“Ohhhh…So you’re a crazy mom.”
“What? No, I’m not – this is what many, many cultures around the world do.”
“Yep, that’s what all the crazy moms say.”
I, of course, think I’m normal. But I do let my baby pee in a sink – which is why this dear friend declared me a “Crazy Mom.”
The basic principle of Elimination Communication (or EC) is this: Babies are born with some control of their bladder and bowels and just like they let you know when they are hungry or tired, they also let you know when they have to eliminate. New parents are trained to look for signs of hunger like rooting, but not peeing and pooping. ECers will also tell you that babies are born with a desire to not soil themselves – which is why you may have noticed babies often pee as soon as you take off their diaper. If you keep them in diapers all the time, though, they lose this desire and also lose that control over their eliminating functions.
Many parents say they EC because they love staying in sync with their kiddos, it’s all about deepening their bond. Kudos to them, but I am not that noble.
I was intrigued by EC because I have a bias toward parenting methods that are practiced across many cultures.
I was sold on EC because I’m lazy. Since we were set on using cloth (to save $ and the earth), one of my big motivators was to have a handle on EC before we had gross poop. Baby poop during breastfeeding is no big deal, it just washes out in the washing machine. Solid food poop is another story. Also the average age for potty training in the US is about 2.5 years old…most EC babies seem to be potty trained by 18 months…that’s a whole year earlier. That’s a lot fewer diapers.
EC isn’t less work than changing diapers – at least this first 6 months it wasn’t. Granted I do what is known as “part-time EC.” There are people who are quite dedicated to the cause and don’t use diapers at all. That is more work.
Here’s how it worked for me:
Since she was a few days old, I try to give Ruby some “diaper-free time” every day. This could be when I was nursing (putting a cloth diaper open under her) or while she’s having tummy time or playing. Whenever works. I’d put her in a shirt or two, legwarmers, and socks.
When I saw her peeing or pooping, I’d make a cueing noise. Different people use different noises. Mine is kind of like “pssssss.” I’d also try to observe to see if there was any way she signaled before she went. Some babies squirm, some babble, some get quiet, fuss, etc.
The idea is that they begin to associate your cueing noise with eliminating. If you make the noise and they have a full bladder, they will release their bladder.
Ruby’s signals have never been too clear so around 2 months I switched to offering her “pottytunities” at times where babies are more likely to need to pee – like when she wakes up, after I take her out of the baby carrier, after she eats. During a “pottytunity” I take her diaper off, hold her over the sink, toilet, or bowl and make the psssss noise for about 20 seconds. Sometimes she goes, sometimes she doesn’t. She likes the sink the best because she loves to look at herself in the mirror. I usually sing her some sort of song parody like “I’m a potty girl in a potty world” (instead of Barbie) or “We like to Potty” (instead of Party). You get the idea.
At 2 months we were pretty “in sync” – I think I “caught” 9 pees one day – but then came Christmas, going back to work part-time, and traveling, so now we’re at about 3 a day. Even if she has a “miss” and ends up peeing on the changing table, or the floor, or wherever, I still make the psssss noise and tell her “Good girl! You’re going potty!”
I’m not hardcore because, again, I’m lazy. Since she’s only just crawling, I’m still the one that has to take her to the potty all the time. I’ve recently added the sign for “potty” hoping that one day (soon!) she’ll sign it to me when she has to go since I’ve never been able to pick up on her more subtle signals. In the meantime, it’s enough for me to know that she still has some control of her bladder – with the hope that we might have just 1 year (rather than 2) of diapers to go.
Want some more info on EC?
Check out this recent NY Times Article
My favorite book resource – The Diaper Free Baby by Christine Gross-Loh