Friday, June 21, 2013

Potty Training is for Babies: The Elimination Communication Method


My Elimination Communication Story
By Kat Swerdlen


I first heard about elimination communication (EC) when I was pregnant and had absolutely zero interest in it. In reality I knew very little about what it actually was, but I basically turned my nose up at the whole idea. Fast forward about 3.5 months and many diaper changes later,  I now had a keen interest in all things baby poop. I caught myself yelling “What color is it?” “What does it look like?” and “How much is in there?” down the hall as the hubby changed our son's diaper. Needless to say, I no longer turned my nose up at anything baby poop related.

So what made me revisit the idea of EC? I am a cloth diapering momma, and cloth diapering gets a lot more complex once baby starts eating solids. When babies are exclusively breast fed, you just toss the diaper in the diaper pail. Breastfeed poo is water soluble, so there is no need to rise off first! Yay! Even at 3 months I was dreading the change in poop once E started solids. I remembered hearing about EC and daydreamed about not having to rinse off poopy diapers. So the research was on.

What is elimination communication anyway? In short, it is all about communication and awareness. I will talk about these a lot in this post. During my research frenzy, I learned the basic theory behind EC is that babies are born with the ability to communicate when they need to eliminate, much in the same way they are able to communicate that they are hungry. I learned that practicing EC helps your baby keep their natural born awareness of the sensation of going to the bathroom. For example, it is known that cloth diapered babies tend to potty train earlier than babies that wear disposables because they can feel the wetness when they go to the bathroom. Feeling this wetness helps them keep the awareness of their elimination. Animals are born with the desire to eliminate away from their living, sleeping, and eating spaces; human beings are no exception to this. EC means using less diapers, too. That is something everybody can be happy about, no matter what kind of diaper you use!

When hubby and I decided to take the leap and try EC we started with a period of diaper free observation every day so we could learn some of E’s cues. Some of the things he does are:

·       Pop on and off the breast while eating
·       Get really squirmy
·       Make ‘that’ noise

For diaper free observation time I would put down some towels or a blanket and just hang out until E went to the bathroom. We were doing a lot of hanging out on the floor at that time (3.5 months) anyways, so I thought “why not take the diaper off?” Outside is great for diaper free time as well, especially if your baby is already mobile.  We also did common sense timing when we took him to the potty. When E first wakes in the morning/after a nap or 5-10 min after a feed. During those times we are almost guaranteed to catch a pee in the potty. A lot of people have great success catching poop in the potty because their baby makes a ‘poop face’ when they are about to go.  Even better for some older babies that have a pretty regular time they poop.

In addition to diaper free time, we started using “que sounds’. Whenever I saw E going to the bathroom I made a que sound to help him make an association between elimination and that sound. Most people make a ‘’pppssssst’’ or ‘’pppsssshhh’’ sound for pee. Some people make a different sound for poop, but we chose not to. I also talk to him and say things like ‘’you are going potty!’’ or ‘’you just went pee!’’  Using the American Sign Language (ASL) sign for potty is another great way to communicate. These communication techniques can be used even if baby isn’t eliminating in to a potty. If I notice E eliminating while wearing a diaper, I still make the sound. The beauty of EC is that it’s not about potty ‘training’. At 7 months E naturally prefers to use a potty instead of a diaper if given the opportunity, no training required. Making the que sound no matter where E is eliminating helps strengthen his bodily awareness.



When I was still in the experimental phase of EC and E was still small, I would just hold him over the toilet when I thought he had to go. Once I knew I was in for the long haul and he started getting heavy, I bought a little potty for him.  Over the next few months we incorporated the potty in to our everyday lives. Now at 7 months old I have learned E’s ques and know a lot of the time when he needs to go to the bathroom. He clearly prefers using the potty over a diaper. He wakes from 90% of his naps with a dry diaper. He will often wake in the morning with a dry diaper if we have taken him potty at night. In addition to the timing method and watching for ques, I also put E on the potty at diaper changes, before we leave the house, when we get home, or other convenient times.  The other wonderful thing about practicing EC is that it is NOT an ‘all or nothing’ type of thing. Some days I hardly put E on the potty at all, other days I’ve let him be diaper free all day, and I have rarely taken him potty when we are out and about (yet). Even just making the sounds or putting baby on a potty once a week is helpful. I love that EC is so flexible! Knowing this helps me focus on the communication side of it, rather than how much E has gone in the potty or if I’m doing it ‘right’.

So is EC more work? In the moment it can be time consuming, there’s no getting around that. I have had to clean up pee or poop from the floor when I am giving him diaper free time and don’t notice when he had to go potty. These are referred to as a ‘miss’.  In my humble opinion, how often someone has to clean ‘misses’ heavily depends on how lax they are with diaper free time. We have mostly tile, so E commonly spends lots of time with no diaper. Tile is easy to clean though ;)



 The way I look at it, E is going to need to learn how to use the potty at some point. It can either be now or a few years down the road. Only, now he has a keen awareness of the sensation of going to the bathroom. A few years down the road he may lose that awareness, and would need to relearn it. He would need to be ‘trained’ to eliminate somewhere different than he had been for his entire life thus far. Also, I like the idea of the potty being something that E is use to by toddlerhood instead of something new to introduce. I like the idea of avoiding bribes or the infamous battle of wills that so many people talk about happening with a toddler potty training. Overall, EC has been enjoyable for my family and now washing poop off less diapers seems like just a bonus comparatively.








1 comment:

  1. I like the way you talk about this point. This was thought out and put together. A lots blogs talk about nothing exist on the net.

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