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Toilet training, naturally


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Suzy Turner has lived in Portugal for 22 years and works as a freelance writer. As well as putting pen to paper for The Resident’s parenting section, she also contributes to the beauty and fashion columns.

The average age of toilet training toddlers is around 30 months. However, a ‘new’ technique is getting babies as young as three months out of nappies.

Elimination Communication (EC), also known as infant potty training or natural infant hygiene, is a process by which timing, signals, cues and intuition are used to understand an infant’s excretive needs.

Supporters of the technique claim their babies can be clean and dry by as young as three months old. They believe that newborn babies are aware of when they need to go and can clearly communicate it.

Parents should tune into every little squirm, strain, frown or kick, and should rush their child to a potty or toilet and then give them a ‘cue’ with some kind of sound like a ‘ssss’, ‘pshh’ or a ‘wshh’, perhaps. Babies will gradually learn how to release their muscles in response to this cue. Over time, they will develop complete control over their bladders and bowels.

Laurie Boucke, author of Infant Potty Training says “learning to tune in and to respond to your baby’s signs is a great basis for a strong, trusting relationship with your child”.

Child psychologist and chief executive of parenting website,, Pat Spungin, says “EC is a lifestyle change that may not suit many parents, but starting toilet training between two and three is probably the worst time to do it. At this stage toddlers become assertive and want to have control. So potty training becomes a battle of wills”.

Although EC might sound like a brand new parenting technique, it has actually been around for a long long time. The term was coined by Ingrid Bauer, author of Diaper Free! The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene, after travelling to India and Africa where she noticed that most mothers would carry their nappy-free babies constantly, yet she saw no elimination ‘accidents’. She then used the principle successfully on her own children.

The method

Observation – Observe baby closely to learn when he/she usually goes, and how it relates to sleep and feeding patterns.

Body signals – Parents can often pick up their babies signal when they want to go. Common signals include fussing, squirming, grunting or becoming still.

Setting up cues – Make a sound and hold your baby in a certain position so he/she learns to associate it with urination or defecation.

Using cues – After realising your baby needs to go, take the child to the potty and make the cue noise, signalling the right time to go.

Communicating – Baby sometimes uses the cue noise as a signal to the parent that they want to go to the toilet.

For more information on the Elimination Technique, visit:,, or