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How to Start Elimination Communication for a Diaper Free Baby

There are many mothers all over the world caring for their babies without using diapers and without the worry of their babies soiling everything in sight! Does this sound crazy?!  Well, Elimination Communication (EC) is a relatively new concept in the Western world, but in fact, it's an extremely natural thing and to so many as well!

Consider the study that half the babies in the world are potty trained by the time their first birthday rolls around. Yet in the U.S., the average child is wearing diapers until the age of 3 or 4 years old. Relatively speaking, this is a fairly recent phenomenon since as recently as 1957, most kids --92% -- were completely toilet-trained by the age of 18 months. According to Parenting Science, in many parts of the world, new parents begin "potty training" their infants within two weeks of their birth.

First off, if you are a diapering mom or cloth diaper mama like so very many of us are, that is just absolutely perfectly fine.  It's the major majority of us and totally the norm. But since this article is about EC we will just dive right into it and find out for yourself if it is something you would even try if you had another baby.

So why are we bucking nature, or going against the tide, so to speak, here in the U.S.? In the decades since World War II ended and the baby-boomer era began, so-called "potty training experts" had even managed to convince a majority of the American public that early potty training is "dangerous" in that it can cause behavioral problems or even personality disorders!

Is Science to Blame?

Not really. Despite the claims of many of those claiming to be potty training "gurus", there is no scientific evidence to support the theory that early potty training leads to some kind of Freudian "whammy" in our children's brains.

The Benefits of Elimination Communication

Elimination Communication, or EC, is just "a fancy name for what parents do in cultures where there are no diapers". So says Andrea Olsen, author of Go Diaper Free. If you're starting to be as intrigued with the concept as we are, read on to discover how to start Elimination Communication for a diaper free baby ...

But first, an eye-opening look at the benefits you and your baby will enjoy when you practice EC:

  • You'll use fewer (if any) diapers. That means fewer poo-filled diapers in landfills!
  • You'll save tons of money on all the disposable diapers you aren't using, and you can forget about having to hire a diaper service if you planned to use cloth diapers.
  • You'll deepen the connection between you and your baby -- and what mom wouldn't love that! According to pediatrician Dr. William Sears, of Attachment Parenting fame, parents should believe in the language value of their baby's cries. Each cry is a form of communication, and when we realize this, we see that our babies are constantly communicating with us! When we answer their communication with action showing that we understand them, you build a solid foundation of trust with each other, and thus a deeper bond.
  • You'll have fewer messes to deal with. Most parents can recognize when their babies are ready to or already having a bowel movement. Their faces may get red or just an obvious "look" as the elimination process begins. The odds of catching them, therefore, is on your side. And each time you do, it's one less messy "bum" you'll have to clean. It's more sanitary for the baby and for the whole household!
  • You won't be contributing to the zillions of disposable diapers clogging landfills across the country, so you'll be doing the environment a favor too.

Getting started with Elimination Communication and Potty Cues with your Baby.

Getting Started

First let's be clear that EC is not the same as traditional potty training. Obviously your baby can't sit on the toilet and flush when she's finished! Also please note that many moms will have "nappies" or some diapers on hand for misses until there are rarely any or none at all.

Elimination Communication is more about keeping your baby dry and clean with a little parental supervision. It works something like this ...

You pay attention to cues from your baby to learn when he's ready to eliminate, then you hold him over a toilet or small potty. These cues are learned through timing, signals, and intuition.

Signals include squirming, certain face expressions, grunting, being still, red face with look of concentration, passing gas, popping off the nipple while nursing and crying, and crying alone.

Begin with a "diaper free zone" to test working with the cues and timing to practice EC until you no longer need to practice.  This area may need a waterproof blanket or pad.  A cloth diaper works great for these beginning stages of beginning EC.

Hold baby securely in a relaxed position and as your baby empties her bladder or "poos", you make a characteristic sound or gesture -- something like "aah, aah, aah" for a BM or "sss, sss, sss" for urinating. Over time, the baby learns to recognize each sound as a sign of voiding. Eventually, the parent can use the sound or gesture as an invitation to void, and the baby will respond.

You can start all this at birth, or wait a few months, if you'd prefer. At first, just enjoy watching your baby and learning her signals, which you can expect shortly after a meal. When you begin to recognize her cues as she begins to urinate, just make the sound, "sss", and do the same when she has a bowel movement, using the sound you've assigned for that.

It's good to try these EC sounds at the right opportunities for example, such as waking up in the morning, before and after a bath, before or after breastfeeding, or before going in the carseat.

In the beginning, it can also be helpful to keep an "elimination journal" to record how soon after eating your baby eliminates. That will help familiarize you with his body's timing. This isn't mandatory, but it is helpful for some parents to keep some record for a short time, whether it's a journal or a chart.

Since it's inevitable, especially in the early stages, that you're not always going to catch your baby's cues in time to get to the sink or whatever receptacle you've chosen to use, it's helpful to keep some pre-folded diapers between you and your baby when you're holding him. When you're nursing, it's a good idea to keep a pre-folded diaper under your baby as well, since some babies tend to go while they're nursing.

You can continue with EC until you feel your baby is ready to progress to early toilet training -- usually at around 18 months old. (This is not set in stone, however. Your baby may show signs that he's ready much sooner. It also depends on what your goal is: If you want your toddler to walk into the bathroom and sit on the potty all by himself, you'll obviously want to wait until he's walking!)

Raising Your Baby as Nature Intended

EC won't guarantee that you'll never have to change a diaper, but it can promise that there will be many fewer to change. Plus, your baby is less likely to suffer from diaper rash if she's rarely wearing a diaper.  But EC, like breastfeeding, has been the natural way to raise a baby since humans arrived on the Earth. The two practices -- EC and breastfeeding -- are the most natural way to mother your baby.  You will be surprised by how early your baby will catch on!

There are ways to make each practice more comfortable for you and your baby -- pre-folded diaper or towel safeguards for EC and clothes to make breastfeeding easier for you.

Keep going mama! You're doing great and no matter how you do it...it's done with LOVE!

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