Tuesday, May 28

Elimination Communication

Elimination Communication or EC is also known as Nappy Free, Diaper Free and Infant Potty Training.

I first found out about Elimination Communication almost ten years ago when I was pregnant with Tama. At the time I was living in the small village of Nymboida in NSW and at the local playgroup I was privileged to meet a lovely Mum who was practicing EC with her newborn babe. When I saw her take her month old baby to do a wee I was fascinated. And set about asking her 100 questions about the practice.

Like many of the other parenting practices I have adopted; co-sleeping, baby-wearing, extended breast feeding, as soon as I heard about EC it just seemed so right and natural.

My two EC babes

The more I thought about it I realized that nappies(Diapers) have not have been around for ever and there must have been some way of dealing with Babies Elimination needs before their invention.

I moved interstate not long after meeting this Mum and during the last months of my pregnancy learned as much about EC as I could.

There wasn't a lot of info available at the time but I re-read the Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff (my go to book about Natural Parenting) and I found a couple of on-line sites dedicated to EC.

EC is not Potty Training

Even though it is known by other names I really prefer the name Elimination Communication. Because it is all about communication.

The terms Nappy(Diaper) Free just seem to scare people..."What! You just don't put a nappy on your baby!"
Infant Potty Training implies that the baby is trained. Just as people "train" their older children to use the toilet after years in nappies.
But this is not the case at all.

I have read so often that the general scientific/parenting consensus is that babies DO NOT have control of their Elimination until they are 2-4 yrs old. This is the reason/excuse that people put their babies in Diapers. One mainstream parenting website says that before this age Babies bladders "automatically empty".

Well, this is simply not true.
My EC babies have had bladder and bowel awareness and control by six months old.

Statistics show that half the babies in the world are toilet/potty trained at 12 months. It is only in Western countries that some children wear nappies until they are four yrs or older, the average age is 3 years.

Many cultures today still traditionally use Elimination Communication today but they do not call it this...to them it is just a natural practice.

Why then is it a big deal for some parents to get their older kids to use the Potty?
Because they have been "trained" to eliminate in a nappy. The nappy has come to feel normal and comfortable. For the child's whole life so far they have been taught to we and poo in one place and now the parent is wanting them to do it elsewhere. Of course many children will be resistant.

How does it work

EC uses signals, cues, timing and intuition to deal with Elimination needs.
It really is about communicating with your Infant. As we all know communication is a two way street, talking and listening.

Cueing is when you get to do the talking.

The most common cue is to hold the baby over an appropriate place to urinate (some people use the laundry sink or a potty or a toilet) and to make a "psss" sound.
This sound innately makes one want to wee. After I had my first baby in hospital, and it was painful to pee, a nurse suggested turning on a tap in the bathroom because the "shh" noise of water makes us want to pee. Horse trainers use this exact same technique to get race horses to pee before a race.

Before Tama was born I was a bit skeptical of my own ability to practice EC. I was worried that maybe I wasn't "in tune" enough, or "aware" enough to make EC work. Well, the day he was born I was all snuggled up with my new baby before the fire in the lounge room. A couple of hours had passed since his birth and I realized that he hadn't yet peed. So I took him into the bathroom, held him out over the sink and said "psss".
When he immediately started pee'ing I shouted out in surprise and had to call the whole family to come and see the miracle!

This is the listening part of the communication.

 All babies give signals before they eliminate. After EC'ing Tama for awhile I realized that my two older children had signaled but I had just been unaware what to look for back then.

Before T would wee he'd start wriggling around a bit in my arms. Before he'd poo he sometimes do a couple of farts(this is a really obvious signal) or he'd grunt and/or start clenching his belly muscles.

Once I had recognized these signals in my own baby I began to recognize them in others babies. AND I realized that many parents already recognize them. I have often heard a mother comment (after hearing her baby fart or make grunting noises) "I'll have a nappy to change in a minute!"

This is about learning your babies routine. Both my babies I have EC'ed have had fairly predictable Elimination patterns.
Just like most of us, they need to pee when they wake in the morning. In fact they need to pee when they wake all day long.
They often need to pee or poo after a big feed.
They may need to pee or poo before bed.

Sometimes you just get the feeling that the baby needs to go.
When this happened to me I got a feeling of warmth spreading (almost as if the baby had already pee'd on me) and often looked to check there had not been an accident! I soon learned to trust my intuition even if the baby had eliminated not long before.

I practiced EC from birth with my two youngest children. Many people do not start until the baby is a couple of months old. Many practice part-time and use Nappies when it suits.

I know that personally after practicing EC I could not go back to using nappies. Not only does it seem easier now...yes, there is a time investment in being with and listening to your child but it saves a lot of time in washing nappies(I always used cloth nappies before, but if you buy disposables the $ savings would be great), but it also feels more hygienic. There is no nappy rash, no toilet training to be tackled later.

So with another baby on the way I have been making some EC supplies. It is very hard to find commercial underwear for a newborn babe!

EC Undies
 And all baby clothes are designed to fit over the top of nappies and so are too big for my little nappy-free bums.

EC sized pants
And a couple of double lined EC mats to use in the bed at night or on the floor.

For more info on EC checkout these sites...



karen said...

Congratulations on your new baby on the way:) I've heard bits and pieces about EC and it definitely does make good sense to me! I will be giving it a go when we have kids. Did your little ones learn to stay dry at night time? I hadn't even thought about over night. The tiny underwear and pants are so cute

Monique said...

How interesting. Being a full time working mom outside of the home, I think it would be hard to do unless you had a caregiver that was on board as well. I love the idea!! It was really interesting to read. Congrats on your new babe on the way too!!

Ariad said...

Karen, my little ones slept through for about 5 hours by months old.

Many people choose to put their baby in Nappies over night until they are a bit older...maybe 2 or 3 months.

Mine would wake maybe 2 times during the night but they would wake this often at this age anyway to feed so I'd feed them and toilet them and then we'd go back to sleep. I feel like these two babes actually slept sounder than my two wearing nappies.

Yes, Monique. It would be hard if you worked.
I have heard of some nannies who practice AP, baby wearing and EC...

But I realize it's not a choice everyone could or would make even if they knew about this option.

Thing is there is not a lot of information about EC out there even for people who are aware of it.

I had never heard of it when my first two were babies, and don't in any way feel bad about not EC'ing with them...it's hard to do what you don't know

Just as I don't judge myself I don't judge anyone else for how they raise their kids either.

I always feel blessed that I have had the opportunity to stay at home with my children.

I don't expect others to use EC just sharing info and my experience.

And I know a few Mum's who have chosen not to EC but in being aware of it they have experienced enhanced understanding of their babies communication :)

One thing I have come across is people who think my house must smell because I don't use nappies. One woman actually walked into my home and sniffed the air and acted surprised that it didn't smell!!!

The thing is with EC the poo and wee go directly into the toilet and any accidents are cleaned up right away...the house actually smells a lot fresher than one where a bucket of dirty diapers are sitting in the corner :)

Steve Finnell said...

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