Elimination Communication: Why We Do It (And Some Tips)

by Kathleen Quiring on October 31, 2011

infant potty training

(This is part of my series on attachment parenting, which started here).

In my last post I explained why and how we started elimination communication (EC). Today I want to go over why we’ve kept at it, even though we haven’€™t had as much success as we would have liked and have used a ton of cloth diapers most days in the process. (As I mentioned in my last post, I thought we’d be able to go diaper-free almost from birth. I even considered not buying any diapers after we went through the pack of disposables my mom gave us. Ahahaha. Silly me.)

So, first off, I’€™ll just say that I’€™m still confident that Ben, Lydia and I will all continue to get better at EC. We’€™ve only been doing this for two months, and one of us was only a newborn when we started; we’re bound to improve if we keep it up. So even if we’ve used a buttload of diapers up to now, I’€™m confident that things will only improve from here. (In fact, we’ve already gotten better since I published that post last week. We’ve gone three nights in a row without soiling a single diaper. Go us!)

So, my additional reasons for continuing:

  • I still think EC will make things easier in the long run, even if it’€™s been a bit more work thus far. We’re not training her to go in her diaper as a baby just to turn around and tell her it’€™s bad to go in her diaper when she’s a toddler. From the start, she’€™ll be used to peeing in a potty at least a couple of times a day. That, to me, sounds easier than conventional potty-training at two or three years old.
  • Eventually, it will use fewer diapers, and in the long run, I’m sure it will add up to much less than if we’d conventionally-diapered the whole time. As of yesterday, in fact, we’re able to stretch diaper laundry to every other day instead of every day. Yay!
  • I’€™m glad we’€™ve taken the time to observe her bodily functions so closely. I know exactly when, where, and how many times she’s peed since birth. I know that she pees way more in the morning and evening than during the afternoon, and that she’s gone down from six times a night to two or three times. I know that when she starts squirming in her sleep at night, it’€™s because she has to go. I believe that being so in tune with her body has and will continue to have benefits.

See, I believe that caring for a child is made easier the better you know that child — knowing what makes her feel good, what makes her feel bad, etc. Knowing our baby’€™s elimination patterns is just another piece of data to help us understand her and therefore care for her better. That makes our lives as parents easier.

  • One of the purposes of EC is to keep babies from having to sit in their own waste –€“ an unpleasant experience that can lead to painful rashes. So even if we’ve spent more time changing diapers than we’€™d like (instead of achieving our intended goal of catching most of her pees in a potty) we’€™ve still succeeded in keeping her out of her own urine.
  • I kind of appreciate the challenge. Let’€™s be honest: disposable diapers are the least creative way of dealing with waste: strap some absorbent trash onto your baby’€™s bum for a few hours so it can then sit in a landfill for a few centuries. Disposables are the go-to method for North Americans, and I think we can do better. I like how EC has been able to challenge my ways of thinking about waste, and has forced me to be creative (like attempting to breastfeed while holding her over a potty . . . in bed. Which works, by the way! And it feels dang good when it works!)

So even though things haven’t always gone as smoothly as I anticipated with EC, and can sometimes be a hassle, I don’€™t regret it one bit. I would totally recommend trying it!

I just have a few tips if you’re considering it:

Expect to use more than the normal amount of diapers in the beginning. This seems counter-intuitive because the point is to become free of diapers in the long run, but you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to save diapers when your baby is peeing every half hour and you’€™re trying to keep a close eye on it.

I know all the books on EC have ‘diaper free’€ in their titles, but that doesn’€™t mean you won’€™t ever use any diapers. I tried to do without them like in the books but that just meant I was always getting pee all over my clothes and furniture. When I caved and started using diapers, I got extremely frustrated some days because we were going through so many.

Once I decided to be more relaxed about it, and see freedom from diapers as a future goal rather than an immediate expectation, things got a lot easier.

Instead of trying to reduce diapers right away, think of the first weeks as being purely about observation and learning. This will probably mean more diapers, but that’s OK.

Also? I don’t know if I would start from birth with future babies. Maybe at two months, when peeing slows down a bit. But it was an interesting learning experience.

And lastly: leg warmers. They’re essential for EC. You absolutely do not want to put your baby in a footed sleeper if you’re trying this. I learned how to make my own “Baby Legs” out of women’s knee-high socks from That Married Couple.

If you’re one of the eight people in North America who have tried this, what were your experiences? Do you have any tips? Or if you’ve never tried it, do you have any questions?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Raeanne October 31, 2011 at 11:11 am

We too are experimenting with EC with our 2 month old daughter, Kaylen. We didn’t start from birth, though and we certainly aren’t doing it full time… but every once in a while I catch two or three pees and a poo or two in a day and get to put her clean diaper back on her! It’s exciting to at least be able to notice her signals sometimes!
I had hoped to go diaper free too and it’s been less successful than I had hoped but like you said, it should be easier in the long run!

I’ve truly been enjoying your recent posts! I was so excited to find your blog when my husband and I first got married and then when I became pregnant one of my first thoughts was “I sure hope Kathleen is too!” and you were! You announced it on the day we told our family and I was just as happy for you as I was for myself… especially since you had been trying longer! Lydia was born just a few weeks before Kaylen and I relished every detail of what you guys were doing because we were doing the same thing (home birth, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, breastfeeding, EC/cloth diapers, etc.)! I laughed out loud when I read how you hadn’t anticipated being so loud while in labor… I felt the same way and them ended up being quite loud myself!(though my midwife says she has heard much louder! ;))

I feel like I know you Kathleen! My husband will come home from work and I’ll update him on your most recent post like you told me it personally! :)
Thank you for all the time you’ve encouraged me without even knowing it!

- Your Friend in North Dakota

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2 Kathleen Quiring October 31, 2011 at 11:49 am

Awesome, Raeanne! Thanks thanks thanks! I do the same thing (update my husband on bloggers I read). I’ll hop over to your blog every time you comment to see if you’ve updated anything, but alas, there hasn’t been anything new there for a while so unfortunately I can’t say I know as much about you. :( Thanks for this update, though!

I agree — being able to put a diaper back on after a pee is very gratifying! Even part-time EC is a big deal, in my opinion.

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3 That Married Couple October 31, 2011 at 2:22 pm

I love that you’re doing this and writing about it! And I am so impressed that you started from birth. Lydia is going to be truly diaper-free in no time, I’m sure :) I never expected to go diaper-less from the get-go, personally. But more power to you!

I can see from the pic that you’ve already got my one tip handled – put the baby on a potty! I preferred to hold her over the sink when we first started, so I could really see what was going on. I also held her over the toilet and on her potty, but usually it was holding over the sink. Which was great, until she started getting heavy! Then I was going to transition her to all potty, but in our cross-country move things were too hectic, etc etc and all of the sudden I realize she’s 9.5 months and has only pooped while being held in my arms for the last 4+ months. Which is great, but then transitioning her to the potty for poops was tough. She’s there now, though! But all that to say, when I hopefully do it with the next child, they will be on the potty much earlier and much more often. (Not always, because I like being able to hold them if we’re out and about somewhere, but most of the time when we’re home.)

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4 Barb October 31, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Hey Kath….i just wanted to share with you that Mason pooped on the potty for the first time this past Saturday!! I haven’t been too successful catching anything after that but it was a huge first step for me and Mason :) It’s pretty nice that now, at 6 months, he is stable enough to sit on his own so all he needs is a little support to not topple over. He seems to like the potty idea:)

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5 Kathleen Quiring October 31, 2011 at 2:47 pm

@That Married Couple — thanks, that’s good to know! I don’t know any EC-ers in real life so I appreciate any tips from experienced folks I can get!

@Barb — that’s so awesome, way to go! The first catch is kind of a thrill, eh? It might feel like really slow progress as you continue (if you choose to do so), but looking back you’ll probably be surprised at how well you’ve actually done.

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6 Christa October 31, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Hi! I just subscribed to you (I’m a friend of Vina’s and saw you posting a bunch on her blog.) I’m really interested to hear your EC experience from birth. At one year, I started catching my son’s pee in the morning and then at 2, we moved fully to EC. It’s been a great experience, and I definitely feel like I know him and his little body really well. Like in a way I hadn’t imagined before I started it. For my 2nd son, we’ve started doing a “lite” version of EC since I have the confidence now – when he wakes up and when he gives obvious signs – (he’s 7 months.) He’s so different than my first!! I’m learning a whole new person which is amazing.

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7 Michele November 18, 2011 at 9:58 pm

I have a few questions about the potty. Where did you get it? Do you have to keep buying a bigger one as she gets older? Does the potty start to smell after a while? I’m sure you end up emptying it into the toilet fairly regularly…

I’m trying to figure out all the steps to doing something like this. Right now I have less than three months until ours is due and am in the process of sewing a stash of cloth diapers (much cheaper than buying). I’d like to do some EC too though, maybe start after a couple months like you suggest.

Thanks for hsharing your experiences! I love your blog!

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8 Kathleen Quiring November 19, 2011 at 9:45 am

Michele: sorry I haven’t responded to most of your comments, but since you are asking specific questions here, I thought I’d take a moment to answer them!

I got the potty from a cute little local store that specializes in cloth diapers. You could probably get them online, too. This particular one — the Becopotty – is very affordable (only about $13), unlike the more popular Baby Bjorn potty (which is closer to $30). We started out just using an old sour cream tub, though, until we found the potty we now use.

We do empty it out after almost every use (except at night). I would love to just have her go in the toilet or bathroom sink, like many EC-ers do, and skip that step, but we don’t have a good place to lay her down in our bathroom to remove her diaper. Sometimes we’re lazy and don’t empty it out, but baby pee doesn’t smell that strong.

Like I said to Laura in my other post, the great thing about EC is you don’t have to commit to doing it full-time or anything . . . you can give it a try, and if it doesn’t work for you, no harm done. It’s not like you have to buy a bunch of expensive equipment.

Way to go for sewing your own diapers! I actually got mine used from someone on Kijiji, so I didn’t spend much, either.

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9 Anne September 7, 2012 at 10:54 pm

I’ve read about EC, although it wasn’t called that, and thought it sounded nice, but something I would probably never accomplish. HowEVER, I recently switched over to cloth diapers (now that I have a washer and dryer in our newly remodeled home) and discovered that I hate cleaning the pooh out of my 5 month old’s diapers :) She give’s some very obvious signs that she’s going to do the doo and today I had my first successful potty experience! I was so excited!

It was nice to read your experiences and learn some techniques as I really don’t know what I’m doing :) Thanks for sharing!

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10 Andrea December 17, 2012 at 11:43 am

Kathleen, I love your suggestion to wait a few months. Although I started at birth, and plan to with future babies, many cultures don’t even begin to deal with their babies’ waste until around 6 months. Yet I admit it would be MUCH easier to learn signals (if any) before the 4th month. 2 months sounds like a nice balance.

I am also a huge fan of the bEcoPotty! It’s stayed with my son and I up until he turned 27 mos, and now he’s finally using a seat reducer on the big toilet! I really don’t like cleaning out the mini potty…so perhaps with future kiddos we’ll transition first.

For those who might benefit from knowing…I have a huge list of Q+A about EC on my EC blog…it answers pretty much any question my readers could come up with regarding ECing their babies. I’m just so happy to see so many new parents trying it…and finding success! Thanks for posting on this…and for your tips and honesty about your experience…it sets us all up for better success in parenting. :) Andrea

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