I started hearing about Elimination Communication, ECing or Infant Pottying when I was researching cloth diapering. At first I thought there is no way that is possible. I mean, we live in a culture that uses diapers. Our culture has went from one extreme to the other in potty training. We went from forced, structured, rigid and punitive potty training methods to the belief that babies cannot control their sphincters. When I mention that I am practicing infant pottying with my newest, some people gasp and think of the reward/punish methods that we sometimes use with toddlers. They cannot wrap their heads around the truly gentle practice that I am using with my daughter. I watch for her cues or signals that she has to go and then I get her to the potty. I am neither training her, nor is she training me. I am not trying to force or coerce her into going on the potty. When I mention misses, it that means that I missed her cues and she went in her diaper. When I mention catches, it means I got her to the potty. Right now as a newborn she pees every 20-30 minutes early in the day and in the afternoon she pees around every hour. What this means is that as far as pees go, I have a LOT of misses. There is no way as a mom of another child as well that I can spend that much time around her potty. I try to catch what I can and will catch more and more the older she gets because she will hold it longer. When I notice her grunting, squirming or fussing and the reason isn’t readily apparent, I take her to the potty. We have gotten on a schedule and usually she poops in the morning when she gets up. I am catching about 80% of her poops. I do not go overboard with it and I am not obsessed. I am not doing it so that I can have the youngest potty trained baby on the block. I am giving her the chance to not have to wear her waste. What this means is less dirty diapers for me to clean and less waste products in contact with her skin. I am learning that she does have some control over her sphincters. When I put her on the potty she starts grunting and trying to go. If she doesn’t have to go she will fuss to “ask” to be taken off the potty. She is only 3 months old right now and already she is capable of letting me know that she doesn’t want to be on the potty and shows an understanding of what the potty is for by grunting and trying to go when put on the potty.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t do this with my first child…I was not educated at all (see earlier posts) on child care and parenting. Since I have been studying this subject, I have learned that traditional diaper use can lead to more children having nighttime accidents for longer. By using diapers to keep them dry all the time, they are not taught to associate a feeling of wetness with eliminating. Based on research, newborns get the sensation that they need to eliminate. By using stay-dry diapers and not responding to their elimination needs their recognition of this sensation lessens and it can take a while to build this recognition back up. Well my oldest daughter is 8 and still has a problem almost every night even though she has been daytime diaper free since the age of 2. She is a very heavy sleeper and perhaps because her recognition of that sensation was dulled, the sensation isn’t strong enough to wake her out of her heavy sleep. Like I said, my daughter is 8 now and she wants to go to slumber parties, invite friends over or go to stay the night camps. This isn’t an option for her because she has this problem and would be very nervous about having an accident or someone knowing that she had to put on a pull up. If I knew then what I know now and even thought for a minute it could have saved her this hassle/embarrassment, I would have done it in a heartbeat.
If you look at other cultures they have practiced this for years. When watching the movie Babies, I saw one of the mothers in Africa talking with one of her friends, and she had her naked baby on her lap. Without stopping the conversation or missing a beat, she moved the baby into position between her legs so he could go to the bathroom. Then she cleaned him up and the whole time continued her conversation. I believe she was just so in tune with her baby that she knew he had to go. In some of the reading I have done on the subject and discovered that Inuit mothers routinely wore their babies naked against their skin in their amautiks (parkas designed with extra-large hoods used to carry babies). They knew their babies rhythms well enough to not get wet on. These women lived in Canada and the US North and faced frigid temperatures and harsh climates and still managed to keep their babies dry and warm. There are several other accounts of situations like this in the book Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene by Ingrid Bauer.
Quoting an article from Kellymom.com, “On the medical front, recent European research has found that the current Western views on bladder and bowel control are flawed and that it is often better to start earlier than to delay.” When we are told that we need to wait until baby is ready who do you think it benefits? Do you think that the diaper companies have a vested interest in keeping us thinking this way?
How many times have you been around babies and their parents, siblings, grandparents, friends of the family have looked at the baby and said, “Oh you’re pooping aren’t you?” If we know they are pooping and can ask them that question, then doesn’t it seem possible that we could get them to the potty to do their business? What sense does it make to teach their children to wear their toilet for 2+ years and then try to get them to unlearn that and try to teach them that the toilet is now the place to go? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have them be aware of what the toilet is for from the get go?
If you find yourself wanting more information on this subject you can go to: Diaper Free Baby where there all the local support groups listed, plus some good information on Elimination Communication. Christine Gross-Loh has also written a book called The Diaper Free Baby: The Natural Toilet Training Alternative. You can get lots of good information on her site as well. There is also a rather large Elimination Communication Group on Yahoo Groups. Another helpful and interesting article can be found on Today’s Parent. If you don’t have a yahoo login, you can sign up for one for free. This is a very active group so there are lots of answers to questions there. You do have to request membership, but they seemed to respond rather quickly. The main books listed for more information are: Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene by Ingrid Bauer, The Diaper Free Baby: The Natural Toilet Training Alternative by Christine Gross-Loh and Infant Potty Training: A Gentle and Primeval Method Adapted to Modern Living by Laurie Boucke. I have personally read the book by Ingrid Bauer and I enjoyed reading it. I intend to read the others, but for now my to be read pile is huge! You can also get Elimination Communication specific clothing at several places but one of them is at EC Wear. It is much easier to have clothing you can pull down when getting a newborn or infant to the potty. During the winter, I like to have Roz in Fleece pants (they double as a cover for over a prefold because they wick moisture) and a shirt that is not a onesie. The snaps are a pain when trying to get her diaper down to potty. You might have to search to find shirts that don’t have crotch snaps but it is worth it if you are going to try this!