Seattle Babies Use the Potty: An Update on the Ditch the Diapers EC Challenge

Since November, 7 families and their babies have been working on our EC Challenge — helping their 0- to 6-month-olds use the potty and learning together about babies’ elimination.

Moms and Dads alike, with help from extended family, are avoiding the negatives of relying on diapers 100% of the time, which tells babies’ brains that they don’t need to pay attention to sensations related to elimination. These families still use diapers galore (mostly cloth diapers from Diaper Stork), but they are also playing around with what happens when they let their kids use the potty instead, watching their body language and cuing them with “pss pss” or other sounds to communicate about what’s happening.

While we’ve been told this sounds horribly inconvenient for the adults, the babies sure do like it. As one participant attests, with some patience, pooping on the potty can quickly become the preferred choice for babies and grown-ups alike. Does anyone really enjoy the clean-up that must be done after a diaper gets poopy?

Milo does his business on a top hat potty with a little help from his Dad.

“I’m learning to read his cues better, and Milo mostly poops in the potty now, as long as I get him there in time and have patience as he works it out. Sometimes I think he waits to be on the potty to poop. I almost feel like I don’t know how to change a poopy diaper.


Our survey of Seattle families found that 79% have at least heard of EC, but only 16% have tried to do it themselves. Our meetings with the challenge participants are helping us understand what roadblocks exist even when parents have time and are motivated to try to use the potty with their babies.

For example, the logistics of where to put the potty, how to get the baby to it in time, or how to handle all those winter layers of clothing can be difficult. Without some inside tips and tricks, the average parent may just conclude that this is too much hassle.

Our goal is to help more Seattle families get over that hump of “too difficult,” “too weird,” “too unfamiliar.” Many of us on the Ditch the Diapers team are inspired to share EC because of the joy and wonder we experienced trying it with our own babies. Rachel Ogestelli had heard about EC but thought “Nah, that can’t really be a thing.” Still, when her daughter woke up dry from a nap one day at 14 weeks of age, Rachel tried putting her on the potty and was blown away with surprise when the baby peed into it. From that moment, she was hooked, and her coin-op laundry loads of cloth diapers went down by 1/3 in just the first week.

Here are some tips from our EC Challenge group participants that might help you take the plunge, too.

Inside Tip #1: Use the Potty Cart

Keeping a potty within reach of the changing table makes it easy to give baby a “pottytunity” when you already have the diaper off anyway. If it’s not big enough, a rolling cart can be a good solution. Just don’t leave baby unattended or near an edge at any point!

Sumayyah says, “I caught his first poo 3 weeks ago, using the advice of one of the women to put the potty on a high cart or changing table. Game changer! I’ve been using the potty off and on ever since.” 

Inside Tip #2: Baby Leggings

From naked observation time, parents learn what body language or sounds their kid might give before eliminating. They also notice patterns around how often the baby pees or how long after other activities like waking or feeding. In the next step, they try to respond to these cues and timings by offering a chance to use the potty at just the right moment. But how do you get the diaper off in time? When winter temperatures make it too chilly to hang out bottomless, baby leggings can be the perfect solution.

Scott says, “Baby leggings keep her warm while keeping the diaper accessible for easy removal when we can see she starts to or needs to go.”

Inside Tip #3: Just Try It

As new parents, we are scared of doing something wrong that may harm our fragile newborns. We fret about where and in what position they sleep, what they drink, how the carseat is set up, etc etc. What a relief, then, to know that in this department, you really can’t mess it up at this early age. There’s no need to feel you have to be consistent or perfect in how you do EC. The main thing is just to try it, to sometimes give the kid a break from the diapers and see if they’d like to use the potty instead.

small baby can use the potty with help from Mom
Sumayyah writes, “As other priorities came up it was sometimes tough to make time for this. Having the group helped me stay motivated and clearly helped with practical tips. Also, unfortunately, baby’s persistent diaper rash forces me to give him more diaper free time. This leads to more pottying, though. I’ve noticed that he usually cries before he pees, so sometimes I catch it in the potty or with a cloth diaper. And I need to test this more, but he may already automatically pee when on the potty. I staged the pic above right after he peed, not expecting him to use it. Imagine my surprise when we were done and I saw he’d peed!”

We are very thankful to all of our Challenge families for sharing their experiences! Stay tuned for more stories and pearls of wisdom coming your way. Remember, we have FREE Intro to Elimination Communication classes every month somewhere in Seattle as well as an ongoing support group for those already peeing along at home.

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