Before my son was born, I read this book and decided that using diapers for three years before potty training didn’t make since for me. Although the idea of elimination communication goes against the western norm, it is a common practice in other cultures around the world. I’m not going to say that EC is necessarily easy because it isn’t. I have a feeling potty training at three years old isn’t easy either. I just wanted to share an alternative for those who don’t know about EC.
One of the greatest benefits of elimination communication is no diaper rash. Hence why EC is also termed “natural infant hygiene.” Another huge benefit is that your child will have a much better understanding of their body from the beginning.
I didn’t even know it was possible for babies to communicate their elimination needs until I witnessed it with my son first hand.
I started elimination communication (aka EC) with my son when he was three weeks old. We used disposable diapers when we were in the hospital, then cloth diapers once we were home. I’ve shared the most cost effective cloth diaper system that has worked for us so definitely check it out if you’re interested.
Before motherhood I used to be a professional dancer. I was blessed to experience various forms of stage and commercial work, plus travel internationally over the years for it. To be 100% honest, I didn’t have the best dance training. Being an heartfelt performer got me very far, yet I also spent years correcting poor alignment and technique which was challenging. I compare EC to my experience as a dancer.
Learning something right the first time makes a HUGE difference in your confidence and ability.
Babies in western culture are unconsciously taught that a diaper is the potty. By solely using diapers without further information, babies are taught not to pay attention to elimination. As a result their diaper will be changed possibly after peeing more than a couple of times.
Babies learn not to control any aspect of their elimination needs because as long as they “feel” dry it’s all good, right?
Benefits of EC
When the child turns almost three, they are told that what they thought was “the potty” is no longer. Now they have to relearn everything. It is now time to become fully aware of a bodily function which they lost the awareness of because they never used it. Most children who are potty training still wet themselves during naps and overnight no matter how well they do during the day.
Because of EC, my son could stay dry while sleeping up to four hours by 12 months old.
That is only one of the benefits of elimination communication. As they grow older they continue to get stronger and can anticipate and “communicate” when they need to go regularly. It is actually pretty awesome. My motto with elimination communication is that “DRY is the new black!” Not “feeling” dry, but actually being dry.
How We Do EC & The Three Challenges
Now looking back, I wouldn’t have changed my decision to do EC. I may have started doing EC a bit later on, but then again I’m not 100% sure about that either. Regardless let me share what some of the challenges have been.
1. For starters I had to get past the mental anxiety of others knowing that I potty-ed my baby.
Yes I held my newborn over a small plastic bowl until he was big enough to have an actual potty. Now after 15+ months, I could care less what others think because I now see the tremendous benefits of my insanity.
2. You will have misses and tons of them.
This is precisely why I’ve never been “diaper-free” with my son. I didn’t want to stress it, and I definitely didn’t want him to stress it either. This makes everything more relaxed for both of us no matter what happens.
If there’s a miss I change him immediately so that he is accustomed to being dry. When we have a miss, I let him know he is still learning and obviously I am too. When he makes it to the potty, I make sure to tell him “good job” and that he’s doing great!
A newborn baby pees every 20 minutes, so I felt crazy more than I’d like to admit. I changed and laundered a lot of cloth diapers. I love that now my son is very confident in his body and we’ve been creating a healthy mental attitude around elimination.
3. The elimination cues your baby makes will change as they grow and develop.
As a newborn my son would tighten his legs. By about six months old he would hit his diaper area to let me know he needed to go. By around eight months he began grunting. By 12 months I taught him sign language for potty. His version definitely isn’t precise, but I know what’s he means. He now has a few methods he uses to tell me such as patting my back if he is in his carrier on my back. He will also stop playing and come over to me to take him to the potty.
To begin I made a “pssssss” sound every time I noticed him peeing or pooping.
To be aware of this when we started, I would remove his cloth diaper while breastfeeding, and lay the diaper under his bum to observe. It didn’t take him long to connect the “pssssss” cue to eliminating. At this point I wasn’t holding him over anything. It was more about connecting the cue to the action.
As time moved on I became aware of him signaling the need to eliminate. Since I would wear my son in a carrier, I would feel his legs tense before needing to eliminate. I would then remove from the carrier, hold him over his potty, and make the cue sound.
I remember visiting my parents and their complete astonishment to see my son eliminate on cue at four months old.
Potty Trained Already?!
You may wonder if my son is now “officially” potty trained at 16 months old. The answer is no. We still have misses, but seldom are they for a poo which is very cool with me. We sometimes use tiny training pants, but also use cloth diapers because I have more of them.
There are days when we can literally go the entire day with only one or two misses.
Then there are others when we have plenty. At 16 months I keep an eye out for cues every hour or so or just take him when intuitively I think he may need to go. Because we’ve been doing this from the beginning, I’m usually right. Then other times nothing happens.
All in all I am really glad that I decided to try EC with my son.
It has given us another area of connection and respect, helped my son gain confidence, and also kept him from ever having diaper rash. I’ve actually never seen what a diaper rash even looks like outside of online photos. I think that using cloth diapers with a simple skin care regimen for my son has helped with never having diaper rash either.
Lastly I read Tiny Potty by Andrea Olson to my son. It is the cutest book and it really does teach the steps of using a potty to even the youngest of babies. I have the book memorized at this point and like to recite it like I’m doing Def Poetry Jams or am a MC on the mic. You have to make even the mundane a joy!
Have any of you tried elimination communication with your little one?
(Image by Dawn Michelle)