Elimination Communication - Can I potty train a baby?
Can I and Why would I want to?
That is a question many people would ask when they hear of the term elimination communication, otherwise known as EC or infant potty training. I like the term natural infant hygiene as well. Whatever you call it, this is the concept that babies are born equipped to learn about elimination (peeing and pooping). Now some may think this sounds silly, but read on to find out more.
I think the biggest factor for me in considering the idea of ECing with my second and third children, was the fact that it was about actually communicating with my children about elimination on a really basic level. Like the book, Everyone Poops, by Taro Gomi, I believe that elimination is something worth talking about, in very plain terms. It's just part of life.
When my oldest was young, I didn't know how to potty train. I read books and talked to other mothers, but when it came to how to we actually make this transition, I fumbled a bit. I wanted better with my subsequent children.
That's where EC came in. My children and I now have the conversation very candidly from the time they are born. And I appreciate the fact that we can talk openly about something so basic. We eat, we poop. We drink, we pee.
How EC Works
It's very simple. You can read oodles about it and I'm sure the fact that I already experienced conventional potty training helped me along, but if you keep in mind the basic functioning of the human body, you'll be fine. Although a course in body language and communication could assist...
Babies are born with the ability to intentionally release urine or poop. They do not "hold" their elimination like many children and adults do while waiting to get to the bathroom, but they can associate with the release. With this knowledge, the parent does a few things:
- With a young baby (some start with newborns, others wait a few weeks to a few months), the parent will allow the baby to lay diaper free on a few cloth diapers or towels.
- Watching, the parent notices any physical signs, sounds, or other indicators that the baby is eliminating.
- The parent makes a sound such as, "ssssss" or "shhhhh" or blows gently on the back of baby's head while baby is eliminating.
- The parent continues to watch for signals that baby needs to eliminate such as squirming, vocalizing, etc.
- After a bit of this (some do this for a day or weeks) the parent can then hold baby over a receptacle such as a small bowl, potty, sink, or toilet and make the sound or other association and baby will eliminate there.
- That's it, in a nutshell!
Ideas to help EC along
The above knowledge is a good starting place, but you might want more info. And that is good because this process is not the norm in the U.S. so there may be a few things you would do well taking into consideration...
- Intuition is your helper here. If you think your baby has to pee, or you experience a warm feeling, but they have not peed, trust it. Go see if they need to. If they're fussing and you're not sure why... maybe they have to pee!
- Baby wearing is also a helper. You might worry about baby peeing on you, but when they're young you can either cloth diaper or put flat diapers under baby in a sling or carrier so any missed pee doesn't get on you. Chances are if baby is on you, you will be more open to cues that baby needs to pee.
- Babies generally pee upon awakening.
- Babies generally do not pee while sleeping. They actually wake up a little, so you can grab them gently and see if they need to pee.
- Fussy? If other needs are met, and even before offering to nurse, try the potty.
- Above all, remember this is about communication, not how many times you "catch" a pee in a receptacle. Just have an open relationship with your child and their elimination needs. It may seem like it takes longer than our conventional method of potty training, but really we're doing ourselves and our children a favor to respect the fact they do have the ability to communicate about this from a very young age.
Can I do EC with an older baby?
Yes! I started EC with my second child when he was 15 months old. It was a relief because I did not want a stressful potty training experience the second time around. I was relaxed about letting him pee outside and such where it could be easily cleaned up or absorbed into the dirt! We just started a conversation about eliminating and added in the sound. Amazingly, he took to it quite fast and his learning of the toilet was a breeze in comparison to my first experience.
Again, keep in mind the goal is not an early potty training, but a bridging of the gap between letting a child use a diaper for a toilet and chatting about how we eliminate and where we put it, from a young age. Babies and toddlers both can have times where they don't want to use the potty and that's normal! It will pass, it's just like any other phase. Be gentle and offer the potty, and they'll come around eventually.
Check out the resources below, and make sure to ask for support if you need it. It really is a blessing to have this knowledge and share it with our children. They'll thank you for it!
Peace 4 Parents
Amy Phoenix (aka Rainbow Recognizer) is a gentle, yet direct parenting guide and healing facilitator dedicated to sharing insights and practices to transform frustration and anger, heal the past, nurture conscious relationships, and experience the peace of the present. Visit her at www.Peace4Parents.com.
MSNBC on EC
Related Hubs you may enjoy
Resources for further learning about EC
Network of free support groups supporting the practice of elimination communication
- Elimination communication - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- The EC Store - Elimination Communication
The EC Store - Elimination Communication : WHAT'S NEW at The EC Store? - Potty Time! Don't forget Mama! Clearance This & That Baby Carriers Wonderful Wool EC Books Training Pants B'Undies Clothes for ECing Sudsy Stuff Special Order SIMPLYcloth Garage
- Free To EC!: My Journey to Elimination Communication
- DIAPER FREE! The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene - Homepage
- What is EC?!