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Before my daughter was born, I came across the term ‘Elimination Communication’ a few times. I looked at it, looked into it, and decided that we weren’t going to go that route with this baby. Somehow I felt that I had enough on my hands preparing for a home waterbirth, and the resulting newborn.

Since then I have often thought about Elimination Communication, but not really managed to get my head around it. Now I feel the time is right, so I have been looking again – perhaps to start with my now ten month old, or perhaps to store in the recesses of my memory for any future pinkfoots that might grace our home.

Wikipedia does a pretty good job of explaining Elimination Communication:

Elimination communication (EC) is a toilet training practice in which a caregiver uses timing, signals, cues, and intuition to address an infant’s need to eliminate waste. Caregivers try to recognize and respond to babies’ bodily needs and enable them to urinate and defecate in an appropriate place (e.g. a toilet). Caregivers either use diapers as a back-up in case of misses, avoid the use of them altogether, or do a mixture of the two. EC emphasizes communication between the caregiver and child, helping them both become more attuned to the child’s innate rhythms and control of urination and defecation. The practice can be done full time, part time, or just occasionally. The term “elimination communication” was inspired by traditional practices of diaper-less baby care in less industrialised countries and hunter-gatherer cultures. Some practitioners of EC begin soon after birth, although it can be started with babies of any age.

The approach was westernised by Ingrid Bauer who discovered on her travels to India and Africa that mothers carried their babies nappy free with few or no ‘elimination accidents’. She later raised her own children this way and coined the term ‘elimination communication’.

But what are the benefits?

Christine Gross Loh, in her book “The Diaper-Free Baby” suggests that EC lessens families’ reliance on nappies, which reduces the cost of nappies and strain on landfills. There are no nappy rashes, nappy change battles and delayed or difficult potty training sessions. Gross Loh also suggests that there is a unique bond between parents and babies who EC as they learn to communicate with each other much easier.

She continues on to say that parents report that the squat or ‘potty’ position that parents tend to hold their baby in order to go seems to be very comfortable for babies. Just as for a labouring mother, the position helps to relax the pelvic floor muscles. This seems to help babies who are suffering from mild constipation.

Although I couldn’t pretend that we have ‘tried’ EC, I do put my ten month on the potty every morning and she normally ‘goes’ pretty soon. Also, I have noticed that when she is having a poo, she goes down in a squatting position naturally, so perhaps she would be a perfect candidate for EC.

Diaper-Free Baby actually lists 75 benefits of EC.

Does everyone agree?

No. The father of potty training (why is it that the most influential originators of the way we mother so often seems to be men?), T Berry Brazelton, feels that 1 or 2 year old’s are too young to potty train and that it puts too much pressure on them. Gina Ford agrees and doesn’t believe toddlers to be ready till they are 2 – 3 years old. She states that they do not have the muscle and bladder control before that age.

But, as Tribalbaby puts it, “EC is an ancient method used before nappies, around the world and throughout history. It is fun to do. Even today 85% of babies in the world do not wear nappies – or not for very long.”

So, now we know a little more about the what, I guess we need to learn more about the how. Stay tuned as we hear from other mamas about their successes and failures and if you’ve tried it, feel free to leave your thoughts below!

19 Comments

Mama Finally Talks About Poo – Elimination Communication

  1. My daughter’s 5 1/2 mos and we’ve been practicing EC for the last month. It’s going really great, and she’s happier and way more relaxed than even with cloth diapers.

    Her signs are identical to when she’s excited or when she wants to be picked up, so it’s become a matter of timing, and trial-and-error when it comes to getting a full, accident-free day. She does tend to get wiggly when she wants to pee, too.

    Accidents are entirely my fault; Either I’m not paying close enough attention, or I’m focused on working (WAHM here) and let it go too long between her potty trips.

  2. You know how much I love talking about this subject!

    Eleanor, to answer your question, it’s really not just their face. It’s just general body language and obviously, every child is different. My oldest was totally not very obvious in her cues. I thought for a very long time that I was just lousy at reading them until her sister came along, signalling loud and clear! My second little girl would grunt and kick her feet and would pop on and off the breast when she had to pee. My son clearly has a pause in whatever it is he’s doing, as if he’s tuning in to see if he needs to go.

    It does take more attention to your child’s body language than “traditional” western methodology, however, it really isn’t any different than keeping an eye on their body language to tell when they’re hungry.

  3. Interesting trivia: The actress that played Blossom on TV does EC with her kids.

    Anyway…..I think that anything that helps encourage communication and relationship is good–but mom’s have to be careful not to burn out just trying to be ‘natural’ in their parenting.

    1. @Amy, Interesting trivia and interesting point… I must admit I find nappy changes frustrating sometimes… I’m so not a routines person. I’m not sure how EC would make you burn out though. But again, I think starting EC at different ages makes the difference. With a new born you’d be running yourself raggid. With a ten month old, I don’t think it’s too bad! Thanks for your thoughts 🙂

  4. what great timing your post is. My daughter is 13 months and is doing the same as your little one. She sits on the potty and sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. She also does the crouching thing (she did it in the supermarket the other day!) I’m not going to stress about potty training yet but I have heard of this approach and have considered it.

  5. I started EC when Aliza was about three months. In retrospect I wish I had started even earlier but being a first time mom (who’d had a c-section) I had enough to deal with. The first month or so nothing really happened, but one morning she was peeing on the changing table and I cued her (by saying psssss) and then later that day when I put her on the potty she went!!! I’m not sure that she is really “communicating” that she has to go yet, with pee I just put her on the potty every hour or so to give her an opportunity to relieve herself, which she takes sometimes, no pressure either way. And with poo, I’m sure there is a sign but I haven’t figured it out yet, so sometimes I catch those sometimes I don’t. Either way I think it’s fun and really not that weird in the context of how people have been doing things for generations before nappies (so cute to say instead of diapers) came along.

    1. @Yuliya, lol! diapers/nappies – at least you know what country the person you’re talking to is from! I think, like with baby swimming, starting them on it easier is probably a lot easier in the long run… maybe next time, huh?

  6. My mum actually told me about this when Emily was born. Someone had told her about it when I was born but she couldn’t cope with the thought of it. I don’t think my husband. A SAHD would manage either! I’d be interested to read the ‘how’ remarks though, surely you would have to have a constant eye on your baby’s face or whatever looking for the signs?

    1. @Eleanor, I think it might change with their ages? So far it’s been easy to SPOT, but I’ve not tried to catch it yet (having stepped in and broken her potty and buying a new one today!) I’m interested in the ‘how’ too! 🙂

  7. I’ve been ECing my 3 month old for 10 days now and it is truly amazing how much you learn about them through something so simple. Be prepared for a lot of opposition – people assume I sit at home waiting for my baby to pee!!
    Good luck, its fun!!

    1. @Amy, It’s been interesting, actually, watching her and getting to know the cues a little better. I bought booster pads today for her cloth nappies, so tonight’s our first all nighter in cloth – she’s such a wet baby that I’m a little concerned, but I guess we’ll know by morning if it works or not!

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