Thursday, August 13, 2009

EC, or Diaper-Free

We've talked a lot about potty training here lately. So it is with great pleasure that I introduce today's guest blogger, Christine Gross-Loh, mother, author and blogger. She's the author of The Diaper Free Baby and a mother of three who blogs about her adventures crafting with children at Origami Mommy.

When I first became mother to a boy, I heard a lot about potty training boys and how difficult it was probably going to be, especially compared to training girls. I have 2 boys now (and a girl) and in my experience, helping my boys to independently use a potty was actually a lot of fun!

There are many toilet training methods out there, and each family will find a path that is right for them, but for us, going diaper-free made the most sense and resulted in each our boys being fully out of diapers before they were a year and a half. Most importantly, our boys always felt positive about their own bodies and the toilet.

Doing EC (another term for gentle infant pottying) is in some ways the ultimate child-led way to begin using the toilet. It has parents look to a baby's natural cues and intense physical sensations to help him to remain aware of elimination, rather than having him become used to eliminating in a diaper and then having to teach him a few years later to switch gears and eliminate in a toilet.

It's a different concept than the popular readiness theories out there, but to me, it makes a lot of sense. Think about how babies learn to eat solids. We don't have them wait to eat solids until they can do everything themselves - hold a fork, cut up their food, prepare their own snacks, etc. It's a gradual process that follows their natural development and leads parent and baby on a continuing and gentle journey.

If you think about EC'ing a baby in the same way and potty your baby or young toddler while he is still so aware of the sensations of elimination, then you may very well experience what many EC'ing parents do - a toddler who takes using the toilet for granted and is out of diapers rather effortlessly.

This can be done to any degree that works with you. Some families potty their babies infrequently, but keep up the communication, while others do it more regularly. This doesn't mean you'd constantly be taking your baby to the bathroom, though! Usually a baby who is used to pottying will have strong sphincter muscles and won't be going that frequently. Another plus is that you'll be communicating with your baby and learning to read his cues about elimination just as proficiently as you read his cues about sleep or hunger.

Some people shy away from EC because they misunderstand it as pressuring a boy before he is ready. On the contrary, I think that applying the principles of EC to toilet training, if you have a young toddler boy, gives parents a unique opportunity to be alert to windows of opportunity that may occur earlier than traditional toilet training experts talk about. If you are open to these earlier windows of opportunity, then EC can give you an chance for you to work with your boy and his development and avoid power struggles.

For instance, a toddler just learning to walk is often keenly interested in imitating the adults around him in all that they do, and is also excited by so many of his newfound large motor skills. His attention to the world around him and his increased facility with his own body and his quickly developing communication skills may make it a perfect time for him to begin to figure out how to eliminate in a toilet even if he's not all the way there with his ability to dress himself.

Incorporating some fun routines in toileting - reading books, washing his hands, using toilet paper, flushing - can be very motivating for a one-year old. In some ways, this can make for a more seamless transition to toilet independence than with a two-year old who might be at a very different developmental stage and testing the adults around him.

The most important thing is to get to know your boy well, to be responsive to him, and to follow your own natural instincts. This will help you and your family to figure out the best path for you - not just with toilet learning but with all other aspects of parenting too!


  1. Great post! I really liked how you compared ECing to learning to eat--I've never heard it put that way but is so true.

    I also am ECing with my 7 month old and 2 year old. Thanks!

  2. Christine introduced me to ECing when my son was 7 months old and it has been a wonderful experience. Yes, much like introducing solids... Now my son is 2 1/2 years old and mostly out of diapers. He loves to sit on the potty while reading books :-) Andrea

  3. I wasn't going to comment, but am I the only one who thinks: ewww? It seems like you are spending your entire day either holding the baby over the toilet or cleaning up messes. Sorry, not for me.

  4. I don't know, Deb -- seems to me, you're dealing with messes either way. I haven't tried EC, but I can't say I love cleaning up squished up poop from a diaper either.

    But if it's not for you, that's cool. I'm a big proponent of doing what works for you. Parenting is hard enough without a lot of external expecations imposed upon you!

  5. Deb: In a diaper or over a toilet, you're spending all day cleaning up messes... ;-)

    Whoops. Just read Jennifer's response---great minds think alike, I guess!

    I'm really fascinated by this whole EC phenomena, perhaps mostly because I'm potty training my 2.5 year old right now and it's apparent she's less aware of her own body---and she's pretty attached to the convenience of her diaper.

    I'm also curious about what Sigmund Freud would say about EC, since much of his classification of psychoses centered around trauma created during the potty training stage of life...