I’m so glad you are interested in started Elimination Communication with your baby! I’m sure you are going to love connecting with your baby, and doing something great for the planet at the same time.
One way to start is to jump right in. Just take the diaper off and take your baby to a potty! Give it a try and see how much fun it can be.
I practiced Elimination Communication with my son from the day he was born. I had read a couple of books ahead of time but I was a little unsure whether I was going to be able to make it work. A long labor which didn’t go as we’d hoped left my husband and I feeling completely exhausted. So, for the first few days, while at the hops first cued our son into his loosened diaper while we were at the hospital. When we returned to our home, as soon as he started to fuss, we took him into the bathroom, took his diaper off, made a cue sound, and almost fell over in surprise when he peed!
A couple of times I’ve had the opportunity to potty other people’s babies. One was about a week old, and another was about six months old. I simply explained to the baby that I thought maybe they would like to pee, I held them in my arms facing outward, supported by my chest, over a place where they could go (the newborn over a wet diaper, the older baby near a bush at a park) and both times the babies peed immediately!
So go ahead and give it a whirl, you may be surprised.
If you want to be more methodical, or if you are feeling unsure how to move forward after a first “lucky” catch, here are some of the steps that are generally recommended for a modern practice of Elimination Communication.
Observation and Cueing
Even if you have the success described above with “jumping in”, what you will find very helpful at the beginning of your EC journey is to take some time to observe your baby’s patterns and body language, and for you to create a cue sound association. The next time you are hanging out with your baby, take her diaper off. If you are more comfortable, you can use a non-waterproof diaper (without a cover), or a non-waterproof training pant, but not a disposable or waterproof diaper.
Don’t worry. This is temporary. You don’t need to leave your baby literally diaper-free (or naked) 24 hours a day to practice Elimination Communication. But you should start with a couple of diaper-free observation sessions so you can observe your baby’s body language or cues. If you can’t tell when she’s going, you won’t be able to communicate about it. When she pees or poops, you will explain it and make a cue sound.
The goal during this observation and cueing session is for your baby to form an association between pottying and your cue sound. Babies do understand! Just say, “you are peeing. Pssss.” or something like that. Don’t jump up and try to run your baby to a toilet. Just be sure there is a cloth diaper, towel, or something else under your baby to absorb the pee.
During this phase, the priority is to start talking about pottying. Everyone pees and poops. Its not a big deal. Its not dirty or disgusting– everyone just has to do it, many many times in our lives!
People often ask me why should they talk to their baby. There is a common misperception that babies cannot understand. But they do understand! And the more you talk to your baby, you are greatly benefiting your baby’s brain development. The more you talk to your baby, the more you are building your child’s vocabulary, and while they learn the meaning of all the words they hear, they will understand the intent from the context and tone.
Talking about what’s going on with pottying is not only going to help your baby understand her bodily functions, it will also help with speech and brain development. Its also more soothing and builds a trust relationship. If you haven’t done this before it may take some getting used to. Here is an example. “Oh, I just noticed your diaper is wet. You peed. Lets get this wet diaper off. You’ll be much more comfortable in this clean and dry one. This diaper is blue. Blue is my favorite color….” etc. The language exposure helps your baby learn to talk and paves the way for future success in reading, too! While you are going through this initial observation time, you may find that your child gives you some indications when she is about to eliminate. Many people find the “poop face” pretty easy to identify. Your baby may get really quiet or look away from you before peeing. If your baby has a pattern and you are good at recognizing these things, you may be really fortunate to learn your baby’s signals. You’ll probably find this more likely if you are babywearing.
If you cannot see any signals, don’t worry. Most of us have lived our entire lives without ever having seen anyone potty a baby, so don’t be hard on yourself. Just focus on the communication from your side, and be patient. Your child will eventually start to tell you in ways that are more obvious to you.
Potty time! After you’ve done a few sessions of observation and cuing, you can start taking your baby to the toilet or other appropriate place, and make your cue sound (e.g. “psss!”). You may be surprised how quickly your baby catches on, and responds to your cue by peeing! The best time to get a catch is when your baby is likely to need to pee-such as when he first wakes from a nap, or when you are getting out of the car after a drive somewhere. If you don’t have any luck the first time you try, keep on with the observation and cueing phase, and try again later.
When your baby does pee in the potty you’ll be excited! Now you can communicate that he peed in the potty. “You peed. Psss. How comfortable, nice and dry, with a quick pat to wipe and back to playing (or snuggling, or nursing, or reading, or whatever) quickly.” I urge you to be mindful that praising can undermine efforts to normalize body functions and turn it into something your child should do to please you –rather than for herself. But of course you should show if you are happy, by smiling and acknowledging your feelings, especially the first time! “I’m so excited that we are trying elimination communication and you peed in the potty! I’m so happy I figured out when you needed to go!” A “woohoo!” is not going to hurt. The concern is getting into vacuous “Good job, Good peeing!” kind of praise which is going to make pottying into something your baby feels she needs to do to win your affection (or withhold when mad at you.) Babies can also tell us if they don’t want to use the toilet, through vocal protesting, arching their back, or looking away. “Oh, I see you didn’t need to pee right now. I’m so glad you told me. Let’s go play with your rattle now!” (etc.)
Remember to start out with a focus on communication, responsiveness, and bonding. The goal is not to get it all “in a potty” but rather to help your child understand the process and gradually learn about where we are supposed to (in our culture) go, and eventually learn the skills to move ourself to the potty, get clothes out of the way, sit (or stand) in the right place, wipe up afterwards, and flush. (My six year old is still working on that last one!).
So don’t hesitate. Next time your baby wakes from a nap or finishes nursing, give it a try. Its fun!
Click here to read my EC Clothing Guide explaining the most popular clothing used for easy Elimination Communication.
If you feel frustrated, remember that in places where EC is the normal practice, parents receive support from their families and friends, all who have practiced EC. You can find the support you need by joining an EC Support Community. You can also read about other families’ adventures with Elimination Communication on a number of blogs.
Want to get mobile with your EC practice?
Happy No Nappy is the first and only iPhone and Android app for learning Elimination Communication. A handy reference for the mobile phone generation, the app aims to teach you how to “EC”, help you get started and to overcome any issues you may find on your way.