EC, traditional potty training or the 3-day method – which one is for me?


Image by ToddMorris via Flickr

The moms I know fall mostly into two categories, when it comes to potty training: the Elimination Communication (EC) moms and the traditional Potty Training (TPT) moms. The EC moms, while tiresome to hang around sometimes (because all they want to talk about is poop) are super happy talk about this stuff. They speak of each poo they caught with such excitement you’d think it was a major league sport. This is clearly an area of parenting which, while challenging, brought them great pride and fascination. The TPT moms I run into, the ones that waited for the ‘signs of readyness’ well… most of those are miserable if you bring up this topic and are mostly looking for misery with whom to share company. One lovely young mother said she was ‘literally banging [her] head against the wall’ with all the set-backs and power-struggles.

Having missed the EC train (well, let it ride on by, really), I was staring at TPT with some dread. That can’t be the only option – bribing with smarties, cajoling, coercing, only to break down in tears (the parents, that is). Eek! Then I heard of the three-day potty training method. It received glowing recommendations from the mommas on the homebrew chat group I belong to – two moms said they successfully potty trained their 18 month olds using this approach. My curiosity was piqued. I read as much as I could about it online… but never did get round to buying a book.

In fairness, I have also heard from natural mommas who went the opposite way, instead of joining the EC and early potty training movement (no pun intended) they let the timing of potty training come from their kids and did it at their pace. This presumably means waiting until they are influenced by their peers and verbally express a desire to use the potty. Still, the point is, even among natural-minded parents there is a spectrum, every thing from starting EC at birth (which some but not all ECers do) to waiting for the child to be ‘ready’ and sometimes still working on potty training at age 4. There are families out there that have done any combination of techniques at any age along this spectrum, and done so gently and respectfully.

I remained intrigued by the three-day method. The fact that it is short and to the point appeals to me. I am that kind of gal. I like to dive in, go for it, get it done, when it comes to challenges. I would rather do it intensively, in three days, than do it slowly and (arguably) more easily, over months and months, if I have the choice, even knowing those three days will be exhausting and demanding for me – but hopefully actually easier for my DD. Indeed, I am also really drawn to the fact that this method is bare-bottomed and super gentle: you essentially just support kiddos to figure it out for themselves, with no rewards or distractions used.

So, here’s the basics of the 3-day method – the prep:

  • Ensure kiddy is between 15 and 27 months of age and shows signs of being interested in the potty
  • Chose a potty training partner – this method is full-on and it takes two people, committed for the full three days
  • Schedule the 3-day starter weekend when you can have 3 days in which you dedicate yourselves entirely to the success of this method
  • Get a potty, preferably one for every room or area you will be in for those days. Ideally introduce it to your child a few weeks before the actual long weekend and talk to them and let them see how mommy and daddy go to the loo. Talk them through the steps (pulling down pants, sitting, doing the do, flushing, washing hands) over and over. Make it ‘normal’.
When you start:
  • From day one your baby goes bare bottomed 100% of the time in the house, when awake
  • Give them lots of yummy drinks to ensure they have lots of opportunity to recognise the feeling of needing to go
  • Each time they are about to pee or poo or as you see them starting quickly sit them on the potty. If you get ANY pee or poo in the potty make a huge deal of it and do your own, family potty dance/song
  • Keep it up – consistency is the key. It is important that your actions communicate that there are only two options: going in a diaper or in the potty. Going on the floor or in your clothes is not a valid option. If they pee or poo, act swiftly to get them to the right place. Do not make them feel bad or humiliate them for any (inevitable) accidents. In fact don’t draw attention to them at all. Focus on the positive and on the successes.
  • Day one you stay in the house all day. Day two you can go out for one hour in the afternoon after they have peed. Day three you can go out for an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon – again only straight after a pee (which helps cement the ‘I need to pee before going out’ thing in their heads as well as giving you maximum time before the next probable ‘event’
  • Keep babe bare-bottomed in the house ALWAYS for the next three months (starting from day 1 of the intensive start-up). Wear only loose-fitting trousers (no panties, diapers or pull-ups at all) when out of the house – as any of these can just give the signal to the brain that there is something there to ‘catch’ your poo or pee and can lead to regressions
For a full description on how to get started on this method and what signs to look out for to know they are ready, go here. I am going to follow this post up with a post on how it is going for us. What you see here is the theory… next comes the practice! Will it work for us?
Now, over to you? Have you potty trained your child(ren)? Which method did you use and when did you start? How did it go – smoothly with a few setbacks or nightmarish, head-banging time? What are your top tips for us newbies?
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48 thoughts on “EC, traditional potty training or the 3-day method – which one is for me?

  1. We’ve been potty training since about June, when he was 30 months. But, really, I can’t call it “potty training”. My little guy had been working up to it since early spring – hubby and I would bring him into the bathroom whenever we had to go. We didn’t give instructions or lectures, we just did our business and that was that. Within a few days, Little Guy was asking questions, then wanting to try out this potty thing himself. When he managed to go, we got excited. When he didn’t – no big deal.

    By the time the weather was warm, he was able to run around bare-bottomed (June) and managed to make it to his potty chair 95% of the time. He’s gotten pretty good and can even go out for walks and to the park for a couple of hours without having an “accident”. Right now, we’re working on him making it while he’s wearing underwear – not so easy!

    I’ve heard of the other methods you mentioned. My oldest wasn’t interested in using the potty until he was well into his 3rd year, and we waited until he showed interest (other kids going potty piqued his interest.) I’m not sure I would have had the patience to do EC – it’s just not something I could see myself follow through on. And the 3-day method isn’t something I know much about. But my little guy is pretty stubborn and, when he thinks we really want him to do something, he generally chooses to do the opposite. Not sure it’s work around here!

    • I haven’t thought about the influence of TB being in the bathroom with me (and my husband) on his toilet learning in a long time. Maybe it has been too long, but your comment reminded me of those days and his questions. Oh, the never ending questions, including “I watch mama?” LOL! He would do anything to see the pee going in the toilet (TMI maybe. Sorry).

  2. I used a combination of EC and 3 day potty training. I did EC very casually from 4 months with my first and 4 days with my second. I did more with my second and was happy if I caught 1 pee a day. Sometimes went a few weeks not trying though. I really used EC at night and had my babes co-sleep without clothes starting around 15-18 months. If you commit to actually getting up to take them to the potty, it actually becomes quite easy to keep them dry at night. When I was diligent about it they both stopped peeing in the night. Then I used 3 day potty training in the day at 23 months with DD and 21 months with DS. Worked great! Didn’t follow the rules about staying home so took a few more days but definitely as close to 100% that a toddler can be within a week or two. They will have occasional accidents. I have been happy with this approach and will do it again with my third.

    • Yeah, I reckon if I EC next time (IF there ever is a next time) then I would probably do it like this – a bit casually and at our own, relaxed pace. Good to know the 3-day method worked for you, too (despite slight misnoma) :)

  3. We did EC from birth night and day (smaller messes, easier learning curve for a beginner like me, already waking at night anyway). Out of diapers at 9m, night continent 15m (?), little potty independent at 18m.

    This is not an EC friendly culture so it appears/sounds to be more work than it really is. I knew that starting at birth wasn’t necessary since between 4-6 months is common, but I wanted to give *myself* time to change my diapering mindset.

    I helped conventionally train 2 siblings (my mom did diaper cold turkey around age 2 iirc). You want CT to be done or nearly so between 2 and 2.5. I can say that “waiting for readiness” is a pit trap that causes more headaches and issues than necessary. When you conventionally train you must simultaneously help them unlearn diapers. The longer one waits the harder that is. The ages between 2 and 3 is the worst time to start. If you wait that long to begin it is quite common to have power struggles, bowel withholding, potty aversion, and night-wetting well into age 4 and 5 or more.

    Conventional training works best between ages 12m and 18m — steady walkers who are still very, very much into mimicry and only just experimenting with independence. Between approximately 18-24 months (depending on when you started) diapers should be done away with completely in favor of naked or training pants — no pull-ups…ever. Pull ups are diapers and send the wrong message and prolong the training phase.

    One of the things I agree with with the 3 day is early starting, banish the diaper crutch, and consistency. That IS EC! Really. It just sounds like conventional/traditional pottying but really those are all EC principles. Older babies need more words and obvious demo, while newborns and infants do not. What I don’t like is that its a misnomer. I think it disappoints those who start too late (after 18m) and doesn’t emphasize that it will be harder the older the baby.

    My top tip for newbies is…pottying should be seen as a daily matter of course. It is something that we all do several times a day and babies should be part of that and not a separate event.

    Happy Pottying :)

    • Hi, I totally agree with you, erm, EliminationCommunication (thinking that is not your real name – lol). As I said on facebook, this time round I really had no time or energy left to do EC. I wasn’t ready but I love the principles and you are right that is probably what drew me to early potty training. I would have done it even earlier but first we moved house then we had a death in the family (life really) so we started at 19 months and it is going… well…

      I am also super amused that many of the people that have commented here and on facebook are ECers… thus proving my point that ECers all become EC advocates and LOVE talking about it and converting inspiring others. Which actually is what is converting me, the fact that those who try it (and succeed) all think it is the best thing ever. There has to be a good reason behind that, right?

  4. As a mother of three children (now ages 22,17,12) all of my children had their own style of potty training. Each child took a varying amount of time to get the hang of it, went through accidents, regressed from pottying at times but all children do get the hang of it eventually. What I feel we need to ask ourselves as mom’s is why we want our children to hurry up and potty train? Is it because we need to put our child in daycare and they must be trained by a certain age? Do we see bowel movements and urine as disgusting? Do we grimace when we change our child? Children should be respected & will in time of course learn to go in the potty. No “training” is necessary.

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  8. Gauri, I’m so excited that you’re potty training and getting into EC. I really am myself too, and am also really hoping to do it with the next baby. Why not when you think that you’re up in the middle of the night anyway feeding the baby? Can’t wait to talk to you more about it. AND you’re absolutely right about ECers being excited to talk about training whereas traditional training moms have nothing exciting to say.

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  10. As an EC educator myself, and one who’s been “that mom talking about poop” at the tea party (!), I have also been learning about a 3 day method that a new friend teaches so she can help those who are just a bit past the EC window (16-30 months) (it’s slightly different than the one you outline. For instance, she states it’s not a good idea to go diaper-free for so long – only the first 3 days. The child will get used to going on the floor and this can create future problems and confusion.).

    Anyway, Gauri, I appreciate your writings on this and look forward to more! :) Andrea

    • Interesting, the ‘no pants for only 3 days’ thing. I totally agree with the gist of it, though! Going on the floor is definitely not encouraged/condoned in this household (but we don’t shame or make a big deal if it does happen). I continue to practice a form of the 3 day method, even when she is naked, even now 6 weeks later. Basically the attitude is that pee goes in the potty – and only in the potty. I do not encourage peeing even outside in the trees or any other options like that. Pee and poop go in the potty. If she starts to pee and is not on the potty, we move her to the potty. She does still go naked at home, mostly ‘cos she doesn’t know how to pull her pants down herself, yet, and this means she can just walk to the potty and go by herself when she wants to, completely independently (which is great). So we are rocking the bare-bottom thing and it is (overall) working for us, I think.

      Interestingly, I think she had a little regression that was, if not started, at least not helped by us letting her go in the trees, once, when we were trecking. I think that re-sets the brain to, oh, sometimes I can pee elsewhere.

      But most of the time, actually, much of the focus in on ‘staying dry’ and she really gets that. We say, “hey, your pants stayed dry all day today ‘cos whenever you needed to pee or poop you went in the potty” – that kind of thing. And it works equally well, even if she was naked “hey your legs stayed dry ‘cos you peed in the potty” and/or “the floor is all dry because…”. So, yes, I totally agree with the sentiment and I have been putting underwear on her when we are out, now but naked still feels easiest at home. ‘Tis a thinker, though.

      Thanks for popping by and talking poop (hah). Off to check out your stuff, now. Cheers,

      • Wow – you are totally shedding some new light for me lady! We’ve been letting our son pee and poo outside (whether in split crotch pants, leg warmers, or naked if hot and sunny out) since he started walking at 9.5 mos. So, 3.5 months of conditioning that he can “go otherwhere than the potty.” Doh. Didn’t realize that this could backfire. We are vowing tonight to start him in pants ALL the time while outside. In public places, he is great at telling us and keeps pants and undies and carseat dry. He seems to know the difference. But at home, he likes to pee on the carpet occasionally or the tiles (playing with his water hose’s capabilities??) and now it’s clicking that we’ve taught him the pee doesn’t ONLY go in the potty. You’ve shed some serious light here! Thanks!! I’m gonna include this in version 3.0 of my book, forthcoming. :o) Andrea

      • Oooh, awesome. Glad to share a helpful thought (you never know when some random cr*p you say is going to be useful to somebody, right?! lol). I am hardly an expert at this, though. I have been supporting DD to potty learn for about 6 weeks now. I did the ‘3 day method’ and actually her first ‘dry day’ (i.e. no ”accidents”) was at 4 weeks – though we had lots of days that were very, very close. The process was neither as fast nor as linear as I hoped from reading the stuff on the babycentre website but I can also see that she gets it. She got it (at least partially) on day 1, when she walked to the potty for her poo. Yay. I am still learning, as I go, though.

        Thanks for chatting. Your blog is fun, too.

      • Thanks lady! I’ve got tons more where that came from…just need more time to get it all up there, ya know?

        So, question: at what age did you start your 3 days? :)

      • Nica was 19 (nearly 20) months old. I intended to start much earlier but then we moved house… then my hubby’s dad passed away and we travelled to Europe for the funeral then… you get the picture. So, 19 months it was. Why? :)

      • Because you said “she walked to the potty for her poo.” I can’t wait for that day! Mine is 13 months and consistently signals for my help to potty (many many single miss days, and zero miss outings, and had a streak of dry dry nights)…I just can’t wait til he learns how to do it on his own. He’s so close…I spose I was seeking an encouraging window. If he’s gonna do that w/in 6 mos, tho, I’d be thrilled. :)

      • Yeah, at 13 months there would be other challenges, for sure. I mean does he even know how to back up and sit on a chair, unaided? It is a tricky little skill when you are learning, right? Yes, I think it is awesome that she can do it by herself, independently. This 3-day method they usually say do from 15 months, perhaps that is why – the physical ability to do it by themselves, unassisted. However, if he can signal to you that he needs to go in time to make it, that still sounds pretty fabulous to me! Good job on ECing, too, which I think is so much more energy intensive, to keep at it for that long. It sure takes a big investment from you. Phew. Still not sure if I would EC another child (if God wills that to pass). The lazy side of me says I can save 15 month butt-watching by just doing bare-bottom method after they can walk etc.

        What are the main advantages to ECing in your view? Would you do it again? (uh, I know you have written a book on it, though, so perhaps that is my answer).

      • Gauri, the main advantages to EC are similar to those of breastfeeding and helping my baby drift off to sleep (cosleeping)…connection and responding to a need so my baby feels well taken care of. I’ve never thought sitting in poop to be a nice thing. And, I personally dislike changing poopy diapers!! :) I would DEFINITELY do it again with next baby…and I would do some things different. Instead of taking diaper-free literally, I would begin with undies, and skip the diapers-as-backup thing. I would also not let her go outside (confusion!). I would also be more relaxed next time b/c of my personal experience with DS, all my research, writing, helping other moms with struggles, etc. I will probably be a more holistic mom, if ya KWIM!

        Lazy as I am (indeed!) I could not let my baby sit in his refuse. It’s just never felt right. :) Thanks for asking! This is so nice to chat about.

      • Ahh, yeah, I get the hygiene angle but I would say that in our case we were lucky ‘cos DD is a very obvious pooper (we have video footage to prove it – haha) so when she pooed we could easily change her pretty much instantly. Plus, we were using disposables (chlorine free) so I honestly don’t think moisture was a problem. I once heard of a kid with special needs who was older and said they were so happy when the carer changed to disposables ‘cos they were so much more comfortable. Of course I think cloth is better but you need somebody to be really on it, changing as soon as they are wet.

        I kind of get the need thing too, though I had honestly never thought of it that way. I guess I come from a disposable diaper society and I stopped looking underneath that – which is funny seeing as by nature I look to find the ‘alternative’ truth under most common practices (well, many of them, anyway). Thanks for this great food for thought. Will meditate on it, see what comes up for me :)

      • You know, that’s one thing I never did…have Itty Bitty pee outside in the grass or whatever. I always brought the potty outside or brought her inside. I guess that’s ME being off about it and never modeling it or encouraging or letting it happen? Being so close to sanitation I wouldn’t pee outside (though DH has wet down a tree maybe once a year since we only have one bathroom!) so it never occured to me to do it. I guess I would only pee her if we were somewhere (like hiking a long trail) where there are no facilities. I admit, I’ve never peed beside a bush myself!

        I know it may seem like months of “butt watching” but really isn’t like that. Once I learned the signals and trusted myself and Itty Bitty it was a non-thinking process. Maybe 6 months of concentrated focus only because I was a complete nervous novice. I expect the 2nd round to be more smooth in the beginning because I have confidence and experience.

      • eliminationcommunication – we are currently living on 5 acres…NOT peeing outside (myself included) seems crazy sometimes. I personally like it. But now I see that for potty “learning” reasons I should have brought the potty outside and encouraged that. Ah, well. :)

      • Yeah, I think that is fine and can work as long as they get that is the ‘rule’: ”there are two places where you can pee our garden and the potty”. I recently heard a story about a little kid who was already potty trained when he went hiking with his dad. A few days later his pre-school got in touch to say he had peed in the school’s yard. Apparently dad had let him pee in nature when they were hiking and hadn’t quite explained that was for special occasions only – ahaha.

      • Hats off to ya! 6 months still sounds intense to me. Apparently I far out-lazy you. But I do think all you gentle ECers are getting to me. I am certainly feeling the influence… :)

      • 6 months might seem a lot, I know, but keep in mind I was a first time mom also learning how to breastfeed, co-sleep, and baby wear along with ECing at the same time. :) My attention was divided and I had a lot to learn on my own!

        Besides I was so sleepy the first 3 months, I am not sure they count. LOL

      • [Hmm… thought I had answered this comment already, so forgive me if it is up here twice but…]

        Yes, I hear you. It is exactly because I was doing all those things plus recovering from a cesarean that I had no energy left for cloth diapering (let alone EC). Breastfeeding on demand day and night took a lot out of me (uh, literally), especially since I have one of those bairns who wanted to be on me, suckling 20 out of every 24 hours – bless her. I was also so far from family and friends that apart from my (frankly awesome) partner I felt, at that point, completely unsupported… all of which probably fed right into the post-partum anxiety syndrome I developed. Sob story over. So, as I say, hats off to ya. Well done and while I totally think I would consider EC next time I know that I couldn’t have done that last time (and if I had it would have taken me longer than 6 months to master it). Well done, really – I totally respect the moms (and pops) who have done it. So. is your kid totally toilet trained now? How old are they now and how old were they when they ‘completed’? :)

      • Hey, that’s major surgery and breastfeeding with an incision is no piece of cake! With the lack of support that’s usually around. Lady props to *you* for kicking the statistic in the pants!

        You ask if my LO is toilet trained, and that’s really hard to answer because it depends on what you mean by toilet trained!

        So…ready for the ridiculously long answer? LOL

        See for *me* we’ve been “done” since 9m when I put the diapers away for good.

        I considered accidents/misses like falling when learning to perfect walking…I still considered her to be a walker once started doing it a little every day no matter how many falls, KWIM? She didn’t have a month long streak of no accidents until 15m or so, prior to that she’d have a couple per day, then none for several days, and then a week…so on and so forth. Very gradual. And often the misses were rarely “full misses” since she learned to stop and finish — so how does that figure in?

        Wait…there’s more. LOL

        She’s 2 now and I can tell you that she is has been completely Little Potty Independent since 17-18 months, as in no need for me to remind at all or take her to the bathroom to help (bare bottomed mostly — if she had been wearing them and couldn’t get her trainers off she’d ask for help and then one day didn’t need me for that. Maybe around 21-22 months she started to come back with pants back up and not left in the bathroom or around her ankles). Before this age she was insistent on using the big toilet and preferred it, shunning the little potty unless it was nighttime (night dry in infancy with potty breaks, night continent no peeing all night 6+ hours 14-15m).

        The toilet is another story. Over the past month or so she’s begun to ask me more often for help to use the toilet again (using that word specifically) and has renewed interest in using her step stool to get on the big toilet by herself. So she’s on her way to being toilet independent.

      • Wow, bravo! that is a fabulous real life story. Really want to share it with my readers, now – though I have already pointed them to your site. Would you mind if I re-print this and/or… do you want to do a guest post much like this, a ‘what it is really like’ to EC – in your unique experience of it, of course? That would be really valuable, I think.

        I totally get and agree with the walking analogy – nice one! Might have to nick that :) And it is helpful to us now, as we are very much at the ‘has demonstrated that can walk but occasionally still wanted to crawl or now sometimes still stumbles’ phase – hahah.

        For the record, my ‘meaning’ of toilet-trained was ‘knows and choses to use the potty, independently’ or something like that. It was not about the size of the receptacle she is using to put her pee and poop, in, if you know what I mean :) So, from my point of view she was done at 17or 18 months, by your description. Well done team!

        So, I have a separate question, if you have some more time to spend on this :D Where do you stand on the praise thing? You know I am not into bribes and certainly not in favour of shaming, threats or bribery… but when it came to what the 3-day program I followed thought of as an essential ingredient, the ‘potty song’ I really wavered. I started off very low key and just describing what was going on each time (like: “you felt the urge, you walked over and did a pee”). I also honoured my feelings. If I was feeling really joyful I showed it and I celebrated openly but I didn’t want to do a song-‘n’-dance by rote, you know? I don’t know if I was over-thinking it though. I am under the influence of (the exceptional work of) Alfie Kohn. You into his stuff? Anyway, he is all about not manipulating our kids into doing what we want and I TOTALLY agree but… but… surely this is one thing I do want her to do. I do want it to be intrinsic motivation that leads her, I want her to want to do it, for herself (not because she wants an M&M but because she wants her legs to stay clean and dry, for example).

        Urg, sorry, I think I am using you to talk it out so I can sort out what is in my head. Thanks for listening.


      • Feel free to post or if you prefer I could answer questions or if you want something a little more cleaned up and a timeline with more details I can do that too :) Up to you.

        Perception is a funny thing! In your view she was choosing using the potty independently at 17-18 months, but to me she was using it, choosing it, and showing desires all her own prior to that and initiating bathroom needs of her own accord, it is just that after she began walking she wanted to mimic using the toilet with help *more* than she wanted to use the little potty by herself. It wasn’t that she couldn’t, it was that she wanted to experiment and I was also *encouraging* the big toilet. KWIM? I think independent desires is a big factor :) She started doing that again this month…trying to transition back to the big potty and is asking me for help to use it when she wants. And when I put the diapers away she WAS choosing to use the appropriate place by the time she was mobile and able to use the baby sign for potty it was just more obvious…her development just hadn’t caught up with the modern receptacles (which I don’t think is a fair goal)..

        I think when you are starting cold with a toddler who has no experience you want to show more outward pleasure. When they are younger the praise is more for yourself :) And by praise for the olders I mean descriptive words like how much pee is in the potty, or how hard they must have worked to stop an accident and finish, or how hard they worked to pull up/down their pants. Simple acknowledgment. Or just normal unspoken happiness that the excrement got to the right place — babies can read body language just fine and I think we forget that at times! Motivation needs to be internal so like you I am not a fan at all of the rewards system because that can easily backfire. It seems kind of silly to me to have to sing a specific potty song to motivate them to go, rather than singing something because you are feeling silly at the moment. I don’t sing a clean up song either, and I would only sing one if I was doing it for spur of the moment fun, I wouldn’t do it simply to motivate. I think it sells the kids short and doesn’t show them respect. Does that make sense? Alfie Kohn I know but haven’t read his book specifically, but I am in line with unconditional parenting. It is hard at times not to have my mother’s words fly out of my mouth though! Work in progress. I think that’s why I also gravitated to Gil Rapely’s book Baby Led Weaning (Baby Led Introduction to Solids) and I’m sure you’ve must have also read the Continuum Concept?

        Please continue to feed my EC beast! I missed having someone to really get into conversation with the process while I was doing it! I had to talk to myself. LOL

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  12. WHAT? Catching a poop in the potty isn’t a major league sport? Dammit! I’ve been watching my baby for so long I had no idea they pulled it! LOL!

    Oh wow … am I one of those obsessive mamas who talks about poop? Sh*t!

    BiP has been EC’d since 3m … we did MUCH better when she was younger. I was reading the 3 day method hoping to find the key to getting her PT now.

    She has been dry at night since 12m and last week she actually stopped playing at playgroup, stood up and said “Ka-Ka mama Ka-KA” and wanted to go potty. She pooped on the toilet there. I was stunned. EXCEPT this week she REFUSES to go to the potty for anything. Am losing it. Anyway. EC has its pluses but it has a hell of a lot of downsides too.

    Why don’t you let your little one pee in the garden? In France it’s a natural pastime for children and grown men!!!!

    • Ameena, you read my mind! Well my boy is 13 mo so when he starts sitting by himself I’m gonna do a 3-day to wrap up to finish the whole EC business. It’s funny how this post, Gauri, is so what’s on my mind lately…how to help those who’ve either seriously or just partially dabbled in EC…complete. Because completion is such a no-no word in the EC circles (I think ppl mistake it for coercion or pressure, when we really deserve to be done, right?) and coercion is such a part of most PT programs. Funny…out of the EC context, not considering how to *finish* the PT process is kinda weird! I daresay passive and permissive. I would get totally kicked off the EC email lists for this post! But seriously…..all “Communication” and no “Completion?”

      I’m envisioning an EC/3-day-PT hybrid ladies…..

      • You know Andrea funny you mention that I’d been thinking that (as communities tend to do) “Finishing” is being confused with “setting a predetermined date”. I mean all basic skills eventually get mastered right? I can’t tell you exactly when my LO stopped crawling entirely or when she started picking up her feet instead of shuffling. I can just tell you that she is indeed a walker who is now focused on mastering running!

        If they consistently ask for help to go (accidents not an issue when they still make the effort) why can’t that be considered done in terms of potty learned? I don’t get why that is considered coercion. Navigating a potty chair (for us that was between 17 and 18m) is simply an accessory skill, kwim? So is clothing manipulation and toilet use. If we had squat toilets I am 100% convinced they’d be independent sooner, even before walking was perfected, because a squat toilet is the closest thing to an outside hole or bush!

        **I feel like I’m hijacking a bit sorry!** .

      • Benevolent hijacking (like this) is totally welcomed, Tara.

        Yes, squat toilets for the win!!! When we were in India we totally decided those were the best, most hygienic and anatomically and ergonomically correct toilets in the world and we would definitely get them installed in our house back home… and then we came back and now they just seem weird and foreign again but it is so much cleaner and easier to use them!

        Can’t really comment on the ‘finishing’ thing. Didn’t know that was an issue with ECers as I am really an outsider to that community (despite having a few mommy-friends who have done it). But I can’t help but agree that yes, one day they will master the awareness of their bodily functions and where it is socially acceptable to put our human waste. Eventually they will get it and then ‘learning’ will be finished, right? You have been helping them all the way up to this point, why not help them with a final push, so to speak, too?… or not. I am very ‘live and let live’.

      • Andrea, I didn’t know ECers shied from the word ‘finish’. I kind of get it now, but I didn’t realise that.

        You know, I can’t really make any promises on ‘finishing’ with this method myself. I only have one child so that is the sum total of my experience in this area and with DD we are not ‘finished’ yet. As I said, it has been about 6 weeks and in that time we have had only 5 days with no accidents. We have had many with only one or two (often ‘promising’ accidents like when she asks to go but I just can’t get her there in time or when she holds it the whole time we are out but just relaxes when we get home and ends up wetting her clothes). And in those weeks we have had some really terrible days, too, with lots of accidents.

        I have heard this same method worked like magic for some parents, so perhaps you will be one of them. For us it is a work in progress.

        Love the idea of an EC/3-day hybrid. In a sense that is where I think we are at: very late EC or 3-day plus follow up. But you are coming from the other end (no pun intended) so yes, it will be interesting to hear your results :)

    • Yes, well, as you know Ameena, I grew up in Portugal so I have seen plenty of children and grown men pee, thank you very much -hahahaha. I don’t have a problem with it, as such – it is not a prudish or some kind of etiquette or health thing. I just think at this stage it sends mixed messages. I have noticed if DD pees on the floor and we didn’t notice it until it was too late and then do nothing, it just kind of undoes the ‘training’ (new habit forming?) – even if it happens just once. It is just an observation. I can’t tell you if all kids are the same, but I can say that for my kid this is true. If we ‘let her’ pee on the floor even just once without sitting her (gently) on the potty and trying to catch a drop or two there and saying, playfully enough, ‘pee goes in the potty’ it all starts to slide backwards again and she starts to think peeing on the floor is acceptable and fine by her ,so why not?!… But hey, if I had a big garden or even just wooden floors I might not mind so much, but I have a small flat with white carpet, so it really is in my best interest that she gets and sticks with ‘the pee in the potty’ formula, ’tis all.

      I raise my hat to you and all ECers. As I said, I am okay with refusals, I just keep reminding her to tell me when she *does* want to go. The last thing I want is a power struggle ‘cos it is her bladder to control – she WILL win. lol Plus, hang in there. Last week was a real regression week for us on all kinds of fronts, I even spotted her intensely doing an old hoop game that she outgrew months ago, really. I think she really needed to go back and play with a toy she knew she could master (when so many other things in her life were changing and challenging, including a huge ‘word spurt’ and her grandmother leaving). There is always so much going on for them, sometimes the newest trick (in our case potty training) is the first to go, if she comes under stress. It is tough. I hear you. In a few years we’ll look back and this will all seem like a storm in a tea cup :)

  13. I was definitely one of those along the “allow it to happen when it happens,” and it ended up happening MUCH earlier than I ever expected. At 26 months, on vacation in Italy, TB announced he had to poop. My husband looked at me and asked what to do, and I replied “put him on the toilet” and laughed. He pooped and a few days later cried on the flight home when the line was long for the bathroom and he had to pee in his diaper. (No shaming from me. He just did NOT want to pee in his diaper.) It took him a few random wettings to be completely dry at night, but for the most part, once he started, he stuck with the toilet.

    All things considered, nothing about the timing was ripe for him to use the toilet instead of diapers. We were traveling. My husband was out of the country for an extended time without us. We had a lot going on, and yet he was definitely ready. Far more than I was.

    Needless to say, most of my friends do NOT talk to me about toilet learning. LOL!

    • Fabulous. What a great story. I love this stuff. I love that you a) trusted that he would sort it out and b) listened and followed his lead. That is freaking parent hall of fame, stuff.

      I have said I am partial to the early potty training thing. It makes sense to me but had I missed this ‘window’, developmentally speaking, I would totally follow this approach, just wait and watch. Lovely. Thanks for sharing!

  14. We did EC with my son, and at 18 months we went totally diaper free (except for at night/naps). He is now 3.5 years and he still soaks at night and naps. Any suggestions? His pediatrician just says he will do it when he is ready, but I feel like there is something I should try….

    • Hi, I can hear how frustrating that is for you… but I am not sure I am the best person to ask, in all honesty. I am just a mum, sharing my story, my successes and my embarrassments (in almost equal measure). I am neither a potty training expert nor even a veteran mom, seeing as I only have one kid – who is two.

      In any case, we can ‘think together’: Is he dry the rest of the time? Does he still have day-time accidents? My feeling is if it is just happening during naps/sleep perhaps it really is worth waiting him out and trusting that he’ll work it out. I mean, have you ruled out any emotional factors that could be playing into it, first? In Chinese medicine the kidneys hold the emotion of fear. Is this a sign of insecurities he has not fully expressed or released do you think? Hand in Hand Parenting have some great tools for working through and overcoming fears and insecurities through play and emotional release. If you think that could be playing a role, I totally urge you to look into their work.

      And, I presume you have checked out his drinking habits and making sure he isn’t tanking up on liquids just before he sleeps.

      I do believe each child comes to it in their own time and in their own way. I think we can help, from the ‘outside’ but it has to come from within the child. Whenever I do want to think through a barrier for my child, I put myself in her shoes and imagine what would make me feel stuck, how I’d react to others prompting me and what (if anything) could help me get unstuck. I am not her. What works for me (even in a thought experiment) might not be exactly the same as what she needs… but it often really helps me to look at things from this fresh perspective. Try that for your son (if you haven’t, already) maybe you will get a clear sense that what would help him, as a unique individual is more time, space and trust… or maybe another sharp insight will arise for you, spontaneously as to a way forward, a game you can play together, a conversation that can unlock some understanding. But above all, I would say, don’t blame yourself. You are clearly a super-engaged, caring mom who not only puts herself out enough to do something as hard core as EC but reads blogs and continues to ask herself how she could be doing better. You are, I am convinced, doing a GREAT job. You are learning. He is learning. You are getting there together, in your own unique way and time (forget the books!!!).


    • Where Gauri can’t answer, I happily will! :) I’m an EC Mentor/Author and my best friend is a professional potty trainer. I’ve referred many an ECer to her who want to wrap things up…and all have had success. Her book covers night training too. See Jamie at and enjoy fixing that drawn-out nighttime stuff…with all your hard work, you deserve to be done. :) And, Gauri, have you finished yet? The more I think about it the more I realize that, when done at 18 months, the 3 day should last no more than 2-3 weeks tops. Wishing you both the best!! :) Andrea

  15. Pingback: Two and potty trained: a real world review of how the ’3-day’ method worked for us « Loving Earth Mama

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