What’s in a name? Baby-led Potty Training in many guises

Elimination Communication, EC, Natural Infant Hygiene, Infant Potty Training, Pottying, Diaper free, holding baby out…

All of these names and more have been used to describe the technique of actively toileting baby. In cultures where EC is the norm, for example in China and much of Africa, it is not common for this technique to have a name, in the same way that we do not have a single word or phrase in English that describes the technique of keeping a baby in nappies. We could almost say that linguistically, we are not even aware that keeping a baby in nappies is a technique.

The process described on these pages has been re-discovered in the US. As it is different from the conventional method, it needed a name to distinguish it. And we have agonised over what that should be ever since!

Infant potty training perhaps gives the biggest clue to the method it describes, however, practitioners are quick to point out that “potty training” suggests a goal oriented approach. It also has nuances of an adult led, potentially coercive, practice. In the UK, the term infant is also problematic, as it is rarely used in everyday speech. We prefer baby.

Elimination Communication, or EC appears to have stuck, though it is rare that anyone in the UK will have the slightest idea what it means, if they are new to the term. Coined by Ingrid Bauer, in her book Diaper Free, communication emphasises the two-way nature of the method. The problem for those of us in the UK, is that we do not habitually use the term elimination to describe bodily functions. In fact, it has sinister overtones! EC has become popular probably because of its brevity. All the other terms are a bit of a mouthful.

Diaper Free/ Nappy Free Baby This gives some clue to what the method entails to someone new to the term, but again it is somewhat misleading. Nappy Free implies that babies don’t wear a nappy, when in fact most ECed babies do wear a nappy as a back up, at least in the first year.

Natural Infant Hygiene. It’s a good description in some ways, once you know what it means, but it seems a little obscure to the casual observer. Hygiene could refer to a number of aspects of baby-care. Again, in the UK we have the same problem with infant.

Baby-Led Potty Training This term was coined by Amber in response to the above difficulties. She hopes that the clarification of baby-led  addresses the problems associated with baby/infant potty training. It emphasises the gentle nature of the method, while still giving some clue as to what it refers. It is reminiscent of baby-led weaning, another gentle, intuitive baby-care method.

Does it matter? The problem with giving a technique a catchy name, particularly a slightly obscure one, is that it turns the technique into a separate thing, which parents either “do” or “don’t do”. Parents sometimes worry whether they are “doing EC properly”, or what the “rules” are.  The method can become associated with a particular way of thinking, or set of people (e.g American). This can even put people off trying it out. There is no one “right” way to do baby led potty training. Every family will approach the method differently. It can be thought of simply as a baby-care tip.

This website mostly uses the term Baby-led potty training (BLPT), as it seems the least self-conscious of the terms, and most likely to convey its meaning. We also use EC and Elimination Communication, as these are the common words found on the forums and in the US. You will also find to potty as a verb, to describe the process of offering the potty, or holding baby out.

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