Is the method of Elimination communication to bring up a baby without using diapers real and working?

And since it was "taken" from primitive tribes where the mother is with the baby 24/7 for a long period, can the same be achieved with a modern day society where many times after the first ~half year the child is left for long time with other caregivers like the grandparents or a nanny and not the parents?

And finally, can it be practiced in an environment with many children like a day-car/kinder-garden?

  • 1
    Might be better on parenting.SE
    – mmr
    Jun 24, 2012 at 19:27
  • 2
    @mmw the topic has been brought up at least once: parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/91/… Jun 25, 2012 at 2:45
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    @David The discussion on “parenting” just assumes unquestioningly that elimination communication works – something which is explicitly questioned here. The link is still nice since it proves notability. Consequently I think this is a real question that’s well-suited on this site. Jun 25, 2012 at 11:58
  • @konrad. The link was for reference, but The claim is not clear. EC is primarily focused on communication, and the central claim is that babies communicate when they need to poop or pee. If the communication is ignored, the baby will poop or pee anyway, so if a day care had 20 kids, it might be tough for the provider to respond to each one, but that does not contradict the basic premise of EC. And anyone who doesn't use diapers will almost certainly get poop or pee somewhere, like on the floor or bed or lap, primitive or not. Jun 25, 2012 at 14:20
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    @IlyaMelamed it is not so much a "cry" as a "grunt"; unlike with food, a baby can deal with the issue on their own so it doesn't escalate to a cry. Most parents recognize the grunt when it happens, but don't realize that they can put the kid on a potty instead of just waiting to change the diaper. Jun 25, 2012 at 20:51

1 Answer 1


There are a few individual case studies that seem to suggest it's difficult but possible.

They're far from perfect as evidence since they're self reported, but there's one case of a woman in Australia which is sufficiently detailed, seems to be independent of groups with a direct interest in advocating the technique, and contains enough caveats on the difficulties of the technique that it appears credible and has been reported as credible by mainstream media.

This write-up gives a fairly straightforward summary:

  • The cues she watches out for are cries/grizzling which become desperate when her baby needs to wee or poo.

    "I use a combination of common sense, instinct, timing and listening to my baby," she writes.

    "Often if I get it wrong and we have an accident it is because I haven’t listened. I will then kick myself for ignoring her vocal and physical cues."

  • "I [take her to the bathroom sink] then say 'wee, wee' and make the sound psss so this cues her to go to the toilet. If it’s a poo I say 'poo, poo'' she explains.

  • "I’m not sure if other people who practise EC liken it to toilet training a puppy but I think it’s very similar.

    "With my puppies I would take then to the grass and tell them to wee. Now when I need them to go the toilet, for example at night, I just put them out and tell them to do wee."

  • ...And if she ever takes too long to respond to her daughter's cues and she has an accident, Cindy makes sure to repeat the word "wee wee" so her baby knows to associate the action with the term.

There's a more detailed first-person account by the woman herself on an Australian parenting site.

Neither mentions childcare centres, but the first-person account does mention using the technique in a cafe toilet when the baby was two weeks old (with the help of "my poor husband [who] is madly cleaning up what didn’t make it into the bowl"). For those sorts of details it's probably better to ask on the dedicated Parenting site or on one of the sites that promote the practice (three are linked in the above write-up but I can't vouch for their quality).

Those sites dedicated to promoting the technique also include and reference other first person accounts. Most of these seem to be from people with a direct interest in advocating the approach, or, quotes where it's not clear how much direct experience there is, so they're worth treating skeptially, but they do suggest it's possible, with caveats. For example, TribalBaby.org" gives a first person E-book account of it working "part-time" in conjunction with (not instead of) "reduced reliance on" nappies. This fits the idea from above that it is possible, but isn't 100% reliable and does involved "accidents".

  • "Often if I get it wrong and we have an accident it is because I haven’t listened. I will then kick myself for ignoring her vocal and physical cues." This is what we call confirmation bias.
    – user11643
    Mar 10, 2017 at 13:43
  • It could be, if the rate of accidents isn't also going down. But it does sound like the rate of accidents does go down over time (if it didn't, she'd be dealing with 'accidents' constantly and 'kicking herself' almost every time the baby passes a motion) Mar 10, 2017 at 13:46
  • @user568458 you make it sound like the baby is a legislature.
    – phoog
    Mar 10, 2017 at 19:14

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