Loving, gentle potty training with babies can save the environment and save parents from a prolonged potty training experience with a willful toddler.
What is Elimination Communication?
Elimination Communication, or EC, is a potty training technique based on communication between the caregiver and baby. The caregiver offers the baby opportunities to eliminate outside of a diaper at regular intervals and gradually the baby becomes able to communicate to the parent that they need to go. The terms EC and Natural Infant Hygiene were coined by Ingrid Bauer in her book Diaper Free! The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene. This method can be used with babies from newborn to toddler, and is easy to learn.
Elimination Communication Benefits
In our culture of diapering children until they are two, three or even four, it seems impossible that newborn babies are able to eliminate in a potty. But many, many parents have found that it works, and can work very well indeed. EC has many benefits, including better hygiene for baby, fewer disposable diapers in our landfills, reduction in soap and water used to launder cloth diapers, earlier toilet training and far fewer dirty diapers to change.
How Does Elimination Communication Work?
Elimination Communication has two major components:
1. Observation. Most moms or other primary caregivers can tell, simply by looking at their child, when they are hungry, tired or bored. In fact, many parents can tell when their child is eliminating in a diaper and will simply wait until the child is finished before changing them. By observing things like facial expression, fussiness, the amount of time that has passed since the last potty trip, other child-specific cues and their own intuition, the caregiver can predict when their child is likely to need to go to the toilet.
2. Cueing. When the caregiver takes the baby to the potty, he or she makes a specific noise each time. The cueing noise does two things: in small babies, it makes them more aware of the feeling of elimination and associates that feeling with the cue. In older babies, the cue tells them that they are in a place where they can eliminate if they want to.
Is Elimination Communication a Lot of Work?
It doesn’t have to be! The beauty of EC is that it can be modified to suit any family’s needs. You can choose to use diapers as backup all the time, part of the time, or not at all. You can EC once a day, twice a day, or twenty times a day. The important thing is to be consistent and relaxed. The goal is not to prevent any wet diapers or messes to clean up, but to provide your child with the opportunity to stay clean and dry and to preserve their natural bodily awareness of their elimination needs.
Will it Harm My Baby?
Many experts say that a child should be exhibiting certain signs of readiness before being offered the potty, in order to prevent traumatizing him by introducing the potty too early. Previous early toilet training methods were punitive and shameful to the child, which is why today’s guidelines are respectful of the child’s readiness and willingness to learn.
However, leaving toddlers and preschoolers in super-absorbent disposable diapers until they decide they are ready to use the toilet simply trains them that a diaper is the correct place to relieve themselves. It can be a difficult task to unteach this. EC is a practice based on loving, gentle communication and awareness between caregiver and child, and when done in this way it is not at all harmful.
Who Else is Doing EC?
It’s easy to feel like the oddball at the playgroup when you are the only one in your social circle who practices EC. But you are not alone. In fact, more and more people in western countries are starting to do EC as awareness grows. It is still traditionally practiced in many developing countries, where people cannot afford to purchase or launder diapers. Diaper Free Baby, Mothering.com EC Forum, Elimination Communication Yahoo Group, and Ingrid Bauer – Natural Infant Hygiene are online groups that offer support and practical guidance for those considering giving elimination communication a try.
Originally published on Suite101.com on October 7, 2007.