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Elimination Communication and Early Toilet Training with a Kid Who Won’t Sit Still

Miss Ants-In-Her-Pants-Wiggle-Worm

Miss Ants-In-Her-Pants-Wiggle-Worm

My older daughter could have been the poster child for elimination communication (EC).  She sat still.  She hardly squirmed.  She hardly fussed.  By fourteen months, that was all she wrote, she was toilet trained, day and night. I wasn’t sure I could really claim victory though, as she was the only child I had EC’ed with and had nothing to compare her with.  And then… along came Goldie.

Everything about Goldie is ‘GO!’.  She’s fast and squirmy and feisty and bossy and fidgety.  She’s moves and moves fast!  Even her birth was fast (2 1/2 hours).  While my older daughter would sit perfectly still on the potty from about two months old… this one… FORGET IT!  Would not sit still for anything.  She would arch her back and scream in protest if I tried to sit her on the potty as a young baby.  We missed a lot more poos and a whole lot more wees than I ever had with my older daughter. I had ‘heard’ about these types of EC babies.  The ones who wouldn’t still and who wouldn’t communicate as well about when they had to go.  Now, after having one of these squirmy babies myself, I can see what they mean!

I’m surprised (and happy) to say… Goldie just turned 15 months and I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that toilet training is done and dusted for this girl of ours!  I was really shocked because the way it was all going, I wasn’t sure what would happen.  But, as what happens with many many toddlers around this age, they start to say a few words, become very mobile and start being able to tell you when they need to go.  So it all worked out and here are a few things that I learned along the way.

Hold Them When They Go

Holding a baby in the classic squat position is better for a baby’s bowels anyway, but with a squirmy baby, holding them, rather than letting them sit on the potty, allows two things:

1. It keeps them still and comfortable against your body and they can’t arch their back and blast off the potty.

2. It allows the elimination to happen faster (especially the poos), because of the position.  Less time hovering over the toilet receptacle, is better for our special squirmy babies.

Be mindful of your back if you are holding them to go!  Try holding them over something that allows you to stand up straight, like a bucket on a table, or a sink.


I used our sink in the bathroom (haha, keep those toothbrushes out of firing range) because she could see my face in the mirror.  Also, I know it sounds sort of gross, but if you’re using a mirror that is low enough, you can keep an eye on their anal sphincter (yes, I said sphincter, you know the inner middle-school child in you is cracking up right now) to see if there is a poo a-brewing.  You can also use a mirror in front of a potty or bucket on the floor.

Elimination Communication

Don’t worry, I moved our toothbrushes after the photo was taken.


I’m one of those attachment parents who never uses distractions of any sort… except… when I know my feisty baby has to pee or poo and she wouldn’t sit still and we’re about to leave the house!  So, I give her a toy or anything in reach to play with or hold so she would sit still.  Usually, if she really had to go, giving her something in her hand to play with for even a moment, was enough to keep her still so that she would go.

Don’t Offer the Potty More Than Necessary

Feisty squirmy babies can get seriously pissed off (no pun intended) if you’re trying to take them every two minutes.  Often, babies can hold much longer than we give them credit for and even if you miss a few pees, the fiesty baby might be happy that you were not constantly taking them. Don’t be afraid to use a diaper as a back up.  A lot of times you may hear the term ‘diaper-free’ or ‘nappy-free’.  While you can certainly be 100% without padding on that lovely bottom, nobody says that you can’t do both diaper and EC.  It’s what I do a lot of times because I certainly didn’t catch everything and I didn’t want puddles all the time and peed on clothes or carseats or beds if I happened to miss something.  So, if you feel like you’re having a ‘missy‘ day just put the diaper on and relax and maybe after they take a nap, or have a feed, things will change.

If your wiggly baby does eliminate when you take him or her, take them away as soon as they arch their back (babies often arch their back to indicate when they are finished).  You don’t want to force them to hang out on the potty or over the bucket for too long or they will start getting annoyed.  My older daughter would sit for literally twenty minutes on the potty and we would have a chat and a giggle… but not the case with Miss. Ants in Her Pants.  Potty time meant business time, and then it was ‘get me offa here!’

Remember the Longterm Goal

EC and early toilet training, is not about catching every single pee and poo (although that would be nice).  More than anything, it is important to build a trusting and open communication pathway with your child.  Even if some days it seems like you’re missing almost everything, don’t worry, it will all sort itself out.  Just keep at it and remember that we all have off days, especially if you or your child are tired or are not feeling well!

Watch for Wiggle-Less Windows of Opportunities

Even when I knew that she had to go, if my squirmy worm was tired or grumpy, there was just no way she was going to let me take her.  So, I would ‘feed first, pee later‘. After she had been fed, she was a bit more relaxed.  Often, this meant that I couldn’t feed her to sleep though!  Which was a bit annoying, because I was so used to feeding my older daughter to bed.  But, I really had no choice as she wouldn’t sit still before the feed and she wouldn’t fall asleep if she had to pee… It was a bit of a conundrum, so she would end up falling asleep in my armpit, after her trip to the potty, without the boob. (Some mothers would say, yay, it’s better that way anyway).

Also, a great time to take a squirmy kid is when they have just woken up from a nap, as they are still not fully awake.  This is the best to time to take any baby, but especially with a squirmy baby because it MAY be the only chance you get once they get moving.  Again, remember, your job is just to build awareness, so if you find a ‘potty opportunity’ time, jump on it while you have the chance.

Go Diaper Free Often

If you can, and the climate is permitting, around the house, see if you can just let them run around bare bum.  What my wiggly worm hated more than anything was me trying to grab her after she went to the toilet so that I could put some clothes or a diaper on her.  It was indignation to the max, for her. While my older daughter hardly ever complained if I took her clothes on and off all day, this little one was just not having it. Trying to put clothes back on them after you take them is also a pain for you and might end up making you feel lazy the next time you think they need to go.  Try a pair or leg warmers and a bare bum if it’s a little chilly, or just a pair of pants that easily slip on and off.

Go With the Flow

Go with the flow goes for all ECing, but especially is true for babies who are fussy and won’t sit still.  When something isn’t working, try something else, or just forget about it and try later.  If I tried to take her and she started arching her back and screaming bloody murder and a little bit of encouragement wasn’t working, often I would just whack a diaper on, knowing that she was going to pee two seconds later.  Here is where you have to remember (again) that practicing EC is NOT about catching every single pee and poo.  EC is about building awareness and maintaining positive communication pathways.  Even if you catch just a few pees or a poo here and there, you are letting your child know that there is an alternative and they will eventually start to pick up on when and where they should go.  They might all of a sudden get it very quickly.  If they protest going in one spot, try somewhere else.  Also, trying nighttime EC might go very smoothly for some wiggly babies because it’s the only time they sit still!

Elimination communication

Trying out a new venue with her leg warmers on.

Remember to Have Fun!

I think EC is a whole lot of fun, to be honest.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  If your kid is a wiggly worm, don’t worry, they will get it eventually, it’s just up to us, as the parents to be just a little more tuned in and a bit more persistent.  The most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to ‘give up’ doing EC if it gets to be too hard.  Even just taking a baby once or twice a day when you think they have to go can give them just enough insight into how it all works.

I’m sure  there are many other mothers who have ECed squirmy babies.  I know that I definately didn’t give all the advice out there that there is to give!  Please feel free to leave a comment below to share any tips/tricks or secrets that you know about ECing a wiggle worm so that we might be able to help other mamas out there in the same situation!

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7 Responses »

  1. Hi. I love reading your blog. So inspiring.I have a wiggly worm and I do the same things as you do. Could you write more about not using distractions in your parenting style?Dasha

    • I might have to write a post on that 🙂 If you have a look for ‘aware parenting’ or other natural parenting sites, they might talk about it. It’s not that you don’t ever use distractions. But, when it comes to distracting kids from allowing certain emotions to be expressed, then it becomes a problem. For example, if a child is upset and is crying, rather than shoving a toy in his/her face, you allow the emotion to express itself (in tears or whatever) and then the emotion comes and goes and is released from the system… does that make sense?

      • Thank you for your explanation. I have been thinking about overusing distractions and I was not sure when it is the right time use them. I will check the natural parenting sites. Dasha

  2. I know this is really old, but I found this as I too have a squirming wriggling escapee of a baby who will not sit on the potty and I would like to share my experience.

    I tried all the usual other places that might entice him to sit because they were new… him on the toilet, both of us on the toilet, me holding him (in addition to back arching he will claw at my face or yank my hair or both), potty in a different room… he wasn’t having any of that. And then I can’t remember how but I think I was annoyed and the potty was drying in the bath so I flipped it and said there you can sit in the bath. And he did!!

    Potty in bedroom, he will climb off, sit on the floor and tinkle on the rug; Potty in bathtub, success!! It’s only been a couple of weeks and he’s nearly 1 so I am aware things could all change quickly, but yay for now. And actually Potty in the bathtub is better than any other place as everything is to hand for a quick clean.

    The only problem is night time… am too scared to take him to the bathroom at night with its bright light as it may wake him too much. So last night I let him Potty in the bedroom. By which I mean he tinkled on the rug.

    I’ve only just discovered your blog and I think it’s lovely!

  3. So happy to have found your blog and this post in particular. Our one year old is a fast-moving busybody who is learning to walk and after having 90% of his poops on the potty for two months straight, he’s become impossible to sit on the potty for more than a minute (which is usually not long enough). And his predictable pattern of going #2 after sleep/nap fell away, too. Books or a couple potty toys buy time, but not much. Tried switching him to a toilet seat because he can’t stand up from it, but he’s yet to poop on there. Will try some of your tips. I think I also needed to hear that setbacks don’t automatically mean we failed at EC and he’ll be in diapers till 3! Thank you 🙂

  4. Thank you so much for this post! I have been searching high and low for something on babies who just don’t want to participate. My 4 month old son is a great prospering baby, very quick in communicating and super mobile. Since he was two weeks old I have been using EC and there have been times that all went well. But many many MANY more times he just doesn’t want to pee when I hold him or put him on a potty, arches his back and then pees on the carpet or in his diapers seconds later. (Pooing is easier, he does that only every 4 to 5 days and obviously prefers the sink or bucket over his diaper.)
    Most days I catch 1 or 2 pees and then, if I’m lucky, one day in the week it goes great and I miss only 5 or 6 times. Those rare days give me the courage to hang on (on top of the idea of having to wash 15 diapers everyday), but I was really starting to think I did something wrong. After reading your post and the other comments I feel more relaxed to keep on going without frustration. He simply likes to do things his way, and I am sure he will come to realise the benefits of working together some day soon. Thanks again!


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