"Think Elimination Communication's Not For You? Think Again!"
by Christine Gross-Loh (Contact, New York )
As the mother of two sons and a DiaperFreeBaby Contact in New York City, I encounter a range of reactions when people find out that my little ones were in underwear when they were so young. Although most people are intrigued and amazed when they hear about Elimination Communication (EC), they are also often skeptical that it could ever work for their own families. Below, I've listed the most commonly cited reasons parents believe the EC lifestyle won't work for them. Consider these reasons if you're interested in EC but have doubts or have friends who wonder if EC is for them.
1. "I work outside the home."
EC is about communication, and anyone can learn to communicate with a child. If your partner, relatives, or caregiver are reluctant to try EC because they don't understand it, give them some time. Your baby may figure out how to communicate her own needs as well. My favorite anecdote is from a working mom who said that her baby's nanny refused to do EC - until one day the baby herself signaled that she needed to go. The nanny was an enthusiastic EC advocate after that! If you find that your baby is really only going to be EC'ed when you are around, that's fine too - she can switch between diapers and the potty very easily - just as babies can learn to go between the breast and the bottle.
2. "I don't want a mess all over my house - isn't EC difficult to do in Western society?"
Some parents will make changes to their house - taking up the rugs temporarily, perhaps focusing on EC in one room, and so on. It's really not for very long. As you and your baby learn to be more in tune with each other, you will find you have fewer misses to deal with - and this is something you'd likely have to go through if you were conventionally toilet-training a child anyway. And you can always use diapers as back-up if it helps you feel more relaxed.
3. "Isn't EC kind of weird - like you're hovering over your child, waiting for her to pee or poop?"
About the hovering - well, many parents are in close proximity to their newborn babies. It's a misconception that they are going to spend all that time hovering and waiting for the next pee or poop. Parents seem to quickly pick up on their baby's elimination patterns. If you have a crawling exploring older baby, it can be hard to keep her close by even if you want to. There are certainly new challenges to EC'ing a mobile baby. But I - like many EC'ing parents - found that being so in tune with my baby meant that sometimes I could just "know" he had to go to the bathroom even if I was in another room. It sounds incredible, I know, but it's true.
4. "I have older children to take care of too."
Older children get used to interruptions - and they quickly learn that you are as present for them as you can be even while feeding or changing a baby - so EC is not really any different from any other form of baby care. Older brothers and sisters can also be intuitive and communicative with their baby siblings, even more so than their parents! I recall many times my older son would let me know that the younger one had to go to the bathroom when I wasn't being attentive. They are also great models - babies learn so much watching their siblings use the toilet. Finally, the enhanced communication your EC'ed baby experiences with you is something your children will experience between them as well.
5. "I am too overwhelmed."
EC can be done part-time. There were times during my second child's infancy when I could not do EC more than once a week! At those times, my goal was simply to maintain my own awareness and to help him retain his bodily awareness by changing him as soon as he went, verbally acknowledging every elimination that I was aware of (even if I couldn't get him to a potty on time), and just doing it whenever I could (and not stressing out when I couldn't). The key is to make it about communication - the actual act of "catching" is less important than communicating and acknowledging what your child is doing. I often suggest to people just to try it for a half-hour each day - let your baby go bare-bottomed on cloth diapers. Or try putting your baby on the potty before bathtime and make it a fun ritual. Even done part time, it makes for a beautiful, bonding experience.
6."We live in a city."
I'm raising my children in cities. Being an "urban EC'er," as one Diaper Free Baby Mentor puts it, has its challenges, of course, but it's easier in other ways as well. You just have to adjust your thinking. It's not a big deal to pop a portable little plastic bowl in your diaper bag - after all, there's plenty of room if you're not using as many diapers, and a bowl can be a good deal lighter to carry than diapering supplies. There's virtually always going to be someplace to stop if your baby has to go to the bathroom, which isn't always the case elsewhere. Also, just as a parent might loosely plan around feeding or nap schedules, once you develop an awareness of your own baby's elimination patterns you will develop an awareness of optimal times to your outings.
7."I think it's training the parent, not the child. And wouldn't it just be easier for my child to train on his own when he's older?"
EC'ers hear this a lot. If you think that learning to tell when your baby is hungry or sleepy is "training" you, then yes, learning to read your baby's cues that she needs to go to the bathroom could also be considered parent training, I suppose. However, I prefer to emphasize that it's not about training at all. EC is not potty training. It's engaging in communication and being in tune with your wonderful baby by responding to a basic need. There's nothing negative about being "trained" in this way.
Of course, all children eventually become toilet independent as older toddlers or preschoolers. But EC'ed babies have the opportunity to experience the independence of really understanding their bodies well before that. If you have ever seen an eight-month old signal that she has to use the toilet, or a one year old run over to a potty and use it on his own while delighting in the whole process, you will have no doubt that EC'ed children experience a unique feeling of self-sufficiency and self-awareness. Also, because using a potty is second nature to EC'ed children, the transition to full toilet independence is usually smooth.
Above all else, realize that focusing on "training" leads us away from what EC is really about. EC is not so much about the result (a toilet-independent child) as it is about the process of communication.
8. "I've decided to try it, and it's just not working - we have so many misses. I'm just not in tune with my baby."
Elimination communication used to be practiced throughout society, and being surrounded by support and guidance was a given. This is why seeking out support - whether online or through your local DiaperFreeBaby support group - is essential to success. Find a support group and other resources at diaperfreebaby.org.