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Starting Elimination Communication
how to start potty training babies

Have you heard your baby grunting just before he does a poo? Do you know that look of quiet concentration on his face? Then you might be doing the first steps of Elimination Communication already without even knowing. It’s true, you infant won’t be able to retain pees or poos for too long yet. BUT by observing him you can figure out when he’s about to go again. That way you can help him to release in a place other than his nappy, keeping him clean and dry.

This is also one of the big differences to regular potty training. With Elimination Communication you teach your child to let go at the right time instead of holding on.

On this page you'll find the steps and answers:
1. Observation
2. Introducing Cue Sound
3. Potty Opportunities
When to start?
Additional Recouces


So, the first step on your journey will be observation. You’ll want to know when your baby will need to go and whether and which signals and signs there are to tell you. Giving your baby some diaper-free time on a waterproof mat is one way to do it. Carrying your baby in a sling a lot lets you become aware of little signals like squirming much easier.

Very typical times for wees and poos are:
  • Shortly after a fed
  • Upon waking
  • More often in the morning, less often in the afternoon

Little babies often show the need with spontaneous signals like:
  • Sudden fuzziness or squirming,
  • Frowning or getting this look of concentration
  • Latching and unlatching while nursing
  • Waking up from a nap or in the night

Older Babies might more or less intentionally use signs like:
  • Pointing or moving towards the potty or toilet place (my 13 month old DD lately brings the potty to me)
  • Coming to you seeking your attention
  • Crawling of the bed or couch
  • Verbalizing the need with a special sound
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Introducing Cue Sound

When you notice your child eliminating while you’re observing, it’s a good idea to introduce a certain cue sound. That can be a watery sound like pss or a little phrase like c’mon. Repeat it whenever you see or hear your baby eliminating.

The aim is, that your baby makes a mental connection between letting go and the sound. This way he’ll almost automatically let go once he hears the sound.

Choose a fairly rare sound though. Otherwise you might end up with “cued” wet pants at times when you really don’t need them.

Cuing can become a really powerful tool. Especially in unfamiliar places (like public toilets) it has the power to help your baby relax and let go. On the other hand, it’s not indispensable in order to do Elimination Communication. My daughter, for example, never got really accustomed to a certain sound. Instead her cue became the position of sitting on the potty.

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Potty Opportunities

Now you know when about your child usually goes and which signs or signals he does beforehand (if any). So next time when you know he needs to go, just take him to the toilet, sink or bring a little bowl or potty to him.

Be careful though if you have a little boy. This little fire hose of his might make it hard to aim. For that reason some parents prefer to use a bucket instead of a potty in the beginning.

After a little bit of practice your intuition might kick in. Suddenly you’ve got the feeling that he might need to go. Maybe your inner clock tells you that it’s been a while since he last went. Or you could feel the urge yourself. Some parents seem to feel familiar warmth spreading through the nappy even though it is still dry.

Don’t ignore those moments. They frequently lead to success. On days when you’re really in sync with your child, thoughts like that might lead you through the whole day. When out of sync you might find only misses.

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When to Start?

Will you have to start with Elimination Communication when your baby is only a few hours or weeks old?

The answer is NO!!!

Of course there are many parents that start very early on. For many others (like me) it might seem like to much work and trouble in those first few weeks.

Now, that I know what to do because I’ve actually done it, I’ll definitely start much earlier than at the 5 months mark. I realized, that it’s not necessary to try to catch every single pee and that my baby won’t need to be almost naked to undress her quickly. I’ve also learned about things that make the EC-life so much easier.

I also learned that Elimination Communication can be a great way to deal with the challenges of those first weeks. Just think about the latching problem. I was so often concerned that my daughter wasn’t feeding properly, just because she needed to do a pee.

There is of course a time when it’s easier to start. The younger the baby is the less likely he’s learned to use the nappy for that sort of urges. By always putting nappies on your baby and not responding to his elimination need, you actually rather diaper-train him.

There is a “window of opportunity” or sensitive period up until about 6 month of age, in which it is easier to introduce the potty. When your baby gets mobile he’ll be busier with other things. Your baby will also understand more and more, that he’s expected to use the nappy. This causes his seemingly not needed senses regarding elimination to fade.

Still, even with your older baby it’s possible and useful to introduce Elimination Communication. All those benefits of EC apply to older babies and toddlers as well. You may just need to have more patience.

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Following you’ll find some tips that help with a late start as well as they help through those common potty pauses:

• Remember the “communication” in Elimination Communication. It’s the more important part. While it’s exciting and rewarding to catch, keep in mind that for your child it’s all about getting his needs met.

• Remember, it’s a learning process for you and your baby. There can be many reasons for potty accidents: being hungry or tired, wanting to see how long he’s able to hold, not being able to hold, being drawn into play, wanting to do it all by himself, ... Mistakes or little accidents are a very important part of learning.

• Keep your stress levels down by thinking “He could...” instead of “He should be using the potty”. That opens up your mind for solutions and helps you to learn, become aware of behaviours, expressions or certain habits.

• Keep on offering the potty as a choice. Sometimes it is important to step back and trust your child to know when he’s ready (especially during those potty pauses). BUT that does not mean that just because you hear a NO more often than not, you’d stop offering the choice. Who knows, next time he might not say yes but come anyway. It can be tricky to find the right balance here. Just keep the potty (or using the toilet) a normal part of everyday life.

• Try different places instead. Where does your child like to go to do his business? Place the potty there. The location might help him to relax.

• Consider an open bathroom policy. During my daughter’s potty pause I started taking her to the bathroom with me – she on the little potty, me on the big one. That would be the only time she’d sit on a potty without resistance. Little ones just love to copy you, so this is a great chance to role model.

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Additional Recources

So it’s really not that hard to start Elimination Communication. To keep going, even through stages of stagnation, it might help to join a EC-group or to subscribe to Chandras inspiring "Guided Tour of Baby pottying."

If you'd like to know more about what babies are actually capable of, you might find this article interesting:

"Shaping Self-Initiated Toileting in Infants" from the "Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis." NUMBER 4 (winter 1985).

It’s the evaluation of the potty tapping method as a means of communication.

More pages on this site:

Elimination Communication main page
13 month update - daily routine
14 month update - potty break / regression
20 month update - all poop in the potty

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