Sleep Disturbances + EC: Will this pass? Will my baby ever sleep through the night? Will my baby ever hold it through the night?

elimination communication -  Sleep Disturbances + EC: Will this pass? Will my baby ever sleep through the night? Will my baby ever hold it through the night?Q: (from 4 different folks!)

1) My nine month old recently started crawling AND waking up three to four times a night to go to the bathroom! He isn’t fully awake, but is upset enough that he doesn’t go back to sleep without nursing. Previously, he was holding it until about 5 AM and then going back to sleep. I don’t mind waking with him and nursing him, but my question is…is this part of a stage that will pass? Is this common? Or does my baby just love to keep me sleep deprived?  ~Kelly Z., Moscow, ID

2) My wife keeps up with the ECing at night during bedtime and we’ve noticed a pattern where Miles, our 10 month old, wakes up twice a night either to go potty or already wet. My concern is that he has been conditioned to wake up at these times during the night and will not hold his potty until the morning. Will Miles be able to sleep through the night? Or is there a way to teach him to hold it through the night. Currently, we are using formula and some solids through out the day, slowly getting him on more solids than formula. We do, sometimes, give him formula after ECing at night. ~MarQ, Hawaii, USA3) My burning question has to do with sleep and EC. My daughter just turned 11 months old and we have been ECing with her since she was 8 weeks old. She pees and poos in the potty most of the time, and is doing so well with it that she wakes up from sleep when she has to go. This may seem great, but I feel like she sometimes doesn’t get all the sleep that she should because of this. At night she goes back to sleep after peeing, but during the day, naps are over if she has to wake up and pee. I am having a hard time figuring out the balance between these two very important needs – EC and sleep. I try to mostly feed her an hour before the nap, and have her pee before sleeping, but it still happens. Any insights? ~W.L., Bozeman, MT

4) My 22 month old boy has been out of diapers during the day since he was 15 months old. He still wears a cloth diaper at nap-time (still has the occasional wet diaper) and a disposable the latter part of the night. I usually pee him around 10 p.m. as he regularly goes around this time. This is my problem. He’s waking up at 5 a.m. to come get me to go pee, which is a relatively new development. Before, he would wake at 7, but would be wet. It’s great that he is aware enough to come get me and a few times he has woken totally dry. I’m super proud of him. 
The problem is that he isn’t getting enough sleep because he wakes up so early. We will put him back in his bed and tell him, “It’s not time to wake up.” and put him back in his bed and close the door. He will still get up, play with his books, and eventually wanders into our room again no more than a half hour later. It is really affecting his daytime mood as he is exhausted by 9:30 in the morning. He will take a nap, but now it’s in the morning instead of early afternoon and by bed-time, around 8, he is over-tired. I don’t want to put him to bed earlier.
I also have a 5 month old who wakes up at 11, and 4 a.m. and, needless to say, I am getting a bit desperate for some sleep. I’m not sure how to keep this up, support his early morning pee-time and manage to not totally compromise my well-being by helping him on this journey. My husband helps by peeing my youngest when she wakes at 4 a.m. and putting her back to bed, but then he can’t go back to sleep either because our other wakes so soon thereafter.  ~T.L., Santiago, Chile

A: Wow! There sure are a lot of questions out there from folks having sleep issues associated with Elimination Communication and their babies.

I can relate, as can my throng of international readers. It’s a very, very common issue and one that I do have some advice about….

First, let’s share MarQ’s photo that he shared with his question:

elimination communication - Sleep Disturbances with EC

Miles showing Mr. Mom the potty, during the afternoon watch. ;0)

Thanks for sharing that photo, MarQ! You’ve got a strong little man there! {heart melting}

Okay…now on to address these issues….

The main thing to remember with Nighttime EC

For the first 3 of ya, remember this about nighttime EC:

only do nighttime EC if it gives everyone in the family more sleep

Yes, generally, if you begin daytime EC, your baby will begin to wake up during the night, asking to potty.

However, it’s not always a struggle- or cry-free operation.

How to decide whether to do Nighttime EC

I’m going to excerpt my book to help you decide whether to do Nighttime EC. It’s just the best resource to wrap your head around it (yes, shameless plug…this is why I wrote it, so there ya go!). Here it is:

I personally believe that nighttime EC is important…but only if it provides *everyone* in the family with more restful sleep. Some babies will become dry at night naturally after achieving daytime dryness through successful daytime EC…with no nighttime EC practice at all! Some will wet that back-up every night til 36 months comes along.

It really depends.

My suggestion for you: give nighttime EC a good, solid try…and ONLY keep doing it if it provides you all with better sleep.

I did Nighttime Elimination Communication with my son from months 0-11, at which time I desperately needed a break, and more sleep. I took a two week break and my son began to hold it for 7 hours at a time at 11 months! Best thing I ever did. He ended up being dry during the day by 17 months and at night by 24 months (with one nighttime miss a month for the last 6 months or so).

Results will naturally vary…just trying to drive the point home that you don’t need to do Nighttime EC.

Now…I also realize that some of you didn’t CHOOSE to do Nighttime EC…your baby chose it! Well, good news is that you can encourage your baby to sleep through it…and inadvertently teach her to hold it longer and longer (which is totally healthy for the baby, contrary to popular medical belief).

Encouraging a baby to sleep through the pee (and learn to hold it)

If you (and/or your baby) are suffering from lack of sleep, you’ll want to take a few weeks or months off (or a permanent break!) from Nighttime EC, even if YOU didn’t initiate Nighttime EC in the first place.

To do this, be sure you have a leak-proof back-up on your baby at night.

From 0-5 months, we used 7th Generation Disposable Diapers.

From 6-24 months, we used a wool cover by Imse Vimse with a hemp/cotton blend prefold folded inside.

How to do it?

  • Soothe your baby back to sleep when she awakens. Do not attempt to potty. If you must, change the diaper very quickly and get on with sleep. Use a dim bedside light and do not leave the bed to do the changing/soothing.
  • Reduce your own potty sensitivity at night. Don’t feel guilty about it. Don’t be paranoid about whether he’s squirming to signal you or whether he’s squirming because we all squirm about 5x per night!
  • Remember that nighttime dryness WILL follow daytime dryness…in time.
  • Remember: IF you potty him all night long, he’ll NEVER learn to hold it and he’ll likely not sleep through the night til a much, much later date. Not good.
  • If you want to EC at night, simply limit the # of times YOU are willing to potty your baby at night. Do only that…and your baby will adjust and follow suit. If that number equals zero, so be it. No one is watching you to see if you’re perfect.

Do what gets you ALL the most sleep. Teach your baby to sleep through it. Try to use a cloth back-up if you can, or a modified disposable (see my book for more info).

And know that you can NOT screw this up…it’s all good no matter what you choose!!

Curbing the nursing-to-sleep pattern

If you are concerned about nursing to sleep, consider reading The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night by Elizabeth Pantley and/or The Nursing Mother’s Guide to Weaning by Kathleen Huggins.

They are both excellent resources for changing your nighttime nursing and sleep patterns.

How to get a toddler to go back to bed (and stay in bed) after the 5am pee

This answer’s specifically for TL in Chile:

He awakes at 5am wanting to pee.

Potty him quietly.

Don’t speak unless you absolutely have to.

If you have to say something to get him to stay quiet, say, “It’s not time to talk. We’re all going back to sleep after you pee.”


Put him back into bed in a dark, dark room.

Do not say a word. (Not “goodnight”…not “go to sleep”…nothing.)

If he comes out, pick him up and put him back in bed.

Do not say a word. (Not “go back to bed,” “it’s time to sleep”…nothing.)

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

As long as he keeps coming out of his bed or bedroom, repeat, repeat, repeat.

After a couple of days of this (with just the physical part of putting him back in bed, NO conversations, NO engagement), he will get the picture and stay in bed. He may even go back to sleep (that’s actually close-to-guaranteed after a week’s consistent practice).

Also, if you’re concerned about him getting up and playing, remember to keep the room dark AND remove most of the toys from the room (if possible) so he really just chooses to stay in bed.

The bedroom can be a rest-only zone, not a toy room, if you so choose.

And hopefully he’ll get the drift and get back to sleep after pottying…because we all know he needs to sleep a bit longer in the AM! 🙂

More info about “getting a baby to sleep through the night”

You can check out Elizabeth Pantley’s book, The No-Cry Sleep Solution, for more info on helping a baby sleep through the night.

Know that some other cultures can attain this by month 4 (like in France, as presented in Bringing Up Bébé) and some folks say that it’s impossible before 12 months because babies need to eat at night.

I’m no expert on sleep (yet…working on it).

So, does Elimination Communication cause sleep disturbances?

Yes and no.

If you’re doing EC, you’re likely also doing Attachment Parenting, which means you’re practicing responsive parenting.

If you’re doing responsive parenting, chances are you’re going to also be responding during the nighttime. So, sleeping through the night probably will happen later for you, which I’m sure you’re fine with!

And, on that note, EC will interfere with sleep because it can involve responding during the nighttime hours.

But, again, it’s YOUR choice whether to do EC at night or not, whether your baby wants you to or not.

Thanks for the awesome questions, Kelly, MarQ, WL, and TL!

Hope I was able to somewhat help.

Please include your thoughts, suggestions, questions, and stories in the comments below about Elimination Communication and sleep disturbances. Thanks! xx Andrea


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2 replies
  1. amy compani
    amy compani says:

    My sleep crawler wakes up to pee several times a night (and is not happy about it). She is easily nursed back to sleep, but more nursing = more pee. I didn’t occur to me this is a “problem” that can be resolved until reading this post – I just thought I’d have to adjust and live with the sleep interruptions. Thank you for the suggestions and resources!

    • Andrea Olson
      Andrea Olson says:

      So glad to facilitate your empowerment to get more sleep!! When I weaned my son at age 2 he slept straight through the night the 2nd night and I have been asking myself why I didn’t do it sooner. 😉 Anyway…glad you are soon to be a more rested mama. xx Andrea

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