Our Journey with Elimination Communication at 19 months: Diaper-Free At Last!


toddler playground

It finally happened. We’ve been practicing elimination communication since her birth, and at a year and 7 months, Lydia is finally using the potty full-time. We are done with diapers.

And no, we never “potty-trained.”

Being done with diapers is ah-freaking-mazing.

I never though I minded diapers all that much (we used cloth) until I was done with them, and then I realized how GREAT life is without them.

I can’t decide which is my favourite part about being diaper-free:

  • Being able to put regular pants on her, instead of the leg-warmers I used to facilitate easy pottying and diaper-changing. Pants are so much cuter and don’t leave her upper thighs bare.
  • Not having to do laundry every other night.
  • Not having to fight with a squirmy kid who doesn’t want to lay still for a diaper change.

But I think this is my ultimate favourite: not having to bring a diaper bag with me everywhere I go. I just keep a small wet bag and and extra pair of pants in my purse, just in case. Minimalism at its finest.

* * *

As happy as I am to be done, I have to admit that I still feel like it took way too long, since we started at birth. I honestly believed we’d be done with diapers a long time ago. After reading all the literature on elimination communication (EC), I thought for sure we’d be done by a year — at the latest. In fact, I even contemplated NOT BUYING DIAPERS after we were done with the first pack of newborn disposables we’d been given at Lydia’s birth. Can you believe I was that crazy?! That’s how much I believed in EC, though.

So when you look at it from that expectation, taking all the way to 19 months actually feels kind of humiliating. Talk about an epic failure. It took between 6-18 months longer than I anticipated.

So many times throughout our journey, I wanted to give up. I felt like a complete failure. I regretting having ever started — it took way too much mental energy. I was an idiot and a washout.

Now that we’re here, though, I think I’m glad I did it.

toddler potty trained

So here’s the story of how we finally finished up with diapers. I’ve written about earlier phases in our EC adventure: at two months (really optimistic), and here’s a more recent one at 15 months (really frustrated).

A Happy Ending at Last

This part of the story starts with Lydia at about 18 months old, and me LOSING MY MIND. She was still peeing in her diaper several times a day. She still never signaled that she had to pee — EVER. This was something I’d been led to believe she would have started months and months ago. The only reason we ever got pee in the potty was because I relied on timing — she generally peed upon waking, and then about every hour she was awake.

She still peed 10-12 times every day. (Note: my research suggests that this is not typical. Most toddlers pee closer to 5-6 times a day, which would have been a lot more manageable.) So even though we got half the pees in the potty, I was still changing diapers and cleaning up puddles constantly. (I almost never had to clean up poop, though. It was usually obvious that she was starting to go, and we’d just whisk her to the potty).

She didn’t seem to be even slightly bothered by sitting in a wet diaper, which went against everything the literature told me.

I tried putting her in underwear, since everyone said the dramatic wetness would be so alarming and uncomfortable she wouldn’t be able to help but start signaling. Wrong. She just soaked her pants without a word and kept doing what she was doing. She would even pee on my lap without a sound — another thing all the EC-ers said babies didn’t do.


I felt like a dupe. Either someone had misled me, or I was some kind of moron who couldn’t figure it out. This whole EC thing was a sham.

Finally, in desperation, I contacted one of the only EC-ers I know — a fellow (former) blogger. I asked her how things were going with her daughter, who’s about 8 months older than Lydia.

Turns out, her little girl hadn’t been done with diapers until she was about Lydia’s age, either. And she mostly still relied on timing, too (though it was a lot less frequent than Lydia’s).

That conversation made me feel a little better about where we were at. I was able to relax a bit.

She lent me her copy of Oh Crap: Potty Training to look over, in case it had any helpful advice.

I started reading it, and was really thinking I’d like to put it into practice as soon as we got back from our Tennessee trip in a few weeks.

And suddenly, for no discernible reason whatsoever, we went a whole day without a single wet diaper.

I continued to be diligent about putting Lydia on the potty every hour (and upon waking), and for the first time ever, she peed in the potty every time. It was a miracle.

We had a few misses the next day, but then we had another miss-free day after that.

I was feeling super-optimistic. I started putting her in pants without a diaper. We’d go to the store with just training pants. As long as I stuck to the schedule, we stayed dry.

But the real magic happened while we were on vacation. We were driving for 6 hours at a time to our destination in Tennessee. We had her in just pants — I was that confident in our abilities now.

Suddenly, at one point a few hours into the drive, she yelled, “Peepee!” We hurried to a rest stop, but were too late. Just as we were pulling in, she peed her pants.

But we were still in good spirits. She’d told us she needed to go!

This happened one more time before we headed straight for the nearest Ikea and got her a little potty to keep in the van.

And from then on, she has told us when she has needed to pee or poop (sometimes getting the words mixed up), and we’ve helped her do it in the potty or the nearest toilet.

We’d done it while on the road, while in the grocery store, when walking by the library. She’s usually going commando, but sometimes I put on her training pants as a safeguard.

We’ve been out of diapers for about a month.

We still have occasional misses — sometimes once a day, for a couple days in a row — and it usually happens because I’m in a different room or (*cough*) on a different floor in the house. Sometimes she forgets until she’s already peeing, in which case she yells out just as a puddle is forming at her feet. After all the pee I’ve cleaned up, that’s nothing.

And other times, we manage to stay completely dry for several days straight.

So we’re done with diapers. They’re packed away in a closet for some other baby to use.

But not this one. This baby is no longer a baby.

lydia cabin

I still want to wrap up my thoughts in a short follow-up post, where I reflect on what I’m glad I did, what would do differently next time, what I regret, etc.

Have you tried EC, or early potty training? What was your experience? Do you think you’d give it a try, after hearing our experience?

Linking up with Your Green Resource at SortaCrunchy.

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  1. Yay for you! Yay for Lydia! You give me hope! We are still having multiple accidents a day unless I remember to take him. He has told us a few times that he needs to go, but mostly it’s just after or while he’s already going.
    And yeah, he can totally function in wet underwear just fine. It’s no problem for him! Pee in your underwear on the carpet, then go sit on the couch, then go jump in the basket of clean clothes! A little pee never stopped him! :-/ And you’re right, all the literature does say the opposite will happen!
    Where did you find the info that toddlers usually pee 5-6 times a day? Especially in the mornings, for Malachi it’s every 15 minutes and then usually every 30 minutes, maybe 45 if we’re lucky! For us it’s usually closer to 15-20 times a day? Maybe I need to look into that. He’s a water guzzler though, he can down a whole sippy in no time. I wonder if it has to do with diet? Maybe the fact that he’s home all day with me and I keep his cup filled?
    I figure while I’m catching about 75% in the potty I might as well keep at it!
    Bekah recently posted..Elimination (still not much) communication.My Profile

    • If he’s already telling you (even if it’s often during/after), I bet it’ll be no time before he’s reliably telling you. And 75% of pees in the potty is amazing!

      It was in Oh Crap:Potty Training that she said toddlers only peed 5-6 times a day. I was like, “Yeah right! My girl has usually peed at least 7 times by lunch time!” I imagine diet and water intake influence this quite a bit. Lydia peed that much WITHOUT being much of a water-drinker (but she did — does — nurse a lot). Interestingly, after we finally started catching enough of the pees to go diaper-free, she suddenly started to pee way less. Now it probably is about 6-7 times a day. I have no idea what changed. Maybe Malachi will do the same?

  2. Yey for diaper free!!
    It’s been so interesting reading along your story. I hadn’t even heard of EC until a good uni friend had a baby two years ish ago and began EC from the start. We were in a restaurant (in the middle of Germany) and her wee baby started fussing and she whipped out this little pot and kinda held him over it and he was instantly happier. It was the *weirdest* thing to me. I went home and called my mum and said, “did you know what she’s doing?” and my mum answered “of course, we did that with you two girls when you were wee”. What?! :)
    So needless to say I’m kinda fascinated but it still feels like a foreign concept to me. It’s just so different from the way the majority of mamas do it here, that I wonder if you’d have to put up with a lot of weird looks and questioning. Have you found that?
    Fiona Lynne recently posted..Never have I fledMy Profile

    • Thanks, Fiona! It’s definitely very different from the way the majority of mamas do it here, too. I think we were never good enough at it to get weird looks, though. We didn’t take a potty with us into restaurants or anything like that because we weren’t likely to catch anything, anyway. I would just try every so often in the public toilet (or the parking lot — *ahem*)(often with success), where no one could see me. That’s really neat that your mum did it, too! I’ve never heard of anyone from that generation doing anything like that!

  3. Woot! Yay, Lydia! And yay you. ^_^
    Katie recently posted..A List of Lists: Purchases EditionMy Profile

  4. We aren’t catching much over here these days, but Anastasia is so close to walking so maybe that’s why? Her raspberry signal has also morphed to cover more meanings than just needing to potty or diaper change. It now can mean she’s uncomfortable (teething) or wants a change of scenery (such as tired of her carseat or doesn’t want to be rocking to sleep anymore). Ana hates having her diaper changed now too, so that complicates things. I used to change her at least every two hours but now with the fights I don’t force it and generally the diaper is wetter than it used to be when I changed her.
    Michele recently posted..Personality and ParentingMy Profile

    • Oh, Lydia went through a major potty pause around that age, when she was just starting to walk. I think it was close to a month where we caught almost NOTHING. It was INCREDIBLY aggravating. But in retrospect, I’m glad I stuck with it!

  5. I did not try elimination communication with my first and she was potty trained at 17 months. With my second because the only way to get her to poop consistently was to put her on the toilet i guess I did a form of EC and she also trained at 17 months. So really I am torn with the whole EC philosophy. i used to think it was absurd until my second needed some or the techniques. But I guess When you look at the bonding aspect it may be worth it to some parents. If you are doing it for early potty learning, I am torn.

  6. Put out the potty chair and go for it. It’s a good age especially since she’s aware. I started with my daughter at 18 months. It took a year to be completely trained. It took her longer because I put her in a diaper whenever we went out. She only wore training pants (or no pants!) at home.
    Mae K. Marks recently posted..No last blog posts to return.My Profile

  7. My daughter is 18 months old now and I heard about elimination communication a while back, but never thought it was reasonable. I am considering starting now… it sounds a lot better than when I previously heard about it. Would it work starting so late?

    • Hi Alexsis! I think most ECers would say that you can start to use the principles of EC anytime, although it’s technically just considered potty training after 12 months. You could still begin by watching for cues that your child has to eliminate, although they might be much harder to identify now that your child is so used to eliminating in her diaper.

      If you’re interested, you might consider reading the book Diaper Free Before Three (Which is a misleading title — it should be “Diaper Free Before Two”). It has suggestions for starting between 9-18 months. Good luck!

  8. Kathleen says:

    I know I’m a few years late considering the last comment was in 2013, but I just wanted to say thank you for posting your experience. I have been sitting my daughter on the toilet since she was about 11 months old. She is now 17 months old but we are still not trained. We went through a period there where she seemed to understand what we wanted her to do and she was happy to sit on the toilet to wee and poo..we even have had a couple of whole days where we have caught everything in the toilet..but lately, she seems to be asserting her right to refuse to do anything and is resisting sitting on the toilet most of the day. It is very disheartening to say the least and I’m not quite sure what to do. I don’t want to stop sitting her on the toilet regularly because it has become a part of her daily routine and I don’t want to undo the good work of the last six months, but I don’t want to traumatise her / force her and then simultaneously create an aversion to the toilet either. Did you experience a similar problem around the same age? Any advice?

  9. So so encouraged. So happy for you but fills me with hope.
    Thank you!
    NJ recently posted..Grace is 3 years oldMy Profile


  1. […] I just say I love this and am so glad we did this? ┬áBack in April I read a post by Kathleen on her blog Becoming Peculiar about how her daughter is diaper free at 19 months, I thought […]

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