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Elimination Communication

Elimination communication, or EC for short, involves a mother (or caregiver) and baby building a relationship where the infant's hygiene and toilet needs are met through a unique system of communication between the two individuals.

EC is a modern adaption of an ancient method of childcare that has always been practiced in many tribal communities around the world and even in some industrialized countries.

Infant on potty at 5 months

Initially, it involves a mother using timing, cues from the baby and intuition to know when the baby needs to eliminate waste from the body. The mother will then take the baby to a suitable place or use a receptacle such as a bowl, potty or toilet to 'catch' for this purpose.

The mother may also use a verbal cue, a hand sign or sign language to encourage the baby to eliminate. Later, the more mature infant may learn to use a cue to indicate that she needs to eliminate.

Although the terms elimination communication, natural infant hygiene and infant potty training are often used interchangeably, many parents practicing EC emphasise that it is more about communication and relationship-building between parent and child, than about potty training.

Potty training is simply the consequence of successful communication.

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Diapers vs. Elimination Communication

As EC advocates point out, the practice of diapering infants sends children a mixed message: Babies have bladder and sphincter control from birth, yet for about two years they are conditioned to sit in their own excrement. Then potty training begins and they are expected to unlearn this behaviour.

In contrast, with EC, babies are encouraged to express their need to eliminate or the need to be changed if their diaper or clothing is wet or soiled. They are generally completely potty trained at an earlier age than diapered babies.

1A study on EC and toilet training behaviour showed that where potty training began in the first year of life, mean completion ages for daytime dryness and bowel control were 17.4 and 15.0 months, respectively; those who initiated toilet training during the first 6 months completed training earlier than those who started later. Infants that used signals for voiding or bowel movements completed day-dryness and bowel training earlier than those who did not.

Some parents practicing EC use nappies or diapers as a back-up, others choose to keep their babies diaper free, while still others use a combination of the two.

Either way, elimination communication enables families to use less diapers than those who are not practicing EC. This saves a large amount of money, laundering of cloth diapers and benefits the environment by reducing unrecyclable waste created by disposable diapers, baby wipes and plastic bags that would otherwise add to the waste in landfills.

Quote about EC

Communication - as practiced through elimination communication - does not focus on one end result, but focuses on building a relationship between parent or caregiver and baby. This relationship is based on trust and learning together, accepts a baby for his or her actual developmental stage (rather than what 'should' be for a certain age), and allows the baby freedom in his or her own development.

- Melinda Rothstein, Co-Founder and Director of Diaper Free Baby

More Benefits of Elimination Communication

  • better communication between parent and child
  • encourages the development of a trusting relationship and security that baby's needs will be met
  • encourages babywearing and attachment parenting where infants remain close to the parent
  • better understanding of baby's cues for feeding and eliminating
  • respect for baby's body functions and right to bodily hygiene
  • no diaper rash or skin irritations
  • no chemicals on baby's sensitive skin
  • reduces incidences of urinary tract infections
  • more comfortable to eliminate upright than lying down
  • Diaper free swimming
  • develops body awareness and bladder and bowel control
  • encourages confidence and early independence
  • empowers infants to communicate regarding their elimination needs
  • eliminates later toilet training battles
  • teaches children regular routines
  • enables parents to travel lighter
  • enables diaper-free swimming. Swim diapers don't keep urine from the water!
  • reduces the need for parents to clean dirty diapers
  • EC is convenient in a variety of situations where changing a diaper might not be
  • helps keep the environment free of diaper-related pollution

Click here for How to Start Elimination Communication in Four Steps

Have You and Your Baby Experienced Elimination Communication?

Share the highs and lows your elimination communication story so others can learn from your experience.

Other EC Stories

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Elimination Communication - Starting Out 
Now I am not an "earth mother" and anyone who is familiar with Gary Chapman's Five Love Languages , I am not physical touch or even quality time - I …

Our Journey to Elimination Communication 
If I look back, I have to admit that at the beginning of our elimination communication story, I was an EC skeptic! First Encounter More than twelve …

Our Journey to Elimination Communication Page 2 Not rated yet
This is the second part of Our Journey to EC . 30 November 2010 November has been a busy month for us as a family, with the children being …

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1. Rugolotto S, Sun M, Boucke L, Calò DG, Tatò L.,Toilet training started during the first year of life: a report on elimination signals, stool toileting refusal and completion age, Minerva Pediatr. 2008 Feb;60(1):27-35.


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