Monday, May 17, 2010

Elimination Communication

I don't have a strong opinion about cloth vs disposables. I think there are pros and cons to both. However, I do feel strongly about Elimination Communication. As far as I can tell, there are only pros.

Elimination Communication is also known as Natural Infant Hygiene or Infant Potty Training. EC is most common, in my opinion. The idea is that parents learn their child's elimination signals at a very young age (ie from birth) and can then communicate with their baby when it is appropriate to go. The idea is that babies are familiar with their elimination needs from birth and by putting diapers, they're trained to go in a diaper. Then in 2 or 3 years, parents have to train their kids to understand these sensations again. ECing tries to keep babies aware of their body throughout infancy with the added bonus of using fewer diapers and enjoying more communication with their caregivers.

Babies show signs, from birth, that they need to eliminate. They might squirm or grunt or just freeze and stare off into space. They might also usually go at a predictable time like right after a nap or a meal. Once parents learn their child's signals and/or timing, they can take their child to the bathroom or other appropriate location and use a signal to let the child know that this is a good time to go. We've only used the toilet but other parents might prefer a sink (height is easier), bowl (good for out in public), or just a diaper. Even though the diaper isn't the typical approach, it can be handy when another option isn't available. Remember that this is about the communication from the child, "hey, I need to go" and the parent's response, "here/now is a good time."

This often means that a child can run around diaper-less. It sounds a bit crazy to those of us raised in the United States but some other cultures do this. Caregivers can learn enough about their child's needs and habits that they can carry a naked infant around all day and never end up covered in poop. Can you even imagine? Not at all common here! I was far more familiar with the common problem of the baby peeing just after the diaper was removed for a change. (Once I started learning about ECing, I had to wonder if this common problem was because the baby was holding it and trying to wait for a better time to go.)

Anyway, I read a few books and websites* before my daughter was born. I thought the idea was interesting but I wasn't sold until I read that I could do it part-time. For some, that means that the child is in diapers at day care and diaper-less at home in the evenings. For others, it might mean that they use diapers during the week but the potty during the weekend when there was more free time. For us, it just meant I could be inconsistent. It might sound silly, but I didn't want to commit to HAVING to do anything additional when I was a new mama.

So, by the time my daughter was born, we were strongly dedicated to taking her to the potty sometimes if it seemed like she needed to go as long as it didn't add any additional stress to her or us. (That's dedication, right? Ha!)

In short, it worked out well. She used the potty the first time I held her over it, when she was 5 days old. After that, we were all sold. She seemed to be much happier. We had fewer diapers. And we all had this special time which was kind of neat. Some days, we didn't go to the potty at all. Some days, she liked to tell me to go (by signing "toilet") often, the extreme being 13 times in about an hour!** I think she was just excited about being able to get me to do something, but she did go in the potty and not on the mat I had her on. Anyway, she seems so proud of herself so we have kept doing it. Since the time she was mobile, she always wears diapers. We're always pleased when she goes in the potty, but using the diaper isn't considered a failure-- that's normally what kids do at this age. Therefore this is always positive for all of us. I absolutely would do this with another kid, probably more consistently.

* Resources: The Diaper Free Baby by Christine Gross-Loh,, Diaper Free! The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene by Ingrid Bauer

** I guess this is one down-side. I spent much more time running back and forth to the bathroom than a parent who just changes 6-12 diapers per day. Not a big "con" in my opinion, but I can see where parents would see this as too much trouble. (But just TRY it! It doesn't hurt your kid to only do it a couple of times if you decide not to stick with it. But you might like it!)

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