Part-Time Elimination Communication for Busy Parents
Rebecca Mottram, owner of Little Bunny Bear, is here to share with you 10 tips for part-time EC. Even as a busy parent, you can help your baby go potty with these easy steps!
Modern parenting is busy, especially when you have more than one child. Many parents choose to potty part-time, because it’s a flexible, low-pressure alternative to full time elimination communication.1 But we know that successful EC, whether done part-time or full time, doesn’t happen by magic, especially as your baby gets older. So how do you ensure success when you can only potty once a day, or once a week? And how can you help your baby learn the skills necessary for independence later on?
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10 Tips for Part-Time Pottying
Part-Time EC Tip 1
Always communicate to your baby what their body is doing when you know that they are eliminating. Make your cue noise and tell them (verbally or using a sign), regardless of whether or not your baby is on the potty. It is more important to teach your baby about the process than it is to catch everything.2 In this way, you don’t have to think of a “miss” as a “missed opportunity” for learning. If you feel you have lost touch with when your baby is eliminating – see tip #3 below.
Part-Time EC Tip 2
Change a wet or dirty nappy (aka diaper) as soon as you can. Communicate to them (respectfully), that the nappy is wet or dirty when you change it. Yes, you are likely to use more nappies, but you will be teaching your baby that being clean and dry is normal. A good supply of cloth nappies can help keep costs down.
Part-Time EC Tip 3
Get to know your baby’s habits. Without a doubt, the fastest and most reliable way to achieve this is through nappy-off time. This way, you will see the elimination immediately. This will help you to communicate with your baby. During this time, if you can help your baby onto a potty or toilet, that will increase the learning. However, read tip #4 before you attempt nappy-off time.
Part-Time EC Tip 4
Do nappy-off time responsibly. A little each day can help you keep in touch with your baby’s changing habits.3 But it needs to be done when you’re not also trying to do other things. Allowing your baby to eliminate wherever he or she happens to be (and without your noticing), teaches nothing except that it’s OK to do that4, which of course it isn’t. It also increases the potential for a nasty mess. So ensure you can give your baby your full attention. If you’re struggling to catch eliminations as they occur, you might want to try using a simple cloth and belt, which in fact is just as good as no nappy if you stay focussed. You can read more on the importance of nappy-off time, as well as how to go about it, on my page about nappy-free time.
Part-Time EC Tip 5
Connect with your baby. Especially in the early months, consider using a baby carrier. It’s much easier to pick up on a baby’s signals when they are close to you, and some parents even report that they can intuit when their baby needs to eliminate. Being close with your baby in the night-time can also help keep in touch with their patterns, especially if you co-sleep. As your baby grows and gets busier, playtime is a good opportunity to simply be with your baby, using it to observe and connect with them in a way that avoids hovering or overtly ‘monitoring’.
Part-Time EC Tip 6
Don’t expect your baby to go when it suits you. Babies have their own internal system and you can’t control that. There is nothing to be gained in taking them to a potty and sitting them on it unless they use it: in fact, it’s counterproductive5. So start with the “easy catches”. If you do your homework first (and by that I mean you need to learn your baby’s habits - tip #3), you’re in communication and therefore more likely to have success. Although with this approach progress may appear slow, you are in fact consistently and incrementally teaching your baby important skills towards independence. This is far better than taking an “all or nothing” approach, where your baby is expected to ‘turn on’ the skill at the drop of a hat because that moment suits you.
Part-Time EC Tip 7
If you have to stop, don’t stop for long. If you want to give EC a break, then give yourself a break. Just remember that things don’t usually “settle down” with a baby of any age because they are developing so quickly. Every developmental milestone is likely to change their patterns and preferences when it comes to using the potty. So only stop for long enough to re-define your goals and priorities in terms of how you want to potty and how you’re going to go about it.
Part-Time EC Tip 8
Think differently about nappies. Don’t think of a nappy as something you actually want your baby to eliminate into. Think of the nappy as "back up". Doing so means you are not depending on the nappy – and hence neither will your baby. In this sense, you are adopting a “nappy free” mind-set.6 Using a range of nappy systems (cloth, drop-flap, training pants, disposables) means you can choose the one that suits you and your baby at that moment. You can read more about my thoughts on the best nappy for EC.
Part-Time EC Tip 9
Make potty time practical. If you’re not ready in seconds, you’re going to miss it. Layers of clothing and a side-fastening nappy underneath are hardly practical. Make sure the outfit your baby is wearing helps you get that botty on a potty as quick as you can. For this, you may find nappies and clothing designed for EC helps you spot the cues and eliminations quickly and therefore respond instantly. And it goes without saying that having a potty (or two) nearby will help, as well as incorporating potty trips into your outings.
Part-Time EC Tip 10
Invest in expert advice. With careful planning, you can complete your pottying journey as young as 18 months in a relatively short space of time (around a week). But don’t just wing it – read up and make a plan. I’ve referenced just a few of the published experts out there, but do read more7 and don’t rely on anything vague.
Wishing You the Best on Your Part-Time EC Journey
Part-time EC can be a great way to gently help your baby use a potty when you also have other priorities. If you can facilitate and maintain communication with your baby, you are likely to succeed. But it’s a skill that needs to be learnt, like any other. As I read this week, “meeting the needs of young children can feel like the domestic equivalent of painting the Forth bridge, if the Forth bridge was covered in mashed peas and refused to put it’s socks on”.8 So be patient, and consistent, knowing that you are responding to your baby’s needs in a loving and gentle way.
Thank you so much to Rebecca for sharing these words of wisdom regarding part time elimination communication!
If you are new to EC, you may also want to read our post on How to Start Elimination Communication Part 1: When to Potty.
- Gross-Loh, Christine (2007) The Diaper Free Baby: The Natural Toilet Training Alternative.
- Liedloff, Jean (1986) The Continuum Concept.
- Olson, Andrea (2013), Go Diaper Free.
- Olson, Andrea (2015), The Tiny Potty Training Book.
- Hatch, Amber (2015) Nappy Free Baby / nappyfreebaby.co.uk
- Josling, Chandra (2012) Tribal Baby.
- Boucle, Laurie (2006) Potty Whisperer and other books / Bauer, Ingrid (2001) Diaper Free! The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene/ Gross-Loh, Christine (2007) The Diaper Free Baby
- Weale and Bart, The Guardian, (30/9/2017)