When I first read about EC (elimination communication) as I was pregnant with my daughter, like many, I thought it was a bit too “out there”. While it fit into our whole “anti-establishment”, “smug liberal”, and “attachment parenting” plan (the usual–home birth, co-sleeping, cloth diapering, baby-carrying, etc), EC was going a bit too far. I had a few thoughts about it, including “Ew”, “bullshit”, and “who the hell has the time”? Raising puppies came to mind, with puddles and little brown piles everywhere. No thanks.
But… then my daughter arrived. From the start she had a horrid diaper rash, despite the cloth diapers. We were changing the diapers every hour, a repetitive task that made me want to lose my mind at times. During the long hours spent on the couch with her attached to me, I logged a lot of internet time. Out of curiosity I ended up on a diaper-free site and wanted to know just exactly how the whole process worked.
I was not convinced at first–seemed like a lot of work and required a level of attention to detail above what I was capable of at that time. What caught my attention, however, was the insistence that babies do not want to soil themselves or their parents and that by using diapers, we are essentially training babies to relinquish control over their elimination. At that time, any thought that my daughter might be in distress even in the slightest was torture to me. So I blanketed the sofa with layers of super-absorbent sheets, put a tiny plastic potty nearby on the floor, took her diaper off and waited. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Every time before she peed she would start whining and kicking her legs. Before pooping, the whining would intensify. I still remember the first time she pooped without a diaper on—I wasn’t quick enough to get her on the potty, so it all came out on a disposable pad I had put under her. The look on her face I will never forget—some mixture of discomfort and helplessness. I remember thinking how I could be doing this to my daughter when she was obviously asking for my help.
So when she was just seven weeks old, I began doing diaper-free time every morning. It only took two mornings before we were catching almost every pee and every poop. I would hold her up over the little potty, make a hissing sound, and wait. It would usually take her less than a minute. At night and when we were out, we used disposables.
The most immediate and dramatic difference was the disappearance of the angry, raw red rash that she had had since a few days after she was born. I was gone completely after just four days. For me, the reduction in cloth diapers to wash (saving around 5 diapers per day, since babies that age pee so often) was a huge perk. And yes, like so many ECing parents described, I felt more connected to her and more attuned to her needs overall, not just diaper-related.
We practiced EC for several weeks until two extended periods of travel made such close observation and finding a toilet difficult. When we were settled at home again as she was turning 6 months we dragged the potty out again.
It was a totally demotivating experience. She cried every time we placed her on the potty (earlier, sitting on the potty was a surefire way to get her to smile). She gave me no warning signal beforehand. Over three days I caught one pee. I remember having read that past 6 months, EC would be very difficult to implement. I began to think it really was too late. I gave a few more half-hearted attempts after that and then gave up.
Two months later I had had it with washing nasty-smelling feces out of cloth diapers or finding it smeared all the way up her back whenever she was wearing a disposable. I could not do another year-and-a-half of this *shit*.
I decided to give it one more go. At the first sign of a “poop face”, I would whisk her into the bathroom and sit her on the toilet with me. It was successful the very first time, and I didn’t have to clean a single nasty diaper for a week. Pees were much harder, but I would sit with her on the toilet at every diaper change, giving her the opportunity to pee. The first week it worked about 50% of the time; by the second week it was working 80% of the time. And if I was lazy about putting her on the toilet right after peeling off her wet diaper, she would reliably pee before I would get a clean diaper on.
And that finds us here, about three weeks in. She has come to expect a toilet visit at every diaper change and once sitting there almost always pees, even if just a little bit, without hesitation. I have had only a handful of nasty diapers, all of which occurred when we were out and once early in the morning before I was properly awake. There are still a lot of wet diapers, and as far as I can tell, she is not giving me any pee signals, but I am pretty happy with the new status quo. I have hope it will get even better.
I do think it helped that she was introduced to pottying at an earlier age. And with her being more mobile and vocal, it has been easier to sit with her on the adult toilet rather than sitting her on her tiny potty. But my point is that, contrary to most diaper-free sites, EC post-6 months is possible, and taking a break–even several months–does not mean all is lost.
I encourage anyone interested in the topic to do a bit more reading, even if you are extremely skeptical, and then decide. My experience has been that it is not as crazy and mystical as it sounds, and certainly not as difficult.
Websites to check-out: