Our Journey into Natural Infant Hygiene

potty2Recently, a lot of people have been asking me about elimination communication or EC, here is my journey so far. I first became aware of EC shortly after my baby was born. I was talking on the phone with my older sister when the subject of my baby’s bowel movements came up. If you are a mother, then you understand that this is a standard topic of conversation, and if you are not a mother, then bear with me.  Since this is my first baby, I wanted to know if his grunting before a bowel movement was normal.  My sister took this opportunity to tell me about EC, and explained that when a baby is about to pee or poo they often signal by grunting or squirming, this signalling is their way of communicating. Each baby has a unique way of showing that they need to eliminate their waste and it starts as soon as they are born. By reading your baby’s cues, you are able to attend to his* hygiene needs by helping him eliminate in a designated spot like a potty or toilet instead of his diaper.  The goal of EC is not to potty train, but rather another way of meeting your baby’s needs. In essence the focus is on the relationship, and the communication, hence the name elimination communication.

I started EC with my son when he was about seven weeks old, I began by cueing him when he was going pee or poo by saying psss for pee or hmm for poo. I would also cue him when I changed his diaper.  Through my research on the subject I found some excellent resources on EC. Next, I made the switch to cloth diapers and began holding him in a position similar to the one seen in the picture above, only with his back resting against my stomach; to my amazement it helped him go.  Just before he turned three months old, I read Ingrid Bauer’s book on EC entitled Diaper Free and decided to practice EC full-time. For a about a week I held him over the tub to do his business before purchasing a Baby Bjorn potty. I should also note at this time, that a spray bottle filled with half vinegar and half water is invaluable for cleaning up misses as it helps neutralize the smell of pee.

At home, the practice of EC is fairly easy as the potty and the toilet are accessible however, practising EC outside the home does take some planning.  For example, before we leave the house, I offer an opportunity to use the potty and do the same once we arrive at our destination. When we go to a friend or family member’s house I try to bring his potty, otherwise I hold him over their toilet. I also time our walks so that he has just used the potty, which is usually in the afternoon as babies tend to pee a little less than in the morning. Since I wear my baby when we go walking, grocery shopping or doing chores I find that it is easy to keep in tune with his needs.   Although he is not completely diaper free (I use diapers as a back up), I plan on replacing his diapers for little underwear especially when I wear him.

Practising EC can be difficult at times as there are days when I seem to miss all his cues and we have a lot of wet diapers and the occasional soiled one too. These are usually days when I am preoccupied or busy with more than usual or he has reached a developmental milestone such as sitting or crawling. If this is the case, I simply cue him when I notice he is wetting his diaper or keep him close to me by either wearing or carrying him. I do this in order to take the pressure off of  him and me because EC should not be a stressful thing. Then there is teething, which is particularly challenging and exhausting as it causes him to breastfeed all night long, which means if he is not waking to feed, then he is waking to pee.   With that said, the benefits of being more in tune with my baby, having less soiled diapers, and minimum to no diaper rash far outweigh the so called challenges. If you are like me, then you will soon find that EC becomes part of a daily rhythm where you intuitively sense your baby’s needs. In other words, less guesswork and more ‘knowing.’

Now that we are almost at the nine month mark, I find EC to be easier than ever as my baby lets me know when he needs to use the potty by changing the tone of his voice. So, if you are looking for an alternative to potty training, or simply wanting to understand your baby better, or live a more sustainable life then I highly recommend EC.

*I use the third person masculine in reference to my baby boy.

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