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Elimination communication: An alternative to potty training

Photo e1363310560931 - elimination communication: an alternative to potty trainingFrom what I’ve heard, potty training can be an extremely stressful time for both parents and toddlers. Trying to decide when your little one is ready and how to go about the whole process can be daunting to say the least. From my perspective, the biggest roadblock when it comes to potty training is the fact that a tot must retrain his brain. He has peed and pooped in his diaper for more than three years and is then told that it is no longer appropriate. Confusing to say the least!

Moms, what if there was a simpler way toease your little one into using the potty, without having to train him or her? I can ecstatically tell you there is!!

When I first heard about Elimination Communication (EC) I was skeptical. However, when my daughter was a week old, a colleague of mine came to visit with her three-week-old son and I saw EC in action. My girlfriend finished nursing her son, removed his diaper, held him over our toilet while making cueing sounds, and voilá, he peed and pooped. I couldn’t believe it! How could a three-week-old know when he needed to go?

Babies are aware of their needs. We often know when they are hungry, wet or tired based on nonverbal and verbal cues they provide us and on our own intuition. It isn’t that far off then to suggest that babies are aware of their need to eliminate and can communicate that to us as well.

EC is practiced all over the world where potty training does not exist. In many countries, including our own, some moms and dads choose to practice EC instead of waiting to potty train their babies. Parents and caregivers either sit their little ones on potties or toilets (with potty seats) or hold them over toilets, sinks, bathtubs, outdoors, etc., when peeing and pooping. Many parents use timing, baby’s signals and body language, intuition and cues to facilitate EC.

The beauty of EC is that you do not have to practice it 100% of the time. Your baby does not have to roam diaper free nor do you have to carry a potty in your car (although you certainly can)! You can be casual about the process and still end up with a fairly toilet-independent, diaperless one- to two-year-old.

While I am no expert, we have been successfully practicing EC with our daughter since she was about eight-weeks-old. She pees and poops regularly on the toilet (on a bumbo potty seat) and at 13 months will even occasionally sign “poop” and “potty” when she needs to go. When I first suggested the concept of EC to my hubby, he thought I had finally lost it. And, well, I don’t blame him. I continued to practice EC and after witnessing a few pees and poops on the toilet, he was a believer. Now he brags to his friends about our daughter using the toilet and whenever I am away for the afternoon or evening, I am given a gleeful report about the number of pees and poops that she had on the toilet. I guess I’m not so crazy after all!

For me, I use timing and intuition most often. We cue with a “sssss” and sign, say “potty” for pees and grunt, sign and say “poop” for poops. We know some of our daughter’s cues, including her signs for “potty” and “poop” and the occasional grunt or silent-focused look. I also know that she often needs to poop during a meal and will quite often pee after any type of sleep. We automatically offer her the toilet after she wakes in the morning and after each nap. Whenever I check her diaper and find that it’s dry, I take her to the potty and she often goes. Sometimes I just get the feeling that she needs to go and I offer the toilet. I am usually right.

Once I decided that EC was something I wanted to incorporate into our lives, I decided to read Ingrid Bauer’s book Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene. She goes into detail about timing, cues, intuition, and signals and the physiological theory behind EC. My one criticism would be that she presents EC as fairly strict and rigorous. In my experience, you truly do not have to practice it 100% of the time. Do what works best for you and your family.

Even if you are skeptical mamas, give it a try. EC requires very little effort and can help you tune in to your baby’s needs. If you are already going to change your baby’s diaper, why not take a moment and see if your babe has to pee or poop. And if you know he is about to poop, try taking him to the toilet or potty. After all, flushing the toilet beats changing a poopy diaper any day!

If you are interested in more information, Tadpoles and Butterflies sometimes offers EC workshops. I attended one last year and found it really helpful! There is also a Diaper Free Baby Edmonton Group that meets monthly and will answer any questions you may have along your EC journey.

Happy ECing mommas and daddas!

a man carrying two children

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