As you may know, you’ll shell out roughly $2590 in disposables by the time your baby is out of the diaper stage (at 36 months). But that’s just an average.
According to a report in American Family Physician (AFP), only 40 to 60 percent of kiddos complete toilet training by 36 months of age. That means, your diaper days could be a marathon and your diaper costs could add up to much more than $2590.
BUT…there is another way to cut your diaper costs. How about potty training your baby early–as early as the newborn stage–so you’re done with diapers by 12 months or so—rather than at 36 months or later?
It’s possible! In fact, Andrea E. Olson, the author of Go Diaper Free: A simple handbook for elimination communication and the Go Diaper Free podcast and founder of Tiny Undies, a specialist in early potty training–a technique known as elimination communication (EC)–says EC could cut your diaper costs by as much as 60 percent.
EC with a special item known as a Top Hat Potty is a form of toilet training that involves observing babies for a few weeks to learn their verbal elimination cues and body language for when they’re about to pee or poop, then taking them to a potty before #1 or #2 ever makes it to their diaper. (With EC, babies still wear diapers, they just don’t necessarily soil them.)
All five her of Olson’s kids were out of diapers by 12 months. “If you’re done with diapers by 12 months instead of 36 months, you could save roughly $2,000 a child,” Olson says. “I estimate I’ve saved $10,000 on diapers on my five children.”
Read on for Olsen’s advice on EC and how she went on to create the Top Hat Potty and spearhead the diaper-free “movement.”
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Today, most toilet training in the US happens between 21 and 36 months of age. “But in the 1950s, 92% of babies were out of diapers by 18 months in the US,” Olson says. That proves that babies are capable of being potty-trained earlier than 36 months. “It’s a myth that babies must be developmentally ready to potty-train,” Olson says.
According to the AFP, the convenience of disposable diapers and training pants have likely contributed to today’s 36 month toilet training time table. Elimination communication reverses the trend.
Olson never planned on becoming the face of EC. It just naturally evolved. “Before I ever had a child, I had heard of friends of a friends who didn’t use diapers,” Olson says. “They just had their baby pee into the sink. I was like, whatever that is, I’m doing it when I get pregnant because I remember changing diapers babysitting at age 11 and I hated it.”
When Olsen’s first child was born in 2010, she read up on elimination communication and began observing her baby for a few weeks to learn his verbal and body language elimination cues for when a poop or pee is occurring, such as squirming or fussing. “I caught onto some of my son’s rhythms and his signals and just made it work for me where he was poop trained pretty instantly. There was no going back,” Olsen says.
Introducing the Top Hat Potty
Top Hat Potties are common in developing nations. Olson created a version that doesn’t slip from between the thighs and offers a warm rim at the top, sparing babies the chill of hard plastic.
To-do tactic: When you sense your baby has to go, simply hold your baby underneath the thighs over the potty or a receptacle like a Top Hat Potty and give a little grunt, signaling that it’s okay to let go. Olsen demonstrates using a Top Hat Potty in this video.
“Your baby will begin to associate the sound with peeing or pooping into the receptacle,” Olson says.
Afterwards, you’ll just dump the pee and poop into the toilet. Rinse out the Top Hat Potty with warm water and a little soap or throw it in the dishwasher and you’re good to go–until the next time.
You can use a Top Hat Potty in the diaper bag and take it out with you.
How early can potty training begin?
You can start with elimination communication anywhere from zero to 18 months, and not have to wait till your child is two and three years old to potty train.
When Ols0n’s son was 9 months old and started crawling, she missed the poop signals for about a week, which is typical during developmental transitions. “But other than that, he literally never pooped in his diaper. The diaper was just a backup,” she says. After Olson’s son mastered crawling, Olson got rid of her son’s backup diaper completely.
“I stopped using diapers during the daytime with him at nine months. My second child was out of diapers by 12 months or 13 months. My third child was out of diapers at 17 months, but he also was pooped-trained from pretty much from birth. My fourth child, I took him out of diapers at 12 months. And my fifth was really my golden child and all levels. She was out of diapers at 12 to 13 months in the day. By 17 months, we didn’t use nighttime diapers either. It was absolutely amazing,” Olson says.
How the diaper-free method works
The diaper-free elimination communication method starts with just observing your baby, preferring starting in the newborn stage.
Watch your baby for a few hours a day for a couple of days and see if he/she gives off any kind of facial expression. “Most babies just get fussy a little bit after nursing; that’s a signal for sure your baby has to go. The most common signal actually is getting fussy,” Olson says.
Another common pooping signal is the grimace. When you notice your baby grimacing, “You just gently say, ‘Wait,’ bring them over to the toilet, the sink or a container,” Olson says. Another excellent time to have your baby use a Top Hat Potty (instead of a diaper) when they wake up or after a nap. “We all have a hormone, an anti-diuretic hormone that keeps us clean and dry when we’re sleeping and when we wake up, we need to go,” Olson says.
Elimination communication is an exposure technique. Over time, your baby gets used to not going in his/her diaper. “Elimination communication is what they do in countries across the world that don’t use diapers. They make a noise, such as a grunt or mimicking the sound of rushing water, and the baby releases,” Olson says.
The role diapers still play
With elimination communication, you’ll still use diapers, but just as a backup, such as during the day or at night and up until a certain age or stage such as when your baby is crawling or walking. Then, they’ll just wear toddler underwear.
“With elimination communication, people stop using diapers when their baby is between around 9 to 14 months,” Olsen says.
You might also resort to diapers when you’re busy, such as when you’re traveling.
Still, the diaper is just there in case. With elimination communication, you reuse the same dry diaper for two to three days. “I’ve used the same diaper until the tabs have ripped off,” Olson says.
It’s common to worry that elimination communication will take a lot of time and energy, that it’s one more thing to do. “Most of us will say: ‘I’m just going to use a diaper and not worry about it and potty train later. No big deal,'” Olson says. “But what most people don’t understand is that EC actually simplifies parenting because you no longer have to change poopy diapers, which takes a long time and it’s disgusting.
You also don’t have as many behavioral issues when your child becomes a toddler. Because they have self-mastery. It takes away the power struggle away that can happen with potty training and normalizes being out of diapers by 12 to 18 months.”
If you’re interested in trying elimination communication, Olsen offers this advice:
- Just start, even in a tiny way, by paying attention to your baby’s elimination signals.
- Just try it once a day. Offer your baby the potty or Top Hat Potty at every diaper change, or every time your baby wakes up in the morning or after a nap.
- As you observe your baby at first, you might go through a lot of diapers in a month. Then the next month, you’ll hit a rhythm and start catching more pees and poops in the Top Hat Potty and reusing diapers that are dry.
- You can practice elimination communication around a busy schedule. As you continue, your baby will actually start to wait for you and to look to you and crawl up to you and signal that it’s time, you know.
Elimination communication is a team effort.”I never thought this was what I would do when I grew up,” Olson says. “But after I had my first baby, I struggled so much at first, trying to figure out how to do elimination communication just from reading about it in a text book. I wanted to make it easier for everybody for an alternative to traditional potty training. Find a little piece you can start to do that feels doable because it’s really easier than changing diapers all the time.”
To learn more about elimination communication, visit Go Diaper Free.
Yay! It’s a Top Hat Potty Giveaway!
Want to give elimination communication a go? BabyProductsMom is giving away a Top Hat Potty to three lucky (and random) winners!
To enter to win, just sign up below. Contest ends on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 at 5 PM ET. The winners will be notified by email. If each winner doesn’t respond within 24 hours, another winner be chosen and given 24 hours to respond, etc.