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What the Heck is Elimination Communication?

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One of the biggest milestones of the toddler years is that first time they “go” on the toilet or potty. For most parents, this is a feat saved for the “terrible twos” and not worried about until then. The Elimination Communication parenting style takes a much different approach and teaches parents to start the potty training process immediately after birth. Instead of starting with traditional diapers, proponents of Elimination Communication believe that children should be taught the social norms of going to the bathroom, or eliminating bodily wastes, from the time they are brought home. 

“Elimination Communication is basically not training your baby to go in a diaper,” says Megan Macmanus, mother and founder of Honors Educational Services.

Parents who employ this method of potty training learn the signals and cues that their baby is about to have a bowel movement or urinate and hold them over a toilet or sink. This takes a lot of vigilance and attention on the part of the parent who is only themselves getting to know their new baby.

“Elimination Communication really requires a lot of parental attention to be aware of the child’s cues, so that then the parent is prepared to put the child over the potty so that they’re eliminating in the potty,” says neuropsychologist Pete Stavinoha, PhD., ABPP.

Just how is this done? Doula and hypnosis instructor Mandy Schutt explains how she practiced Elimination Communication with her newborn.

“One [method] which I used with my daughter, was from the time she was about three weeks old I would take her into me really close and hold her over a normal toilet and I would kind of whisper in her ear our secret signal that essentially let her know ‘Okay, this is what you asked me for and now I am giving it to you so you can go ahead and go potty.’ And our signal was just ‘Pss, pss, pss.’ And then she would go potty in the toilet,” recalls Schutt.

Beginning Elimination Communication at this early of an age is not without its difficulties, however.

“You can start doing Elimination Communication, honestly, from the day that they’re born. When they’re that small it is more difficult because you’re going to need to figure out a way to hold them so that you’re supporting their neck,” Macmanus says.

This may seem like a lot of effort compared to changing disposable diapers every few hours, but for those who parent with Elimination Communication, it’s just the first step in preparing their children for the real world. “It is a process of training them in correct social behavior,” says Macmanus.

By training your child to eliminate in a diaper, and then re-training them to use a toilet around the age of two, Macmanus believes you are doing a disservice to your child and creating a major miscommunication. The Elimination Communication parenting style aims to eliminate the diaper process and teach infants and toddlers to eliminate their wastes how adults do.

For more information, check out what real parents have to say about the Benefits of Elimination Communication.

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