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Dry Through the Night: Elimination Communication with a Newborn

Elimination Communication baby poo

Ahhh… thanks mom! I really had to go!

Some would call me a mad woman! Who bothers taking their newborn to the potty in the middle of the night?! Well folks… I do. (Actually, I use a bucket). And you know what? She stays dry all night long.

And, I’m not up all night hanging her bottom over a bucket either. It’s called Elimination Communication (EC). Responding to an infant’s need to eliminate. It’s what people do all over the world where they don’t use diapers, and it’s what our ancestors and not so distant relatives did (maybe even your grandmother did it to save on cloth diapers). It’s what I did with my 2 1/2 year old daughter, Margo, from birth, who hardly pooped in her diaper after she was 2 months old and was potty trained by 12 months. Little Goldie is almost six weeks old, just at the end of her official ‘newborn’ status (sigh…). When she wakes at night, I take her to the bucket, she always does a wee, sometimes a #1 and #2. During the process, her eyes are usually shut, and she’s half asleep! I take her back to bed, she has a quick feed and she’s back out for a few more hours. You would be surprised at how many signals even a newborn gives you before they ‘go’. If they know that someone is going to take them to relieve themselves, they can actually start holding it at an incredibly young age! Even at barely six weeks old, no matter how bad she is busting, for the really big #2s, she always waits until that cute little bottom is hanging over a bucket before she lets it rip! Aside from a few wees and wet farts that escape, she likes staying clean. I call her Princess Butt! Here are some tips and tricks to ECing with a newborn

Don’t Be Afraid, Be Brave!

I don’t know why, but the fear factor of baby wees and poos seems to dominate all thoughts of practicing EC, especially with a newborn. I was terrified to try it! I know of other mothers who have said the same. Maybe you’re scared of a mess? Scared it will take too much time? Newborn poos can be extremely explosive, are you scared of bombs? Maybe scared of upsetting your baby? I don’t know, but I understand… be brave! It’s actually a time saver… ever been out in the middle of something and have to change a baby’s poo explosion? That happened to me ONCE when I got trapped in IKEA with Margo and I knew she had to go, and it was everywhere, all over her, myself and the baby carrier, so yeah… that takes some time too, better to get the poos out in a designated place.
Set Realistic Expectations

EC is about building awareness of elimination. It’s about finding a way to communicate between you and your child the whens and wheres they need to eliminate. Don’t worry if you seem to be missing lots of wees and poos. Especially when out and about, when dealing with multiple children, or at night. Eventually, your communication will sync and it will work, but there may be some days that work better than others!

Sound Cues

You can try using sound cues. I did this with Margo and it worked great. Make a ‘pssss’ sound for a wee and blow a raspbery for a poo. Every time they go, even if you missed it and it landed somewhere other than the potty, just make those noises. The idea is that eventually, they will associated the sound with the action. You can then hold them over the potty and make the noise and then they know to go! I haven’t had to do it with Goldie, her and I are really in tune with each other. However, my husband does it and you know what? Little 6 week old Goldie has started blowing these little baby raspberries now when she has to poo! Wonderful!

Timing

A newborn’s digestive track is incredibly short and they’re on a liquid diet… you don’t need to wait long to see if something will come flying out. When they wake from a sleep, is the best time to take them. Also, during a feed, if they start fusing, coming on and off the breast, is a sure sign they have to go. Have the ‘receptacle’ nearby, gently slip their diaper off, and see what comes out. Or, shortly after a feed, they could be sitting there all content, staring into that newborn space, and all of sudden start squirming, that is also a sure sign they have to go.

Observation

Give your baby some diaper free time. Watch their signals for when they might have to go. Signals could be unusual squirming, the ‘poo’ face, or pushing their abdomen. Heavy breathing, or panting can be a sign. Also, I noticed tummy time almost always produces a wee! Amazing little creatures, they are already communicating long before they can talk!

Position

Make sure they’re comfy in your arms. Rest their head against your arm or your back and hold their thighs. The ‘squatting’ position will help them go. You can squeeze your abdomen muscles a little, and that will actually cue them to ‘push’ a little. Anyway, even if they don’t go, they’ll probably release some wind! Sometimes the wee or poo comes out when they’re laying on their back, for diaper free time, or when you go to change their diaper. That’s great! You can just make a little cue sound, ‘pssss’, or blowing a raspberry for a #2. Then, they get familiar with the sound cues.

Watch your back

You don’t want an EC injury! I like to hold her so that I can stand up straight, so in some position where I’m not leaning over. Usually, when they have finished their business over the bucket, they will arch their back to let you know. ‘all done!’.

How to hold and Elimination Communication baby

Knees up, bum down!

How to Dress an EC Baby for ‘Success’

Easy access to your baby’s bottom is key. Let your baby have as much nappy free as they can. This really scares my husband, haha, especially when I hand him a baby with nothing more than a terry towel nappy around her bottom. I found that a shirt (without the snaps at the crotch), diaper (optional), and leg warmers (if it’s cool), is the best way to dress an EC baby. That way you can quickly get to them. I usually take off her nappy without even setting her down, saves times, and gets her over the bucket as soon as I notice she has to go. Often, when my husband takes her, he sets her down first to take off her nappy, and then she goes while laying down… waah waah, not fast enough! But, that’s only because she’s so little, small little bladder still!

How to dress and EC baby

Best way to dress and EC baby! Diaper is optional, easy access is essential.

I love doing EC! For so many reasons. The biggest reason is that there are less surprises. I know that if I take a baby to the ‘potty’ in the middle of the night, there will be no messy poo explosion, as I’m feeding her back to sleep. I know that I won’t be falling asleep only to stick my finger in her cloth diaper to find that it’s wet, and have to get back up to change her. I know that when we go for a walk, if she’s already pooped and peed, I can stay out with her longer because I know she’s already gone. I love EC. Please, feel free to ask all and any questions about doing EC with a newborn. I think it’s well worth the little bit of effort… and way more fun than scraping poo off a baby’s bottom!

Doing Elimination communication in her sleep

This is so easy… I can do it in my sleep!

About katesurfs

Kate is an American living in Australia with her husband and two young children. She holds a Masters of Educational Practice and is a high school science teacher by profession, but mostly she stays at home with her children. She is a yoga and meditation teacher, trained through the Art of Living Foundation, a surfer, a vegetarian, and healthy conscious. She is an Aware Parenting Instructor, as well as a Know Your Child Teacher.

50 Responses »

  1. I can’t wait to refer to this I’m a few months! Great words of support!

    Reply
  2. My girl arches her back she is done, too. Thanks so much for this article, it’s so great to find similarities with others, especially when I’m the only one I know doing EC! Evolet wears the outfit you described every day! And my husband is too slow too 😉
    Quick Q: my daughter is now 10 months and has 6 teeth coming in and out of nowhere has stopped cueing. And even resisting. Help! Did you experience this at all with Margo? X

    Reply
    • Haha, they guys are too slow! I’m sure the ‘resistance’ will change. As you have probably noticed, EC is a process that is constantly changing. We went through a period when Margo absolutely refused for me to take her at night! So, I just let her go in her diaper, and by the time she was 14 months, she was dry both night and day! It will all change 🙂

      Reply
      • transatlanticbelle

        Back to normal! And two new teeth poked thru! I was so worried. Thank u so much for your support and encouragement. She also now suddenly prefers to pee in sinks. So funny. X

      • Fantastic! It’s always changing, isn’t it? I couldn’t believe when my daughter let me take her outside near a tree the other day!

  3. This is a genuine question out of curiousity: How do you handle it with having two kids. I mean, sometimes we can’t just drop everything to take baby to the bucket – especially as we might be busy with the other child?

    Reply
    • Good question! I probably need to add to my blog that EC is not about catching every single thing that comes out of a baby’s butt! haha! You just do what is in your capacity. There is no way to catch everything! EC is just about bringing awareness to what goes on down there. Yes, sometimes the baby just has to wait! Just this morning, I was holding her and on the pot myself and I could see that she had to go… well… sorry babe, but that’s why I put a diaper on you sometimes 🙂 Friends of mine just did EC part time, and the child went to day care a lot, but they were still practicing EC when they were home, and the child was fully potty trained well before she was 2!

      Reply
  4. Hi Kate, thanks so much for this encouraging post!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can you tell me, do you leave the pee/poo in the dish all night, or get up and rinse it? Does the room smell like pee/ poo? Cos when I’ve taken out a wet nappy insert in my half sleep and just left it in the room, it smells. Do you have to get up and clean everything up? Does that wake you up heaps? I have so many questions! Thanks so much again for sharing your positive journey. It has made it feel so much more doable to me (is it the pictures too?)
    When does a baby typically (if there is such a thing) not need to wake to pee at night? What if I am feeding all through the night, do I need to potty all through the night, too?
    How do I catch the boy pees easily?
    Thanks so much!!

    Reply
    • Lots of good questions! I actually have the bucket right next door, in the other room. I don’t know… a lot of people use the bucket in the room, but I just don’t like the idea. I usually put her back to sleep first because she’s all frantic for boobs! Then, if I’m awake, I go back and rinse the bucket, because usually I have to use the loo myself. I think even a newborn poo still smells! I’m not sure about the waking thing… If you’re feeding through the night.. .what goes in must come out! When my daughter was a little older, about 10 months or so, I did bring the potty in the bedroom because she stopped pooing at night and would usually only wake once to do a wee. I stopped night feeding her around 19 months (right when I became pregnant). Then… she started sleeping through the night! Only occasionally would she wake after that to do a wee…. I think all kids and situations are different though, would be nice to know what other people have experienced!

      Reply
      • Thanks Kate, for answering my bazillion questions! haha. Yeah good reminder (always) all kids (people) are different! Bless you all

  5. Does this process work with boys? I think it’s too late to start with my youngest (8 months next week). bummer 🙁

    Reply
  6. thanks Kate! Vika becomes awake quickly n after ec i can spend at least an hour bouncing her back to sleep. Any tips? She is in a nappy though n started rebelling wearing it at all times. She is 3 months.

    Reply
  7. Reblogged this on TTC & Pregnancy and commented:
    This momma of three shares her experience with Elimination Communication, an awesome way to potty train as early as 6 weeks!! Check it out, we will be trying it for sure 🙂

    Reply
  8. Question about EC… This has been on my mind for a week or so. How do you successfully hold a boy for EC? I can see how a girl you can easily hold her over any bucket, but wouldn’t a boy pee straight ahead? Should you angle him more toward facing the ground, or push his wee wee downward? Lol, strange question, but now that I know we are having a boy I am really curious! Thanks 🙂

    Reply
    • You know.. that’s a good question. I only have girls! Let me ask my friend, Meggan, she also has a blog: megganmamma.wordpress.com/ and is doing EC with her 7 month old son. From what I’ve seen, I think yes, you would angle it down a bit for him, so that it doesn’t spray everywhere. I did have two brothers who were much younger than me, so I do remember what it’s like! Let’s see what Meggan says! There’s also a woman with an EC blog that I follow, she has a boy, I’ll ask her too! eliminationcommunication.wordpress.com/

      Reply
      • Hi there, thanks for all the info! I’m ECing my second boy. We started EC late with my first son, he was almost 2 years. We still taught him the cuing noise (psss for wees) and it worked a treat! My little one is almost 8 months, we ECed him from birth, but used disposable nappies from week 2 to 9. He’s been dipper free since 9 weeks. It took me ages and loads of experimentation to figure out how to get his wees in a potty. Then one day I saw an adult male portable plastic urinal container ($11 at a pharmacy). I use the urinal container for 1s and a small bucket below for 2s. Both my boys love going in nature…nothing like weeing on a tree, so if the weather is good it’s easy being our and about. We’ve done international travel all 100% ec, and we don’t use nappies at all, just undies and pants. Amazing journey! I’d definitely do it again if we have another child.

      • That’s fantastic! Wow, you’re really ‘nappy-free’! I bet it was a bit messy at first, but you learn quick, right? I traveled to America with my older daughter when she was 7 or 8 months old. It was really easy to EC on the plane! I will never forget, the last time I ever cleaned up a poo mess on her was the day we got back from our overseas trip… she got a little sick from all the travel, and looked at me like, ‘I’m not gonna make it!’. Before that I hardly ever cleaned up any poos anyway! After that, we were pretty much nappy free except at night for a few more months 🙂

      • Hi Kate, thanks for your email 😉 yes we’ve been 100% nappy free night and day since my baby boy was 9 weeks old! But…I had a bad injury a month ago and couldn’t lift him for 4 weeks…very tough for an ECing, attachment parenting…co-sleeping mum! Anyway, my hero partner diligently continued ECing through the night…he was awesome! And I had a nanny who I taught EC to so somehow we continued ECing even through a Terrible back injury…I’m functional again and back to baby carrying and EC :-)…but through the transition my bub has started wetting the bed at night. Until now he’s been dry until 4 or 5am and then I’ve taken him to eliminate. But a wet baby is too hard…having to change his pajamas and the waterproof mat he sleeps on… I googled and found your site. I’m going to try diapers tonight, still offer EC each time he wakes.

      • Ah! It’s so crazy when you’re sick! I’m sick at the moment with the flu and I can barely move. The only reason I’m on the computer is because my head is throbbing and I can’t lay down. Hubby is in charge of the ECing right now, but he misses heaps! Last night he missed like three wees in a row that landed in her nappy and Goldie was crying so hard (because she gets really mad), that she did that cry/stop breathing thing! The only reason I didn’t have a heart attack is because my older daughter did something similar when she was about the same age! So good that you have a nanny to help you! I’m sure he’ll be back on track soon with the nighttime thing. My daughter would NOT let me take her at night when she was about 9 months old, but it was just a phase.

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  14. I just came across your blog a few days ago and I’m addicted! I’ve been slowly but surely adopting the attachment parenting style with my 5 month old son. He’s exclusively breastfed and he sleeps in our bed. I was binge reading your blog posts and before I came across this one, I had never even heard of EC! We will be traveling to another state to visit our families next week so I wouldn’t be able to start until we get back but I’m attempting to look out for his cues. This morning he was acting a little fussy for seemingly no reason and my first thought was to hold him over the toilet to see what happens but then I thought “Hey, what do I know?” So I took him to his changing pad instead and opened his diaper to watch and out came the poop! I was so excited! And he definitely seemed happier to do it without his hiney being all cooped up. I’m happy to say that I will be giving this a real try when we get back from our trip! Thanks for all of the information!

    Reply
    • Oh, that’s wonderful to hear Raina! So glad you found something here at Katesurfs 🙂 Please let me know how you’re doing and if you need any help with EC! I did the same with my first daughter when I started ECing her when she was about 10 days old. Just observing her on the change table.

      Reply
  15. I did EC with my second child (I hadn’t heard of it with my first and kind of accidentally did EC with her, it just seemed natural to let her go diaper free often). She was diaper free months before she was 2 except at night, she might pee once or twice a week. Then I got pregnant. I was really sick and tired in pregnancy and couldn’t stand the smell of wet diapers. So I switched to the disposables. Within a few months she began wetting every night in her diaper. Recently she has begun peeing in her clothes when she naps. She has always been a very heavy sleeper. And sleeps through the night. She will be 3 in July. I am so excited to do EC with my new babe, but hope I haven’t lost the window with my middle child. Any thoughts?

    Reply
    • Hi! When a child goes through the birth of a sibling, it can quite traumatic and sometimes they can start regressing like that… Do you think she might be needing some extra times to connect with you? With the nearly 3 year old, just keep it easy, give her lots of diaper free time in places where it won’t matter if there’s a mess. Leave a potty around and without much effort, I’m sure she’ll be back on track. You could try playing games with her and doing some roll playing (like take the doll to the potty, or be silly about the doll peeing in it’s pants). Anything to make her laugh about the accidents might be helpful to release some built up stress 🙂

      Reply
      • I wasn’t clear, sorry. She is only peeing in her pants in her sleep. Sometimes she wakes to pee, but it is stressful for her as she sleeps so deeply.

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  18. oh man, I’m still pretty overwhelmed with this dream, my lads are 9 weeks old on Monday & I’ve only caught like one poo! They poo SO much, like at least 7 times a 24hrs, probably more, & wee!! LOADS. Twins. I became re-inspired this morning so we’re in the morning sun in our bedroom with some plastic change mats and i’ve got out my EC pull-ups to put on after this naked time here…
    Flynn was getting all squirmy before and i got all excited & put him over the bucket, held him there for a good five min or more, but nothing…ooh, then a little pee started, so i put my finger gently on his doodle to point it downward, & it stopped…we waited…nothing more…so i lay him on the mat and about 5min later, out came the wee, i again put him over the bucket, but nothing more came…
    same thing later i thought i saw poo cue’s, but 5 or so min hanging over the bucket brought nothing….
    meanwhile, Ra, the other twin, is half asleep over there…
    i’m amazed at all the success stories here!! go you guys.

    Reply
  19. This is so clever! I wish I had read this 4months ago. Could I still do this with a 4 month old? Do you have any other tips about ‘knowing when they’re gonna go’?
    Thank you 🙂

    Reply
    • Another question.
      My daughter only poops once every 5(ish) days. Do you think she’ll still be familiar with the rasberry noise even though she doesn’t pooh often?
      Thanks 🙂

      Reply
  20. Kate–
    I’m so stoked that you did this so successfully. I’ve done it with my first three and they’re potty-trained by 1 1/2 or 2. :/ I’m not the best at it!

    Two thoughts: Have you figured out how to swaddle while ECing? So you can bring a newborn to the potty without their little arms flailing?

    Also, I would love to pay someone $10/month or something to be my EC coach. A 10-minute phone call answering questions I have and troubleshooting…support like that. I would love for a successful ECer like you to consider doing that.

    Reply
    • Hi Erika!
      I never swaddled my babies… they were in the wraps and slings a lot though. I don’t put them on a potty though. When they’re little, I rest them against my back, so then they can’t flail around there. I think there is a lady out there who does exactly what you’re looking for. I can’t remember her blog… try googling.

      Reply
  21. Hi Kate,
    I know this post is from a long time ago but maybe you’ll see this! I have a 5 month baby boy and he was nappy free for the first couple of months and when he was around 2-3 months I really started to do well with EC although never quite figured out the night time ones. But now he’s bigger and its not always so clear what his signs are and I’m lucky to catch one pee a day. I was catching about 7. Now i’m not sure if its worth carrying on. I went totally backwards and now I catch nothing! Plus he weighs about 9.5 kg already so quite tough but I really want him out of nappies by about 1 year, or at least in dry ones so when I go travel he’s not sitting in wet nappies! No one I know has done this so i’m kind of on my own hence reaching out here!
    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog! Any tips much appreciated!

    Reply
    • Wow! This sounds just like me, too. This always seems to happen to me (I’ve had three kids do this.)

      I’d love to hear what Kate says about this.

      Reply
    • Yes… It can happen at that age. There are a lot of things going on with babies that age. *Usually* the biggest reason for trouble with elimination communication is a backlog of pent up frustration and emotions. It’s sort of hard to explain in one go… but, I would suggest reading a book called ‘Tears and Tantrums’ by Aletha Solter. If a baby is allowed to lovingly release his or her negative emotions, then they will be more relaxed and in tune to be able to go in the right place at the right time, if that makes sense?

      Reply
      • Thanks for getting back to me. There are certainly a lot of changes going on right now, so much new information and so much to process, so many new skills and feelings. Finding a voice! I will check out the book I have heard this theory before but never linked to EC.
        Warm wishes

  22. Hi, not sure if my comment is still trying to load or it got lost…. I have done EC with my boys and now starting for the first time with a girl. Question – with the boys I would gently tap the penis to shake off the last drop of wee…. do you do anything to dry off with a girl? I use cloth nappies, should I just pop straight back on? Thanks

    Reply
  23. I tried EC with my 18 month old. It worked well at first but then things went out of control and all he did was crap and piss all over the place! It may have been on purpose!! I had to go back to diapers and then toilet training!! At least he didn’t become constipated…

    Reply
  24. I’m really close to giving up, he goes for two or three poo’s a day at the moment and I don’t seem to recognise the signs at all. Thing is I really really really don’t want him to have to wear nappies all day, I live in Laos and its too hot! help! I felt like I was so in tune with him for a while but now I have to get on with busy life again and its impossible to read all his signs. I will look at the book you recommended Kate but in the mean time aaaahhhh!

    Reply

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