Infant Pottying Today - Issue No. 9
A Publication About Elimination Communication from DiaperFreeBaby
Letter From the Editor
Leo, 15 1/2 months, happy on his potty
As the year draws to a close, we reflect on the way that so many dedicated parents have helped spread the word about EC over the last several years. Many families are now practicing it for the second, third, or even fourth time in a row. They're discovering that EC, a wonderful tool for understanding a baby's needs, helps parents to discover the individual personality of each child. Just as each baby is different, each family will experience EC in its own dynamic way. In this issue of Infant Pottying Today, you'll read about the experiences and insights of one mom, Lisa Tunick Boward, who EC'ed all three of her children and found it to be a unique experience with each child. Our regular columns are also geared towards parents who might find themselves raising - and pottying - a baby as well as an older sibling or two. Finally, since we get so many questions about whether the gender of a baby affects EC, Elizabeth Parise, a veteran mom of six, shares her insights on pottying baby boys and baby girls.
If you've EC'ed more than one child, we'd love to hear what the experience was like for you. What did you learn about EC, how did it enhance your parenting, and how did your previous experiences with EC help you later on? Please send your thoughts to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for possible inclusion in a future article.
Cover Story: My EC Evolution
by Lisa Tunick Boward
I began my journey with EC about 9 months after my first daughter was born. I must confess that, at the time, I was watching a close friend struggle with her potty learning 3 year old and hoped that EC might be a way for my child and me to avoid such struggles. I had always checked my daughter's cloth diapers frequently and changed her as soon as I was aware that she was wet or dirty rather than every few hours the way many parents I knew did. So EC seemed like the perfect next step, and a good way for her to gently and slowly learn what the potty was for and how to use it.
The very first time I put my daughter on the potty, she peed. She looked so happy - it was if she'd been waiting her whole life for me to do it! I guess, looking back, she probably had. Even though she caught on quickly, we practiced part-time (mostly upon waking and whenever I had to go to the bathroom), and continued using cloth diapers the rest of the time, keeping her without a diaper cover while at home so I could change her immediately. As I watched more and more friends struggle to help their obstinate toddlers learn to use the potty, bribing them with M&M's and stickers (often to no avail), the more convinced I became that EC was much more in line with my gentle, attachment parenting style. I wanted my baby to trust that I would feed her when hungry, cuddle her when sleepy, and hold her when sad, and so taking her to the potty when she needed to go seemed a logical extension. Full-time EC seemed like so much work, somehow, though, and we were having such success with part-time. She was an at-home graduate at 20 months, I got brave enough to ditch diapers out and about around her 2nd birthday, and she was dry at night by 28 months.
Though my attempts at late-start, part-time EC had been so successful (or perhaps because they'd been so successful), I decided to wait until my second child, a son, was about 6 months old to begin EC, and began the same way I had with my daughter. But EC'ing my son was very different than it had been with my daughter. He nursed less frequently, yet peed more. He was dry at night long before he was during the day, even though I did not EC at night. And he was much more easily distracted and needed me to offer/remind him about the potty for a lot longer than his sister did. EC'ing with him made me appreciate fully what a different person he was from his sister. It helped me understand his personality more deeply, and to understand what he needed from me not only in terms of his elimination, but as his mother in general. His path to toilet independence differed from his sister's as well. From about 20 months on, as long as I offered with frequency, we didn't miss. I was much more confident out and about than I had been with his older sister. And he often did ask for the potty or take himself by that age. But true independence - a time after which I knew he would not need to be reminded and after which even the rare but occasional misses had ceased - did not come until he was 3 years old.
Our EC relationships had been just as uniquely different as our nursing relationships had been. Having these two very different experiences while practicing basically the same EC strategies gave me great insight into my children and their personalities. I was hooked. When I found out I was pregnant with my third, I decided I would try to start EC at an earlier age, though I was not sure what age that would be. The idea of full-time EC still seemed daunting to me, and I wasn't sure how it would be possible with two other children to care for. But I was willing to give it a try.
An amazing thing happened when my baby girl was born. I discovered that she had extremely obvious signals each and every time she had to eliminate! At first, I thought it must be a fluke. I thought with astonishment, all those times that my other babies had fussed for what seemed like no reason - it was just because they had had to pee? When they had been completely content in a sling, only to suddenly start squirming and fussing - it was because they had had to pee? All those times they had woken up "to nurse" in the night, only to pass out seconds after they had latched on - they had only been waking up to pee? It was as though someone had turned on the lights and I found that missing piece to the parenting puzzle that I'd been trying to solve for 5 years! It seemed as though virtually every previously unexplained behavior was related to elimination.
My husband and I were stunned that the answer had been so easy and obvious all this time. We were relieved that this time, we no longer had to wonder what was causing our baby's discomfort, no longer had to feel helpless while our baby was in apparent distress. And we were amazed by how easily full-time EC fit into our day-to-day routines. More easily, in fact, that changing diapers had ever been.
It might sound a little hippie-dippie, but I feel so in tune with this baby. I have such a strong intuition about her needs and I am virtually never wrong. She is deeply content - and while I know that some of this is just her laid-back personality, I also know that some of it is because she trusts that I will meet her every need immediately, and therefore has very little reason to fuss or to cry in order to get my attention.
She is only 6 months old, so it is impossible to say when we might declare her a graduate. But whether it happens at 18 months or 3 years doesn't matter at all to me. While the goal of potty independence was the reason I began EC with my first child, it is not the reason I continue. I simply can't imagine parenting without this tool, and can't imagine why I'd want to try.
Helpful Tip: EC'ing a baby and potty training a toddler at the same time
Do you have a new baby with whom you would like to begin EC, but an older child as well who has not yet begun potty learning? How do you EC a baby and potty train a toddler at the same time?
When you have a new baby who is being EC'ed, older siblings who missed the opportunity to EC from a younger age might become interested in potty learning. Seeing the little one use the potty can inspire the older sibling to try it for herself. This is a great opportunity for your child, as long as you keep your expectations realistic. Use the same basic tenets of EC for both children, and merely tailor your approach for the older one, using tips for late-start EC or toddler EC.
Communicate! Tell the older sibling what you are doing with the baby, keeping him nice and dry. Explain that she too can be dry and introduce the potty to her.
Have potty parties with both children and have an open-door bathroom so your children know that pottying is a normal routine part of everyday life. Have a set time for this every day or just go with the flow. Just have fun while doing it.
Have a variety of pottying options and locations and keep a few strategies in your parenting toolbox. Some toddlers respond to your pottying a doll or stuffed animal, others might enjoy reading a book, and some children enjoy pottying while looking outside a window. Experiment and see what works for your child.
Encourage your older one to help potty the little one. This will make her feel important and reinforce her awareness that elimination is a normal bodily process for everyone.
FAQ: Why some babies prefer to pee while standing
Babies are driven to practice all their newfound skills, and many parents find themselves with a newly standing, cruising, or walking toddler who will sit on the potty but pee only when standing after getting off the potty. They become fascinated with the standing they are practicing and begin to get used to the feeling of peeing while standing. This is just a temporary phase, but with persistent creativity you can encourage your child to start using the toilet or potty regularly again.
If your child is sitting on a potty or toilet without eliminating, even though you sense she has to pee, try switching to another position or location (like in-arms over a toilet, or a potty on the ground, outdoors). Try to figure out if the issue is that the potty is too cold, uncomfortable in some way, or just not what your baby wants to use right then. If your child doesn't eliminate within a few minutes, cue her when she stands up (into a cloth diaper, flexible container, or the potty itself or another container if pottying a boy). Your baby won't always want to stand, but your cueing her while standing will help her to keep on practicing releasing at will and retaining her bodily awareness, which is the most important thing. She will be able to transfer this skill to peeing while sitting again in the future. You can help your baby to remember what it is like to sit and pee by offering pottytunities right after waking up, when most babies will pee very readily.
EC'ing Boys and Girls
by Elizabeth Parise
The differences between girls and boys has long been a compelling and controversial discussion. Are these differences biologically based or are they the result of the environment and culture children are raised in? The truth is, it is probably some of both.
Science suggests that there are differences in the way a boy's brain develops versus how a girl's brain develops. Working with these differences will not necessarily perpetuate gender stereotypes, but rather allow each gender to develop smoothly, quickly, and comfortably, thus reducing common misconceptions such as "boys 'mature' more slowly than girls".
So, what are these differences and how should they be handled? Many parents wonder if they should nurture their children following these developmental differences or should they teach their children to be more like the other gender to round them out more. Again this doesn't need to be an all-or-nothing, black-and-white, one-size-fits-all approach. Just like EC, each journey will be a little different.
Knowing what the differences are can be helpful in crafting out an approach that works for your family. Think of these differences in brain development as learning style differences. The *content* you are teaching is the same, but the way you teach it may be different. Of course, all people are different and gender is only one clue about the best approach for an individual.
In general, girls develop the right side of the brain faster than boys do. This leads to earlier verbal skills and better memory. Girls are also better able to read emotional cues and facial expressions. They are generally more interested in faces, and toys with faces. Girls develop fine motor skills faster on average than boys. Girls are also generally better able to multi-task.
The left side of the brain tends to develop faster in boys as compared to girls. This means that in general boys' gross motor skills, visual spatial skills, reasoning, and problem solving develop faster on average than girls. They are generally more interested in groups of faces, rather than a single face. Boys are more sequential and tend to complete tasks in a more linear way.
This doesn't mean that you need to pigeon hole your children into strict gender stereotypes. You most certainly can work on skills and ways of thinking generally assigned to the opposite gender. Speak softly and sweetly to your boys too. Play vigorously and boisterously with your little girls as well. Encourage creativity in your boys through the physical art of dance. Follow your daughter's imitative inclination by showing her how to fix a car.
Considering gender differences doesn't need to stop with your child either. You can use these tendencies as a guide for how you and your partner might approach EC and ways to involve older siblings.
When considering practicing EC, women are more drawn to the communication and bonding aspects. They are more likely to pick up on intuitive signals such as just getting a sense of when the baby needs to pee. Women tend to consider how the baby is feeling about EC and how it will affect them emotionally in the long run. They tend to be more patient and collaborative with the process.
Men are more interested in the immediate, practical results of EC. When trying to convince a man of the benefits of EC try stressing that it saves money on diapers. Men tend to rely on physical signals and timing. They tend to be more competitive about EC and stress graduation. Men like to find their own way to EC and take advice as criticism. They are more likely to direct a child on how to potty and will often find the most efficient EC techniques.
Siblings are often very receptive to helping EC a younger sibling. Common gender differences can provide further clues on ways to get them to help. Boys are great entertainers, especially in physical ways. Elicit their help keeping the baby occupied on the potty through games like "peek-a-boo" or stacking blocks. Boys also love tasks such as getting the potty for you too. Girls enjoy keeping baby calm on the potty through reading or talking to the baby. Girls love to help potty the baby and are concerned with how the baby is feeling about EC. They love to imitate your ECing tasks.
Parents often ask whether physical or emotional differences between boys and girls affect EC practice with each gender. The basics of EC are common to both genders. To get started with EC visit the Practicing EC pages of this website. You also might want to take the DiaperFreeChallenge(TM), Preparing For the Challenge and Get Started, at www.diaperfreechallenge.org, for further inspiration.
While individual personality is also important, gender can make a difference when it comes to pottying strategies, positioning, and other factors. Below are a few ways to help you capitalize on the unique strengths of your own child.
Tips for ECing Girls
EC'ing a girl is a lot of fun! Many girls have excellent verbal communication skills at a young age, helping them to communicate about toileting. Parents don't have to worry about aim with girls in the same way as with a boy, and girls can easily use small potties such as the "top hat" style potty. Girls can also wear dresses which make for quick pottytunities. Here are some tips if you're EC'ing a girl.
- Dresses and skirts make EC'ing easy. The little "bloomers" or "diaper covers" that often come with dresses and skirts often make great tiny undies. They last longer than the dress or skirt itself because you can use a smaller size bloomer without "back-up" on an older girl since you don't need to fit a diaper inside.
- Realize that girls can "spray" too. This can be related to something temporary like having a strong urine stream, or to differences in anatomy.
- Girls often dribble or leak down their legs or bottom. Choose toileting places and positions that work best to handle this.
- Girls excel at imitation and modeling. Have mom and older sisters model proper toileting.
- Always use proper wiping, front to back. Model this and teach it to your daughter. It is especially important for girls so no excrement gets into the vaginal opening.
- Consider where the most absorbent part of your daughter's back-up is. Look for diapers or training pants with the most absorbency underneath and in back.
- Capitalize on your daughter's verbal skills by talking to her about toileting.
- Capitalize on your daughter's fine motor skills by using sign language to communicate about toileting.
- Girls can be sensitive to facial expressions. Be careful not to reprimand or overly praise through your facial expressions. Use facial expressions to non-verbally communicate about pottying in a non-judgemental way. Girls may also enjoy pottying facing you.
- Girls are likely to use or respond to communication and intuitive signals and cues. Look for facial expressions, sounds or words, looking at the potty, and sign language as possible elimination signals. Words, sounds, and sign language are all excellent cues for girls.
- Entertain girls on the potty or toilet with faces, stuffed animals, dolls, books, and songs.
- Capitalize on your daughter's keen sense of collaboration and find ways for her to cooperate with the pottying process.
- Talk about how EC makes your daughter feel, especially emotionally.
- When talking about genitalia parents are much less likely to discuss "girl parts" as opposed to "boy parts" which can leave girls feeling like there is something bad, wrong, or dirty about their parts. Similarly, be careful when discussing differences in girl's and boy's genitalia. Say, "You have a vagina" rather than "You don't have a penis." Consider in advance how you will refer to your daughter's genitals. Girls should know that the outside is the vulva and the inside is the vagina. Allow girls to explore their genitals without giving the impression that there is something wrong with it. Name her genital parts for her just like you would any other body part.
Tips for EC'ing Boys
ECing a boy is a lot of fun! Many boys have excellent gross motor skills helping them with getting to, and on and off, a potty or toilet. The ability to aim a boy can be helpful for pottying him disreetly into a bottle or small container. Boys' clothing doesn't need to be completely removed for them to urinate. Here are some tips for EC'ing boys.
- Choose a potty with a splash guard, but be careful his penis does not get caught on it.
- Practice pottying positions and aiming at home.
- Check the position of your baby's penis before cueing. If your son's penis is in an odd position you will get an unwelcome or unexpected spray.
- Choose two-piece outfits, instead of overalls or coveralls, for pottying convienence. You could also leave the underneath snaps of a coverall open to create a split crotch pant, or use real split crotch pants.
- Have dad or older brothers model proper toileting, especially aiming and standing to urinate.
- Position your son's penis before cueing. Touching his penis mid-stream can cause him to stop peeing.
- Consider where the most absorbent part of your son's back-up is. Look for diapers or training pants with the most absorbency in the front.
- Your baby's penis can give you clues about when he needs to pee. It is common for a baby boy's penis to "plump" (different from an erection which baby boys also experience) prior to eliminating. Babies with intact foreskins often "balloon-up" just prior to urination.
- Your boy may be more likely to use and respond to physical signals and cues. Look for an increase in activity, banging on the potty, and tapping on you or his crotch, as possible physical signals for the need to use the potty. Positioning, seating baby on the potty or toilet, flexing the adult's abdominal muscles as if bearing down while baby is in-arms, and exhaling or blowing on the top of the baby's head are all excellent physical cues boys may respond well to.
- Capitalize on your son's gross motor skills and allow him the leeway to experiment with getting to the potty
- Use sign language in addition to words to communicate about pottying.
- Keep boys occupied on the potty with toys that can be manipulated. Try putting a baby gym in front of him. Toys that move, such as spinning gears may also hold his interest.
- A single face may not interest him on the toilet or potty, but a group of sibling faces might.
- Boys can be big risk takers so take extra precautions to make pottying safe.
- Your boy may enjoy having a potty just for him, in his own spot.
- Capitalize on your son's keen sense of independence and make it as easy as possible for him to do things himself.
- Talk to your son about how EC makes him feel physically
- Allow your son to explore his genitals without judgment. Name his genitals the same way you would with any other body part.
Extra Tips For Aiming Boys
- Early on, hold a small potty between your thighs and your baby in the Basic Under The Thigh Hold shown in Pottying Positions on the DiaperFreeBaby website. Tip the potty towards you and place your baby's entire bottom into the potty. Lean slightly forward to aim your baby's penis downward into the potty.
- Aim your baby's penis downward with your index finger as you hold him in the Basic Under The Thigh Hold.
- Help your baby lean forward on the potty or seat reducer to aim his penis downward. Make sure he is sitting far enough back on the potty to have room for the urine stream to go into the potty
- Allow him to practice aiming through the natural exploration of his penis as he urinates
- Face him towards the back of the toilet when holding him over the toilet or on a seat reducer
- Talk to your baby about the expectation of the urine going into the toilet or potty, "Point your penis in the potty. That's where the pee pee goes."
- Try holding him in an "airplane" position over the toilet
- Try having him practice aiming in the great outdoors
- Try floating a piece of toilet paper, tissue paper, or an O-shaped piece of cereal in the potty for your older ECer to practice aiming
- Use food coloring to color the toilet water and have him practice aiming while changing its color.
Remember not to let everything boil down to gender, however. Other factors which can impact your EC experiences are how much experience you have with EC, how many other children you have, how much help you have with child care and EC, what your local EC support is like, whether you work outside the home or not, what the climate is like where you live, and the personality of your EC'ed child.
Answers to Survey Question: Has Anyone Else Been Inspired to Start EC'ing Because of You?
Yes! At least three women that I met through a babywearing group and La Leche League found out about EC from me and have been doing great with it. A couple of them were also great with cloth diapering and using baby underwear and I wish I was as successful as they seem to be.
Ilana, 3 children, ages 3 1/2 and under, Maryland
A couple of folks come to mind immediately; I'm sure there are more!
-My sister, when her baby daughter was chronically constipated. She started EC, and it helped a lot with that.
-My son's pre-kindergarten teacher. She was looking for a way to help her son learn to use the toilet, but wasn't happy with any approach she could find. We talked about EC, and she loved that approach. She is technically a late-starter but completely on board.
-My best friend in LA. She had twins, and she doesn't EC fulltime. But she started EC with them at birth, doing diaper free time and noticing their cues, and feels it is one of the ways that they got to know the girls and to get closer to them.
Marie, 2 children, ages 5 and 2, MA
One of my dearest friends, who thought she was done having children, had a litte girl in June 2007. She thought I was nuts to practice EC with my daughter, but she found herself doing her own version with her daughter.
Samantha, 1 child, age 4, Indiana
Yes, my cousins in FL who have newborns
Honey, 1 child, age 1, NY
No, not yet but I just started. I have no doubt they will if this works!
Laury, infant twins, NY
I was inspired to start EC when I read about The Diaper-Free Baby on an Amazon list when I was pregnant. I got the book, started EC'ing the baby in the hospital, and the rest has been a pretty cool journey. When we are out, we seldom miss a pee, though we do miss. I know Sabrina, who is now almost 10 months, is going through developmental changes but I also know that she knows when she has gone. Though sometimes she tells me afterwards or I misunderstand her signals, she understands what is going on with her own body. Isn't that the goal? In that, we are definitely succeeding.
I have inspired other people in my community here in Sunnyside, Queens. At a meeting with other moms and babies, I took Sabrina to the bathroom. One other mom I know had read about EC and she was interested. I admitted that we did it and told her that it was working well for us and encouraged her to try it, so she started EC'ing part-time. A third, like-minded friend starting EC-ing her infant daughter as well. Because we mentioned EC in passing on our community online group, a group of other moms picked up on it, too. I now know personally 7 other women who EC. I don't know if I inspired all of them, but I do know that I helped create a community where people know, " Oh, Joy EC's her daughter." When asked I always try to explain it the best I can--I am glad I have the book to refer people to, though. It's like there is an expert in the matter and it's not just some crazy thing I made up. And before I started it, no one mentioned it online or to me. So it is pretty thrilling. And nice to have a community, too. Though we EC full time, I try to encourage other moms to try it, part-time, to see if it works for them.
Joy, 1 child, 10 months, NY
My friend saw me EC'ing Lu when she was a baby and her daughter was 1.5 years old. She started struggling with potty training soon thereafter. While Lu used her daughter's potty every time we went to visit, said daughter did not take to it quite so readily. So when she was pregnant with her second, I gave her a copy of an EC book. She started EC'ing her son soon after birth, and continues to do so.
And I'm sure there were at least a few people who were inspired by watching the Today show segment on DiaperFreeBaby and such.
Kate, mom of 2, NY
I know for sure that at least two people EC'ed because of me, but it is quite possible that the actual number is higher. However, two close friends have EC'ed after watching me do it with Haakon. Both of them are very happy that they are doing it with their kids. They both started from birth. One had an older child who was diapered and who has no interest in potty training. He finally started peeing free of a diaper at 4.5 years old. He still uses a diaper to poop. This friend has felt badly about using diapers with her son and feels so much better EC'ing her baby.
My other friend has a 21 month old and can't believe that she talks to people who are just starting to think about these things.
I, myself, can't think of doing it any other way.
Dara, 2 children, NY
New Survey Question
What are your favorite strategies for getting through a potty pause? Email us your answers at email@example.com for publication in the next newsletter. Include your first name, location, and number of children and their ages.
DiaperFreeBaby and EC In the News
Once again DiaperFreeBaby generously participated in media pieces of all types worldwide throughout the year.
Newspaper articles included "Moms Use Process of Elimination" in the Chicago Sun Times, an environmentally focused article for Earth Day titled "Born Free" in The Ottawa Sun Times in Canada, and an article in the Health section of the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina featuring an interview with new Mentor Sarah Wood.
Media interest in Canada continued with a news piece by CTV Ottawa and a new show, Club Social, based in Montreal on TV5. King TV Seattle also presented the feature story "'Potty talk' helps babies become diaper-free" on the King 5 News. The piece featured an interview with Nadine Martinez who has since become a Mentor and a Healthcare Provider Member, and Kerste Connor a Mentor and the Mentor Coordinator on our Leadership Council.
Radio pieces included a WCCO Minneapolis interview with Melinda Rothstein, our DiaperFreeBaby co-founder and Executive Director, and a call-in from Kandace our Twin Cities Mentor. The Culture Shock show on BBC Radio was a fun piece featuring an interview with London Mentor Rebecca.
Internet: iParenting presented the article "Elimination Communication: Can infants really be potty trained?"
Parents and Kids Magazine and Omaha World Herald in Nebraska both mentioned EC and DiaperFreeBaby in articles on parenting and potty training.
DiaperFreeBaby Events and Programs
During 2008 events took center stage! Over the course of the year Mentors participated in speaking engagements, festivals, playgroups, maternity fairs, conferences, picnics, and retail store exhibits.
Some of these events had a theme like clean Earth...happy baby(TM) at the St Louis Earth Day Festival in Missouri and the Green Days Fair at Great Beginnings in Maryland. Other events, such as Babywearing International's Babywearing Conference, offered The DiaperFreeChallenge(TM). The Babywearing Conference was the test event for The Potty Spot "pottying station".
Other events presented in collaboration with other organizations including La Leche League at Everett Fun Days in Washington, the LLL of Washington Area Conference, the LLL of Massachusetts/Rhode Island/Vermont Area Conference, and the LLL of North Eastern North Carolina Pool Party; the Holistic Moms Network in Twin Cities Minnesota; an Ontario Early Years Centre workshop in Ontario Canada. DiaperFreeBaby of Northwest Indiana participated in a special Mother's Day meeting for Indiana Birth C.H.O.I.C.E.S.
Other Mentors presented in conjunction with businesses including the >From Mine to Yours Consignment sale in Farmington Minnesota and a Diaper Parties party and presentation in Atlanta Georgia.
There were presentations at small playgroups such as Growing Wild in Arizona and huge expositions including the BabyTime Expo in Washington. Fairs and festivals, such as Celebrate Mama in Maryland and the Maternity Fair in Kentucky, rounded out the events DiaperFreeBaby participated in during 2008.
Each event, no matter how big or small, was another opportunity to bring the joy of EC to more families.
clean Earth...happy baby!(TM)
The Earth Day festival was a huge success!!! We had a lot of people come by the booth. Many had never heard about EC and were interested in learning more (and took brochures), and some had heard of EC and/or were already doing it. (Jennifer Carson, Mentor)
We were introduced to this song by Kimya Dawson - hope you and your children like it as much as we do!
click on track 11