Continuing on the theme of all things poo, I have asked my friend Rebekah from Thoughtful Momma to respond to the negative reactions people normally have to Elimination communication (in two parts). Rebekah has used EC with her three children, quite successfully.

Hello! Thanks very much for giving me the opportunity to talk about one of my favorite parenting topics! I’m writing this with the assumption that anyone reading this article has read the previous ones in this set and is familiar with what EC is and what its basic practices and philosophies are. I was asked to talk about the “cons” of EC and explain a little bit about what they are and how they are dealt with. I sincerely hope you enjoy it.

First, I should probably give my “credentials”. I’m a SAHM to three children, ages 6yrs, 3yrs and 1yr old. I discovered EC when my oldest was 4mo old and we’ve been hooked ever since. We’ve practiced everything from full-time, diaperless EC to part-time with disposable backup EC and everything in between.

Over the last six years, I’ve learned that potty independence is a natural thing that children are instinctively driven to learn, just as they are driven to learn to walk and feed themselves.

Practicing EC is dependent upon the knowledge that children naturally want to be clean and emulate the people around them. It’s dependent upon the understanding that children, even from birth, instinctively communicate their needs to us and that we have the ability to perceive those needs and react accordingly.

When I was approached about this post, I really had to think long and hard about what to write! The only actual “con” that I can come up with is that EC is so rarely practiced in Western culture that it isn’t well supported. It’s not something most of us learn as we grow up so those first few days or weeks using this method are much more challenging than they are for our sisters around the world.

Most of the cons people present to me are actually misconceptions that are a reflection of this truth, rather than actual negatives within the method itself. The three most common of these are as follows:

1) Isn’t it too much work?

2) Isn’t it messy and unsanitary?

3) Isn’t it just “parent-training”?

Let’s start with number one. For most people, the idea that a baby is aware of his elimination needs and able to communicate them is a totally foreign concept. We aren’t looking for those cues because we don’t realize there are any! Not only that but a lot of people have this perception that babies are unaware of the fact they need to go and some people even insist that babies aren’t aware they are going (one woman actually insisted to me that poop just “falls right out of them”).

The two of these issues make EC look overwhelmingly difficult and labor intensive. Pleasantly, the truth is that it’s not really more work at all, though at first, it might feel that way. It is complete misinformation that babies cannot feel and are unaware of their need to eliminate. Babies are very much aware that they have to “go” and, while they are unable to withhold against pressure, they ARE able to release at will.

If you think about it, you’ll realize you’ve seen proof of this many times, possibly even cracked jokes about it.

Have you ever watched a baby turn red in the face while “doing their business?” How about grunting happily along and then a BIG SMILE when they’re done? It’s amazing what we accept as “fact” without really thinking about it, isn’t it? (I’m guilty, too!) Babies can feel when they’re hungry and it only makes sense that they can feel when they need to pee or poop, too. Their nerve endings hardly fail at the belly button, right?

Making the transition from being aware the baby has gone to being aware that the baby needs to go is enlightening but admittedly a bit of a challenge. It’s not part of our culture, most of us have never observed anyone else doing it and it takes a little while to get used to.

The thing is, though, that we pay this kind of attention to our babies all of the time without even realizing it. We watch for signs the baby is hungry before she begins to cry hysterically. We look for obvious indications of discomfort to help us figure out why she’s upset. Doing these things is instinctual; we don’t think of it as “work” so much as just part of having a baby. A few days of observing the baby might feel like more work than just putting the diaper back on and forgetting about it but if you stick with it, it soon becomes second nature.

Not only that but once making catches becomes routine, I have found it to be far *less* work than standard diapering. I’ve yet to meet a mother that doesn’t understand the horrors of diaper explosions. Imagine for a moment, what it would be like if that “explosion” had all neatly gone into a potty? Far less mess to clean up, I assure you.

So to sum up point number one: EC isn’t really more work; it’s just different work.

Further reading:


Refuting the Cons of Elimination Communication (Part 1)

  1. I’m sorry I didn’t respond sooner, this week contained my oldest daughter’s birthday and it’s been a busy one.

    I really, really love the name Rachel but my name is Rebekah. Just wanted to clarify! 🙂

    As far as it stressing out the baby, I think this is a belief that gets tacked on to EC because of the 1950’s ish version of “Infant Potty Training”. There was a time when parents were encouraged to put their children on a toilet seat that looked more like a high-chair and had straps to buckle the kid in with. The kid wasn’t allowed to get off until they “performed”. There were many variations to this approach, some reasonable, some completely abusive but unfortunately, expecting a performance of any kind is definitely stressful on the baby. As a result, studies were done and it was discovered that coercive methods for potty training, particularly in very little babies, was psychologically damaging. I understand that whole books were written on the subject (feel free to verify, I’m pulling on memories of information I have not looked at in years). Anyway, EC is nothing like that.

    I like to compare EC to helping a child learn to walk because the approach, the expectations and the attitudes needed to facilitate both are the same. EC, like walking, is entirely child-led. There is no expectation. We are not asking the child to go for us, we are offering them an opportunity *if they want/need to go*. It’s a fine line, I’ll admit, but it’s a very significant one. The child cannot “get it wrong” or “make a mistake”. Therefore, there is no stress at all. She either needs to wee or she doesn’t, it isn’t possible for her to disappoint Mama.

    I have always “praised” but not in a “good girl, thank you!” kind of way, but in a “you did it, let’s celebrate” kind of way. There are those who practice EC that feel this is not good, that it tells the child that in order to get praise, they must perform. I think this is a valid concern but it has not proven true with my own children. I think this particular concern is specific to the parent and child in question. Kyra, for example, has a very specific relationship with her mother that is entirely different than the relationship I have with any of my children, just as my relationship with my son is completely different than the ones I have with his sisters. Part of the language spoken between Krya and Luschka is constant affirmation and praise when she accomplishes something for herself. To withhold that during potty time might actually seem strange to Krya. But between a parent and child who do not do things that way, it might seem perfectly ok. 🙂

    1. @Rebekah C, Oh Rebekah! Ever so sorry! I had just come off the phone with a friend, Rachel, who called as I was posting this. Ever so sorry! Will fix straight away!

      I am quite interested in your comment here. I’ve been trying to pay attention to what words are used around Kyra (and must say I’ve discovered we use the word NO waaaaaayyyy to often) I look at it in terms of the ‘love languages’ – wheras affirmation isn’t one for me, it’s the main one for my husband, so I’ve had to learn to affirm, verbally, my approval and love (by more than just saying ‘i love you’). This is possibly why I have that constant affirmation with her – although with her it’s also been difficult striking a balance as she’s so physically developed, but not there yet mentally!

      I was ‘paying attention’ to my language during this morning’s potty session and I said ‘what a big girl you are, see what you did! Isn’t that wonderful’. Do you think that leans more towards ‘good girl’ or ‘celebrate’?

  2. What about the “con” that it stresses babies out? That this somehow puts unnecessary pressure on them to “perform”…I am not even sure where I heard that but if you have any thoughts on that please share them!

    1. @Yuliya, Yuliya, I will ask Rebekah to answer that properly for you as she’s had success with this approach, but in the meantime will say this: with Kyra there is no stress. I put her on the potty when I go to the loo and if she wees (she normally does) then sing her praises, and if she doesn’t it’s fine, don’t say anything good or bad (i.e. i don’t ignore her, I just say, ‘okay, all done? let’s put your nappy back on then’ and leave it at that. This morning she stood up from the potty then started weeing, and sat back down, so there was a big puddle, but I didn’t even say anything about it – just praised her for weeing in the potty.

      From that perspective I can’t see that there’s any pressure, since she doesn’t get in to ‘trouble’ or get dissapointment from me for NOT doing it.

      That’s my thought, but I’ll let the experts respond! 🙂

      1. @Luschka, I’m almost hesitant to praise her when she does go, what if she thinks she has to do it to elicit a positive response from me? Can you tell I’m a first time mom who clearly has too much time on her hands 🙂 Either way I love EC and tell everyone I know about it!

        1. @Yuliya, No, I totally understand and have wondered the same thing. I guess when I say ‘praise’ I just mean I sasy ‘good girl’ and ‘look at my big girl’ but I do that a hundred times a day with other things too, so it’s not isolated praise!

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