What is Elimination Communication?

September 29, 2008


Last week at MOMs group I sat down at a table and a mom said “you’re that diaper freak, aren’t you?”  She was smiling and I was flattered!  Yes, I am a diaper freak and proud of it.  She said she has read my blog but she practices Elimination Communication.

What is so awesome is that she started doing it before she even knew it had a name and a big following.  Because I am no expert on EC I will let another experienced mom give you some insight into the history of EC:

This excerpt is taken from the July/August 2008 Quarterly newsletter provided by www.diaperfreebaby.org.

“Cover Story: A Short History of EC and DiaperFreeBaby

By Amanda Alvine

Responding to an infant’s elimination needs without using diapers has been and remains the norm in many parts of the world. However, many in the US and in other first-world countries have had to rediscover this approach, known variably as elimination communication (EC), infant potty training, natural infant hygiene and elimination timing. Once practiced only by a small number of innovative parents, EC has gained visibility and is now mentioned alongside other potty learning methods.

Infant pottying was once widely practiced in Western societies, but coercive forms of early potty learning practiced around the beginning of the twentieth century created a societal backlash against any form of early toileting at all. By the 1950s, pediatricians began recommending that parents wait until children were older and “ready.” Currently, mainstream US culture still follows this philosophy, with many parents feeling that it is better to wait, and could even be damaging to offer the potty too soon.

However, individual parents rediscovered a form of EC while interacting and caring for their babies. Dr. Thomas Hall noted the experience of one such parent, Mrs. Lela Humpries, who started offering her babies the potty in 1947. With her first son, she noticed his pattern of having a bowel movement while feeding, and a specific facial gesture that preceded it. By the time he was 6 weeks old, she would unpin one side of his diaper and pull it aside to position him over a potty in her lap, all without changing his position or disturbing his feeding. Her first two sons were both consistently using the potty for bowel movements by 6 months, and for all eliminations by 14 months. She responded to her third son, who had Down Syndrome, in the same way, and once he started walking at 16 months, he would walk to the bathroom when he needed to go. Ingrid Bauer, author of Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene, found out that her mother had also created her own form of EC because she felt that her children did not particularly enjoy wearing diapers. Starting when the children were 6 months of age, she would sit them on a potty and sing to them, with the result that both Bauer and her brother were independently using the toilet shortly after their first birthdays.

In 1976, an entire child-centered community began infant pottying. A man named Gridley White had seen what he called “elimination timing” used in Asia, and suggested that it might work in their community. No one in the community knew how to do it; they understood only that it “had to do with baby being consciously communicative” and the caregiver “being in the baby’s timing,” as Linda “Natec” Penn recalls. Not to be deterred by a lack of knowledge, one mother tried it with her one-month old, and he peed. From that point, it caught on and all the babies in the community were more or less diaper-free. Natec took this newfound knowledge to other parents through presentations in 1977-78. She would ask the babies present to let the group know when they had to pee, and to everyone’s delight, it worked! She continued to teach parents and babies about this new approach to elimination, and in 1992, she took the information to a wider audience when she published a pamphlet, Elimination Timing, on the web at www.parentsplace.com.

Another parent named Laurie Boucke discovered the practice of EC when her third child was an infant. A mother visiting from India taught her how to hold and cue her 3 month old. She referred to the approach as “Indian-style toilet training.” In 1980, Boucke wrote an article entitled “Conscious Toilet Training,” and later published a book, Trickle Treat, in 1991. Since then, she has written a comprehensive book on EC entitled Infant Potty Training: A Gentle and Primeval Method Adapted to Modern Living as well as a more compact version, Infant Potty Basics: With or Without Diapers…the Natural Way. All three of her books have helped and encouraged countless parents on their EC journeys……”

To read the remainder of this informative article please visit www.diaperfreebaby.org at this link.

If you are interested in finding other moms near you that are praticing EC you can browse the Diaper Free Baby website’s “Find Local Groups” link.

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About Autumn Beck

Autumn is a wife, mother, homeschool teacher, friend and most important a follower of Christ. She began cloth diapering in 2005 and has experienced many joys and trials throughout the years. You can read more from Autumn over at https://www.facebook.com/beautifullyblessedlashes.

View all posts by Autumn Beck

9 Responses to “What is Elimination Communication?”

  1. Newlywedbeth Says:

    When I told my Europe-raised friend we were using CD’s, she told me about EC. I didn’t think it could possibly work, but that’s because I have only known diapering. Now I believe we can do it (or at least try). It’s beginning to make so much sense. One thing I would add is sign language. If a child can sign for “more, cracker, milk, sleep, etc., ..” why not potty?


  2. Sherry Says:

    WOW!, I find this amazing. I never thought to try the potty before the girls were a year old. Like most children the girls both showed signs of needing to go but they had diapers on so we never thought to try this out. I wish I had some idea or someone would have suggested this to us. As a parent you always want what is best!


  3. Jaime Says:

    EC was not in my vocabulary when I had my first child. The diapering question I grappled with as a new parent was whether to use cloth or disposable diapers, rather than whether or not to use diapers at all. I stumbled upon EC when my son was a couple months old. We were laying in bed one morning, waiting for him to go poo in his diaper so I could change him. He consistently poos in the morning upon waking, and I knew this. Suddenly, I thought, this is ridiculous, and I brought him to go poo over the potty. That was our first “catch”. From then on, I was hooked, and for many reasons.

    First and foremost, I got to know my son on a much deeper level, especially in terms of addressing his needs. Before elimination communication, if my son was fussy, my only options for helping him were to rule out hunger, sleepiness, and gas. Often times, he needed none of these. After beginning to practice EC, I learned, many times the reason my son was crying, fussy, or “colicky” was because he had to go to the bathroom. Babies naturally do not like to eliminate in a diaper. They are trained to do so by us adults. But, before they are fully trained, they hold in their elimination needs, making them uncomfortable and fussy. It was such a relief for me to know how to address my son’s pottying needs, and eliminate fussiness for unknown reasons.

    Now, I’ve learned about EC and its literature. I’m so grateful to have learned about EC now because also:
    – My son never has to sit in his own waste.
    – We don’t have to change dirty diapers.
    – It is great for the environment.


  4. Charndra at Part Time Diaper Free Says:

    I love EC. We’ve practiced it with our babies since birth. My new son is 8 months old right now and is in a pair of shorts on my lap. No diaper on. He wore a diaper yesterday morning for a while as I was feeling too busy to meet his needs. If we go out later he’ll wear some cloth training pants or special EC pants as back up, and as they look cool.

    I’m far beyond explaining that EC ‘works’ – of course it does, it pre-dates diapers by thousands of years!

    My goal is to help families ‘Ease into EC’ with cloth diapers used between potty breaks, just as was normal practice just two generations ago.

    Just one less diaper a day – a simple way to begin baby pottying without being overwhelmed trying to ditch diapers all at once – some articles suggest to do this, but it isn’t what people really do!


    P.S I have a free guided tour of EC at my site!


  5. Tina Says:

    I started doing EC when my second child was just a couple weeks old because I didn’t want to scrub more poop than I had to. I had never heard of it, I just held him over the sink when I thought he had to poop, It worked so well that I started doing it for pee too. soon he expected it and he would wait for the diaper to come off. this saved me a lot of laundry, and he didn’t have to sit in a wet or messy diaper. WIN WIN. I didn’t know it was called anything until I was busted in the bathroom at the Library with my infant peeing in the sink. the Library Lady who busted us was very excited to show me that there were books on infant potty training (this was the first time she had seen it). my third child is now almost 4 months and he has been using EC since birth. I have read that children don’t have bladder control until 2 or 3yrs, but my 4 month old baby is staying dry through the night and if I am paying attention he tells me when he has to go. When he misses I would say it’s usually my fault. EC works great for us, and I am thrilled that there are people out there that don’t think I am wacky.


  6. Janet Says:

    I was using EC without knowing it. I was using cloth diapers from a diaper service on my newborn.
    By the time he was a month old, I had caught the cloth diaper fever, and was purchasing a lot of relatively expensive diapers that I wanted to keep stain free. So whenever I noticed that “about to poop” look on my son’s face, I would quickly take him out of his nice diaper and change him into a diaper service diaper.
    I met the Diaper Free Baby folks at a Baby Expo and they literally sold me on the idea of using a potty rather than changing to a different diaper. I didn’t think it could really work, to have a three month old baby use a potty, but from the minute we returned home and tried the potty, my son was able and willing to use it. Within days he was crying before he had to go pee or poop in an effort to tell me he had to go, and it was my fault if I didn’t catch on to what he was trying to tell me.
    He has used it everyday since, and now I catch almost every poop, and probably around 75% of the pees. He hasn’t pooped in his diaper since he started solid food, which has been at least two weeks now.
    So EC does work, and is very natural. Obviously it is instinctive, since humans haven’t been using dispoable diapers-or even cloth diapers- for most of human history. Thanks goodness- disposable diapers would have completely distroyed the world by now if they’d been around any longer. They will destroy the world, in my opinion, if they remain in common usage. Here’s to hoping more families use cloth diapers and try EC!


  7. Michelle Says:

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot -and plan to write a post about it soon too! My mother thought I was crazy to buy a potty for my five month old daughter, but it hasn’t gotten any use yet. I know she poops every morning after “breakfast” so I am going to start putting her on the potty when she makes the “I’m about to poop” face. I’m not in a hurry to toilet train her, but it only makes sense to put her on the potty if I know she’s about to go. At least she will be used to the potty and it will be a regular part of her routine.


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