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Being a parent is a decision-making mine field, or at least it feels that way sometimes. You have to find the right doctors. You have to decide whether or not to breast feed. You have to choose between cloth and disposable diapers. You have to decide what to feed, how to clothe, and how to discipline your child (when your child is old enough to be disciplined). Most hazardous of all, you have to decide when and how to toilet train your child.

Or do you?

There is a new method of toilet training that a lot of parents are using called “elimination communication” that is rumoured to help babies become fully potty trained by the time their friends at play group have even seen a potty chair.

What Is Elimination Communication?

As a parent, you know—almost instinctively—when your baby is hungry or tired, right? You learn to tell the difference between the crying that signals baby is thirsty, baby is cranky, baby is in need of changing and baby really needs a nap. How do you do this? You do this by learning to pick up on the subtle cues in your baby’s expression and body language. You learn to pick out different “types” of crying.

That’s how “elimination communication” works. The theory is that if a baby has ways of signalling hunger, he probably has ways of signalling he is about to urinate or defecate. You learn to recognize those signals and put the baby on the toilet when those signals are sent out.

It’s About Forming Association Habits

The idea is that if you put the baby on the toilet every time he or she signals that he or she has to “go,” the baby will learn to associate the toilet with urination/defecation. Then, over time, the baby will learn to simply use the toilet himself (or herself).

This method has been used to some success. Some parents swear that elimination communication helped them toilet train their babies by not long after the baby’s first birthday.

ToddlersCan Babies Really Learn This So Early?

The primary drawbacks from trying the elimination communication method is that most babies aren’t cognitively developed enough to make the connection between the signals their body is sending them and the “elimination” that occurs. It is also rare for children under the age of 2 to have enough muscle control to “hold it” on purpose when they do finally figure out what those signals mean.

What’s more, that muscle control and cognitive development happen in stages. According to some, children have an easier time learning their bowel signals and control than they do the signals and control required for their bladders. They also have an easier time learning to control their eliminations during the day than they do at night (which is why bed wetting usually occurs with school-aged children).

Really Reading the Signals

The best approach is to follow your child’s lead. Parents who use the elimination communication method found the best success when they didn’t push things (no pun intended). Their babies remained in diapers until toddlerhood when they became properly toilet trained. This way there was no pressure on a young and still developing baby to develop habits it wasn’t physically or mentally ready for yet, and the association could happen naturally.

Children allowed to progress at their own pace tend to fare better in the toilet training arena anyway. Remember, there is no “magic” age by which your child has to be toilet trained (no matter what the competitive mommies down the block might try to make you believe). Follow your child’s cues—that’s what is at the heart of elimination communication. Your child will let you know when he or she is ready to dump the diapers for good.