Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Elimination Communication

by Malina

Elimination Communication (EC) could be called infant potty training, but that would be an incomplete label. People who practice EC do not do so just so they can win the bragging contest of having the youngest child ever toilet trained. EC is about listening and communicating with a child about their elimination needs. Parents who practice EC believe that they are being respectful of their children and their needs because even a newborn baby doesn't like sitting in their waste and sends cues about their needs to eliminate. Parents respond to those cues by taking them to the bathroom instead of waiting until they fill their diapers.

My first real encounter with elimination communication (EC) was being handed a two month old baby whose family practiced EC while the mom took care of her older child. I was holding her and being told a bit about EC by another mom. I only held the baby for about five minutes but I remember her looking directly at me and thinking "I wonder if she's trying to tell me she needs to pee?" I brushed off the thought as crazy and when the mom came back for her baby handed her back. The mom came to me a few minutes later and asked if her daughter had made any type of signal she needed to pee because she was wet. I was surprised and wondered if maybe the baby had been trying to tell me.

I watched this little girls' journey over the next few years with interest. She was bare bottom or in underwear much of the time and fairly good at communicating her elimination needs. She was rare with accidents before walking and then stopped for a while after learning to walk. Her mother persevered without letting it be a power struggle. The girl was not completely trained until around age two which falls into the age of traditional toilet training. But she almost never wore diapers. She wore underwear from age six months.

When I had my daughter I was intrigued enough to read some books about it and experiment with EC. (Partially because my boys had been reluctant toilet trainers.) The Diaper-Free Baby: The Natural Toilet Training Alternative is a easy read that makes elimination communication seem approachable and possible for all families, whether they choose to practice EC full time, part time or occasionally. It included some interesting discussion about cultures and the diaper culture we practice here in the USA compared to other cultural methods of toilet training.

On a lark I tried it out some with my daughter. The first time I held my daughter over the sink (she was about two months old) and she eliminated I will always remember. It was an experience. We decided to practice EC part time with her. While she was a young babe, we held her in our arms over the sink or toilet. When she was able to sit up fairly well, we put her on a small potty seat. You use sound cues to help the child associate the elimination with the sound and as they get older the sound lets them know to eliminate.

Because most children do develop a fairly regular routine of elimination I did not spend much time waiting for her to go once I knew her schedule. I would take her to the bathroom several times a day, but we did diapers for the night time. Her dad also would take her some and was supportive of me trying it out.

Ultimately when she went on a "strike" shortly after she started walking, I stopped taking her to the restroom regularly. I did not want any sort of fight or power struggle with her over it. I waited for her to show interest again and after a few months she did and I would take her when she asked or if she was showing signs of needing to go and assented to going. Now that she is over eighteen months I view it as child led and more traditional toilet training. But I believe that the EC has helped her be more aware of her bodies elimination needs. I have not done much to encourage her to become more completely toilet trained due to the introduction of a new baby into our family but I believe she will probably be almost completely trained (and mostly by her own volition) within a few months. Will we practice EC with our new baby? I don't know. Perhaps once he is older I will try it out. I'm still adjusting to having four kids right now.  Ask me again in a couple of months!

What are your thoughts about elimination communication? Would you ever try it?




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