Saturday, 3 May 2014

Weird - it's all about perspective

So a book has recently come out in America by a certain female celebrity who is a vegan, attachment parenting, crunchy-as-anything type. Fair enough; anyone with enough money to self publish can put a book out these days. Her book is all about pregnancy and young baby raising, and she talks about several aspects of these topics, including Elimination Communication.

And the internet collectively scoffs at her, of course. It's kind of funny, because when an "outsider" as it were, describes something like EC it sounds so completely whackadoodle and bizarre, that you wonder why anyone would want to do such a thing.... "staring at her baby all day, waiting for a grimace to indicate an impending flood" or "using your entire house as a toilet".

All this pearl clutching and eye-rolling over something that is actually almost boringly mundane. About as boringly mundane as changing a nappy, actually.

My baby is seven months old and we have been communicating about her elimination needs since she was about three months old. I can't remember exactly, but it was definitely after the New Year when she stopped needing me to express milk and feed her via bottles. I started using cloth nappies then (before that point, when I was pumping 8xday and nursing and bottle feeding? Nope. Sorry world, for all the extra landfill nappies, but it just wasn't happening) and noticed that I just kinda knew when she was about to poop. I had toyed with the idea of trying EC when I was pregnant, and started "cueing" her when she was pooping in the nappy. (and then changing her immediately afterwards)

Cueing is when parents make a specific sound or say a specific word/phrase for the child to associate with elimination. Sometimes it's different for each one, or the same for both. It doesn't really matter; whatever works for the family.

I eventually started holding her over the potty when she went through a bout of tummy upset that gave her a rash. Even one less dirty nappy was a win, as far as clearing up her skin was concerned.

So that's how we started. Several months later, she has shown a marked preference for not sitting in her own faeces, funnily enough. She's not as particular about a wet nappy, but I think that's because even the cloth nappies are so good at wicking moisture away from her skin that she doesn't seem to notice all that much. She's damp, to be sure, but only slightly.

Here's what Elimination Communication is NOT:


  • No staring at the baby all day. All I had to do was pay a little more attention to her more obvious signals and everything else sort of slotted into place. She sits on the potty after naps, first thing in the morning, and when we come home from outings. It's the same as changing a nappy at those times, except sometimes that nappy is still dry.
  • No house-as-toilet. As described already, she is still in nappies. She's in cloth, which saves me a ton of money, and sometimes she's in the same nappy for five hours on the trot because I've managed to get her on the potty in time in between.
  • Not a lot of extra work. Really, for truth. What's the difference between putting a baby on the potty for a minute, quickly dabbing with toilet paper and putting the dry nappy back on again or completely undressing baby, wiping her down, putting a clean nappy on and disposing of the dirty one? As far as time and energy spent, I would say it is equal on both counts. Pretty much.
  • It's not all that weird, either. Many people hear stories from their grandparents that they potty trained their children at age one. I mean really, what more incentive did they need back then - no waterproof covers, horrid pins, and boiling nappies on the stove? Yeesh. Get those kids outta nappies asap, right?!

So what's a typical day like for me and the baby?

She's an early riser, so at 5-ish am (I try not to look at the clock because that way madness lies) she starts stirring and even when I try to feed her back to sleep she's having none of it. She gives me a certain look as if to say "I need a wee, hop to it momma". I roll out of bed and grab the potty. 99% of the time her night nappy is soaked, but once or twice it has been dry. Once she's on the potty she'll usually do a BIG wee, sometimes poo as well. Sorted. Wipe her down, put a dry nappy on, take her downstairs to play while I do my thing. 

Sometimes I'll manage to get her on the potty once or twice more before the school run. Usually not, though, which is fine because I'm really too busy getting everyone else ready to worry about pottying the baby. By 8am, she is tired and grumpy again, so I'll try to feed her. If she's agitated and won't settle into the feed, that usually means that she needs the potty again. She won't have milk if she has a full bladder or bowels. Once that's taken care of, we're off to school.

Throughout the day, I'll offer her the potty at various times if she seems out of sorts, or won't feed, or has just woken from a nap. I'm not always paying attention, or I'll think to myself, "must check her nappy" and will have missed the chance to get her on the potty. It's all good. She gets changed frequently and is usually happy to sit on the potty in front of the mirror in our room anyway. Sometimes, bless her heart, she even tries to push out a little dribble on the potty. 

By the time bedtime rolls around, she's often too tired and cranky to sit on the potty happily. She's recently been able to hold her bladder for surprisingly long stretches of time (3 hours the other night, crazy, considering she is on a liquid diet), and I think she's just working on this ability a bit more.

Sometimes she wakes up around midnight, and I'll change her again. Very, very wet nappy. But by the time morning rolls around, she's managed to stay completely dry and the cycle starts again. 

So that's what Elimination Communication looks like. There's no coercing. If she doesn't want to sit on the potty, she arches her back and cries, so I don't force her. There wouldn't be much point! When she's clearly uncomfortable or desperate to pee, I put her on the potty and she does her thing. She's a happy baby and seems pretty content with our arrangement. 

Like I said before, the reality is a lot more boring than the sensationalised reporting on the internet would have people believe. But reality never got tons of clicks on a website or sold magazines, now did it.....

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