babies don’t speak, but they can squirm, give a funny look, fart, fuss, crawl, gesture and show in many ways that they need to go to the potty! Eventually it turns into verbal communication as the toddler learns to speak.

Gradual change. I think it’s a huge change for a toddler to suddenly be expected to eliminate in a potty in a matter of days after eliminating in a diaper their entire little life. Then suddenly, the expectations are changed with conventional potty training. With EC, the expectation has always been the same: eliminate in the potty. But the level of success and help needed changes over time.

Baby development. Babies are able to hold their poop until they feel comfortable enough to release. They are able to pee on command or on cue. They are able to recognize the place and time to pee or poop. I can attest to this 100% with my 2 babies. So if they’re able to do this, why not allow them the empowerment to use these skills and help them where they need help? Why force them to stay in an uncomfortable diaper and soil themselves because they aren’t given the chance to practice these skills?

EC saves money. A ton. If you use disposables, it will save you tons. If you use cloth, it will save you laundry runs. It boggles my mind how much we COULD have spent on disposable diapers if we never practiced EC! 

EC is different from conventional potty training. However, when people ask me about it, I always end up saying “It’s like potty training, except I started from birth.” For me, it’s the easiest way to explain it. However, right after I launch into how different it is from conventional potty training. 

This is a very succinct summary of my views on how EC differs from conventional potty training.

Do you have any other ideas about how they are different?

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