March 20th, 2011
Since I am deep in the mother-baby cocoon these days I thought I would share my EC’ing experiences for curious mamas or papas who might like to give it a try! The process of being attuned to your child’s elimination patterns is something mothers do everywhere although it is less common in western cultures where disposable diapers are the norm. Infant toilet learning goes by many names, the least fortunate of which is “Elimination Communication.” I can’t really say the phrase with a straight face, so I will refer to it here simply as ‘EC’ing.’
I started EC’ing my first born about three weeks after his birth. One day I held him over the toilet, and he peed. Boys can be hilarious to EC if you have a sense of humor. Their pee can shoot unpredictably in just about any direction. This can make night-time EC’ing trickier in the winter time if you’re not using diapers, but for us it was still worth the added effort. My son did not poop in a diaper after he was three months old, and by eighteen months he was wearing underwear full-time and independently taking himself to the toilet.
The books tell you people do it for the “communication” aspect — that babies indicate when they need to go, parents respond, and there is an ongoing ‘dialogue’ around the baby’s cues. My son however gave no clues that I recognized. As a tiny baby, yes, he would get show a little fuss before peeing, but as he grew out of the newborn phase, he never really “cued,” or gave clear signals. It was all about timing. If it had been 15 minutes since his last pee, I would take him to go. I would “pee him” after waking up from naps, and more frequently after nursing. Easy.
One day when my son was five or six moths old, an hour had gone by and I realized hadn’t taken him to pee and he had not peed on his own. It was a milestone! All the work of the first few months paid off. From then on EC’ing required far less of my attention and became even peripherally second-nature. He began to stay dry at night too which made the initial work doubly worth it.
My daughter is now six months old and our EC’ing experience has been even easier. We started at birth, and her patterns are more predictable than my son’s. Her only poopy diapers have occurred on a boat and on an airplane. Both times I knew she had to go but I could not easily get us to a toilet. That’s not to say I’ve caught all her pees! Puddles on the tile floor are still a regular occurrence when I am not entirely attuned to her (which with two kids at home is often!), but for us it is all part of the process and I don’t sweat the “misses.” I much prefer to quickly wipe up a pee puddle on the tile than undress, change a diaper, re-dress, etc.
I am home mothering my kids so I am physically around to do this. If you have work away from home EC’ing poses additional challenges, but is still very do-able. It is NOT an all-or-none process. You can EC part-time, or whenever it works for you. It is a lot of work at first, but the payoff comes quickly and beautifully: less diaper changing, less money spent on diapers, less laundry, no drama (or virtually none) over “potty training” when they are older.
While not meant to be a how-to list, here are a few bits I’ve learned from my experiences thus far:
Let them be naked as much as possible.
Going diaper-free at home is the quickest way to get in tune with your child’s elimination patterns. It is exponentially easier if you simply don’t put a diaper on them. Without even being aware of it, you will begin to make associations between their behavior, i.e., their “cues” if they make any, and when they have to go. When babies are wearing a diaper you don’t have to pay the same amount of attention; you subconscious awareness of their patterns is not as dialed in because a diaper is there to catch the pee or poop. Keep them naked. This is my #1 piece of advice.
Don’t be afraid to get peed on!
It’s only pee. (And it’s sterile). If you are using cloth diapers you would have to wash a wet diaper, and washing wet pants is not any different. If you are using disposables, you’ve saved yourself (and the landfill) a diaper. Most babies will give some warning before they poop, particularly if they do not have any food sensitivities contributing to explosive bowel movements. (Did you see in the movie “Babies” the Namibian mother effortlessly scrape her baby’s poop off her knee?)
Girls are easier to EC than boys (generally).
I have observed this in others children and have found it to be true for my own kids. Part of this is anatomical — boy pees are harder to catch as babies. With girls, everything more or less just dribbles downward. Diaper-free overnights are also easier with girls because you don’t have to worry about the sheets and blankets above getting wet in addition to the sheets underneath. If you have a baby boy, know that it only gets easier should you have a girl in the future.
People will be suspicious.
Or outright think you are nuts. They might not say it to you directly, but many will think it. I was talking to my grandmother recently about EC’ing my daughter and she said “Remember when we all [the entire extended family] laughed and thought it was ridiculous when you took him to the toilet as a baby? Well I can see now that it was a sensible thing to do” referring to my son being toilet independent at age two.
TRUST YOUR INTUITION.
I can’t tell you how many times I knew my daughter needed to pee, but I turned my attention elsewhere, or second-guessed myself and got peed on thirty seconds later. In a way EC’ing is an exercise in developing your instincts as well as your baby’s. If you have the sense that they have to go, they probably do.Resources: Diaper Free Baby ~ http://www.diaperfreebaby.org/ Clothing and supplies for EC’ing ~ http://www.ecwear.com/cart.html EC forum ~ http://www.diaperswappers.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=128