(This is my second post exploring our experiences so far with attachment parenting. Yesterday I covered babywearing. While elimination communication isn’t strictly a feature of AP, we feel it fits in with the general philosophy).
First, I’ll give you a brief outline of what elimination communication is, for those of you (um, everybody?) who aren’t familiar with it. Then I’ll go over why we chose it, and what our experiences have been so far. I’ll continue with a separate post explaining our response to the experience so far.
So first, a brief explanation.
The premise behind elimination communication (or EC, also known as Natural Infant Hygiene) is that babies are born with an instinctive desire to not sit in their own waste. We in the West, however, train our babies to eliminate in diapers and get used to being wet or soiled. Eventually, babies lose their awareness of their own bodily functions as they get used to peeing and pooping whenever and wherever they are. We have to then re-train them to become aware of their bodily functions and use the toilet when they’re toddlers. In many other cultures around the world, however, parents help infants fulfill their desire to not soil themselves right from the start by helping them eliminate elsewhere. They learn to read their babies’ cues, and in turn, babies learn to communicate their needs to their caregivers.
The parents’ main job is to learn how the child communicates her needs, and to communicate back to child when it’s safe to eliminate by making your chosen cueing sound or word (in our case, “peepee!”).
(If you want to learn more about EC, check out this video).
I was drawn to this way of dealing with a baby’s elimination needs because
a) It’s a free alternative to diapers, and I like free. Diapers are an enormous expense, especially disposables. Cloth is more economical, but who can beat free?
b) It’s environmentally friendly. I wanted to help make my child’s world as safe and clean as possible.
c) It seemed kinder to babies, helping them get what they want (i.e. to stay out of their own poop) and minimizing the possibility of painful diaper rash.
d) It’s counter-cultural. And, let’s face it, I’m attracted to anything counter-cultural.
e) And finally; I really believed that it would be easier, or at least just as easy, as conventional diapering. Holding a baby over a toilet every half-hour seemed like easier, more pleasant work than wiping gross poop off of a baby’s bum. And eventually, every kid needs to be potty-trained. This would just make the job happen earlier.
I’m going to be honest. I wasn’t completely right about it being easier. In fact, in the first two months EC has probably meant more work and more diapers than conventional diapering.
But I’m still glad we’ve done it thus far and I totally plan to continue. And I’ll explain why. But first, an overview of what we’ve gone through so far.
We decided that EC had three main components:
1. Keeping her dry by changing her as soon as she pees (when it happens in a diaper), so that she doesn’t get used to the feeling of being wet and losing the association between urinating and discomfort.
2. Learning to read her cues/patterns so we can help her pee in a potty, sink or toilet.
3. Getting her to associate the cue word (“peepee”) with eliminating (Yes, we use the same word for number one and number two. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to say the word “poopoo” aloud).
We tried to achieve this:
a) By using cloth diapers without a cover, so that we could immediately feel when it was wet and therefore cue her (“peepee!”) and change her promptly, and
b) Watching for sounds and movements before and after a pee, so that we could recognize her need to go.
Our Experience So Far
We wanted to try EC from birth. From what I’d read, I was under the impression that you could go diaper-free almost right away. [Excuse me while I chuckle at my two-month-younger self].
I knew ahead of time that newborn babies peed a lot — up to 30 times a day. Often, they pee every 20 minutes for several hours. That didn’t faze me.
Until I experienced it. What I hadn’t thought about was how exactly that translated into real life.
It means that baby pees when she first wakes up in the morning. Then she pees again while you’re making breakfast. Then she pees again while you’re eating breakfast. Then she pees again when you’re cleaning up breakfast.
You get the picture.
It means that if you catch seven pees a day (which we often did), that’s still 23 misses and therefore 23 wet diapers at the end of the day to wash. Not exactly “diaper free.”
She also pretty much had something coming out of her bum constantly, so she couldn’t ever really go without a diaper and there was never really a poo “catch.”
The other problem has been that we haven’t noticed her communicating anything before she goes. She communicates after she goes (she’s developing a distinct “Get this wet diaper offa me!” cry), but she doesn’t give us any kind of warning, that we’ve noticed. So it’s mostly guesswork and relying on patterns.
I’d read that infants often pee as soon as they wake up, so Ben and I started pottying her as soon as she woke up in the morning and immediately after every nap. This gave us results almost every single time. The other times we potty her are when she seems to be having a hard time keeping her soother in, and this usually works, too. These are about the only ones we catch, though.
It hasn’t felt very successful for the most part.
It’s starting to get easier, now that she’s over two months old. Pooping is an actual event which happens only a couple of times a day, rather than occurring as a constant, day-long leak, so it’s easier to catch (And very satisfying, I might add). She also pees less often, so even though we still only catch a maximum of seven pees a day, that leaves only, like, 12 wet diapers a day. It’s an improvement.
Hopefully we’ll keep getting better at it and the number of times she goes a day will continue to decrease until we’re catching most of them.
So that’s been our experience; tomorrow I’ll go over why we love it and we’ve chosen to keep it up.