Friday, January 16, 2009

Elimination Communication

Elimination Communication, or ‘EC’ for short, is a great parenting tool that involves helping your young baby go potty in an appropriate place other than their diapers. I learned about it by accident when researching different types of baby carriers at this website: Here is another source for learning about EC:

Now for our story of why it makes sense to try EC, and how we practice it:

We’ve had our daughter in cloth diapers since we ran out of the newborn sizes we got from the hospital and from baby showers (it didn’t take very long!). She was a very good natured newborn, but sometimes got upset, for no apparent reason. Dry, wasn’t hungry…..but then moments later upon checking the diaper again, it was wet. I believe she was trying to tell us she had to pee! Some sources claim that babies have a desire not to “soil the nest” which makes a lot of sense; even some animals seem to have this desire. However, through diaper use, we “train” our babies to potty in their diapers, since we don’t usually help them go anywhere else with traditional diaper use.

They say it’s best to start EC with newborns, so they never get used to the idea of going into their diapers. Barring that, they also say there’s a “window of opportunity” at 4-6 months when babies are more developmentally ready to communicate their need. Before that age it’s more or less “timing and guessing” than actual elimination “communication!”

By the time we decided to try EC with Cora, she was 7 months old, so she was pretty used to peeing and pooping in her diapers. We started by offering her the chance to potty right away every time she woke up, either from naps or in the morning. We did this by taking off the diaper, holding her with her back to our tummy and supporting her under her thighs over the bathroom sink, and making a “pssssssssss” noise. If she started peeing, I would say “Look! You’re peeing!” so she’d know what was going on, and keep making the “psssssss” noise to associate the noise with the action. For pooping, if she had been doing a lot of farting or straining, I’d offer her a chance to do that too, holding her in the same way, but clenching up my tummy muscles so she would get the idea that she needed to “puuuusssssshh those poopies out!” Again, saying “look! You’re pooping!” so she’d know what was going on. We use more of a “shhhhhh” sound (drawn out after saying “push”) for pooping if we know that she has to #2, and the “psssssss” sound for #1 (sounds sort of like running water).

If she got fussy for no apparent reason, we would try offering a chance to go potty. Often, she had needed to pee or poop and would go right away. Sometimes, we were wrong and she would just fuss and squirm. If she fussed we’d right away stop trying and put the diaper back on, since we’d assume she just didn’t have to go. Eventually she got to where she would come to us when she needed to go, or start crawling towards the bathroom. When she was good enough at sitting up by herself, we bought a little potty seat that sits on the toilet and transitioned from us holding her over the sink to potty to her sitting on the potty seat to potty. Sometimes she had a preference for being held, sometimes the potty. Now she almost always wants to sit on the potty seat. She understands what the toilet paper is for (and can sort of wipe for herself), and really enjoys watching the toilet flush.

You may be wondering….If baby is peeing or pooping in the sink…..THEN WHAT?! Well, I actually have found that I much preferred simply wiping out the sink after a poop with a double layer of folded toilet paper and dropping it in the toilet to flush over trying to wipe off a diapered baby’s bottom after liquidy poop had made it’s way into every crevice. It was MUCH cleaner for both of us. Urine was easy to rinse the sink out and “flush” that way. Baby urine isn’t very “potent” so no real smells associated with that (at least not worse than the diapers!)

Many EC’ers have “diaper free” time. They say it will help you learn baby’s subtle cues right before they eliminate, but we didn’t do that. We chose to keep Cora in her diapers so that there wouldn’t be so much pressure to communicate – if we “missed” and she went in her diaper, it wasn’t too big of a deal. It has been important that EC is pressure-free, so we aren’t pushing her too fast. It isn’t “toilet training” but just a time where we offer a place to go potty when our child hints at the need to go. She’s gotten better and better at telling us, from going 100% in diapers, and gradually now 6 months later she is probably peeing on the potty around 30% of the time, and pooping on the potty 75% of the time. This saves us on diaper washing, saves from the worry of a urinary tract infection from that poop getting where it shouldn’t be, and hopefully will save us time when it comes to toilet training later on down the road!

So, if you have a baby, give EC a try! What have you got to lose? Be sure to check out the links at the top of this page for better, more detailed information.