How I Found Elimination and Communication in EC

Welcome to the First Annual Freedom of Cloth Carnival

This post was written for inclusion in the Freedom of Cloth Carnival hosted at Natural Parents Network by Melissa of The New Mommy Files and Shannon of The Artful Mama. This year’s carnival will run from Sunday, July 3rd through Saturday, July 9th. Participants are sharing everything they know and love about cloth diapering, including how cloth has inspired them.


When I was pregnant with my first child, I already knew I wanted to cloth diaper. I researched the benefits to both health and the environment and decided that, while I can understand the arguments for cloth diapers and disposables, cloth was the way I wanted to go. So, we hired a cloth diaper service and managed well with prefolds, snappis, and PUL covers until our first son, Nat, was around 6 months old.

Discovering Elimination Communication

As we emerged from the newborn shell shock, we began noticing that our son would fuss or cry before peeing or pooing in his diaper and he would pee or poo whenever his diaper was removed. I researched online and after panicking over all manner of terrifying medical conditions (first time parent, remember) I stumbled upon elimination communication. I was extremely skeptical, but felt instinctively that Nat was trying to tell me something. So, with little belief, I decided to give it a whirl. Nat squirmed a bit and fussed while wearing his diaper. So I held him over the sink and he peed! I was hooked. This little baby was smart. He already knew to communicate his need to relieve himself and his thick-headed mother was finally getting it. It only took a little while before his dad was happily practicing as well.

We still used cloth diapers while out, but Nat was pretty much nakey butt all the time at home. When he began crawling, he would reach for a Baby Bjorn potty to let me know he needed to use it. I ended up buying several potties to keep in the rooms where we were. This came in handy when he was able to walk to the potty on his own and he would get himself there much more easily.

When Nat was about 15 months old, we switched to cloth training pants from The EC Store. We used the training pants while we were out of the house and continued to let Nat be naked while home. Nat switched to underpants full-time at 18 months old. He has always been an easy-going child, so our e.c. journey with him was easy.

The Second Time Around

Things were not so easy the second time around. We had planned on practicing e.c. from birth with our second son, Gan. We did e.c. full-time for the first few weeks. It was a joy to experience this time with little Gan. I found keeping his booty clean so much easier when he could just relieve himself into a small potty or onto a prefold as I held him in my arms. However, connecting with Gan became increasingly challenging for me as I succumbed to postpartum depression. My husband and I made the decision to use primarily cloth diapers and only e.c. when it was joyful while our family healed together.

I held onto a lot of guilt about this decision as I was concerned about the long term effects on him if he lost his awareness of his bodily functions. Still, Gan was full-time in underpants at about 20 months, although we had a few days of regression to missing here and there around the time he turn 2 years old and his little brother, Bud, was born. I think Gan has been able to maintain his awareness of his pottying needs because he has always been in cloth. He could tell when he was wet, so there was little disconnect from his urge to relieve himself.

I think Gan would have had a far more difficult time maintaining his awareness of his needs to pee and poo if we had used disposable diapers that wick moisture away from the skin. Cloth diapers have been an asset and not a detriment to Gan’s journey to potty independence. I wonder if we might have had a more difficult time with him without cloth because he has always been fiercely opinionated. If I had attempted full e.c. with him, I believe he may have felt it as control. Cloth diapers allowed him the joy of taking them off himself while watching my reaction. We would play a game where I would pretend to be upset that he was removing his diaper and sitting on the potty without my help. When he was older, we played the game but pulling off underpants didn’t seem as satisfying for him as the sound of Velcro or snaps.

Finding the Groove with Baby Number Three

Now, we’re on this cloth and e.c. journey with baby number three. At 11 months, Bud is primarily nakey butt at home and full time cloth diapered when out of the house. A benefit of being the third child is that I’m a more experienced mom, but the trade-off is that I have less focus for him when he communicates his need to use the potty, so we have more misses. But, that’s okay. I already have a well-loved prefold stash for clean up.

I feel at ease with whatever combination of cloth and diaper-free time Bud ends up with because I understand the importance of the words elimination and communication behind the term elimination communication. As long as he maintains his awareness of his elimination needs and we work together to communicate all will be well.

For more on EC, and particularly the “communication” aspect of EC, please see:

  • Diaper Free Baby is one of the main hubs for information about EC. It includes links to the large online forums and groups for support and information, as well as local meetups and playgroups.
  • Tribal Baby has extensive resources about EC including the history of elimination communication and many common questions such as late and early starters, part-time ecing, and signals to watch for.
  • Born Potty Trained is a great place for information on getting started with elimination communication and using cloth back ups.
  • The Potty Whisperer has two especially good articles about communicating, instead of perfection and what to expect for late starters.
  • Natural Baby World has this excellent article, along with more resources, about communication and EC.
  • The EC Store and the specific Design Your Own Waterproof EC Pants we used. My experience with the owner was outstanding and she has always been welcoming of questions and concerns.
  • Bongo Baby cloth training pants are, in my experience, the best option for the very last stages before full time underpants or during a regression. Unless you’re in Australia, they can take awhile to get to you. But, they are worth the wait.
  • EC Wear also has good customer service, is willing to answer questions and share personal experiences with EC.
  • Photo Credit: Author


    Zoie is a hippy mama to three boys on earth and one girl who soars. She waggles her toes near the San Francisco Bay and wiggles her fingers at TouchstoneZ: Gentle Parenting and Mindful Living off the Mat. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


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    Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants on the following themes. Articles will go live on the scheduled theme day:

    • Sunday, July 3rd, 2011: Cloth Related Recipes — Writers share their best cloth-related recipes and tutorials.
    • Monday, July 4th, 2011: Choosing Your Cloth Style — Today’s posts discuss parents’ individual journeys to finding the cloth diapering “style” that best suits their families.
    • Tuesday, July 5th, 2011: Cloth Diapering Must Haves — Parents talk about the most important items in their diapering “stash” and why they love them.
    • Wednesday, July 6th, 2011: Wordless Wednesday, Inspired by Cloth — We asked parents to share their favorite cloth-related photo with us and turned them into a fluffy Wordless Wednesday photo montage on Natural Parents Network. Link up your own Wordless Wednesday post there!
    • Thursday, July 7th, 2011: Cloth Through the Stages: From Infancy to Potty Independence — Today’s participants explain how cloth diapering has served their families throughout one or more stages of their children’s lives.
    • Friday, July 8th, 2011: Cloth Troubleshooting and Laundry Day — Seasoned cloth diapering parents share their best tips and tricks for handling common cloth problems and tackling the diaper laundry.
    • Saturday, July 9th, 2011: Inspired by Cloth — For today’s theme, we’ve asked writers to explore the ways cloth diapering has inspired them to become “greener” overall.

    13 Responses to How I Found Elimination and Communication in EC

    1. Melissa K.  

      I love hearing how families have made EC work for their specific situation and their individual children. So many people think that it has to be all or nothing, but as you show here, it can be done in a variety of ways depending on the needs of the child. Thanks for sharing this wisdom from your journey!

      • Zoie @ TouchstoneZ  

        Thank you, Melissa. That has been the real lesson for me on this journey. Every time I would get stressed about not “catching,” I would try to remember that it really is in the hands of the child-not on me (kinda like this whole parenting gig)

    2. Shannon R  

      This was a really interesting read, I wish I had known about EC when Patrick was born. He always got upset when he messed in his diaper. I probably could have avoided a lot of discomfort for him then and now if I had paid more attention to the cues he was giving me. With future children I am going to give EC more thought because it is stories like yours and Melissa’s that make me want to try this with our children. My only worry is about daycare and EC but hopefully the communication at home would make up for the few hours they would spend in cloth at a daycare facility. Thank you so much for sharing your three very different experiences with EC.

      • Zoie @ TouchstoneZ  

        Thank you, Shannon. I’ve been thinking about writing on our experiences with childcare and ec. They have had some great experiences and some not so great. It may take a bit of extra time at first to get them open to the idea that a very young child will communicate about their pottying needs. Most people just don’t believe it because they’ve rarely seen it.

        I agree with you that even if you can’t get a care provider on board with it, I don’t think it will have a huge impact with all the positive parenting and connection time they have with their family at home

    3. Janine  

      Great post! I think that cloth diapers make a really big difference in babies recognizing that they are wet. It’s great to hear from someone who successfully EC-ed to potty training. 🙂 I’d love a post on tips to transition from EC to Baby getting himself onto the potty.

    4. Adrienne

      Just starting our EC journey…my so is 8 months and we started it at 7 months. I’ve only done diaper-free like one day and realized he’s too squirmy/wiggly to stay on the prefold and/or blanket I had laid underneath him. Any tips for bare-booty time? Since our journey began, he now waits for me to take him the toilet for poop, and he’ll pee when I take him after naps and when he wakes up in the morning, but other than that, I still miss any signals for pee. I need help understanding naked time– is it so I can see what he does before he goes? Or to see how often he goes? Or to see if he’ll wait until I take him to the potty to go (that one day I tried it, he just went on the floor) ? I’m confused about the purpose of the diaper-free time, though I read about it on EC blog posts frequently. Please help! 🙂

      • Zoie @ TouchstoneZ  

        Thank you for your comment, Adrienne. Congratulations on starting your EC journey! There’s a lot in your comment. So I’ll speak to it a bit and include some links for further reading that I think might help. First of all, it sounds like you are already following his cues beautifully in so many areas. Kudos for that! Secondly, don’t stress about missing signals-or about anything with EC for that matter. Remembering that the goal is: for parent and baby to trust one another while supporting him to maintain his connection to his body. It’s not the number of catches.

        Signals change a lot. Trusting that he is communicating with you, even when you can’t spot it, helps. It may take awhile. There are going to be misses. Sometimes that will be all there are. Sometimes be a few catches. So, letting go of expectations on the catch-miss ratio while acknowledging when connection *is* made with each other helps(also keeping a good floor cleaner and stack of prefolds handy at all times.)

        In answer to your naked time questions: Yes, it could be any of those things. I find that on days that I can attune to baby’s needs, we do naked time. When I can’t focus on him, I’ll use a diaper if it’s causing stress or I’ll do the best I can and plan to clean up a lot. Also, naked time for boys is great because even when communication clues are a work in progress, there are physical cues such as ballooning. I’m not sure how graphic I can be here and this comment is really long, so I’ll leave it at the term and direct you to the links in the post above and here below can link you to local groups. There’s nothing like in person support for ec confidence.

        On NPN:
        Intro to EC (parts 1 & 2):

        Naked Time:

        Spotting Signals:

        Timing Cues & Signals (especially the tickle spot at the bottom of the page)

        I hope this is helpful. Feel free to contact me directly. I’m happy to answer further questions anytime. Namaste

    5. Adrienne

      correction on my type: “my so” is supposed to be “my son”…it’s not some new acronym. 🙂

    6. Amy R.

      Lovely post, Zoie. It’s so interesting to hear about your EC journey with your kids. I particularly like how laid back you’re feeling about it at this point. Thanks for writing this!

    7. Rosemary  

      Love how you met each child right where he was at and modified your practices while staying consistent to your convictions. Such an array of paths to choose from! Thank you for inspiring us. 🙂

    8. Zoie @ TouchstoneZ  

      Thank you, Rosemary. I appreciate the observation. That’s both a beauty and a challenge of ec. It can be overwhelming until you find your groove. One of our strengths as parents is trusting in our little ones. Believing in that trust, even when we might not know for sure, really helps.