Elimination Communication FAQs - The Basics

Elimination Communication FAQs - The Basics

EC saves throwing away/washing lots of nappies and is an option for families with children from 0-18 months old. Since there is not much information about EC it can feel a little bit overwhelming when you first start - never fear, we are here to help! The below list of FAQs will get you on your way.


1. What is Elimination Communication (EC)?

    EC is when your baby is offered the potty in response to their cues, natural rhythms, and your intuition. After a bit of practice for both baby and caregiver, they will often wee and poo in the potty instead of in their nappy. It is an option for parents where nappies are used as a backup rather than a first choice.
    Our babies absorb social conditioning, like how we teach them to eat with cutlery or sleep in a bed. They are wired to pick up on these behavioural cues from birth and we have been communicating with our babies, and them with us, since the start of time.

    2. How does EC work?

      From as young as day 1 babies communicate by giving signs that they need to go. These signs will be different at each age and can be unique to each baby. Sometimes a grizzly baby is actually signalling that they need to go (just like the signal that they are tired or hungry). EC is about learning to recognise and then physically respond to these signals and natural rhythms. Your baby will often need to go to the bathroom after a long sleep, just like you do. Intuition also plays into the EC process where a 'I think my baby needs to go' thought very often manifests itself into reality in the same minute! You then physically help your baby ‘go’ by holding them in a special way over a receptacle or, if they are older, by assisting them on the potty or toilet with a seat reducer. 

      3. What is the age range for EC?

        This can be done with babies from birth to 18 months, after this age toddlers are officially in the 'Potty Learning" bracket.

        4. Does it take a lot of time?

          In our experience so far, we spend the same amount of time pottying as we would cleaning a soiled nappy/bottom (not to mention the time we would spend washing reusable nappies). This is the general consensus amongst the growing number of families who are choosing EC as part of their natural parenting journey. There will also be time saved on the other end when it would be time to traditionally 'potty train' your toddler. Part-time EC is totally a thing too, you make it work for you.

          5. Why haven't I heard of EC before?

            When we first started EC, we were really skeptical because if it actually worked we figured it would be common knowledge! Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of EC before. It is knowledge lost to our western culture since the commercialisation of nappies, particularly disposables, in the 1960s. If you asked your Grandparents or Great Grandparents you might have more luck gleaning some nuggets of EC wisdom from them. This was once known as 'holding the baby out'.

            In other places around the world, it is still commonplace and part of the daily routine - and always has been. Out of necessity for hygiene or a cultural norm, all members of the family will know how to help their youngest family members ‘go’. This knowledge is then passed down through each generation. Humans have been doing EC since the start of time.

            6. What will I need? How much does it cost?

              EC can cost you $0 but some items you might want to invest in that will make your journey easier are:
              -EC-specific Top Hat Potty and Seat Cover (NZD $32 + $9) if your baby is younger than 12 months
              -Training Undies (NZD $32), and easy to undo clothes for your pēpi - you don’t want to be doing up 10 domes every 30 minutes to help your newborn wee!
              -Tiny Chaps (NZD $24) if you will be pottying your baby in winter
              -Reusable Wet Wipes (NZD $32) or make your own reusable cloths 
              We sell these items on the CaliWoods online store. They definitely make your EC process easier but aren't essential - you can get by with a second-hand potty and nothing else.

              7. What lingo and terms do I need to learn? 

                A "Miss": This is when you don't get the wees or poops in the potty and your little one goes in the nappy or floor, or on you, or wherever. The term miss doesn't refer to 'accidents' but rather a missed opportunity for your baby to go over a receptacle/potty. 

                A "Catch" or "Capture": This is the opposite of a miss, “catch” which means your baby went toilet into the appropriate receptacle that you were hoping for. A catch is a success and super satisfying for baby and parent alike.

                A “Receptacle” is where your baby will ‘go’. It can be a potty, a tree in the backyard…we even used an ice cream container when we were first getting started. 

                A “Back up” is when you use a nappy or EC pants to capture any misses.

                8. Is it better to start EC from birth or wait a bit?

                  Starting from birth is great as you get straight into the rhythm right away of watching for signals. If from birth isn't your thing set a date you feel comfortable with and in the meantime start with observation. Recognising your baby's timing is key to getting started.

                  For Pēpis that are a bit older, start by using the 'easy catches'. Right after sleeping is usually the easiest then you can try at every nappy change, when their cues are strong and when you leave or arrive at locations.

                  Expect that your baby will need hands on support from whatever point you start at to about 14 months, at this point your baby will start to become more independent.

                  9. What are the 5 Easy EC Captures?

                    Captures are when you and your pēpi/baby successfully get a wee or poop in the potty. Here are the 5 easiest ones and a great place to start...
                    1. Clear Signals. Your child might gives clear signals like a red face, arching back, grunts, scratching their nappy etc. It’s then your opportunity to acknowledge and respond. If they have already started try telling them to wait, then remove the nappy/undies and put them on the potty to finish (or do the whole thing).

                    2. Transitions. in and out of babywear, carriers or carseats; offer the potty before you put baby in, and as soon as you take them out. Babies often need to go after being in carriers for long periods of time so this is a great place to start.

                    1. Post Naps or Sleeps. immediately sit your baby on their potty upon awakening and give them their cues. If you consistently give them the opportunity to potty when they wake up, this will show that they will get a chance to go at the same time every day.

                    2. At Nappy Changes. Take your baby to their potty and give them cues. If your Pēpi has done pees or poos in the nappy, still offer them the opportunity to use the potty because there may be more!

                    3. Arriving or Leaving Places. Offer the potty before you go somewhere to allow your baby to be comfortable for a longer period of time, and follow up with a potty as soon as you arrive.


                    10. Can I do this with childcare/daycare?

                      Yes, absolutely! EC does not have to be done perfectly 100% of the time and part-time is definitely a thing. Some potty is much better than none at all, you just need to be consistent. Even amongst work, other kids, childcare, and everything else, EC is definitely still possible.

                      Teach family members and caregivers how to help. This could involve teaching them the simple signals that your baby gives and getting them to do the 'easy captures.' Your part-time boundaries could look like the following; weekends only, when at home and not in childcare, mornings and evenings.. A lot of childcare centers support reusable nappies and EC is a conversation for each place. They might not have heard about it before but worth a try.

                      For more ongoing info, support and discussions around EC, check out our Sustainable Babies FB Page. Check out our other relevant blog posts here.

                      Remember that you are both learning. You are responding to their signals and babies have a lot going on at one time with learning and growing - so signals might change over time. Any other questions you would like answered?


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