Born free

Infant potty training is a cheaper, less wasteful alternative to diapers

Jonna DeWaal and baby Bodicea play beside the infant potty. At 1-year-old, Bodi is nearly potty-trained thanks to Elimination Communication.

Jonna DeWaal and baby Bodicea play beside the infant potty. At 1-year-old, Bodi is nearly potty-trained thanks to Elimination Communication.

Photo By kat kerlin

For more information about Elimination Communication, or infant potty training, visit

Like most 1-year-olds, Bodicea “Bodi” DeWaal wears a diaper. However, when it’s time for her to go “potty,” her parents, Jonna and Daniel DeWaal, do something most American parents don’t: Remove Bodi’s diaper before it’s used. Then they take her to her little baby toilet and let her go like a big girl. They’ve been doing this since Bodi was 8-weeks-old. In fact, Bodi is pretty much potty-trained, though she wears a diaper for back-up.

“You can go completely diaper-free and put training pants on,” says Jonna. “And people often use cloth diapers as a back-up.”

Elimination communication, or EC, is the term used for what the DeWaal’s are doing. It’s also called “infant potty training.” Since the DeWaal’s have been practicing it, they tend to go through one or two diapers a day, compared with 12 if they were to change Bodi every two hours, as recommended. The resource waste and money they’re saving is significant. Babies wearing disposables use more than 4,000 diapers each year, and most don’t begin potty training until they’re 2 or 3 years old. Considering disposables cost, on average, 36 cents each, foregoing them could also save a family more than $1,400 per year.

Eventually, parents learn cues from their baby about when he or she needs to go to the bathroom. Some common ones might be a squirmy face or releasing from the breast during feeding. And babies tend to go around the same time each day, so EC parents take their babies to the toilet at those times and other opportunities to prevent “accidents.”

It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. If the babysitter or daycare worker isn’t comfortable with EC, the baby can wear a diaper that day. However, EC babies get used to not having to sit in wet diapers. Bodi, for example, gets upset on the rare occasions when she has to wait to be changed.

“They’re born knowing they don’t want to pee or poop on themselves,” says Jonna. “Then [with diapers] you train them to think it’s not important.”

Infant potty training may sound strange to Americans raised on disposables and even cloth diapers. There are even support groups for EC parents through But the practice is quite common around the world, especially in developing countries. Where water, washing machines, and trash collection—let alone disposable diapers and the money to buy them—are lacking, EC is a practical solution. For parents and babies who don’t like dirty diapers, it may make sense, too. In addition to being cheaper and less wasteful, an EC baby almost never gets diaper rash and tends to be potty-trained at a much earlier age than other babies.

While those advantages are a big plus for the DeWaals, Jonna says the main benefit for her was being able to communicate with Bodi before she could talk. “Before, I felt like I was at a loss, not knowing what’s going on. With EC, I knew what she needed immediately. … I think it makes your child feel like less of a mystery to you.”

Parents can deal with changing dirty diapers or with taking their baby to the toilet. Either way, “You’re not going to get away with dealing with your kid’s need to go potty,” says Jonna. “I don’t see making more work for Daniel and us when she’s 3 and make this big potty-training experience.”