*This blog post is approximately 9 years overdue. My apologies.
When Sage was a toddler I heard about this crazy idea where people keep their babies "diaper-free".
Instead of checking for a wet or dirty diaper they put their babe over the toilet instead, made a silly "pssssh, psssh, psssh" sound and their baby pees. (Or poops.) In the toilet.
I was one part skeptical and one part awe-struck by the concept.
I tried it half-heartedly with my walking, talking toddler who proceeded to look at me like I was nuts, then continue to pee and poop in his diaper with prefect predictability.
He was too old. I had missed my window.
(Also, I had no idea what I was doing.)
Fast forward a few years and I was expecting my second child. A dear friend called me (one who had also half-heartedly plunked a toddler on a toilet with great hopes that went unrealized.) She insisted that I buy the diaper-free book we had both heard about so that I didn't miss my window again.
She was amazingly persistent and finally I caved.
Pete and I devoured the book in a matter of days. We were awe-struck once more.
The concept was simple, natural, and rooted deep in our history as a species. That wasn't some newfangled baby-training technique. This was the way it was always done. We had just forgotten how to listen.
The concept is that all babies cue their needs – be it for sleep, to nurse, to be held, or to pee and poop not in their britches.
By observing our parents and friends and neighbors and siblings we learned early on the basics of baby speak. But the potty communication was lost along the way.
If we only re-learn how to listen we will revive this ancient wisdom and (get this) know when our babies need to visit the loo before they soil their pants.
Cool/crazy? I thought so.
Elimination Communication breaks down to four simple tools:
- Watching your baby for "I have to pee/poop" cues
- Offering your baby a cue and an opportunity to use the potty ("psssh, psssh, psssh" while you hold them over the potty, for example)
- Paying attention to timing (as in: hmm… he always pees when he wakes from his nap)
- Listening to your intuition
We were inspired. Pete said, "Now that we know about this we have to at least try. It's like knowing about the benefits of breastfeeding and not even giving it a shot."
I agreed wholeheartedly.
So yes, we bought diapers for our baby, but we also stashed baby potties in several rooms in anticipation of ditching the diapers altogether.
After Lupine was born we decided to wait until she was a few of weeks old before we even tried, to get a feel for her communication around the subject. I spent a good deal of time looking at her face and body, then sticking my finger in her diaper to see if it was wet. (Be honest, ya'll. If you have kids you've stuck your finger in many a diaper.)
Finally I was ready.
When Lupine was just three weeks old I saw something in her body language that told me she had to go to the bathroom. I nervously removed her diaper and awkwardly held her over the little red potty we had at the ready by our bedside so that she could (maybe? possibly? probably not.) pee.
I held her gently by the thighs, her back against my sternum, hoping all the while that she didn't faceplant on the mattress mid-pee.
Psssh, psssh, psssh.
And? She peed. I caught my first pee! (Weirdly thrilling, I must admit.)
And then – just a second later – she pooped.
She pooped like she'd been waiting for me to put her over that potty for the better part of the morning. Epic, dramatic baby poop. Right into the potty.
And then, not missing a beat, she looked over he tiny little pink shoulder at me, looked me square in the eyes and smiled. A huge mouth-open, sparkly-eyed "you finally caught on!" smile.
My mind was blown.
Aside from a couple of accidents, she never pooped in a diaper again. Three weeks old, ya'll.
We still missed plenty of pees and she wore cloth diapers (without a cover) most days. (Technically "diaper-free", but dang close enough in my book.) But she was done with poop in her diaper after that first time on the potty. After the first go! I'd call that an epic win.
And I sold her yet-to-be-pooped-in cloth diapers long before her second birthday – without every having to deal with a single blow-out, without washing a single load of poopy diapers, and yes, without the stress of potty training.
Elimination Communication is simply listening to your baby in a new (old) way.
Just as you can tell the difference between a tired cry and a hungry cry, there are also cues that babies consistently give for needing to pee or needing to poop. It's just as a culture we have forgotten how to read them.
Practicing EC means re-learing these lost skills.
And once you learn them you can never unlearn them.
Just like your milk lets down when you hear a stranger's baby crying at the grocery store, once you've done EC you can see babies cueing everywhere.
I was at the park with my mom when Lupine was five. I saw a toddler who was cuing. ("She has to poop." I whispered to my mom.) Five minutes later her grandmother scooped her up and gave her butt as sniff. "You need a clean diaper, little one!" she said. My mom chuckled.
Another time Pete and I were watching a home movie of (then baby) Sage. He was sitting in front of our refrigerator, moving magnets around.
Without even turning toward the camera, we saw his body language shift.
Pete and I (watching the video) both cried out, "He has to pee!"
Me in the video: "Blah, blah, blah, you're playing with the magnets! Blah, blah, blah." (Oblivious.)
Sage continued to play with the magnets, then stopped and turned to face us. Poop face. Full on.
Me in the video: "Are you pooping?" (Day late and a dollar short, lady.)
Pete and I, watching the video couldn't stop laughing. We caught a poop, just six years behind schedule.
Once you see it you can't stop seeing it. That's what I'm talking about.
Even my mom got in on it, despite initially thinking we were nuts for trying. We were at a gathering and she was holding Lupine, then just a few months old. Lupine cued and my mom noticed (I did not). She quietly stood up and walked outside. When she returned she was beaming. "I caught my first pee!".
And it wouldn't be the last.
While EC looks like a bit more work in the moment, for us it wasn't. Because slipping a diaper off of a baby to help them use the potty doesn't take more time that cleaning up a poopy bum.
And the satisfaction of this degree of communication with our baby was an unexpected, rewarding bonus.
As weird as that might seem.
Interested in learning more?