Elimination communication, or EC, is an ancient practice that is getting a lot of attention from today’s parents. While going diaper free might not be for everyone, many parents are realizing that just as their babies have the ability to communicate hunger, our babies are able to communicate the need to urinate or defecate as well.
Diaper Free Baby, a nonprofit organization that encourages parents to tune into their baby’s natural elimination cues, states, “ Elimination Communication is NOT potty training. It is a gentle, natural, non coercive process by which a baby, preferably beginning in early infancy, learns with the loving assistance of parents and caregivers to communicate about and address his or her elimination needs. This practice makes conventional potty training unnecessary.”
Before disposable diapers hit the scene in 1959, American babies were toilet trained by twelve to eighteen months, compared to today’s median age of three years.
A baby’s natural instinct is to be clean, this is why he or she fusses whenever wet or soiled. Elimination Communication works with that natural instinct.
Conventional diapering goes against nature, and teaches baby that being wet and dirty are normal by ignoring natural cues of elimination.
People in third world and indigenous countries are no strangers to elimination communication. In these areas where diapers are unheard of, parents rely on baby’s natural elimination cues to help keep baby clean and happy.
Western researchers have taken notice of this natural process, and made a few changes to adapt it to modern life. This ancient method has the attention of modern day parents who are looking for ways to raise baby as naturally as possible.
Elimination Communication Reduces the Amount of Diapers Used
In America,467 disposable diapers are used every second. This means that almost two thousand tons of dirty diapers end up in landfills each day. That’s a lot of waste, not to mention the toxins that are released into the environment as the diapers decompose. Although cloth diapering is gaining popularity, only four percent of all parents use cloth diapers for their babies. Although cloth diapering is much better for baby and the environment, there are still diapers to wash. Which uses precious water and has the potential to release toxins into the environment, and leaves chemical residue on baby’s sensitive skin.
Before the average baby is conventionally toilet trained, parents spend an estimated $2,577.35 on disposable diapers. Cloth diapering parents spend $450 on diapers, which doesn’t include the cost of washing and drying the diapers. Either way, most families could benefit from some extra cash, especially in today’s economy.
Elimination Communication is More Comfortable for Your Baby
We’ve all seen babies toddling around bowlegged due to the bulk of a diaper. Disposable and cloth diapers have gotten more streamlined, but there are still some concerns. The National Institute of Healthresearchers came to the following conclusion, “In light of cross cultural and experimental research highlighting effects of childrearing practices on infant motor skill, we asked whether wearing diapers, a seemingly innocuous practice, affects infant walking. Diapers introduce bulk between the legs, potentially exacerbating infants’ poor balance and wide stance.
We show that walking is adversely affected by old fashioned cloth diapers, and that even modern disposable diapers habitually worn by most infants in the sample incur a cost relative to walking naked. Infants displayed more missteps and falls while wearing diapers. Thus, infants’ own diapers constitute an ongoing biomechanical perturbation while learning to walk. Furthermore, shifts in diapering practices may have contributed to historical and cross cultural differences in infant walking.”
EC eliminates the possibility of diaper rashes. Three factors contribute to diaper rash: moisture, lack of air, irritation due to exposure to urine and feces or toxins in baby wipes. Elimination communication keeps baby dry and clean, and eliminates the possibility of diaper rash, when used full time.
Because elimination communication requires that a parent or caregiver is in close contact with baby, ECing naturally increases the bond between the parent or caregiver and the child. As the parent or caregiver tunes into baby’s cues, a new level of bonding occurs. The baby learns that his or her emotional and physical needs will be quickly met. This increases baby’s emotional security.
ECing mothers compare their ability to respond to baby’s elimination cues, with the satisfaction that comes from providing nourishment for their babies through breastfeeding. Both optimize mother and baby’s natural desire to meet basic needs and have basic needs met.
In other countries, elimination communication begins at birth, which most advocates feel is the most effective option. By starting right away, your baby hasn’t learned to pee or poo in a diaper. Remember, baby’s natural instinct is to be clean and dry, beginning immediately keeps baby tuned into his or her natural instinct.
It is possible to begin elimination communication after baby is a bit older, but it will take some time to learn to recognize your baby’s cues. Unlike younger babies, your baby has learned to pee and poo in his or her diaper, and ignore his or her natural inclinations to be clean and dry. For newborns, many parents use a small bowl to catch pee and poo. As baby gets older, you can place him or her on the toilet, with support. If baby can sit alone, you can help him or her to sit on a small potty chair or seat.
You will want cloth diapers, or underwear to help absorb toileting misses. Many online companiesoffer products specifically geared to EC. While these products make things easier, they are not necessary.
Elimination communication can begin at birth, or within the first week after baby is born. Catching baby’s cues will be easier during this time period because new mommas and babies naturally spend a lot of time in close contact.
You can either lay baby on top of a cloth diaper, or loosely wrap the diaper around the baby. Keeping baby in close contact makes it easier for you to catch baby’s cues. Be sure that you don’t place a diaper cover over the cloth diaper, so that you can tell exactly when baby has peed or pooed.
When you feel the cloth diaper becoming wet, give baby a verbal cue, such as, “shhhhhh” or “psssss”. Your baby will begin to associate these sounds with eliminating. Once you have learned your baby’s elimination cues, you can begin to offer a small bowl for baby to potty in, or hold him or her over the bathroom sink. For newborns who eliminate during feedings, you can nurse them over a small bowl or on top of a clean diaper.
Keeping a journal of baby’s feeding and elimination schedule can help you to pinpoint times of the day where baby may need to eliminate.
As baby gets a little older, his or her cues may change. Here are some common cues for babies that are a few months old:
If baby can easily hold his or her head up, you may want to try sitting them on the potty, while holding on to them of course. There are companies that make special seats and potties for small babies to use during elimination communication.
Some parents choose to wear their babies so that they can catch baby’s cues more easily. If you choose this option, make sure that baby gets some tummy time several times a day to practice motor skills
Before the age of six months, babies can begin EC the same way as newborns. After this age, babies become more mobile, and their cues begin to change.
Here are a few tips you can use to help you begin elimination communication with your older baby:
The great thing about EC is that you can adapt it to fit your family. Some families are all in, others simply don’t have the time to invest in full time EC, and choose to do it part time. Do what works for your family.
Some families choose to diaper baby at bedtime and naps, others have baby in diapers when they leave the house. Elimination communication is a natural process, and a way for you to bond with your baby. Don’t let it become a source of emotional stress for you or your baby.
Although EC is gaining popularity among parents, ECing families are still a minority. Connecting with other ECing families is a great way to pick up tips and hints, get support, talk about your successes, and meet like minded families.
Larger cities offer local support groups for ECing families. There are also online support boards and social media pages that make connecting with other ECing families convenient for today’s busy families.
Infant Pottying Todayis a magazine for Ecing families. The publication offers support for Ecing families, tips and hints, humor, EC friendly artwork, and a sense of community for the ECing family.
Having a support system in place can make all the difference when trying to EC.
Elimination communication isn’t meant to be a source of stress for you or your baby. EC is simply becoming in tune with your child’s needs, and working with nature in a completely relaxed way.