What you will need –
A sense of humour!
A little bit of patience!
A pot/container/toilet/sink/potty to catch your prize!
What it’s all about –
Elimination communication, nappy free baby, natural infant hygiene – there are many names for it and it is practiced widely across the world. To many, it is so unquestioningly natural that they don’t even have a name for it.
The first thing to remember is that Elimination Communication is NOT about the catches. Yes they are very rewarding and there is nothing like the feeling you get when you catch your first wee/poo on the potty (you will be showing everyone who cares to look!) but EC is about communicating with your baby. EC is not potty training, there are no rewards for going, no disapproval for “a miss”. It is simply about getting to know your baby’s cues and meeting their elimination needs by helping them to go to the toilet in a suitable place.
In the early days with a newborn it can seem like all their signals blend in to one, but as you get to know them you can pick out when he is hungry, when he is tired and if you know what you are looking for you will soon recognise when your baby needs to eliminate too. Signals to look out for are crying, squirming and fidgeting, popping on and off during feeds and kicking their legs. As poos become more solid, grunting and a strained “poo face” are very obvious signals.
Some babies signal in a more obvious way than others and if your baby is a stealth eliminator, there are a few things you can do. The first is to offer the potty based on timing. The most reliable times to catch a wee are in the few minutes after waking from a sleep, after feeds and after a change of position, for example when they come out of the car seat or sling. Often a newborn will do a wee and a poo together.
TIP – Newborns will often do their poos in bursts. If they produce something in the pot and are still happy in position it is a good idea to keep them over it a bit longer to make sure they are finished. You will get to know your baby’s individual pattern but you may find at first that you get a catch, only to have to change their nappy or clothes minutes later!
The other thing to try is going nappy free. This can be for an hour, a few hours or all day, it is entirely up to you. Nappy free is the fastest way to learn your baby’s elimination cues. When they wee or poo, try to recall what they were doing just before. You may realise that in hindsight, they were demonstrating very clear signals to you. If you are going to go nappy free, a towel or a prefold cloth nappy under baby will help to protect your clothes or carpet. Baby legs or split crotch trousers are a great way to keep little legs warm!
The best time to start EC is within 6 months of birth, when they are still aware of their eliminations and have not learned to ignore these sensations. That being said I know of people who have had success much later with 1 year old’s who have started to recognise their need to eliminate and done so with the support of a parent recognising their cues.
Cloth nappies are a great backup if you don’t want to go nappy free, as they allow the baby to feel the wetness against her skin and associate this feeling with eliminating. You can use them without a cover if you want to be able to see as soon as your baby has eliminated, which gives you the chance to change them immediately so that they don’t get used to the feeling of being wet.
So how do we do it?
Positioning will vary depending on the age of your baby and their preferences. I started with my son at 4 weeks old and he did not like the potty to begin with. Instead I used a small pot which I held between my thighs. I held him under his thighs with his back against my chest and he felt more secure like this. After a week of doing this we tried a full sized potty again which I held him over, hands under thighs and he was happy to use it. Still now at 1 year old I sit behind him as I find that it is a good position for wiping, reading stories and to stop him diving off the potty spilling its contents everywhere!
A lot of people use a verbal cue or sound to signal to the baby that it is ok to go. Popular ones are “pssss” or “shhhhh” – we have always used “psssshh” and we found that after a few weeks of using it, he would always go as soon as he heard the sound. These days we only really use it out of habit and it makes no difference to whether he goes or not!
If all this makes you feel a bit nervous, relax! Elimination communication is not an all or nothing thing. You can do it part time with great results, so it doesn’t have to be ruled out by working parents. You can choose to do it at nights, using nappies, waterproof pads and a bare bottom, or you can just concentrate on the daytime.
Whatever you do, if you decide to try it, have fun, enjoy the extra communication with your baby and let them lead you on this exciting journey.
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