Infant Pottying Today - Issue No. 6
A publication about Elimination Communication from DiaperFreeBaby
Sophie, age 6 months, on her potty. Sophie started EC at 3 months old.
Letter From the Editor
Welcome to a brand new year of life with your baby. We are glad to welcome you to DiaperFreeBaby.org if you are new to this organization, and thank you for being a part of our community if you have been here before. We are looking forward to another exciting year of supporting families in the practice of elimination communication. Last year we initiated our membership drive, which provides a way for everyone to help support our mission at DiaperFreeBaby. This year, we are proud to support our own Christine Gross-Loh, our Infant Pottying Today editor who has just had a new baby and published a book, The Diaper Free Baby. Read a review of that book right here in this newsletter. Christine has been traveling around with her family promoting her book, and will undoubtedly have new insights for us. Look for an article on Traveling and EC in a future issue!
Meanwhile, in this issue, we bring you Angie Donnelson's sweet account of learning about and beginning to practice EC as well as some answers to your questions and some more useful tips. My article about Part-time EC will hopefully inspire you to get started if you are considering EC, and shed some light on the part-time approach in general. Christine's book has so much more on that subject, I can't help mentioning it again!
Finally, we hope you will send responses to our survey to us at Infant Pottying Today. Send your comments, questions, and creative submissions to the Publications department.
We look forward to hearing from you!
Cover Story: Part-time EC
by Caren Polner
If the idea of practicing EC seems daunting to you; or if you have begun practicing EC and are feeling challenged, consider a part-time approach. Practicing EC part-time basically means that you are not attempting to catch all of your baby's elimination. There are many reasons families might choose to pursue this approach. For some, part-time EC is a way to begin communicating with your baby in this way. For others, it is a way to feel relaxed. A part-time approach offers a way to reassess your family's needs if you have grown frustrated with your communications with your baby. Part-time EC can be a way to transition into full-time EC. Lastly, part-time EC is a viable choice when your baby's environment does not support EC on a full-time basis.
A way to begin
Focusing on bowel movements is a easy way to begin EC. Bowel movements are usually fairly easy to predict in newborns and older babies alike. A grimace, heavy breathing, passing gas, or knowing your baby's patterns helps. A grimace, passing gas, or just knowledge of your baby's patterns helps you know when to offer the potty. Wiping a baby's bottom after a poop on the potty is so much easier than wiping his whole behind after a poop in a diaper. You will find it rewarding, and it's a lot more comfortable for your baby than going in a diaper. Meanwhile, keep using diapers to catch the pees until you are ready for more.
A way to relax
One of the most frequent questions from people new to EC is how to protect furniture, clothing, and floors. The fact is that if you are holding a scantily clad baby you will get peed on eventually. American diapering culture has gotten us parents scared of getting peed on, a hang-up ECers eventually lose. However, in the beginning it can be stressful to worry about getting wet or dirty. Without giving up diapers, pay attention to your baby's movement and verbalization signs, and notice when she is wet or soiled. Even if you are not attempting to take her to the potty, you are building your EC vocabulary and understanding of your baby. If you notice what she is doing, you can talk to her about it. Eventually you may feel inclined to offer more pottytunities.
Infants pee fairly often, and you might not be prepared to try to catch the pees all the time. It can be discouraging to have many misses, and you need to balance your EC practice with your baby's and family's other needs. If trying to catch the pees is stressful, don't make it a priority. As your baby gets older, and the interval between pees becomes longer, you and your baby will surely have more opportunities for more success and communication. Any chance you do have to put the baby on the potty - during a diaper change or a clothing change, for example - is a learning opportunity for you and your baby. So whatever is comfortable is the right thing for you to do. Your attention to your baby's needs will translate into positive communication later on.
A way to reassess
As with any other aspect of parenting, frustrations can arise that seem to have no solution. Perhaps you have been missing more than you've been catching; perhaps the child is suddenly more reluctant to use the potty; perhaps the baby is developing new ways to communicate which don't make sense to you yet. Trying less hard can often help you get a clearer picture of what is going on. With babies under a year old you can easily switch to a different form of backup (cloth or disposable diaper) and feel comfortable being less conscious of your child's pottying needs, just for a while. You may find that new patterns are easier to see from an emotional or physical distance, and once you've had a chance to regroup and reassess you can go back to full-time EC with fewer frustrations.
A way to transition to full-time EC
If you are ready to do EC but are not ready to go "diaper-free,"* a part-time approach is a good way to begin. Take your baby to the potty when it is convenient: any time you would think to change the diaper or change clothes. For example: upon awakening, before leaving the house, when you yourself are using the bathroom, after meals or feedings, when washing up before bed or changing into pajamas, just before sleep, upon night-time awakenings. Cue your baby with a "psss" sound and talk about what you are doing. You may be surprised by your baby peeing or pooping in the potty at one of these times. Your attention to your baby's elimination behavior will gradually lead you to offer more, and more well-timed pottytunities. Do what feels comfortable to you and your baby. As you grow more confident at reading your baby's signs, change your method of "backup" (diapers or absorbent pants). Using cloth as backup is recommended because it gives both you and your baby better feedback about elimination patterns, and encourages you to be more attentive (a baby will still be "dry" after one pee in a disposable diaper; a cloth diaper or pant needs to be changed immediately). If you have a limited supply of cloth backup, use them up and then use disposables for the rest of the day (or until you do the laundry). From there you will either be inspired to use more cloth pants, or you will find yourself needing fewer of them. Push yourself a little further every now and then by leaving the pants off entirely for a while. Some people find that "taking the plunge" by taking off the diapers and training pants actually leads to more "success" in pottying, especially when it feels like the baby has lost interest or begun to have more misses. If this works for you it will be inspiring. If it creates more stress, try it again in a few weeks.
A way to do EC at all
Perhaps your baby spends most or part of his day with at a daycare center which is unwilling to support EC. Or perhaps one of his caretakers is a parent or grandparent who is still uncomfortable with the whole idea or is unwilling to participate. For an infant or younger baby, it is not a problem to abandon EC at these times. When you are home or with baby and able to tune in and practice EC, then do it. Babies are resilient and flexible and will most likely be fine with this. As baby gets older she will likely communicate her preferences. And by then, perhaps the alternate caregivers will be happy to comply when baby clearly signals her need for the potty! (Just remember to share with the other caregivers your baby's particular vocal or hand signal!)
Whether you are trying to catch all your baby's eliminations, or just doing it part time, paying attention to your baby's elimination patterns increases the level of communication you have with your baby, and so often provides valuable insights into your baby's behavior. The key is to stay comfortable with what you are doing, and decrease, rather than increase, the stress on yourself, your baby, and your family.
*Note that it is possible, and common, to do full-time EC with backup (cloth, disposables, or absorbent pants).
The Forgotten Joy of Infant Potty Training--or Did you know your baby can be diaper free?
Did you know your baby can be diaper free? I didn't, but I always wondered how those Eskimo mamas carried their babies in their parkas all day without smelling like a potty. I wondered in the back of my mind what in the world moms in tribal villages did for diapers. I struggled with a daughter who withheld her bowel movements and wet her bed, and with boys who soiled their underpants and I wondered if there was a different way. I'm not a very commanding presence, and all the potty training books said not to pressure your kids to go potty. So I didn't. I had 3 kids who finished their potty training at around three or four years old. And that was that. Potty training was a necessary uphill battle for softy mommies like me: a rite of passage.
But one day I read an article. It said that babies could go potty from birth...that you could actually communicate with your sweet new baby about their elimination needs. I was shocked! I vaguely remembered hearing of a mom who had potty trained her babies, but I always thought it would be too much work. I had a 4 month old baby at the time, and a 3 year old boy right in the midst of potty training, so I was open to any ideas I could get. Skeptically, I borrowed from my local library the book mentioned in the article. It had the very cutesy title,"Trickle Treat," and I wasn't prepared to take it very seriously. I had to satisfy my curiosity, however, and the night I got the book, I read it from cover to cover. It sounded like something I could actually do! Normally, I don't do well with any sort of regimented training. I'm an anti-scheduling, attachment parenting mama, and that's why trying any "method" intimidated me.
The next day I secretly set out to try what the book said to do. I didn't tell any friends or even my husband, because I thought they'd tell me it was too much work, or just think I was trying another crazy idea. I canceled all homeschooling for the day, and set my baby, without diaper, on a waterproof pad and set to work. We cooed at each other and smiled and generally enjoyed ourselves. She nursed and slept and did all her baby things, and I wrote down all the times she peed or pooped. As soon as she did either one, I'd cheerfully clean it up right away, and let Saraiah enjoy herself some more.
The book had told me that babies generally go potty very soon after waking, and about a half hour after nursing. When I looked at all the times I had written down, I found that the book was indeed correct. I was getting a little more confident in the whole idea of getting to know when Saraiah needed to go, so a half hour after her next nursing, I took her, held her in a little squatting position against my chest and over our bathroom sink and said "ssss." Saraiah flared her nostrils a little, got a very serious look on her face and lo and behold, the pee flowed! Saraiah relaxed, and then grinned at herself and her mommy in the mirror. I squealed with delight, told all my kids, and excitedly demonstrated Saraiah's amazing peeing powers when my husband came home that evening. My best friend, who's pregnant, came over and as she watched, her jaw dropped. She now is using the method with her one year old and plans on using it with her newborn!
Two and a half months later, Saraiah is going without diapers and occasionally wetting when I don't catch her. Pooping is the easiest part...that happens once a day, usually when she gets up in the morning. I've cleaned up poop I haven't caught about ten times. How does this work? The book I read said that babies are born with the ability to control the muscles that release urine and stool on cue. When a mama holds her baby in a squatting position when baby's bladder or bowels need relieving, and says "ssss," baby releases those muscles and lets it out. The position and the sound help to cue the baby to do her duty. Babies forget how to control those muscles when we let them go in a diaper over the course of several years, so it's harder to figure it all out again, thus the myriad potty training problems I experienced. This method can be used with babies from birth and can be adapted for older babies as well.
I feel like I can be a more relaxed and low pressure mom now that I don't have to stress about potty training, and I am excited to share that with whoever wants to know! We can bond with our babies on such a sweet level when we are in tune with their basic bodily needs. We breastfeed them when they ask, and we can even help them to let out whatever their body doesn't use! What an beautiful thing, to be designed to be so in touch with our babies!
Ed. Note: The book Angie read is called "Trickle-Treat" by Laurie Boucke. Other books on EC by Laurie Bouke are available at the DiaperFreeShop on our website.
Question from an EC Family
Can I do EC if I have older children to take care of?
Of course! When pottying is not possible because of the priority of an older child, something like, "Mama is busy right now taking care of sister/brother. It is okay to use your diaper and I will change you as quickly as possible" can keep the communication strong. Some days just offering the potty during diaper changes is all that can be managed, and that's just fine. The important thing is that the communication about where the elimination goes is maintained.
In addition, seeing the baby on the potty or eliminating without a diaper may inspire other children who are not potty independent to use the potty. Pottying can become a family affair and everyone can go together. That way, regular pottytunities are available.
Sometimes older children (even pre-schoolers) will pick up on the baby's signals that a caregiver may be unable to ascertain for whatever reason. Enlisting an older child's help in this way gets baby to the potty and the older child involved in a completely different way.
What kinds of signals indicate that my baby needs to go?
The following are some behaviors to look for which might indicate a need to use the potty:
Squirming or fussing: Many people only think of these as a sign of hunger, sleepiness, or boredom, but you can try offering the potty as well.
Change in activity level: Some babies might get really active while others might pause in activity and even stare.
Facial expression: Babies often have a particular grimace, strain, or just exhibit a certain look.
Vocalization: Some babies grunt or increase the speed and volume of their sounds. Some babies quiet down noticeably.
A "shiver": A baby will sometimes quiver a little, which is often followed by staring or smiling.
Passing gas: This is a really obvious sign. Even if they don't have bowel movements at the time, some babies feel more comfortable passing gas sitting on a toilet or potty.
Book Review: The Diaper-Free Baby
by Amanda Alvine
In The Diaper-Free Baby, Christine Gross-Loh gives us a resource for parents who are interested in Elimination Communication (EC) but are not quite sure it will work with their own lives. The wide spectrum she describes for EC leaves a lot of possible comfort zones open—both the parent eager to take the diaper off immediately and the parent who prefers to get in sync by cuing the baby while he eliminates in a diaper will find useful tips and suggestions here.
Gross-Loh describes three tracks that parents can use to approach EC—"full time," "part time," and "occasional." This can be very helpful for parents who can only offer the potty once a day or even once a week, and feel that therefore they are not really ECing. The three tracks are described as fluid, and a family's EC journey can move from one to the other as their lives change. The focus is placed on EC as a journey. The description of a parent coming to a "loose awareness of a baby's pattern" helps to dispel the image of hovering. By laying out the possibility of occasional EC, and by continually highlighting little ways to get started and encouraging newcomers to "try it once and you'll be hooked!" Gross-Loh presents EC as something that any parent can do.
After a preface by Rachel Milgroom and Melinda Rothstein, co-founders of DiaperFreeBaby, The Diaper-Free Baby begins with a chapter defining what EC is and why people do it and then follows with chapters on finding support and helpful gear. In the chapter, "Gathering Support and Making the Leap," Gross-Loh includes a helpful discussion of how to talk about EC with a loved one who disagrees. The chapter on gear includes a section on babywearing and an overview of cloth diapers. Both can be very useful for those whom would like to use cloth diaper backup or baby carriers to support their practice of EC but are not familiar with what is available.
Next come chapters dedicated to the various ages and stages of EC. Any of these chapters can be read alone, for when an issue comes up in more than one phase, Gross-Loh revisits it in each appropriate chapter. This not only serves to make the chapters stand alone, but also offers a helpful refresher for someone reading the whole book. The age-related chapters contain sections on positions, signals, night-time, and EC on the go, as well as handy Q & A reference lists. Numerous anecdotes from ECing parents (and other caregivers!) are incorporated into the main text. Some of the quotes are very practical, while others offer a bit of encouragement or a glimpse of the big picture. Throughout, the book includes plenty of review and refresher sections, which I found helped to keep me focused while I read it in fits and spurts and nursings-to-sleep.
A chapter entitled "If your situation is a little different" covers issues specific to working parents, parents of multiples, tandem pottiers, children with disabilities, and children older than traditional EC ages. Again, the chapter is filled with anecdotes from other parents who have been there.
The Diaper-Free Baby is written in a conversational, parent-friendly tone. With its practical suggestions, groups of anecdotes and handy tips on how EC can work for different families, it can read a bit like a DiaperFreeBaby meeting right in your bag. It retails at $15.95, and can be found in many bookstores including the DiaperFreeBaby shop!
Survey Question: What do people say when you are ECing?
One friend said "Let me see your party trick" to my son when he was about six months old as I was taking him to the toilet. She doesn't really think it is possible for babies to know that they have to pee/poop.
Another friend told me "You are crazy for doing that (EC)." She said I must be stuck at home all of the time.
A pediatrician we saw for a sick visit was excited to hear about EC and took the time to write down the web address for Diaper Free Baby when I told her about it. She said she likes to learn about new things from her patients. All of this came up because I stepped out during an appt. so that Nathan could pee-he was quite squirmy until I took him to the toilet.
A friend who was skeptical when we started ECing our baby remarked
last week that after changing a "really gross poop" for her 18m old daughtershe thought that I might be onto something. I reminded her that she could do it with her baby who is due next week and she just laughed.
"I think babies should just be allowed to be babies and not worrying
about peeing or pooping in their diaper."
The most common thing I get is just friendly curiosity: "Are you training him? I saw that on TV - does it really work?"
Ha ha, no one ever saw me EC my baby. Whenever anyone asked Marc about how Hannah got "potty trained" so early, he always said, "She did it herself (with a little help from Linda)."
New Survey Question
What was your funniest EC moment? Please write to tell us about it!
This month's creative selection is from Japan, c.1790.
We certainly don't know the artist personally, but we feel certain the image is illustrating an EC moment. Take a look and let us know what you think!