What is Elimination Communication + Tips on How To Get Started

Learn about EC, and why you’d want to do it. Read my personal experience, and how you could get started doing EC today.

Note: This article was originally written for and posted on The Swaddle Society by Judy Rina. Check out her adorable swaddles from Australia!


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Elimination Communication (EC), also known as natural infant hygiene, is a gentle, natural way to respond to babies’ need to eliminate by providing them a secure and comfortable place and position to relieve themselves. EC is commonly practiced in traditional cultures and developing countries, where disposable diapers aren’t commercially available.


With EC, we use babies’ natural timing, signals, cues, and our intuition to identify when they need to eliminate, and take them to an appropriate place, like a potty.


And the good news is, you don’t have to be perfect at it or do it full time. You can be working, have your kids in daycare, or have multiple children to take care of and still be pretty successful at EC!


Why practice EC?


There’s a lot of benefits to doing EC. It has been known to reduce fussiness and colic in babies, save diapers, save your baby’s precious bum from diaper rash, and so much more.





It’s been shown to reduce colic symptoms


The biggest benefit I’ve seen with my own baby is it resolved a lot of unexplained crying and fussiness, especially at night.


I remember the first month of having my baby, and being up at night with her trying to console her by shushing, feeding, rocking, checking her diaper, and nothing would soothe her crying. Once I started practicing EC with her, we all got a lot more sleep!


Humans instinctively do not want to soil themselves or their sleep space, just like all mammals. So often babies cry to communicate for a place to go outside of their diaper.


Another reason is that babies cry from discomfort in the gut, potentially caused by not being able to fully eliminate. It has been proven that humans have difficulties going #2 while lying down, yet that is what we expect our diapered babies to do. When someone can recognize a baby’s signals and position her in a supported squatting position, they can fully eliminate with ease, and thus experience relief from any gut discomfort and reduce colic symptoms. [1]


Babies are also known to cry less in developing countries and indigenous cultures, where EC is commonly practiced. [2]


Save money, and the environment!


On average, babies who wear disposable diapers do so until they are about 2-3 years old. With EC babies, they can be out of diapers by the time they are walking (around 12 - 18 months of age). That will save you thousands of dollars in diapers, and save the environmental impact from landfilling all of those years worth of diapers!


Regardless of whether you cloth diaper or use disposables, you will end up saving diapers when you start catching more pees & poops in the potty.


Other benefits of EC include

  • Avoiding diaper rash

  • Less poopy diaper messes to clean up

  • Easier transition to potty independence (where they can take themselves to the potty usually around 9-12 months)

  • Learn to become more attuned to your baby & her needs.

  • Build communication between you & your baby

  • Good hygiene for baby

  • Happier baby & parents!


My own journey with EC


When my daughter got her first diaper rash at around a month old, I felt awful about it! I did a ton of research on natural remedies and how to prevent that in the future. I stumbled upon a YouTube video and how EC had helped prevent diaper rash. I was very intrigued by the idea, thought it was a little weird, but I wanted to give it a try.


The first day I got my little baby potty in the mail, I caught all of her poops. She was very comfortable doing her business in the potty, and it was like she was silently thanking me for giving her the opportunity to not soil herself.


That night was the first night she slept, well, like a baby. She was still up every 2 hours to feed but went right back to sleep. She wasn’t up all night crying inconsolably anymore.


She is noticeably a much happier baby after being able to relieve herself in the potty. She also hasn’t gotten a single diaper rash since starting EC.


When I was first starting with EC, I was learning as I went. I just started with catching her poops which were easy cues to read. I didn’t bother with catching any of her pees because I honestly couldn’t figure out what her signals were, and I didn’t even try ECing at night. But as time went on, I started to learn her rhythms and we are both learning to communicate and understand each other better. The whole process has been a beautiful journey together that is bringing us even closer.


Since I cloth diaper her during the day, she learns that she gets wet when she pees and lets me know immediately to change her diaper. I’ve since learned her signals for peeing and her general timing of when she usually needs to pee. And now, at 3 months old, she has started to let me know BEFORE she pees her diaper, so I have been catching more and more pees. I have also started to offer her the potty more often, with the 4 easy catches (described below), so she now knows she will get an opportunity to potty often.


I’ve even learned that she likes it when I show her the potty first, before I take her diaper off or put her on the potty. That way she knows what I’m doing, and what to expect, and doesn’t start crying.


I try to make potty time fun for the both of us. I’ll sing songs to her, talk to her, and play while I’m holding her in position. It can be a beautiful experience, knowing that you’re doing something great for your baby. There’s also an oddly satisfying feeling of accomplishment when you catch a pee or poo in the potty.


Everyone can do EC


You can EC part time and still be successful with it. You don’t have to feel pressured to catch every pee, or EC at night, or EC when you’re out. You can start by catching just the poops just like I did, or just offering the potty once in the morning and once before bed. You can experiment and find what works for you and your family.


You can ask caregivers and even daycares if they can do EC for your baby. Many caregivers who are from indigenous cultures already have experience practicing EC.


I’ve asked Grandma to just offer the potty if she starts fussing, even if she doesn’t catch anything. In my opinion, it will be a better time for her if she just offers the potty rather than try to console her when she is crying out for the potty. We will also just put her in a disposable diaper to go to Grandmas, or to go out, it just depends on the circumstances.


Rather than trying to be perfect or practice EC full time, it’s more beneficial for everyone when it’s a relaxed, gentle, and even fun event for the caregiver and baby.


The biggest time investment is probably the learning and observation phase in the beginning. But once you and baby get the hang of things, it doesn’t require much more time than having to change a bunch of messy poopy diapers. You will also have an easier time transitioning your baby to potty independence since you don’t have to reteach them to go potty in a toilet, not their diaper.


Tips to get started


1. Observation - observe your baby to learn his signals and his natural timing. This is best done with no diaper on a waterproof pad, or in cloth diapers, since they’re easier to feel when wet. Signals of pooping are often more noticeable, so that’s where I started. As time went on, my baby learned to make more noticeable signals to pee in her potty and even cry out.


2. Cue & sound association - When you notice your baby pee or poop you will want to establish a cue. Common cues are “psss” for pee and grunting noises for poop. Once this is established, you can use your cues to communicate to your baby that it’s time to release.


3. Start with the 4 easy catches

  • Upon waking from sleeping

  • At every diaper change

  • The poops - since these are easy to spot baby’s signals, once you see them starting to or trying to poop, offer the potty.

  • Transition times - These are any transitions throughout the day. Offer the potty before and after putting baby in a car seat, high chair, stroller, carrier, etc. [3]

4. Maintain a relaxed and positive attitude about it! It won’t be fun for anyone involved if you feel stressed or overwhelmed. You can start slow, be gentle, and have fun! If it gets too overwhelming at any point, you can back off, reset, and try again in a couple weeks.


What you might need to start EC





A potty or some sort of receptacle


This can be an actual potty made for babies, an adult toilet, or you can use any container that you have, such as an empty yogurt or ice cream container, an old tupperware, or anything else. For exclusively breastfed babies, you can even use a sink, bathtub, or shower. I recommend this top hat potty for small babies or to take on the go, or this mini potty for older babies.





A waterproof pad

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This could be a pee pad, changing mat, or there are cotton PUL lined waterproof pads like this one. These will be handy throughout your whole EC journey. This could be used for diaper free observation time, as protection underneath your potty, or even a place to put your baby down after pottying while you clean her and put her diaper, or undies back on.




Easy clothes for pottying


I have completely ditched the onesies that snap on the bottom. Normally I opt for a zippered, footed pajamas, or layer a long sleeve T-shirt over an undershirt, with these baby chaps - tiny crotchless pants made for ECing where you put the diaper on over the pants. These are the easiest when it comes to having to take diapers off and on often.


Where to learn more


You can start with this fee easy start guide by Andrea Olson


Or if you’re ready to dive in and learn all the details on EC, including the 4 easy catches, learning your baby’s signals, and how to position your baby, I highly recommend reading Go Diaper Free. It is extremely thorough, yet laid out very simply to get you on your way to start catching some pees & poops!


Did you practice EC? Are you planning to start? Let me know in the comments!


[1] Jordan, G.: Elimination Commiunication as Colic Therapy, Medical Hypotheses 83 (2014)


[2] Barr RG, McMullan SJ, Spiess H, Leduc DG, Yaremko J, Barfield R, et al. Carrying as colic ‘‘therapy’’: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics 1991; 87(5):623–30.


[3] Olson, Andrea. Go Diaper Free: A Simple Handbook for Elimination Communication. Tiny World Company, 2015.