The latest trend in "hipster" parenting.

DNAinfo/Kaitlin McGreyes


Prepare yourselves.

Parents are letting their babies, some as young as newborns, roam freely about without nappies on.

Scandalous, I know.

The method, known as Elimination Communication (EC) is gaining traction among “hipster” parents in Brooklyn (NYC) and has been the subject of several articles from The Times, Mail Online and Slate magazine.

The Elimination Communicated Simplified website define EC as “a gentle, non-coercive way to respond to a baby’s natural pottying needs, from birth, which enables her to follow her instincts to not soil herself, her caretaker, or her sleep space”.

Parents using EC encourage their babies to learn how to signal when they need to relieve themselves thus reducing the amount of nappies required in the first few years of a baby’s life (think of the money you’d save!) and cancelling out the need to toilet train later on.

The strategic placement of several bowls around the house helps to avoid near misses but as one parent, Adriane Stare, the owner of Caribou baby store in Brooklyn that hosts EC meet-ups, admits it can get messy (geez, didn’t see that one coming).

“The hard part is simply getting clothes off of the kid quickly enough to catch a pee or poop before it goes in the diaper,” she told DNAinfo.

“When kids get older, it can be challenging to get them to stop for a second to potty. They much prefer to pee on the floor and continue crawling or toddling on their merry way,” Stare said.

Fans of the method cite reasons for doing it such as saving the environment, saving money, protecting their offspring from the evils of nappy rash and wanting to be in touch with their infants most “intimate needs”.

You can take a look at the practice from some Australian EC parents in action here or watch the video below from EC Simplified:

If you can’t watch it now; parents watch for cues that the baby needs to do a number one or number two and then once the baby does need to go parents make noises (the elimination communication) like “sss,” or a grunting sound while holding them out over a potty/sink/toilet.

Most parents don’t practice EC 100% of the time preferring to use nappies overnight or when they leave the house for long periods of time but will happily go nappy-free on shorter outings to the park where it’s (apparently) easier to go on the ground or behind a tree. And yes we’re talking number twos here.

According to The New York Times article, some doctors are dismissive of the practice believing children under 12 months are unable to control their own bodily functions.


“I’ve certainly heard in other countries that they do toilet train babies earlier,” said Dr. Robin Jacobson. “But from what I’ve heard it’s at about a year of age, not at two months of age.”

Health professionals generally advise parents to let the children decide when they’re ready, with the ideal age or “window” for girls being between two and 2½  and for boys, between 2½ and three. According to Better Health Victoria, “Children are generally around two years of age before they can recognise and respond to toileting signals such as a full bladder”.

Slate Writer (and Brooklyn resident) thinks the EC revival is more in line with self-indulgent middle class behaviour than an ideal toilet training method for parents.

“Some of the women who practice EC in industrialized countries say they do it because it’s “natural,” but what they don’t think about is the privilege that goes along with imitating “traditional societies that have not become overly ‘westernized’,” Grose said.

“They’re counting on the fact that we live in places where deaths from poor sanitation are not commonplace—and that’s because we have access to things like diapers, both cloth and disposable,” she said.

Before I had my first child I too considered being one of those environmentally friendly mothers who would be fine with washing shit-stained cloth nappies rather than make do with the evils of disposable nappies but then I actually had the baby and shit quite literally got real.

And those precious few minutes I had to myself each day? Not surprisingly, I much preferred to sleep or stare blankly at the wall and wonder what had become of my life rather than scrape poo off fabric. Selfish I know, and I greatly admire any parent who can commit to cloth nappies full or even part-time.

I’ll admit while it is tempting to let a writhing, screaming toddler go nappy-less for a period of time, I’ve found the consequences are never good.

This summer we thought it was cute to let our then 15-month-old streak across the house in nothing but her birthday suit. That was until she laid a log under the dinner table then started screaming and freaking out about said poo. She screamed, I screamed, we didn’t scream for ice cream but Mr Whippy had definitely paid us a visit.

That pretty much put an end to nappy-free time in our house.

What are your experiences with toilet training? Is going nappy-free a genius idea or sanitary issue?