Every parent knows, dirty diapers stink — literally and figuratively! They can pile up, smell, and of course, cause that dreaded diaper rash! Some parents might also be concerned about the environmental impact of the seemingly endless diapers that they are contributing to landfills. So, are there other options for parents who want to forget diapers and go straight to using the toilet, or maybe even start the potty training process early? The answer is, of course there is! It’s called elimination communication.

This topic can get a little sticky, so to give you all of the details as cleanly as possible, we have created a guide to help you decide whether or not diapers are the right choice for your family. So, keep reading for all you need to know about the ins and outs of the elimination communication method and how it is different from infant toilet training.

First, Elimination Communication Is NOT Potty Training

Many might assume that elimination communication and infant toilet training are one and the same. This is FALSE! The Elimination Communication method has nothing to do with teaching your baby to control their needs until you can get them to a toilet. Not only would this generally not be possible until 18-24 months old, but attempting to have your child hold it before they are ready can cause problems such as constipation and bladder infections for your baby in the short term and even issues such as bedwetting in the long term. Elimination Communication is a form of training for parents, where they learn to notice their child’s needs and simply choose to use a toilet instead of a diaper to contain the mess. That means, it has nothing to do with training your child and everything to do with training yourself!

What It Is

Babies naturally give signals that they need to get rid of their waste. Elimination communication is all about looking for these cues that your baby needs to pee or poop and eventually recognizing a pattern. It means getting comfortable with these cues so that you can anticipate your baby’s need to go and don’t actually need diapers at all! However, just because you might not need them every time doesn’t mean you have to avoid using diapers altogether. Another option is to use this method as a system purely to best understand your baby’s basic needs, keep them as comfortable as possible, and even potentially improve their intestinal health!

What You’ll Love

Aside from the obvious benefits of reducing waste, lowering costs, and avoiding diaper rash, elimination communication has some unexpected positives! It can help reduce your baby’s fussiness and could even improve colic. It can also help create a smoother and earlier transition to potty training when your child is ready. Beyond this, it has the potential to improve your baby’s digestive health. By offering your baby the opportunity to relieve themselves in a seated position they could have a more full and complete bowel movement and release of gas. In some cases, helping babies achieve a more complete elimination can improve their comfort, their digestion, and even potentially prevent the need to to go as often — including in the middle of the night.

What You Won’t

Now that you know what you’re likely to love about this method, it’s time to cover a few of the things you likely won’t love about it too. Naturally, if you get rid of diapers, there are very likely to be more than a few messy accidents. On top of that, this method truly isn’t for everyone. Some babies don’t work well with it. It is a big commitment. You have to really keep a close eye on whether or not your child is comfortable and if they aren’t, you should stop and use a different method. Some babies can also begin to refuse to go when they go through the elimination communication method. This withholding can lead to issues such as bladder infections or constipation and even issues like bedwetting when they get older. Some experts also argue that this method does not follow a child’s typical development. Encouraging your baby to hold it in any way — even unintentional — is not healthy.

When to Start

If you are interested in trying out this method, be sure to talk to your pediatrician first and make sure they are on board. Ask them when they think the right time to start would be for your child. While this practice could technically start as early as when your baby is born, typically you should wait at least a few weeks or months after birth to start testing it out. Keep in mind, it will take practice. So, it can be really helpful to start to get used to when your baby usually needs to go and begin to recognize the patterns before you start. If you try and the baby seems uncomfortable or it’s not working, stop, wait, and pick up the practice again at a later date. Be patient, and give your baby more time to develop!

How to Start

Your first big task is to figure out when your baby typically needs to go. Expect your baby to eliminate after feedings and when they wake up. It is important to not be too intense or strict about it. Understand that it is definitely going to take time, trial and error, and a hefty learning curve. Listen and watch for different sounds such as specific grunts, cries, or if it seems like your baby is pushing. These can all be signs that they are ready to use the potty. Once you are getting the hang of it and recognizing cues, start taking them to a small potty when you notice them. Be sure to support your baby by holding them in a seated position on the tiny toilet and use calming noises to help them create a connection between your sounds and their trip to the potty.

At Coastal Kids, our mission is to give parents all of the information and resources they need to raise happy healthy kids. Whether you choose to use diapers or want to give elimination communication a try, we are here to help every step of the way! We hope this guide helps you better understand what this method is all about and whether it might be a good fit for your family. If you think that this is a good option and would like you to try it out, be sure to reach out to your knowledgeable Coastal Kids pediatrician so they can help you along the way and ensure the healthiest process for your baby. To make an appointment, visit us at www.coastalkids.com