Month 23: Three Day Weekend Pottying (EC in Disguise?)

Potty Feet

I want to discuss this “Boot Camp” style method which uses a lot of EC practices and in a few areas that I feel it falls short with old ideas.   Say Elimination Communication and people tend to wail, “so hard, no time, parent training,” but tend to be amiable to this method.   Fascinating!   The 3 day method, in my observation, is most definitely Parent Behavior Modification.  After all, toddlers don’t diaper themselves!

This is not an EC friendly culture.  It is diaper and pull-up dependent.   Only a small number of people and old grannies know that the under two crowd are more that capable of using a potty or toilet.   So when I saw that the 3 day/weekend method has a starting age of 15 months  (particularly Julie Fellom’s Diaper Free for Toddlers program) I raised an eyebrow.

The 3-Day method has had a resurgence recently because, let’s face it — Brazelton’s “readiness” scale has caused a lot of tears, power struggles, bowel withholding, strong diaper attachment, and has worsened night wetting issues.  The 3 day method is not new, it is at least almost 40 years old!

“Readiness” is a crock.   Sorry.   Babies are born ready, it’s the parents who have been convinced that they aren’t ready or that starting ASAP is too time consuming or psychologically damaging (Say what!? Going to the bathroom is a trauma?).   The average age for children to be potty trained has risen from 18 months to 2-2.5 to 3-4 and rising!  What has happened that this generation of parents think diapering for 3-4 years IS NOT time consuming?   And being rid of diapers by 2.5 or earlier is?    Head hurt?   Mine does.    (This blogger ponders:   Who decides when to train, you, baby or Big Diaper?  and What caused the shift?    This blogger LovingEarthMama pondered between EC, 3 day pottying, and conventional training)

How is the Weekend Method Like EC?

  • 100% Parental commitment and dedication needed —parent must be attentive to the need, look for it, and acknowledge to reinforce.  ECers do not watch their babies like hawks 24/7, it is more relaxed  than that.   However,when just starting out you do have to be extra tuned and pay extra attention.
  • 100% Parental assistance needed — parent must provide demonstration, and help to use the toilet and potty until the tot can take over.  ECers just do this from the start, even the part-timers.
  • 100% Bare bottomed, no diapers at home —  full time EC also works best bare (though trainers also are used especially for outings).  Bare bottomed is often the remedy for EC accidents.   Some ECers (the part timers in particular) do use diapers,  and there is a definite difference in potty successes with diapers and bare bottomed.  The more diapers are used the harder the process.
  • No treats or Bribery — going to the bathroom is praised but one should not have to be “paid” to “go”.  ECers praise, but it is more uncontained excitement while the 3 day method uses it deliberately to get the tots excited about the change.
  • Diapers/trainers for naps and night only — but like EC naked on a wee pad is best, reliance on diapers prolongs the process especially for diapered tots.
  • Multiple potty chairs — at least 2, sometimes more if you have multiple floors or bathrooms.  Opportunity should not be hindered by lack of receptacle.   An advantage to starting in infancy like many ECers is that the receptacle choices are much more flexible.
  • Be prepared — clean-up towels, receptacle for wets, travel potty/adapter and easy loose pants for outings.  Small pad for the car seat.  Even ECers have accidents when starting and have these supplies on hand.  Public toilets are not child friendly and often not adult friendly, so the more comfortable you can make it the better.    Women are used to scoping out the best bathrooms, but men may need some education on that!
  • Winter Accomodations  — leg warmers like Babylegs or knee socks.   ECers may also use split crotch pants.  Long shirts and dresses are useful.   Onesies can be left unsnapped but generally aren’t diaper free friendly.
  • Demonstration — A few weeks before beginning show how to use the potty by taking the tot with you (both parents) when you go and encourage  older siblings and grandparents to do the same.   The toddler should see and hear the whole process from pants to flush to hand washing.   ECers do this demonstration from the moment they begin even with in arms infants.  It is a big part of the process.
  • Ban the Diapers — A week or two before starting explain that once the bag/box is empty of diapers there will be no more and he/she will be naked/bare bottomed.    Toddlers are natural nudists.    Naked toddler bums are quite common in the EC community even among the part-timers.  Even ECers have difficulty letting go of the diaper crutch.
  • Disapproval is not Punishment — Accidents should be met with normal unhappiness and matter of fact, “Pee/Poop goes in the potty. Let’s clean up.”  Absolutely no shaming.   ECers agree and are very adamant that punitive, shaming,  or “mean” measures are a no-no.
  • Timing/Cueing –– Take the tot to the bathroom before naps, night bedtime and before outings.  You want to establish a connection between pottying when you ask and an activity.   This is a subtle form of the obvious cueing that ECers use.      ECers use timing much more generously until babies and toddlers are able to signal consistently.   Though many ECers do not night potty, those who don’t find that it is the night time that they struggle with because they’ve come to rely on diapers.  Try to avoid diapers at night.
  • Set up Outings for Success — Go out right after a good pee, keep it short if you can, and bring a change of clothes and a travel potty or seat adapter.    Even ECers get apprehensive the first time they go out without a diaper and just pants.  The important thing is to be prepared.    Training pants are discouraged with the 3 day because they may feel too much like diapers on a toddler who has been 100% diapered, this is not always the case with a part-time EC’d baby or with thinner trainers.  It all depends on how much of a “potty cue” a diaper has been.   A baby who hold pee until they have on a diaper, for example, should not wear even trainers for the Weekend method.     Don’t be afraid to let the fountain flow and catch the mess.  The diaper is your enemy in this instance.

Where the Methods Fall Short  (too influenced by “readiness” conventinal methods)

Advocates “Signs of Readiness” —  Parents are advised that a sign of readiness is staying dry for two or more hours at a time.    This is a pitfall.    For many children, when they have a diaper on they “go” because the diaper is their “cue”.   It becomes a reflex.   They may not develop the control to hold it for a long time because they haven’t had to used those muscles extensively.   A child who seems to go frequently in a diaper may also hold it for hours without one.   So “dryness” is not a reliable sign.      If instead one sees that a child has been born ready, and it is the parents who have been directing then there is no need to wait for signs that may not appear until after age 3.   Another apparent sign is pooping at regular time.   A lot of toddlers do poop on a schedule, but many others are haphazard.   They may develop a routine after pottying begins, however.

Advocates for Junk and Juice — Generous amounts of, juice water and salty snacks to induce urination for the three day starter —  Juice is liquid sugar and there is no need to create a junk food habit.    Not healthy or comfortable!  A toddler drinking adequate fluids of water, breastmilk, or milk will pee more than enough.   If you end up having to pee uncomfortably it won’t put you in a good mood!   High water fruit like watermelon is okay, but stay away from juice.   Too much sugar can cause bowel issues.

Three month follow up — The weekend/3 day method says that the next three months continue the process the same and add longer outings (then it isn’t 3 days now is it?).    I am also not sure why the 3 month tag is used when they really should be emphasizing from here on out, this is the new daily life routine.   Mass appeal maybe (people want a quick fix)?      No diapers for as long as it takes and underpants only when the particular child is not compelled to potty in them.     I think parents want an “end point” and truly there isn’t a defined one.  It’s a practice that must be continued until the child becomes more and more independent.  The likely hood is that the child will have ups and downs for at least 6 months to a year requiring parental help.    The 3 days in the beginning is a start up for the parents to change their behaviors to a life without diapers (pretty much what ECers do from the beginning).

Advocates just stopping if the weekend is less than 75% successful —  This is unrealistic.     The methods they are advocating are “parent behavior centered” as they should be.  It is true that toddlers can catch on quick and take to the new routine.  But others, especially ones who are diaper attached will take longer.  Throwing in the towel is not helpful.    This is even seen in the EC community where 4-5 accidents in a row have parents new to EC running for the diapers.   This is a conventional potty training notion.   Parents only need to be more patient and continue with the routine as a daily matter of routine.  Parents must wean themselves from the diapers just as much as the tots!  Change pants not diapers.     Really, it is the parents who lose their cool and patience — the tots just need time to re-learn.   The longer the process is pushed and the closer the child gets to age 2 the more difficult the process, and if not started by age 3 it is even more difficult.

Tied to the House — Three days house bound can be difficult with some and many, many people delay the potty process until they can get time off, both parents coordinate the same days off, single parents may not think it is possible,  or families delay because of vacation, or commitments.  This is discouraging and is not necessary.    Yes, it is easiest to have containment, but it is not completely necessary.   You can still go out and do things.  Just be prepared for accidents and offer the SAME attentiveness and opportunities while you are out.   There will never be a “perfect” time to start.  The only thing delay gets is more troubles to deal with.  This is why ECers tend to start in infancy.  Babies are in arms and are easier to keep track of than a running tot.  The earlier you start the BETTER.  Though it has unique advantages , you don’t have to start in infancy but it is a good idea to at least start potty introductions at a year.  There is nothing to lose and everything to gain.    With thoughtfulness you can even easily begin the process while on vacation.     Using the bathroom is a daily thing that must be done everywhere in the appropriate place and there is no reason why children can’t be shown that.

Says it is okay due delay due to “cold” — I don’t know about every baby but it is hardest to keep the feet warm, not the core.   Having a frosty butt is usually not an issue with a nice long dress or shirt with legwarmers.  Split crotch pants are also useful.   There is no reason to delay, unless it is snowing in your house.


Overall, I find this 3 day method a breath of fresh air.  Jill Lekovic, MD’s Diaper Free Before Three also attempts to dispel thy myths of “waiting until they ask.”     If only parents were encouraged to start even earlier!    In any case, if you are using or going to use this or another 3 day/Weekend method then do also look to the EC community for encouragement and practical tips. There are ECers who started after 12 months and they will be the most valuable resource.     Much success!    And maybe for the next give EC a second look 🙂  It costs nothing and …well, it can save a bundle in money and headaches!


About Laissez Faire

I am 41...42...43...44, married with two children, two cats, and a dog. Writing is my hobby, and learning and teaching my passions. Books! It used to be that I could devour several books a week when I had the time. I am usually too tired to stray awake these days with two kids. Currently my brain and energy levels have steered me to casual games, writing contests, and some inconsistent blogging.

Posted on August 29, 2011, in Parenting, Potty Training, Toddlers and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. I heard about EC a couple of years ago, but didn’t think it would work for me, even though I was a SAHM and had cloth diapered my first child, who potty trained at 28 months. She’d seemed “ready” at 17 months but after 4 successes on the potty she started screaming and I didn’t want a battle. Almost a year later I had a 4 day battle but then she was potty trained with only 3 accidents after that 4 days.
    At 10 months, I noticed that my second daughter was holding her pee for long periods, including overnight. I was skeptical that much could be done about that. At 12 months old, I decided to pull out our potty stuff and try putting her on after waking. She’d go about 60% of the time.
    After reading about the 3 day potty training technique and doing further research on ECing, I decided to give “diaper free” a shot. I picked this past Friday as our start day. At noon I took off the diaper. Within 3 hours I had figured out my daughter’s altered mannerisms when she needed to go. The following day we caught our first poo (she had pooped in her diaper the morning before) and by the time our 3 days were over I knew that she didn’t need diapers anymore. It’s only day 5 but she and are are really getting the hang of this diaper free stuff!! The hardest part is getting her to relax enough to go. She held a seriously large amount of urine yesterday for 3 hours because she just didn’t want to “go” on the potty. I managed to get her to relax by putting on her favorite video, Baby Babble, and within 30 seconds she went.
    I run an in-home daycare, so I can’t watch for every nuance in her mannerisms, so I rely on a repeating timer on my watch. I also know she’ll be signing “potty” very soon to let me know when she needs to go!!

    • That is so fantastic! The watch idea is a great one especially with your attention divided with so many, it will definitely be a breath of air when she starts cueing you. I used to nurse my girl when she seemed to have little trouble relaxing. Magic BaBas fix everything. I’m looking forward to an update to see how it is going with a daycare business and what the other parents think 🙂

  2. One of the boys is 19 months old and when he saw C sit on the potty, he went across the room and sat on the other one, fully clothed. His parents, after talking to them this morning, don’t have a problem with me stripping him down and letting him run around for an hour or two each day. We’ll see! In the meantime, I found out yesterday that I’m expecting (complete surprise since it took us 3 years to conceive DD2!) and it’s nice to know that although my two youngest will be less than 22 months apart, I won’t have to change two booties!! =)
    We had an “I refuse to poop in the potty” incident earlier today. I knew she needed to go, but she didn’t want to take the time to go. Argh. She finally decided to let loose while I was changing the diaper on the 6 month old. Lovely little mess she left me. =(

  3. This is a great post. Love it. Did my post help spark it? 🙂 I loved your comment on my post, too, which is what got me curious to come ‘meet’ you here and find out more about what you do. As I have said elsewhere ( *IF* I have another child, I would definitely consider and most likely practice EC – but that wasn’t to pass this time, for several reasons. The three-day method seemed the best option for us starting at this time. It is going well-ish. Maybe I’ll come here for some more support and tips, though, as I am definitely daunted by the ‘going out’ thing which is still far from ‘accident’ free. It is fine if I am going to a friend’s garden… not so great if I want to go to a class or an indoor activity… We will get there.

    Planning to quote you in an upcoming post. Watch that space. Thanks for what you do!


    • Your post didn’t spark it, but it certainly inspired me to buckle down and finish it 🙂 Very fortuitous that I found your blog. I kept the journal to keep myself thinking and to be sure I paid attention to my errors and obstacles and it really helped. The going out was hard at first. I was always so nervous, I felt like a smuggler. Ask any time…we’ve done long car trips, parks, beaches, formal parties, and vacation all diaper free. I can’t wait to read your next post.

  4. Hey
    Fab post
    I have been quite cynical of the three day thing. I guess cos it felt quite pressured?
    I love how you have redeemed it here.
    I am struggling with night EC at mo, resorted to ‘sposies but you have inspired me to keep with the nakey

    • I’m glad my article helped!. When I saw a few posts about “boot camp” style potty training I didn’t agree with it at all. But the thing is I was reading the posts of the parents who where forcing sitting on a potty for a long time, bribing, coercing, and overall just being impatient and … dare I say… mean. They wanted a quick overnight solution even though they’d established a diapering habit of 2, 3 and 4 years.

      But this method was clearly about changing parental behavior (of course it deliberately tries to not directly say that LOL) and not being confrontational with the toddler who, when young, are really still aiming to please and mimic so its not pressure — just a change in routine. So, my mind was changed 🙂

  5. Aww, thanks for the support and offer to answer questions. Fab!

    Btw, I for one have no problem calling this method late-start-EC (although I thought that might be insulting to those who put in all the effort to start from birth or near after) and I also am fine with saying this is about parental behaviour modification – sounds right to me… but it is also about learning about bodily functions for her. In Nica’s case I reckon she didn’t know she was peeing, at all, until we took the diapers off. We were using chlorine-free disposables. When I talk to her about the fact that she doesn’t need diapers ‘cos she can use the potty now she looks at me dumbfounded like she sees no relation between the two (and she usually gets this kind of stuff). Therefore I concluded she thinks she started peeing two weeks ago, when we took the diapers off. So, I do think a lot of it (especially if you start at this age around 18 months) is a lot about them learning to identify the sensation of going, so they can either walk to the potty and/or tell us they need to go.

    It is going really well now and we can go out with little fear (she holds it in for an hour or two AND will now use the potty when we are out, too – yippee!!). We are not ‘accident’ free but she definitely

    Hey, do you have a facebook page for your blog? It would be great to connect up, there, too.


    • Hey! I almost missed responding to your comment. Don’t worry about calling it “late start EC” it won’t be insulting. There are a lot of late EC starters anyway, especially first timers because a lot of people don’t hear about it until their babies are older. And I agree with you that the learning is a two way street. Some children even think that a diaper is part of themselves and get very attached and can’t go at all without one unless they are full to bursting and they body does it automatically for them. It seems so strange to think that she thinks that whole peeing thing just started, but it makes sense especially if the diapers kept her super dry. A lot of re-learning going on in her little mind. I’m afraid I don’t have a facebook page for my blog. There is a busy Diaper free Group on facebook by the way 🙂 February or March next year I’ll probably be ending or not updating as often this blog and shifting to a sister blog “Pottytunities for Two”.

  6. oops…

    we are not ‘accident’ free but she is definitely getting the hang of it and can feel it coming and tell us when she needs to go and I (in a very EC way) can often just tell when it is time to offer her the potty pre-emptively, too. I can’t explain how I know is it some tell in her behaviour? is it an unconscious calculation of how much liquid she had how long ago? Either way, something in me *knows* when it is time (when I am feeling connected to her, anyway).


    • Oh, the instinct thing can be freaky. I believed the whole unconscious “knowing” part of it…no question. The brain works on lots of things in the background that we are never aware of unless it is necessary. What I didn’t believe, or rather didn’t “get”, was the “ghost pee” sensation some people talked about. Until it happened to me! There were times when my Itty Bitty was in arms that I would feel an odd warm wetness spreading on my arm or lap and I thought I’d been peed on. I’d start and hold her up away from me. Reflex. Strange thing is that she would be bone dry. Truly, I felt the wetness as if it was really there…it even felt like it was spreading like it does on fabric. It was creepy! It was kind of like that shiver you get down your back or when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when you have the notion that someone is looking at you even before you turn your head to confirm it. I don’t think I ever mentioned it in my posts, but it happened quite a few times. I guess it is the brains way of “waking me up” and saying “hey, I think the baby might need to go pee.” 🙂 Nature and instinct.

      • Hah! I had never heard of that… but now that you mentioned it, I have totally had that happen to me, too. I mean, I just totally thought I was wet already and it turned out she hadn’t peed – yet (and did the next minute, right?). I even kept feeling my trousers to make sure I hadn’t missed the wet patch – hahah.

        I am a big ol’ hippy and have experienced lots of freaky things that other people think weird – so much so that this kind of seems normal.

        I’d love to have your voice on facebook… but I’ll have to keep checkin on you here and your new blog (which is harder for me to remember but definitely worth the effort). Thanks!

      • I’ll take a look at your facebook and introduce myself,:)

  7. Yes the ghost wee- the WEIRDEST thing!!!!!! Having terrible night EC at mo. Just wee all over :(((

  8. I completely agree with you about the potty training readiness. In China they start whistling to their babies every time the baby pees from infancy and all the children are potty trained by 4 months (the parent will whistle and the baby will go on command). Amazing! Our little was crawling to the potty by 9 months letting us know she needed to go.

    • Isn’t it just mind boggling the amount of knowledge about infant awareness and body functions have been lost so quickly? I would love to have a good long conversation with someone who grew up around EC. I’d love to pick their brains or to see if my observations are common.

  9. Which 3-day method are you speaking of? I happen to admire one in particular and we are trading tips to see if there’s an overlap that can cover even more kiddos and get them outta diapers sooner w/out coercion or trauma.

    Yes, Yes, readiness is a crock. A huge crock. I address that here:

    Thanks for the awesome post!

  10. I have a non-potty-trained three-year-old showing no signs of ‘readiness’. I’ve read so many things and heard so much conflicting advice about toilet training I really have no idea what to do. I work full-time, my husband looks after our daughter two days a week and she’s at daycare three days.

    Any suggestions? It sounds like I’ve missed the “three-day-method” age specification.

  11. We did this method at 19 months. We didn’t EC but since she was my second baby I prepared her from an early age (doll potty, talking about pottying, books, etc). When our three days came it was so natural. She caught right on the first day and only had one accident. It was harder for ME to adjust to life without diapers. It took an adjustment for me to stop in the bathroom in every store, to always keep an eye out for the nearest potty, to stop frequently in long car trips. I feel like the timing was just right. She was physically able to hold it for a bit, able to sign her needs, and young enough to follow my lead.

  1. Pingback: What is the best age at which to potty learn? « Loving Earth Mama

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