I thought about doing a post about this when my oldest was a baby, but it really overwhelmed me. I thought I didn’t really know anything, it wasn’t until recently when I was talking with a friend with a new baby, that I realized I do know a few things.
My first encounter with Elimination Communication (EC), or potty, happened when I spent a semester abroad in China teaching English. One day we were having lunch at our translator’s family home when a neighbor came by with her baby. This baby actually had a diaper on, a disposable one (finally someone normal I thought). Someone that seemed normal to me because most of the babies that I had seen, had a slit in their pants and their little bums showing. While we were visiting outside, the mom squatted down with her baby by a tree, took off his diaper and gave a strong whistle and that baby boy started peeing. After that she put the dry diaper back on and continued to visit with us. I didn’t think anything of this at the time other than Chinese people are weird. Fast forward four years later and I’m pregnant with my first baby. At my baby shower a good friend of mine starts talking about Elimination Communication and how she thinks this might interest me. As we are talking I have a flashback to China and all of the babies with slits in their pants and particularly the one day at lunch when I witnessed that mama taking her baby boy pee. She was right, EC did interest me, I no longer thought it was weird, my thoughts now were, those Chinese mothers and fathers are geniuses.
What is Elimination Communication? Elimination Communication sounds like a complicated term but it just means that you understand when you’re baby needs to potty. Your baby communicates with you, gives you cues, when they need to go. The best way I can explain is when your baby is hungry or tired, it is obvious because they give us hints or cues before they start to cry or get really upset. The same thing goes for potty. Babies know when they need to go to the bathroom and they try to tell us. Understanding this particular cue is lost in our culture, which is why EC is so foreign to many of us mamas in the U.S.
I’m definitely not an expert at EC and I don’t do it full time. I do know a few tips so I thought I would share them here. The best thing about EC is that it’s free, it doesn’t cost anything to do it. There are specific EC clothes that you can buy and I am fond of baby leggings but they are not necessary. All you need is a place to take your baby potty. Newborns go potty often and it may be difficult to take your baby when you are recovering from birth, during this time you can try using a bowl or bucket, or if you happen to notice them grunting or making a face while they poop try giving him or her a cue that they will associate with going potty, you can give them this cue even if they go in their diaper, just be sure to change their diaper right after. We make a “sss” sound almost like hissing, the Chinese woman I observed whistled (this is the cue most parents make in China). A cue is helpful because it lets your baby know that now is the time to go potty or to try and go. With my oldest I noticed when he was brand new and I was bathing him that he grunted, even while he was peeing, I knew he grunted when he pooped because I could feel him filling up his diaper. When you start to feel brave enough to take your baby, and if they’re still little, the sink is a great place to start. I like the sink because baby feels close and secure, plus you can see them in the mirror if they make any faces. If they make particular face while they poop, you can recognize it for future reference.
I always take my baby potty when he first wakes up, this is a guarantee that he will need to go, I just take off his diaper and hold him over the potty so he can pee. When he is done I put his diaper back on and check it often to see if he’s wet. Cloth diapers are especially helpful with EC, not only is it easier for me to feel a wet diaper, my baby can feel wet too. If I notice a wet diaper, I change it immediately. As I mentioned earlier, I am not an expert so I don’t really know when he has to pee but if he has had a dry diaper for a while I will try to take him potty. Another thing I do is take him potty before I put a new diaper on him. I do this because many times I have put a fresh diaper on, only for it to get peed in immediately. Pooping is the easiest cue for me to understand so I am able to catch nearly every time he needs to poop. Some cues that indicate pooping may be stopping any activity, grunting, hiding, or lots of gas or tooting. If I notice my baby stopping what he’s doing, getting really quiet, or grunting, I know that he needs to go so I take him to the potty and take his diaper off, then I give him the “sss” cue and away he will go.
One of the hardest parts about EC is trying it. With my oldest, I waited until he was about two months old, I was so hesitant and unsure, but then I decided to just try and I held him over the sink and he peed. It was so exciting but to make that jump to try to take him was so hard for me for some reason. Another difficult part of EC is expecting perfection. I remember going diaper free on a few occasions but I really had a hard time doing anything other than staring at my baby and asking him if he needed to go potty, and then taking him potty. I was worried about cleaning up any messes and worried that I might miss a cue. This was no fun for me and certainly no fun for baby boy who kept getting interrupted and taken to the potty when he really didn’t need to go. For my own sanity I decided to only do diaper free times outside, that way if he pooped I could spray it with the hose, and if he peed, it really didn’t matter.
Listed below are a few things that have made EC easiest for me:
Take baby often. Take your baby potty when he or she wakes up from napping or sleeping. Take baby potty when changing their diaper, or whenever you have a feeling they might need to go. Trust your instincts.
Cloth diapers. These are so great because it’s easy to tell when your baby has gone potty. Cloth also encourages me to work for days where we only use one diaper, since I am the one who washes them.
Baby leggings. These are great during winter months. I buy mine from this website and they usually have good deals.
Split pants. I have never used these but now I wish I would have bought some on my semester abroad in China because specialty EC split pants are expensive for some strange reason. As far as I understand you can just rip the seam in any pants and they’ll work great. I would like to try these eventually.
The bathtub was a game changer for us! When I starting taking my oldest potty in the middle of the night, I tried the bathtub, that way I could nurse him and he could pee freely without trying to aim in the toilet or wake him completely. In the morning I rinse it out and spray it with a little cleaner if necessary. I started to take my oldest and youngest around eight months. Around this time they are only waking up once or twice at night because they need to eat or go potty or both. I know this because we co-sleep. This is not necessary for EC but it is so helpful, I feel like night time is really easy because baby boy sleeps next to me and I am able to take him potty right away, always in the tub, so that I don’t wake him completely or worry about slipping on some pee intended for the toilet.
Outside. Peeing outside is so fun for kids, and it’s so convenient. Like I mentioned before, being outside is the perfect time to be completely diaper free. It is also a great way to encourage a toddler to try to pee if you have a feeling they might need to go.
Patience. This is so important! Be patient with yourself and take a break from EC if it’s getting too frustrating. Your baby will know if you are upset and it’s not worth ruining your day over.
It’s not too late to take them if they have already started going. I can’t tell you how many times I have taken one of my boys to finish pooping in the potty after they have already started going. I consider it a success, even if it’s only a little bit in the potty.
Co Sleep. This is especially helpful if you want to try and take your baby potty at night. It is helpful for me to put a towel under my baby while he sleeps. Sometimes I have taken him potty in the tub and I fall asleep nursing when we get back to bed before I’m able to put a new diaper on. A towel is just a precaution in case I don’t wake up in time to get him to the potty again when he needs to go.
No means no. If your baby does not need to go potty he or she may straighten their legs,cry, or try to turn around. It’s ok to try to take your baby but if they don’t have to go, these are some of the signs that mean no. Even if you’re so sure your baby needs to go, it’s better to have an accident than an upset little one.
All in all EC is just another part of our day and night. It’s a great conversation starter and it’s a great way to get more in tune with baby. By keeping a relaxed attitude I have had the most success because I’m not aiming for perfection in any way. As I mentioned before, one of the best things about EC is that it is completely free and it could save you lots of money if you do it full time. Below are a couple of books I’ve read about EC but trying and doing EC with my baby is what has taught me the most.
Diaper Free, by Ingrid Bauer is such a great read about EC, this book has many more pictures and so much insightful information. Beyond the Sling is another book that I read that led me to Diaper Free, she also mentions other Elimination Communication books in her book. I got both of these books from the library, and I ended buying Diaper Free because I enjoyed it so much.