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About DiaperFreeBaby

Potty training isn't usually the most pleasant part of child rearing, but it can be easier-and over and done with much more quickly-than in the past. This, according to an organization called DiaperFreeBaby, whose founders believe that the key to successful potty training lies in paying attention to your child's cues. We spoke with Melinda Rothstein, Co-Founder and Director of Diaper Free Baby, to learn more.

Q: When did DiaperFreeBaby start, and what is it all about?

A: The first official DiaperFreeBaby meeting was in January 2004 in the Boston area. Rachel Milgroom and I founded the organization because we believed that families interested in and/or practicing Elimination Communication (EC) would benefit from in person support from other practicing families. We established a system of Mentors, parents (usually mothers) who have practiced EC and have enough information and experience to guide meetings and provide information and resources to participating families, and to run local group meetings and/or other public events.

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DiaperFreeBaby did not invent EC, but we have developed a set of philosophies that explain EC in a way that we believe is important for interested parents and caregivers to understand. Although EC has been practiced in many cultures for thousands of years, it is sometimes challenging to adapt these practices to our "modern" daily lives.

We have local groups around the world and run a website and online shop that provide information, educational materials, resources, and helpful products. The organization is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and is run entirely by volunteers.

Q: What are the benefits of practicing elimination communication with your baby from infancy?

A: A few of my favorites reasons to EC are:

  • increased communication between parent/caregiver and infant
  • better understanding of baby's needs and explanation for "unexplained" fussiness
  • respect for the baby's body and bodily functions
  • discovering how amazingly capable babies are
  • enjoying baby's body and natural self without being bound up in diapers

Q: What are some ways a child might communicate that (s)he has to go to the bathroom?

A:The ways a child will communicate depends somewhat on his/her age, but some common signs for infants are:

  • wiggling or fussing
  • verbalizing
  • crying
  • passing gas
  • sudden agitation after periods of peaceful quiet
  • grunting
  • flailing arms or legs
  • refusal to sit in car seat, stroller, sling
  • signing (commonly starts after 8 or 9 months of age) ASL sign for "potty" if parents have been using the sign with their baby

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Q: Are there certain benchmarks or guidelines you should be looking for to know if you're both communicating successfully?

A:

Since EC is very personalized by each parent/child couple it is important to trust your intuition regarding your relationship. If you and your baby are in synch and "catching" any pees and poops in the potty (or whatever toileting place/receptacle you are using) you are probably communicating successfully. Even if you aren't "catching" anything at first, your communication is being received by the baby and at some point in the future you will likely start seeing a two-way communication.

There are both signals from the baby to the caregiver and signs that the caregiver can give the baby. Neither has to be present at the same time and both can build the communication. Sometimes a baby will not respond clearly to signs from the caregiver or not demonstrate understanding or interest in participating, but continuing to offer pottying opportunities and talking to the baby about his/her eliminations builds a stronger base for future communications and often leads to more potty use in the near future (could be hours, days, weeks, or months).

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I, personally, think people should give it at least 3 months before deciding whether it works for them or not—there are challenges at all ages, but the older the baby, the longer it might take for the baby to start responding by using the toilet/potty even though the baby's communication skills may be more advanced; if the baby has been diaper-trained for many months already, he will need to be un-diaper-trained while learning pottying skills.

Q: What is the difference between communication and training?

A: With respect to toilet learning, I see that there are several differences. For one, toilet training has a very specific goal in mind—to get a diaper-trained child to use a potty or toilet instead of a diaper. It is usually viewed as an event that takes place at a particular point in time, usually involves some sort of method or technique and quite commonly, at least in our culture, involves rewards and bribes, possibly even punishments.

Communication—as practiced through elimination communication—does not focus on one end result, but focuses on building a relationship between parent or caregiver and baby. This relationship is based on trust and learning together, accepts a baby for his or her actual developmental stage (rather than what "should" be for a certain age), and allows the baby freedom in his or her own development. It is equally shared among parent (or caregiver) and baby, although at different stages of development one or the other will likely take more initiative than the other. It involves finding ways to work together in a variety of situations and both parties teach and learn from each other. The result of the baby becoming potty independent (and out of diapers if diapers or training pants are used in the learning process) is more of a "side benefit" than a goal. Patience is key and a respect for your child as a unique being is critical. Rewards and punishments are not used, and any pressure is counter productive (and not considered EC by definition). Sharing excitement with a child is wonderful (such as "Wow! You peed in the potty!) so long as there is no judgment passed (i.e. "you're a good girl because you peed in the potty!").

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Q: Is there worry that you might be rushing a child through a stage that usually takes at least a few years?

A:EC does not involve rushing. Attempts to "rush" the process usually end up in failure. It's more of a learning process and people should understand that depending on the age of the child it can take a range of months before a child achieves toilet independence. By contrast, conventional toilet training involves diaper training a child for several years and then rushing him through a training event that can seem confusing and difficult since it is often so sudden (or may seem that way to a child!).

What if a baby is reluctant to let go of the diaper?

A:This is something that is seen mainly with toddlers who have worn diapers all along and have not been using the potty from an early age. Most babies who are EC'd from under a year of age are accustomed to using their diapers only as back-up for when they don't make it to the potty on time. They would not identify a diaper as the only place they feel comfortable eliminating. Also, many EC'd babies are out of diapers either completely or mostly before they hit this this toddler age range.

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Q: Did you toilet train your children this way?

A:I don't consider that I toilet trained either of my children. They were brought up learning their toileting skills through the practice of EC and both of them transitioned into toilet independence easily. I started EC with my son when he was 8 months old and I started EC with my daughter when she was born. They had somewhat different elimination patterns and very different personalities, but both started pottying independently and "graduated" approximately at the same age.

I am due to give birth to our 3rd child at the end of August and look forward to EC'ing this new baby as well!

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