For the Love of Baby Communication

I kid you not, my newborn baby niece has been potty trained since she was born. It is the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen. She is now 3 months old and I got to witness all of this during our month stay with her. It’s INCREDIBLE!!! I’m so amazed by it that I have been so excited to share it with you, especially as it seems most people have never heard of this.

It’s all made possible by her wonderful mother (my sister, Janna) who knew that young babies actually give a signal when they need to go! As soon as she detects that her baby may need to go, this is what happens…

Oh, I could die. This sweet girl will go potty within a second or two and seems to feel so comfortable. My sister has saved LOADS of diapers. Wipes are not even in the house. And it’s rare that her baby needs to sit in a messy diaper. 

Here are my sister’s notes on the process:

The Signaling Instinct

I first came across Elimination Communication after researching more around Jean Leadloff, author of Continuum Concept.  Her website mentions a book called The Diaper Free Baby.  I had a vague-to-no idea what that meant, so ordered the book. I had my first baby at the time, a little five month old. I was thrilled because he was still under the six month mark, the time when babies start to loose their signaling instinct. Yes, babies have a signaling instinct! They signal when they need to eliminate. So it wasn’t too late to start this level of communication with my baby. Now I am a new mother once again, and in the midst of my third opportunity to connect with my young child. Practicing Elimination Communication with my oldest son, then with my first daughter, and now with my second daughter has taught me again, how unique each child is. How their needs and flow from one moment to the next seem so unrepeatable even though they are all in the same family!

So how does it work? 

Well, for me, as I’m looking after the baby, giving her milk, making sure her clothing is dry, giving her enough opportunity to fall asleep at the times she’s likely to be tired, moments come along when she seems well off in all these areas but yet still uncomfortable…so, I take her to the toilet (or even the sink and sometimes a bowl!) I remove her diaper and gently lean her back against me, holding the soles of her feet with my hands so she can squat above the receptacle.  Holding her feet this way is new. In the past, I’ve just held the baby under the knees. Some how, holding her feet seems to be more effective. She’s still so little, just under 3 months. But when it works, and she goes, it’s such a treat for me because somehow I think she knows that I know that she knows her body is working as it should! And with her signaling and my listening, our “knowing” together will just happen all the more often in the day.

Each time is gently celebrated with these words, “Oh, you did need to go, that’s what you were telling me. That feels better doesn’t it?” or “Okay, you don’t need to go right now. Let me know when you do.” I’m very careful to make all moments positive and comfortable with my tone of voice. No matter the success of the attempt, each opportunity is a moment of connection and that is what counts the most. But, can I tell you, when you get your first successful attempt, it is so dang cute! And when you get two in a row, wow, it’s amazing! And then somehow you are going full days with 100% success…and a full night as well! And eventually, maybe two days in a row…then one day, your daughter will be so wiggly about putting a diaper back on, that you say, okay, let’s just go diaper-free. That’s what happened to me when my second was only 16 months, not even walking yet, but it was time to go to the Mayor’s River Festival in London with our friends. I couldn’t get a diaper on her wiggly bottom, so off we go without one…and I never put one on her again. She signaled perfectly all day at the Festival and on the train ride home. Now she certainly had accidents after this…but they were so infrequent, such as once a week, or once every three days that it certainly didn’t justify having a diaper on that entire time. I found myself at Marks and Spencers praying they had underwear for babies, and sure enough, they did! You can buy 18 month size underwear.

Now chime in, dear readers! Have you heard of this before? I’d love to hear if you have any thoughts or insights about it. Please share this post with others as I think parents everywhere would be so intrigued to hear about this.

P.S. We are heading back to South America today. Oh, my heart! It is so full as we say good bye to my sister, brother-in-law, nieces and nephew and friends and also as we make our way back to Sila. It’s so amazing to have her on the other side.

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  1. Clare January 6, 2015 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    A lady I used to work for did this with her baby daughter. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself. It's really amazing! This girl also had a crazy advanced language skills. It might be related, but likey just a result of having such attentive parents.

  2. Winter Redd January 6, 2015 at 2:49 pm - Reply

    We just had our first baby 7 weeks ago and are practicing EC with her since her 4th week of life. We love it! We're not catching everything yet, but we're learning her signals daily. We don't mention it to too many people because must people think we're a couple of hippies, but we have found that it works for us. I would recommend the Go Diaper Free book at Andrea's website. It was invaluable!

  3. Anonymous January 6, 2015 at 7:58 pm - Reply

    You have an ad that reads "impeach Obama" on your site? Classy. I think you need to take a look at your standards for accepting advertisers.

    – a former reader

    • Anonymous January 6, 2015 at 8:24 pm - Reply

      Most of the ads are based on what a reader is searching for online (google, yahoo, etc). It's out of this blog's control what will pop up as it's based on the readers 'internet search.' It's typical of websites to do this…I see it all the time.

  4. Anonymous January 6, 2015 at 8:03 pm - Reply

    Why are websites and/or pictures of the types of products I've browsed online suddenly popping up all over your site as your advertisers? Creepy.

    • danny January 6, 2015 at 9:43 pm - Reply

      That's how nearly all advertising works. Sorry if you're just coming to that realization now. It's not some nefarious plot by our website, but is how google works.

      I'm assuming you're the same anon as above that complained about political ads. In which case, the reader that responded to you is correct. If you google political topics, you'll get ads like that no matter what we've approved or haven't approved on the website. It's certainly not an ad we asked for. You're free to be personally offended by it if you like, but I suggest directing your disappointment somewhere else.

      Now back to diaper free babies!

    • Michelle Bunt January 9, 2015 at 4:49 am - Reply

      Anon – I hate ads on the internet too. I would suggest you download a free app /add on for your internet browser called AdBlocker. I installed it three years ago and no more ads for me. Instead lots of Zen-like white space…highly recommend 🙂

  5. linsey January 6, 2015 at 10:05 pm - Reply

    AMAZING! This makes me want to have another baby just to try this! She is sooo sweet.

  6. Jenny D. January 7, 2015 at 12:46 am - Reply

    Oh how I wish I had heard about this 14 years ago! I started researching this as soon as you posted about it on Facebook. My baby (#4) is 9 months old and Andrea's 'Go Diaper Free' book talks about how to start EC at this older age so I'm very excited to start. I'm nervous since our home is so busy, but it is well worth the shot. Thanks for talking about this! I may report back with our results. 😉

  7. Miggy January 7, 2015 at 1:04 am - Reply

    OK that picture…the cutest thing ever. Baby bums… oh my gosh, the best. I've heard of this but have never actually known anyone to do it. Besides saving on diapers, what are the other big pros? I would assume that a child being potty trained early is of course a nice pro, but I'm assuming it still takes a while for them to be able to do this completely independently. Also, is this somewhat time consuming and do she find herself hanging around the house more during this process? So many questions!

    • Janna January 11, 2015 at 5:48 am - Reply

      Miggy, thank you for your great questions! This topic is so large and so unpracticed in Western culture, it deserves lots of questions. With my third child, I still have questions! The diaper saving is wonderful, but best best best of all is the caretaker-baby bonding over such an intimate topic as body function awareness. Read here: love development, body brain development, social brain development! Knowledge of your baby's elimination signals adds a whole other approach you can offer when your baby is uncomfortable. And when your baby feels relief from holding and then releasing and knows that you are there helping and cuddling, your baby will be so happy. Seriously, my baby today smiled so sweetly each time I took her, and added her little voice behind her smile while re-dressing her. You are offering something the baby can't do for herself, and she knows and is so grateful. How do I know, I just know, you can't not know after doing it so many times. Yes, it's the repetition of all these "times" each day for months that really builds something wonderful.

      Yes, you are right that total independence in using the toilet comes much later. For example, even though my older children are 4 and 6 and can wipe themselves, they still love it when I do it. As for the time it takes, well, it's a different sort of time because you would still be taking time to change a dirty or wet diaper, but now, you are handling it a little earlier than you would have normally. With a young baby, it can seem like you are going to the toilet all the time, but that changes as the baby grows. It must be said there is another kind of time that is sacrificed. For example, who is going to take the baby when she signals in the middle of the night, you or your partner? (yes, great communication happens day and night!) and who will be ordering what from the menu because just when the family arrived to the restaurant, the baby signals and goes each of the four times in a row that you go to the restroom. Not a complete breeze!…but when compared to the benefits mentioned above, absolutely worth it for this short and all too fleeting time in a little person's life and in the parent's life. As for being out, you know, it's so funny, the baby actually "knows" that you are out of the house and can hold it until you are safe inside somewhere. This has happened so many times, and I am not the first to write about it. I think I prefer being out actually. This little topic alone just opens up so much for discussing a young baby's innate knowledge and awareness and ability to adapt to the environment.

      One last thing I'll mention here. The most satisfying long-term success came when I practiced taking the baby only when he or she signaled. If I assumed I knew it was time to go, it was not as satisfying long-term for the baby as going when a signal was given even if the assumption was correct. This is a question I have now with my three-month old. How to make sure I'm only going when she is signaling. Does anyone else have experience around this question?

      I know there are EC meetups happening around the globe. Here is one in Brooklyn: And for more great pictures, Infant Potty Training by Laura Boucke is excellent!

  8. Julia January 7, 2015 at 3:21 pm - Reply

    First: diapers are a total hassle so whatever it takes to make them less of a focal point in a young mommas life is awesome! Also, I love the idea of being so aware of your babe that you even know when he/she needs to tinkle!!
    Second: to the people who rant about the ads – I've been searching for typewriter ribbon for a typewriter I got at a thrift store. Guess what ads I see along the side of this blog?? TYPEWRITER RIBBONS!

  9. love quotes January 7, 2015 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    The best form of love is that between mother and her child…. it cannot be explained in words nor can it be calculated! topic beautifully narrated! thanks for sharing…

  10. Laura January 7, 2015 at 5:51 pm - Reply

    I've been intrigued by this but it just seems SO labor intensive, especially if you work full-time (as I do) and have other kids. Plus I knew someone doing this who said her 8 month-old daughter was waking her up at night crying, signaling she had to go to the bathroom (at 8 months both my kids were sleeping 12 hours straight at night). If anyone can convince me the time investment involved isn't intense and that I will still get to sleep through the night, I'm down for it.

    • Jenny D. January 7, 2015 at 6:03 pm - Reply

      Go to Lots of good info and she advocates doing whatever works for your family, such as only doing EC part-time, and whether or not to do EC at night. I'm giving it a shot with my 9 month old even, can't decide if I'm crazy, curious, or just plain motivated to not be changing diapers until he's 3….or 4 (which is when his older brother was finally potty trained).

  11. Tracie Carter January 7, 2015 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    Fascinated by this topic! Saw it in action all over China last year – and split crotch pants – and thought how wise it was but how time-intensive it must be as well. I will definitely be looking up these resources since I've got a four month old and yr old both in diapers. I'm also really excited to hear about your plans for your newly envisioned future! Best of wishes to you and Danny!!!

  12. Debra January 8, 2015 at 3:00 am - Reply

    This is my sweet little granddaughter. I am amazed but she really does manage using the potty every day!

    • mara January 8, 2015 at 5:44 am - Reply

      Hi Mom! Yes, we were amazed to see it all first hand while staying with Janna and sweet little Nadine.

  13. Karen T. January 10, 2015 at 3:09 am - Reply

    Aww, I think that is just awesome. My boys are 8 and 12 but how I wish I would've known about this when they were babies. What a great mama. 🙂

  14. Ruth January 21, 2015 at 1:46 pm - Reply

    I'm really late sharing my thoughts on this, but here goes. I wish I had done this with my first baby, but I did do it with my last three. It was so wonderful with my second and third. Fourth hasn't gone as smoothly lately, but she's 18 months now. My son (#2) was completely potty trained by 2 years, 9 months. And #3 was mostly potty trained by the time she turned 2, but soon after #4 was born and #3 regressed for a little bit. It was very frustrating, but probably because of the arrival of the new baby. All of these sweet babes went through a time when they rebelled against being asked to pee or poop in the potty, and it was usually after their first birthday. Even though I had her using the potty before we even left the hospital, #4 has been the most difficult to keep up with lately since her "rebellion," and I haven't caught any poops in a long time, and very few pees. But we keep going on and trying. It probably doesn't help that she's the youngest of 4 and we homeschool. My attention is very stretched. But I absolutely LOVE(D) Elimination Ccommunication and highly recommend it, though most of my friends seem to think it's a lot harder than it is. I wish they would at least try it. I think it's a lot of fun, oddly enough. Especially when the baby gets older and claps after going in the toilet. Thumbs up to Janna for doing it.

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