How Old is Too Old for Elimination Communication?

How Old is Too Old for Elimination Communication

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How old is too old to use elimination communication? I answer this question and give you my top tips for getting started at any age and stage in this episode!

Topics I Cover in This Episode

  • The truth about “early” potty training
  • How potty training age can help you decide if you’ll use elimination communication or not
  • What the diaper industries don’t want you to know!
  • How to recognize cues in an older baby or toddler
  • What to do if you see no cues
  • Exactly the attitude you should have when helping your child go potty (and why it’s so important)
  • How to make potty time an easy part of your child’s daily routine
  • When to dump the diapers!

Right-click here to download the MP3

(NOTE: Want proven, practical strategies to make elimination communication work for you? Use these 5 proven techniques to connect when your baby and have EC success! Get them here.)

Easy Elimination Communication

Tip #1 – Potty Training Can Happen Much Earlier Than You’ve Been Told

Note: you can use whatever term you want (potty training, potty learning), but I’ll use potty training in this post!

It’s important to discuss potty training when we talk about elimination communication with older babies.

Here’s the straight truth…

…potty training can happen much earlier than it does today.

The disposable diaper industry (and I guess even the cute cloth diaper industry) want you to believe you need to consume, consume, consume their products. It benefits them for you to take forever to potty train your child!

If you look at the ages of potty training even a few decades ago, as compared to today, kids were potty trained much earlier. And, honestly, we do not hear about those being harsh, or cruel, methods of potty training. We just don’t hear that.

Potty training has never been a favorite thing the parents have done – but it’s something that was looked at pretty matter-of-factly in the past. Whomever was doing the potty training – Mom, Dad, nurse, whomever… did it matter-of-factly and earlier than we do it now. Why? Because they realized something that we’ve forgotten at this point…

The whole “readiness” thing was invented by the disposable diaper industry.

Toileting oneself is an issue of personal dignity – and giving our children that dignity earlier is generally what they want (and it’s nice for us, too).

I say all of that because again, we’re discussing starting elimination communication late, and if you’re in that “late” stage, you may want to consider going right to potty training. Here are some thoughts:

  • If your baby is between 9 months and 17 months or so, go ahead an start EC’ing
  • If your baby is around 18 months, it’s time to think about going right to potty training!

The baby in the original question is 14 months old, so I’d start EC now, and move right to potty training and being done at 18 months 🙂 And remember, “done” doesn’t have to mean “completely independent” – kids need help wiping for quite awhile.

At the time of this episode, my Sadie is 21 months old, almost 22 months old, and she can pull up panties herself, but sometimes still needs help getting the back of them over her bum 😉 I don’t mind helping with that! She’s pretty darn “independent” if that’s all she needs and I’ll take pulling panties over a cute bum over cleaning a poopy diaper any day 😉 It’s a myth that a child needs to be able to be “totally independent” before they can potty train. You can help pull up britches 😉

How Old is Too Old for Elimination Communication?

Tip #2 – Watch for Cues

Having said all of that, let’s cover general tips to help with EC’ing. An important thing is to look for cues.

I realize that sometimes you think your little one doesn’t give any cues (or you might be certain that your little one doesn’t give any cues). At this point I’ve used elimination communication with all but one of my kids (and we have 7 kids!) – and I can definitely tell you that some have more obvious cues than others.

Starting by looking for obvious cues, especially signs for a bowel movement, can can be a good thing to do in this case. You’ll see things like:

  • Grunting
  • Bearing down
  • Red rimmed eyes
  • A mobile baby or a toddler disappearing somewhere kind of private for a little bit, especially if it’s a time of day that you know that they might go potty can be a good cue to look for
  • Sometimes little kids will give a “shiver” thing right before or right as they’re peeing
  • A little boy will often get “stiff” just before he goes

note that watching your little one on a waterproof mat or easy-clean surface like tile or linoleum can be good to get an idea for signs that might otherwise not be obvious – this can help you understand timing, too.

Signs are can be really, really helpful at any age.

Tip #3 – Be Calm and Matter-of-Fact

Don’t be in a rush.

If you notice that your child needs to go, take them swifty, but calmly to the potty place. Don’t go into a panic!

Don’t make a huge deal about it! Going to the potty is just something we need to do when we need to go. 😉

Sometimes if I catch a kid who’s in the middle of a bowel movement, I take them to the potty and set them down with the diaper on, then unsnap it and lift them a little to move it to the side. That can be a little messy and you probably have to wipe the potty down after, but I want to emphasize that the potty is the place we go.

I don’t like to put them up on the changing table because I want them to realize that bowel movements go in the potty (or toilet or potty bowl or whatever you’re using). We use diaper backup by my preference is to catch every poo!

If you suspect they need to go or they’ve just started, go ahead and calmly transport them to the potty place. If you get upset, they’ll get upset, and then they won’t finish!

It’s especially important when you’re starting with an older baby, but even a newborn baby will pick up on your stress.

Tip #4 – Make Pottying Part of the Daily Routine

Timing has been my biggest EC’ing tool. This is really helpful when starting with an older baby – when are natural times they’ll need to go?

I started with my first child when she was a little bit older, and the way that I started was with timing. Every day when she got up from her afternoon nap, I took her and I put her on the potty. That worked pretty well for us to get up and just go sit on the potty – more of a happy, “let’s see what happens.” and she quickly learned that I was going to get up and take her to the potty.

It’s the same thing in the morning when they get up, just go to the potty!

Other good times to offer the potty:

  • When they’re about to sit down in the high chair for a meal
  • Just got done with a meal
  • About to go out for a walk
  • Getting ready to leave for an outing or daycare
  • When you’ve just gotten home

These are times when you’d likely prompt and older child to try and potty. It’s pretty natural for all parents. Some of these are more artificial at first (like just before a meal), but it’s reasonable to offer when you’re just getting started.

You don’t want to ask all the time, but any time it feels naturally, go ahead and offer.

Elimination Communication with an Older Baby

Tip #5 – When to Dump the Diapers

Another big question that comes up when EC’ing with older kids is “should I keep the diapers or not?”

This is really up to you, but if you’re leaning towards quick potty training, getting away from diapers is a good idea.

If you start to get stressed, if there are messes everywhere, if there are accidents everywhere, something’s going on and you need to re-evaluate. This was actually something frustrating that happened to us with Sadie – thankfully we’re past it at this point (even since I recorded the original live video). She had never really had a poopy diaper, then all of a sudden decided to go in her diaper.

I planned to just go ahead and potty train her completely, because Corwin trained quite early and that went well. My mom had a stroke, however, so all of that got put on the back burner. Pottying wasn’t clicking for Sadie, I was gone for weeks, and Scott was getting stressed – it was just easier to put her back in diapers.

I say that to share that sometimes, early potty training or even a lot of EC’ing isn’t the right choice.

However, I also want to add that as I type this, Sadie is almost 22 months and she’s done with diapers during the day completely, and is dry many nights, too. I didn’t want to let her go too long (certainly not until 3 or 4!)… but we did delay things when it was just too hard to stay calm and matter-of-fact. I waited until life calmed down enough to help her get back on track.

If you’re in a stressful situation, I would stick with diapers as a backup and just work on making timing part of the routine to introduce the concept of going potty. I’d also really work to find my child’s pattern for bowel movements and work to get those in the potty.

If you’re ready to start transitioning away from diapers, choose a time when you can pay attention to your little one for a few days. Don’t stay stuck on Facebook all day. Don’t pick a day when you have a lot of work projects to juggle. Don’t pick a time with big brother or big sister has a million events. If it’s a few days free of all that hustle and bustle, it’s a good time to try and dump the diapers. You can be engaged with them and you can get a really good sense of their timing and patterns.

Maybe you’re thinking “I could never take my kiddo diapers because they pee constantly!”

Don’t worry too much – one of the things that often happens when you take a child out of diapers is that all of those million and 1/2 pees that they do (because they’re wearing their toilet around) start condensing. They move to more of an adult pattern of going to the bathroom – if you think about older children and adults, we don’t have to go to the bathroom constantly. (Unless, of course, you’re blissfully pregnant!)

Your child will quickly get to the point where they’re holding it for longer.

You may choose to go without undies for the first few days of diaper free, to make things easier, but work on getting consistently into undies quickly after that – again this is a matter of dignity for your little one. I have found that getting panties works well for a little girl, but briefs seem to be harder to handle (and cotton training pants are also hard for little ones to pull up), so for boys loose cotton pants may work as they get used to needing to pull something down.

Okay – I think those are tips to get you thinking! If you want more info, definitely check out my EC pages. I have complete journals of my experiences using elimination communication with my own babies, as well as many how-to articles for you!

Click here for a whole lot more on elimination communication!

(NOTE: Want proven, practical strategies to make elimination communication work for you? Use these 5 proven techniques to connect when your baby and have EC success! Get them here.)

Easy Elimination Communication

Elimination Communication with a Toddler

How Old is Too Old for Elimination Communication?

About the author 


Kristen is a pregnancy coach, student midwife, and a mama to 8 - all born naturally! I've spent nearly two decades helping mamas have healthy babies, give birth naturally, and enjoy the adventure of motherhood. Does complete support for a sacred birth and beautiful beginning for your baby resonate with you? Contact me today to chat about how powerful guidance and coaching can transform your pregnancy, birth, and mothering journey <3

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