Diaper-free potty training. Elimination communication. Early potty training. Natural infant hygiene. It goes by many names, but it boils down to one thing: an early method for helping babies transition from diapers to the potty.  

In the Western world, it is common practice for children to stay in diapers until they are somewhere in the range of 2 to 3 years old. At this point, they are old enough to know when they have to go to the bathroom, express this to their caregivers, and hold it until they get to the potty, so they are considered ready for traditional "potty training." Some toddlers do this closer to 18 months of age while others are still struggling with the concept in preschool.  

But many parents believe that this process should begin much earlier. Using a technique known as elimination communication, parents learn to read the physical cues that a baby gives just before doing her business and help the baby learn to associate sitting on the toilet as the time to go. Parents trying this method usually begin "training" around 3 months of age. And many parents who use it say their babies are toilet trained before their first birthday. Here's a visual for more info:

Leona McEachern of My Health Green Family used diaper-free potty training with two of her three children and says she would gladly do it again if she had another child. Here's how she describes her experience:

"I began to watch her carefully and realised that she pooped at fairly regular times: right after waking up, and while lying in bed waiting to go to sleep. So I started putting her on the toilet when I noticed her straining: right before bed, and right after she woke up. The key was to notice her pattern, and then give her an opportunity to go. It didn’t take long before my daughter was pooping regularly on the toilet, and by 18 months I never had to change another poopy diaper."

Betsy Escandon of Eco-novice tried elimination communication with her 8-month-old after a frustrating experience potty training her then 2-and-a-half year old: 

"I first delved into early potty training (a.k.a. elimination communication) when attempting to potty train my first child around the age of 2 1/2. I found it maddening that he would sit for 30 minutes on the potty, put his underpants back on and immediately poop in them. How could that be normal? Out of frustration, and just for the heck of it, I decided to put my second child (then 8 months old) on the toilet and see what happened. She pooped, and I was hooked."

Escandon and McEachern both have a lot of great tips on their websites about diaper-free potty training, including tips for getting started, the history of potty training, and the benefits of starting early. This is a method that clearly worked for them, as it has for many other parents.

Would diaper-free potty training work for you? If you have the energy to watch your baby for signs that she has to go and whisk her off to the potty when she does PLUS the patience to clean up the messes that will eventually occur when you misread those cues ... then yes, this method might be perfect for you and your baby. If not, then you might want to wait until your child is a little older and can tell you when she is ready.  

Have you tried diaper-free potty training? Please share your experiences in the comments!

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Would diaper-free potty training work for you?
Advocates of elimination communication say babies can and should start potty training well before their toddler years.