What Is Elimination Communication?
Elimination communication is a form of potty training in which a child is given the opportunity to potty based on his or her natural timing. A child’s need to go is determined by signals, such as sudden crying, sudden stillness, or grunting. Opportunities to potty are accompanied by “cues” from the caregiver, such as making a “pss pss” sound. The goal of elimination communication is to develop a strong relationship of communication between child and caregiver, with the caregiver learning when a child has to potty and the child learning when it is time to eliminate.
What Are the Benefits?
Children are fully potty trained much earlier using elimination communication, rather than a dependence on diapers, often in under two years, occasionally even before their first birthday. An early mastery of potty training eliminates the stress of having a mobile child who needs to be frequently changed, as well as helping families to save money on, and the environment from, disposable diapers.
What Are the Challenges?
Elimination communication is time intensive and requires consistency. A child’s signals can be difficult to read, and some children hardly signal at all. Even if signalling is obvious and consistent at first, any sort of life change — be it starting day care, learning to crawl, or transitioning to baby food — can disrupt or change a child’s signalling. Children often go through “potty pauses,” where they simply stop cooperating. Patience and determination are crucial for elimination communication to be successful.
What Does Elimination Communication Look Like (in Theory)?
It is common practice when first starting elimination communication to have a period of naked observation time. This involves observing an undiapered baby for a few hours to see what signals, if any, he or she makes before eliminating. These will be the signals the caregiver looks for in the future.
When a baby is dressed or wearing a diaper as a backup and a signal is noticed, the baby is given the opportunity to potty, either by being held over a sink or a toilet or being placed on an infant/toddler potty. The caregiver then cues the child to eliminate.
Once a child is old enough to place him or herself on a potty independently, the caregiver should be able to cue based on natural timing or signals, and the child should relieve him or herself, thus transitioning out of diapers at a very early age.
What Does Elimination Communication Look Like (in Reality)?
I learned early on that I was terrible at reading my daughter’s signals. I thought everything was a signal and quickly became frustrated at how often I took her to go potty but got nothing. So instead of relying on signals, I started taking her every 20 minutes, since this is how often a newborn urinates on average. As one can imagine, this quickly grew tiresome. Instead, I started taking her roughly every hour, as well as at key times, such as upon waking from a nap or exiting a car seat. I had much better luck with this method. On our best day so far, she went potty on demand seven times.
My daughter is 7 months old now, and we’re on a potty pause. She absolutely hates getting her diaper changed, and no matter how frequently I take her to go potty, she will hold it. But she is just about to start crawling, and it is common for potty pauses to happen in transitional stages. I currently take her to go potty about every three hours, and I still try to catch poo when I hear her grunting.
Should You Try Elimination Communication?
Any infant/toddler/child still in diapers can try elimination communication — it’s never too late! The go-to resource on learning how to begin (and purchasing any needed accessories) is Andrea Olson’s website, godiaperfree.com. Any caregiver who wants to be done with diapers should consider giving elimination communication a try!
By Dalana Quintana