Written by Kristi Ren, originally posted at Anything Baby
Let me start by saying I’m not a ‘crunchy’ kind of person. I love meat, hate legumes and don’t care about organic food. I shave my legs, wear shoes (before baby I wore heels almost every day) and probably won’t home school. I bottle fed (expressed breast milk), sent my daughter to day care from one year old and push her around in a pram. There are bits of me that are sort of Natural or Attachment Parent-ey, but I don’t really fit into any special group.
My initial thoughts on the idea of Elimination Communication (EC) was that it was a bit out-there, something for crazy hippy parents, but probably not for me. I went to the seminar Raising a Nappy Free Baby and wearing your baby mostly for the baby wearing information they had. Other than listening to what the parents at the workshop had to say, I didn’t do any research on EC. I wasn’t going to Conscious Parenting meetings, so I was never around people who did it and I really didn’t give the idea much thought.
A couple of months later my beautiful daughter was born in a lovely natural home birth. Everthing was going well (aside from the breastfeeding troubles, but that is another story) except nappy time. Boo was the ‘perfect’ baby until it was time to change her nappy. She grizzled a bit when she was hungry or windy, but at nappy time she screamed the house down. When she was three days old I decided to give this crazy EC thing a go, after all, what is the harm in trying?
I grabbed a blue plastic bowl and at the next nappy change I picked her up and ‘held her out’ over the bowl. The change was instant – no more crying!
How do you do it?
For the first few weeks you need to hold your baby in front of you, back to your tummy, with their knees against their tummy. After six weeks we were able to transition to the potty, with us just supporting her so she didn’t fall off. When your baby is in position over the bowl, toilet, sink or bucket whisper sssss or shhhh to them. This cue helps your baby know when it is time to ‘eliminate’.
Most babies have a ‘toilet’ signal (even non ECed babies usually have a ‘poo face’) which they use to tell you they need to go. Every baby knows when they need to ‘eliminate’ and they ARE able to hold on. After a couple of months (or less) of having their signals ignored, most babies just give up signalling. Once this has happened, you know they have lost the ability to tell when they need to go, which means you later have to help them re-learn their body’s signals for ordinary ‘toilet training’.
The easiest ‘catch’ is when your baby first wakes up. Often after a feed they need to go too. After watching their signals (squirming, grunting, funny facial expressions) for a couple of days you’ll learn more about thetiming of your baby’s eliminations. Many people who practice EC still have their baby in nappies most of the day, you don’t have to go down the hard-core Nappy Free road. Even if you only ‘catch’ one elimination a day, you are still responding to your baby’s signals.
NEVER doubt the power of your own intuition! So often parents think ‘maybe he needs to pee’ and ignore it, only to find a wet nappy a couple of minutes later, and then kick themselves for missing it. Even if there are no signals, if you get that ‘feeling’, go with it, chances are you’re right.
Baby wearing and EC go very well together. If your baby is close to you in their ‘nest’, they will squirm and wriggle to try to get away. Co-sleeping is the same, if you are close to your baby, you will be able to notice their signals easier and respond to them faster.
I remember one day when I was wearing Boo (about 2 months old) in the wrap sling. We just got off the bus as she woke up and started squirming. We were about ten minutes away from home so I figured she wouldn’t be able to hold on long enough. All the way home I told her how far away from the potty we were, “you can wait for the potty if you want, but it is OK to go in your nappy if you have to”. I was so surprised when we got home to find that her nappy was DRY! As soon as I held her over the potty she let it all go. It was at that moment that I knew that everything we are told about babies bladders is untrue (thanks Huggies et al.) – babies CAN hold on.
The first night she slept in her cot in her own room (about 3 months old), Boo slept for about 12 hours. When she woke up her nappy was DRY – after 12 hours! Pooing takes a conscious effort, but babies still have to be awake to pee (sometimes they’ll only wake a little though). Babies know when they need to ‘go’. Once Boo was sleeping ‘through the night’ without feeding she still sometimes woke in the night to use the potty (something I didn’t mind because I usually needed to go too).
I found that the traditional square nappies with a pin in a waterproof cover (we used Real Nappies covers) are the easiest for ECing a young baby. They are super quick to get off, and are easy to re-pin when you’re finished (I loved re-pinning the same nappy many times over before it got wet). Once we got to the wriggly stage, snap nappies were good because you can close them without looking, perfect for a tummy lying, sitting, standing or crawling away child. We now use waterproof training pants when we go out to make pottying easier, and even though I was never a nappy free kind of ECer, she is mostly without nappys when she is playing around home (and often makes her own way to the potty when she needs to go).
Potty strike happens when learning a new skill, getting new teeth, or when something drastic changes (like moving house or change of routine). It doesn’t last long and often what you think is potty strike is just a change in signals. If you are getting regular misses, slow down and take the time to observe your baby more closely, perhaps the signals have changed or become more subtle (or you have become too busy to notice). Looking back, what I thought was potty strike was usually me being too busy to notice the signs my child was giving me, if I take time out to focus on her, we get a 100% potty rate again.
Becoming ‘Poo Trained’
It didn’t take long for Boo to be pretty much 100% ‘poo trained’. I think we were getting most in the potty after the first month. Every time I emptied a poo-ey potty I just thought “glad that wasn’t in a nappy”. After she started solids, EVERY potty poo was a celebration “imagine if we had to clean THAT out of a nappy”.
Pottying out and about
Pottying when we went out was easy when Boo was still being ‘held out’ because we didn’t need to bring anything extra with us. Once she got used to sitting on the potty we had to start bringing it with us everywhere. The potty sits in a bag in the tray in the bottom of the pram so it isn’t an inconvenience to take it with us. I have no worries about whipping the potty out in public if we’re not near a toilet. When she’s got to go, she’s got to go. Out the front of the supermarket, at the bus stop, in the car park, at the park, on the side of the road… we’ve done it everywhere. Pull up nappies make it easy to potty anywhere because I don’t have to worry about lying her down to get her nappy on and off (although snap nappies done standing up are good too).
Elimination Communication isn’t something you have to be a crazy hippy parent to try. It is a lot easier if your baby is in reusable nappies, but there are people who manage it with a baby in disposables. You can go the full Nappy Free way, or you can have your baby in nappies 24/7. You can try to ‘catch’ everything, or only toilet your baby when they do the ‘poo face’. If you are a working parent, it isn’t the end of the world if your day care won’t toilet your baby (although many are happy to continue what you do at home). Your baby knows what you want and will try give it to you (I love the little dribble in the potty – their way of saying “I know what you want, but I can’t give it to you right now).
Now is the time to forget everything you have been told about babies having no control over their muscles or that two is the age when children are ready for ‘toilet training’.
Even if you think Elimination Communication is a crazy idea like I did, keep it in mind. You might just find that when your baby is crying ‘for no reason’ they are actually trying to tell you they need to go to the toilet. Give it a go, what is the worst that could happen?
I have a 16 month old daughter who was born in a planned home birth. After breastfeeding issues I ended up expressing full time for her first year (supplementing with donor milk when my supply dipped or she was sick). I have used cloth nappies (modern and traditional) since Boo was born and we started EC at three days old. Boo was on my front in a stretchy wrap for her first few months, and I have just made a mei tai so I can wear her on my back. I am due in November with another baby (or maybe twins), I am planning a home birth again and I'm on a mission to feed at the breast this time.