Wednesday, June 20

EC - Elimination Communication

Colin and I both lived in China (that's where we met!) and we both saw first hand how most Chinese kids wear split pants with no diapers.  (Split pants are sold in the U.S. now too!)  More Chinese in the bigger cities are wearing diapers now, which is sad for a few reasons - more waste, loss of tradition, and less communication between mamas and babies.  Anyhow, I remember being on the train and watching a mom (or maybe it was an aunt or grandma?) hold her baby over the floor in the squat position while the baby peed and pooed on the floor.  She cleaned up afterward with newspaper.  I thought it was gross.  Foreigners in China often make fun of babies being able to pee or poop anywhere, saying it's unhygienic and weird.  I think I was one of those people. 

Colin and I used to joke that we should figure out how the Chinese do it and when I got pregnant, I began to see what information was out there on pottying the Chinese way.  I checked this book out of the library: Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene by Ingrid Bauer, which was very helpful.  There are a few other books available on the subject, but we didn't end up reading any others. 

The general idea is not really to toilet train your baby, but to realize when your baby is communicating with you.  Babies, like most animals, are born with the desire to keep themselves clean.  Babies are taught by being left in wet diapers to lose touch with that sense of when they go, so even though we use diapers with Mavry, we try not to leave her in a wet diaper so that she retains the sensitivity to being wet.  (This has pros and cons).  We have noticed that when Mavry is being held or is in the sling or moby, she is less likely to go.  She will squirm, fuss, pull off if she is nursing, etc.  If we ignore her cues (or don't realize that's what's going on) then she will finally pee or sometimes poop.  She will also usually give some kind of cue if she's in her bed or playing on the floor, but it will be less noticeable, especially because we aren't paying as much attention to her then. 

We use a mix of timing, watching for cues and intuition.  We will take her to the potty when she first wakes up, after she eats, and before we start her bedtime routine.  Other than that, we try to watch and listen for her cues or just take her if we feel like she needs to go.  Mavry has been saving most of her poops for the potty for a few months now, which makes for much easier diaper laundry.  The few times when she has pooped in her diaper have been on the plane to Arkansas and when I was nursing while talking to a friend and didn't notice what Mavry was trying to tell me.  She does still pee in her diaper a lot, but we have more frequent stretches where I will take her to the potty and she still has a dry diaper.

We try to take Mavry to the potty whenever we can.  Since I get to stay at home, I take her pretty frequently, but still miss a lot of pees when she is playing by herself.  From what I've read, even just taking your baby once in the morning and once before bed (or however frequently you can) can keep a baby in tune with the sense that the place to go pee or poop is in the potty.  At the other end of the spectrum are people who constantly wear their babies or are just generally more in tune with them and never even use diapers! 
Mavry in her elastic bottom gown with prefold tucked underneath. 

We keep Mavry's little potty on our bathroom countertop.  Mavry really enjoys watching herself and looking back at us in the mirror while we hold her there.  After she goes, we lay her down on the changing mat on the other side of the faucet and wipe her off with a wet flannel wipe then we usually put a diaper on her.  We used to lay her down for playtime on the floor with a big prefold underneath her, but since she's become more mobile, we usually put it on her somehow.  Our favorite pajamas are the gowns with the elastic bottoms because they are easier than footed pajamas for frequent changes and we can tuck the big prefold underneath the elastic for morning playtime.  I also made some big scrunchie type belts like these to use with prefolds when we are around the house.  She still wears onesies, but the best clothes for EC are the kind that are quickly removed since there are a lot of trips to the potty every day. 

When I started putting Mavry on the potty in her first week, she disliked the way I was sitting her directly on it.  Colin remembered a few of the other ways he had read about to hold the baby over the potty which she liked much better.  She disliked sitting on the potty for a while, preferring to be held over it.  She gradually got used to being on her little potty and now she will sit on the potty with our help just to stabilize her and she likes it.  We try to use the sign language for potty when we tell her we are going to take her, hoping that when she's a little older, she can communicate that she needs to go.  

We get all sorts of reactions to how we do this.  People joke "Is she potty trained yet?" and after I take her when we are out, people will usually ask if she went or not.  I've had people come in the bathroom to watch and see if she goes, and then are amazed if she does.  I am still kind of shy about the whole thing since it's a weird idea to most people.  (Colin, on the other hand, seems proud of it!)  People wonder how I deal with the extra work of taking her to the potty so much.  It does take extra time, but I think the payoff is great in terms of the baby retaining the sense of her body - she knows when she has to go and can wait if she knows I will listen to her.  There's a closeness and a sense of trust between parents and an EC baby.  She may be a little more sensitive (fussy when she needs to go or fussy if she's wet) and it's sometimes inconvenient when we are out somewhere and I don't really want to interrupt what I'm doing to take her to the bathroom.  I don't really know if the time I'm taking now will payoff in terms of less frustration or time spent potty training a toddler who is used to going in her diaper, but to me it's worth it to have a baby who knows I try to listen to her and is in tune with her body. 

A few more resources that I've found helpful: this article is a nice summary of EC and I joined this EC group online (I get a daily summary of new posts emailed to me) where I can read the experiences and questions others have as well as have a forum to get some of my own questions answered. 


Angela said...

wow- I'd never even heard of this! I remember Ivan started using a potty at age 1 before bath, but then got a double ear infection and quit with the potty. Then it was until he was 4 before we were totally trained! It was intense. If you can do it faster and easier- more power to you!

Lela Thorne said...

Yeah, when Mavry isn't feeling well (we have issues with teething on and off), she won't go as often on the potty. Not sure why that is, but we don't force it - if she doesn't want to go, we just put her in a diaper!

Christina O. said...

I never heard of this either! Thanks for sharing and opening up my mind. :)