Wilhelmina on the potty... 1 day old
I don’t know why I read the comments that come after articles about EC on mainstream sites. The comments are not only full of myths, but they are down right mean, and this is because someone chooses to communicate with their baby, and chooses to help them eliminate in another place than a diaper and the comments are made often just because they have a fear or a misunderstanding of the unknown.

So, I thought that I would touch on some of these myths. A few that I even believed in many moons ago (Xavier was 100% diaper trained and potty-trained)

Also… These are taken from actual discussions.. so they are things that people really do believe.

Myth #1: “Infants don’t have any control or awareness of their elimination and are not psychologically ready until they are around 2-3”. 

This is of course what we are taught right? That potty training happens when kids are ready… most often after 2 and most likely around the age of 3 or even up to 4 or 5. How can a newborn know what a 3-year-old needs to be “trained” to do?

This might be a bit long but the first thing to do it look back about 50 years when our parents were babies; look back 30 years when we were babies and look at the history of diapers and potty training in our culture. (80% of the world uses EC like techniques so this is idea is very culture specific)

Up to about 60 years ago the only choice in diapering was cloth diapers. Not the fancy-schmancy cloth diapers that we have now, but just a piece of cloth held up with a pin… not even a water proof cover. Without a machine operated washing machine, diapers were washed by hand or more-often than not, if it was just urine, were not washed at all, and instead were just hung up to dry. Because of this, parents were motivated to get their babies out of diapers as soon as possible which for most, was before a year of age. The potty training methods of this time were not the child-led ones that we have today, they were at times physiologically damaging and in some cases led to life long problems. I think that this early potty training, is where this myth starts.

In the 40’s/50’s a few things happened: Washing machines evolved in a way that diapers could be washed more easily, and the first waterproof cover was invented. The first disposable diaper was also invented (though were much too expensive to be used by most) and a child-led method of potty training started to be recommended by doctors and by pediatric groups. This meant that Parents started potty-training when the child showed signs of readiness instead of it being the parent’s choice. Disposable diapers became readily available and affordable in the 1970’s and over the next 30 years became the highly absorbable, “dry” diapers that we have today. Not only that, but in the last decade, the cloth industry also started to gain fashion and started mimicking it’s disposable cousin, being easy to use and wicking moisture away from the skin and keeping babies dry and comfortable. But these changes are why we now see potty-training in the way we see it today and why it is often seen as such a milestone that comes later and later.

So, before the 1950’s most babies were trained by a year with a strong push from parents, but by the 1970’s the average crept up to about 18-24 months and now it is at an average of nearly 40 months with some being trained “early” between 18-24 months and with others going up to 60 months (that is 5 years old btw).

Of course, training them to use a diaper and then waiting for them to initiate potty-training in this day and age is something very different from it was even 2-3 decades ago.  As babies are trained to use diapers, they are taught to ignore their bodies and because of that, they lose the ability to control and no longer need to be aware and lose that awareness. Though they do not enjoy being wet or soiled, diapers (disposable and many of the new cloth diapers) have evolved in a way that they do not feel the discomfort. Diapers are designed to stay dry and keep moisture away, the better they work, the longer children will not see the need to do differently. Also, In the 1970’s disposable diapers were bulky and didn’t wick away moisture as they do now and they only came in three sizes. The more absorbent and thin they got, and the more sizes came out, the longer it took for children to be out of diapers.

So that is a very short history of diapers and potty-training, and given this history I can see why the myth is believed, if you equate EC to potty training.

What is missing though is that Elimination Communication is not potty training, it is about communication. Big difference!!

EC has nothing to do with training a child to use the toilet after having trained them to do a diaper, it is about tending to one of their basic needs.

Newborn babies sleep, eat and eliminate. That is what they do. When they communicate that they are hungry, we feed them. When they communicate that they are tired, we help them sleep. When they communicate that they need to eliminate, we help them do so. It is about responding to a child’s basic need. Contrary to what is often believed, infants, even newborns do have control over their sphincter muscle from birth.  The bladder fills, they feel the pressure, they release the muscle and go. The same with bowel movements. ALL babies communicate in some way when they feel that pressure and it gets uncomfortable, just as they communicate the need to eat or sleep. They may cry out unexpectedly, they may pull away from the breast, they may have a certain facial expression, they may wake up from sleep suddenly, there are many different signs. Now, it is true that the muscle is not 100% mature, and that maturity is something that happens when children are between 12-24 months, with an average of 18 months, but when it is mature, that is when toileting should be complete, not when it should start.

Think about it, especially parents of boys, how many times have you taken a diaper off only to have baby pee? Keep that image in your memory.

With diapering, we choose to ignore the signals that our children are telling us and teach the baby in turn to ignore the sensation and simply use the diaper as a toilet, only to have to re-train them to do the opposite later on. With EC, the parent chooses instead to tune in to the signals and helps the child eliminate away from themselves (over a bowl, potty, sink, toilet etc)

Instinctively, fresh air is actually “trigger” to eliminate, as the parent will undress/uncover the baby when they signal, so when you think back to the baby boy peeing when the diaper is taken off, and even the products that have been created because of that,  you will understand that it is not just a coincidence. It is what is natural.

Babies instinctively do not want to soil themselves and will wait and “hold it in” to eliminate where it is more comfortable to do so. They have the muscle control from birth, they communicate the need to go and EC is simply about responding to that need as you would respond to other needs. But if you ignore it, you are training them to ignore their bodies and training them to use a diaper.

So going back to the myth… It is completely false. Babies are ready to eliminate at birth, it is a basic need. They have control and awareness and communicate the need as much as they do other needs and do not enjoy soiling themselves. There is nothing damaging in responding to a babies need.

Myth#2: “just another classic sign of parents “rushing” their children to grow up.. they’re babies, so let them be babies.”

Who says that part of being a baby is wearing diapers? Why is diaper training an essential part of babyhood? What about cribs, bottles, strollers, pacifiers… I used none of these  and I “let my babies be babies”. Things do not make a baby a baby. What gets me the most about this myth it that it often comes from the type of parent that will then turn around and sleep-train a baby and talk about the important of independence.. This myth has nothing to do with what is normal and natural it has everything to do with what is more convenient for the parent and the fear of the unknown. EC is not about rushing babies to grow up, It is simply about responding to a need.

Myth #3: “the baby is not really potty trained with this method, the parents are!” or “You are all deluded. A baby cannot control their bodily functions at that age, be sensible, it is the parents who are trained here!!”

I agree, I am trained to respond to my babies needs. If they communicate that they are hungry, I am trained to feed them. If they communicate that they are tired, I am trained to help them fall asleep. If they communicate the need to eliminate, I help them do so in a clean and sanitary way. What is wrong with that?

Whats the difference between a newborn signalling they have to go to the bathroom and me bringing them over the toilet, or my now 21 month old daughter running to the bathroom and calling “mama” to help her get on the toilet. Nothing.

I am am just responding to her request the way I did when she was a newborn.

Myth #4: EC is unclean and unsanitary or “EW, I don’t have the time to clean up pee and poop all day, I would rather spend time with my baby”

The myth here is going back to the idea that babies have no control and just pee and poo everywhere all of the time. This is not true. Yes, there can be misses or “accidents” but once EC is well established and going well, the misses and accidents cause much less mess that the messes that occur with diapers. Have you ever experienced a blowout??? Talk about messy! Furthermore, when you are ECing, most misses are pee, as poop is often the easiest to catch and babies will most often wait to do them. Also, this myth is also assuming that EC has to be diaper-free. Yes, it can be, and when it is going well it often is, but many people who EC use training underwear or even diapers as back up. They simply take the diaper off or pull the underwear down when it is time to eliminate in the same way as we do when we go to the bathroom. Colin and Khéna both used diapers as back-up even though we ECed, I would often change a diaper at the end of the day because it was the thing to do, just like you change underwear, not because it was dirty.

Myth #5 “Wow. Someone has no real life. Imagine being able to sit there, 24 hrs a day, just watching your kid for signs that he/she has to go potty. ???” or “I’d rather have a life and actually go out and have fun with my baby”

Would you not go out with a baby because they might get hungry? How about if they get sleepy? What if you have to go to the bathroom while you are out, or what about your 10-year-old? You just deal with the situation when it arrises. If you see that baby has to go to the bathroom, you bring them. You can bring a potty, you can use a toilet etc. Once you get used to the signs, and equally important the timing, EC outside of the home is actually often easier than in the home. If a baby is not trained to use the diaper as a toilet, they will wait until you bring them to an appropriate place, just like an older child that tell you they have to go the bathroom. You can’t wait for an eternity but it is also not an instantaneous thing. And don’t forget, you can use diaper back-up.

 Myth #6: “EC takes so much longer than potty training. Why would I choose to do something over 18 months when I could do it in just 1 or 2 months when they are ready?”

If you are not familiar with EC or still a bit confused, this statement might make sense. The problem is, this myth is equating EC to potty-training and ignoring, or not understanding that the goal of EC is not potty-independence, it is Communication.  However, being potty independent is something that does happen at the end.

Myth #7: “That’s absurd, a 3 month old can’t sit on a potty!!!”

Well… actually some can 😉 Some can even do it earlier. But that’s not the point. There are many alternatives to sitting on the potty for a small baby. Again, EC is not about potty-training. The goal is not to sit on the potty by themselves, the goal is to help a baby eliminate when the express the need to do so. A parent can hold them over a potty, a bowl, a sink, the toilet or any other receptacle and then when they are ready, the will be able to sit on the potty also.

So these are some of the myths I have come across just by reading the comments after one article and it is basically summed up more of the myths that I have heard over the years. If you have others, I would love to hear them and debunk them…