'We toilet-trained our newborn. Now she doesn't wear a nappy during the day or at night.'

Lily was just a couple of hours old when her mum, Kate Varallo, 33, ‘caught’ her baby’s first wee.

Having read about elimination communication before giving birth, the Bendigo mum wasted no time putting into practice what she’d read.

“While she was on my breast (after giving birth) I noticed she would pause and wee, so I thought I would just get started with it. I got my husband to get a bed pan for her to pee in and we caught most of it.

“It was a relief when I caught the first one to know it could work. It just clicked, and I thought, ‘this is a real practical thing I can do’. It was really inspiring,” Kate said.

She first read about elimination communication during her pregnancy when she was looking at cloth nappies and stumbled upon the technique, so she decided to start researching it.

"It was a relief when I caught the first one to know it could work." Image: Supplied.

“It seemed respectful. I wouldn’t want to sit in my own filth so why would a little baby want to. I have spent time in Africa and I never saw kids in nappies but never thought anything of it then because I didn’t have children,” Kate said.

Elimination communication (or natural infant hygiene) is practiced by many cultures around the world but has largely been lost in the West. It is the practice of tuning into the baby’s cues for when he or she needs to wee or poo and rather than allowing them to soil themselves in their nappy, they are held over a toilet or potty. The instinct to signal their need to eliminate can be lost by about the age of six months if the cues are not responded to.

Kate said her husband, Rohan, already had two children and was sceptical when she told him about the method and her desire to practice it. However, after a few lessons from Kate he joined in taking Lily to the toilet.


“He gave it a go and has been quite successful. He tells people how impressed he is with it. From day one we were able to use the potty.”

Kate takes Lily to the toilet or potty both day and night and she has been in training pants since six-months-old.

Lily has now been in training pants since she was six-months-old. Image: Supplied.

“When she was a baby, we had a combination of nappy-free time and cloth nappies. She would get restless and fidgety, so I would hold her over the potty or over a nappy. For me it was about not letting her go in what she was wearing,” Kate explained.

She said in the night because they co-sleep she wakes when Lily starts wriggling and they both get up to go to the toilet together.

By 19-months-old Lily was telling them she needed the potty and Kate feels that, apart from not being able to take her clothes off herself, she is now toilet trained.

“It is like breastfeeding, the more people you see doing it the more normal it is. It is natural for babies to signal. Most people would have the capacity to do it. It is just knowing about it and caring enough,” Kate said.

Cardwell mum Paisley Rylance said she had looked after hundreds of children between the ages of six months and five years old and had only ever come across one using a potty at a year old.

Luna using her potty. Image: Supplied.

“I thought elimination communication was a nutty concept then we started when Luna was seven-weeks-old. On the change table Luna ripped off her nappy and began to scream,” Paisley said.

She said her baby daughter refused to have a nappy on, so she decided to look up the sign language sign for nappy.

“When we started, we used timing. As soon as we took her nappy off she would wee, so we just let her do it on her nappy on the change table. Once she could hold her head up we got an elimination communication bucket and we used timing and cues. She would pee ten minutes after waking and poo while breastfeeding,” Paisley explained.

At about three-and-a-half-months-old Paisley bought a potty and began to let Luna have nappy-free time. She also bought the book Go Diaper Free.

“At about three to four months she did the American (sign language) sign for toilet. I looked it up and then we started using that sign too. She was doing the nappy sign if she had been in her nappy and the toilet sign if she wanted to go to the toilet.

Luna now has a potty in her bedroom. Image: Supplied.

Once she could sit on her own, we got her a potty and at night we brought it into the bedroom and used it through the night. She would roll onto her face and smoosh her face into the sheet and thrash around when she needed to pee,” Paisley said.

Luna began crawling at five months and this led to a massive pause in her communication around elimination and going to the potty. Another pause occurred at nine months when Luna began to get a lot of teeth.

“We are having a lot of poos and wees on the floor at the moment. About a week ago I made her some knickers to take her nappy-free completely. The first lot got thrown across the floor and she spent a couple of weeks weeing on the floor. Her signs have changed, and she has started to make the weeing or pooing sound or bring me wipes or a nappy,” she said.

Luna, now seven months old, wears underwear. Image: Supplied.

Paisley said her, and her daughter are now completely in sync and when she needs to go to the toilet so does Luna.

She said now at ten-months-old Luna is working out how long her bladder can go for before she needs to wee.

Elimination communication allows them dignity, self-respect and ownership of their own body and you don’t have to sit in your own poop,” Paisley said.

Have you tried elimination communication? Did it work for you? Tell us about it in the comments section below. 

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