Elimination communication (EC) is a process where a caregiver uses timing, signals, and cues to help an infant address his or her elimination needs. EC is also known as Infant Potty Training, Natural Infant Hygiene, Elimination Timing, and Trickle Treat. The process is inspired by traditional practices of diaperless baby care in less industrialized countries, and bears little resemblance to coercive methods of early toilet training. This process can begin at birth, and is usually started before six months of age. If started after this time, babies are more likely to be "diaper trained" and less aware of and able to communicate their elimination needs. The term "late starter" refers to a baby who starts EC after this time.
The four main components of EC are:
Timing refers to identifying the infant's natural timing of elimination. Newborns tend to urinate every 10-20 minutes, sometimes very regularly, which makes timing extremely useful. Older babies may still be very regular, or may vary in timing based on when they have last eaten or slept. As infants get older, the time between eliminations will expand. By six months, it is not uncommon for babies to go as much as an hour without urinating while awake (babies, like adults, rarely urinate during a deep sleep). Timing varies radically for defecation, as some infants may have several bowel movements a day, while others may only have one every few days.
Signals are the baby's way of informing a caregiver of an elimination need. Some babies signal very clearly from the beginning, while others may have very subtle signals or not signal at all. These signals vary widely from one infant to another, and include a certain facial expression, a particular cry, squirming, a sudden unexplained fussiness, as well as others. Babies who are nursing will often start delatching and relatching repeatedly when they need to eliminate. For defecation, many babies will grunt or pass gas as a signal. Older babies can learn a gesture or sign language sign for potty.
Cueing consists of the caregiver making a particular sound or other cue when the baby is in an appropriate place to urinate or defecate, in order to develop two-way communication. At first, the caregiver can make the cuing sound when the baby is eliminating, to develop an association. Once the association is established, the cue can be used to indicate to the baby that he or she is in an appropriate potty place. This is especially useful for infants who may not recognize public toilets or unfamiliar receptacles as a "potty." Common sound cues include "psss psss" for urination, and "hmm hmm" (grunting) for defecation. Older babies (late starters) may respond better to more word-like cues. Cues do not have to be auditory; for example, Inuits cue their infants for the potty by blowing on the top of their head.
Intuition refers to a caregiver's unprompted thought that the baby may need to eliminate. Although much intuition may simply be subconscious awareness of timing or signals, many parents who practice EC find it an extremely reliable component.
Last updated: 10-29-2005 02:13:46