You don’t have to be literally diaper-free to practice Elimination Communication.

I’ve had a lot of people tell me they are not “really” practicing EC because they don’t give daily diaper-free time, or because they use diapers or training pants most of the time.  I don’t really know where this idea came from, but its very prevalent. Despite the common misperception, keeping your baby out of diapers all the time is not an essential part of Elimination Communication.

The most important part of EC is the “C”.  Talking to your baby about peeing, normalizing pottying as part of life, offering potty opportunities at consistent times each day or in response to their signals (or when you THINK they signaled!), and changing wet or dirty diapers right away are the key elements of EC.  Realizing that the purpose of a diaper or training pant is to be something to absorb a miss when you didn’t get your baby to a toilet on time, rather than thinking that children are supposed to use diapers as their toilet– this is the heart of EC.

I believe the myth that one’s baby must be virtually diaper-free in order to be “practicing elimination communication” is the biggest obstacle that prevents interested parents from trying it. This myth causes fights between moms and dads. It causes dissension between new mothers and extended family. It stresses parents out and often leaves them feeling like a failure at EC.  It ruins lots of carpets.  Most importantly, it may delay your child’s “graduation” from EC into potty independence.

Wait! What?  Yes, let me repeat that. Leaving your baby diaper-free all the time may delay your child’s development of potty independence.

Think about it this way. Just as we don’t want to train our babies to use their diapers as a toilet, we also don’t want to accidently train them to use the floor of our homes as a toilet.  This is why I feel so strongly about letting people know its totally okay to use diapers or training pants as backup, even 24 hours a day, while practicing Elimination Communication. Many parents are finding that providing their baby with the information and practice with our cultural expectations that floors are not toilets, eases the transition into potty independence.

The way to do this is to use diaper-free time as a tool, with a specific purpose. When first getting started with elimination communication, an initial period of diaper-free observation to learn your baby’s patterns and to build an association between peeing and your cue sounds is really important. Intermittent observation periods from time to time as needed can also be helpful. But outside of those specific times, many people are finding that they have better long-term results if they keep their baby comfortable in clothing that is easy to remove (or move out of the way) for diaper changes and pottying, and diapers or training pants as backup, and maintain open lines of communication about the baby’s potty needs. This includes offering potty opportunities at the most likely times, such as upon waking and after traveling, and by responding to your child when she lets you know that she needs to go (even if that is just guessing a lot of the time at first!).

Practical clothing that is easily removed (or does not need to be removed) for pottying and diaper changes, makes the process easier because they minimize the time spent in preparing for potty opportunities and putting everything back on afterwards.  This makes pottying a pleasant experience rather than something everyone wants to avoid due to the time involved.

Want to learn more about these easy clothes? Click here to read my EC Clothing Guide.

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