Recently, with my munchkin now 17 months old, I came across elimination communication, or EC, as all the cool cats call it.
I can't help but read up on anything parenting/child-rearing related, especially if it sounds a little 'against the flow' - because chances are it's more interesting and gives more food for thought. With a little girl who already tells me when she's going to the toilet and a newborn bun in its final stage of baking, cue me buying 'Diaper Free Baby' for my Kindle and Googling EC for toddlers...
I love the concept and, as far as the communication bit goes, we've always done a version of it, but my experience introducing it a little more formally to the munchkin has been - interesting.
So EC, for those of you who are new to the idea (like me, several weeks ago) is essentially the practice of communicating with your child about their weeing and pooing, and consistently although not necessarily continuously, offering them the opportunity to do their thing in a loo, or loo-type receptacle, rather then in their nappy. From newborn onwards this might mean watching your baby/child avidly and learning their cues for toileting much as we do for hunger, tiredness, tummy-ache etc, trying to catch as many wees and poos as possible and keeping nappy-wearing to a minimum. Or it might mean offering them the potty during nappy free time, or at nappy changes, or for half an hour a couple of times a week. It could mean anything in between.
This is based on the premise that babies naturally do not want to soil themselves. Like other animals, toileting near themselves or their den isn't a happy option, and we essentially train our children to use a nappy, before, a couple of years later, training then not to again. EC cuts the nappy training and allows a gentle option to toilet away from them whenever possible.
I really like the idea of learning and understanding my child's toileting patterns, of demystifying the toilet, and of avoiding leaving my little'uns in dirty nappies - and to a far lesser extent than most practicing EC, we've done this with our munchkin. Mostly because, with cloth nappies, she's always been aware of when she's wet or dirty and we've always changed her the moment we are too. Who wants to sit or play in wee-wee soaked cloth?! Also, with another mini-Peeling imminent, I wanted to look into what this EC malarky might look like for baby number 2 from birth.
The short, summary thought, is that whilst it's a brilliant premise, beyond the communication bit it's all rather hectic and full on if you try to go the whole hog with a toddler - and with a newborn, it's probably a lot easier to do full-time if you don't have the aforementioned toddler distracting you with their untimely weeing... Because, let's be honest, it's hard enough to give as much attention as you want to both a toddler and a newborn simultaneously without throwing constant wee-and-poo alert into the mix.
|Bright Bots training pants... Munchkin's favourite are 'Geeeen'.|
Our weeks of increased EC enthusiasm...
I bought a few reusable training pants from Bright Bots which munchkin proudly wears around the house instead of going bare-bummed at nappy-free time, which she loves. This has upped our nappy-free time hours considerably because they hold just enough wee for her to give me a heads' up and grab the potty without puddles all over the floor, thus taking some of the stress out of nappy-free on those days where anything might push you over the edge...
I also offer her the option of the potty or the toilet far more often that before, and when she tells me she needs to go, I ask if she wants to go in a loo or in her nappy. This was all very civilised and resulted in a good many deposits in the potty, until her answer started to be 'neither' and it all got a bit more tricky.
After the first couple of weeks, we reached a bit of an impasse, you see. During any time without a nappy on, I would be told that she needed a wee. Then she would refuse to go to the potty. Or the toilet. But, when a nappy was offered instead, a full meltdown would ensue. We tried different potties, offering the sink (I know, but it's recommended as an option by some and I was willing to give it a go...), and none were acceptable. So we entered the faze, which still comes and goes, of me watching her wee on the floor, or my lap, or her bed, having been told that she needs to go and being able to do very little except watch it happen. (The option of forcing her into either loo or nappy seems pretty counter intuitive to me when she's in a 'free-to-be' zone as i don't really want either to become something she hates). However, this is not conducive to the 'relaxed and laid back attitude' which EC advocates. Not in the least.
The other challenge we have is timing. Many EC-ers suggest, once you spot a cue or are told by your little'un that they need to 'go', popping them on their chosen receptacle and entertaining them until they do their thing. I have managed to keep munchkin entertained for perhaps up to 10 minutes with stories, songs and games, with regular announcements of 'Done!' triumphantly given as she peers into a bone-dry potty. We eventually give up as she is, essentially, no longer willing to sit anywhere, let alone on her toilet. Seconds later usually sees a puddle growing by her feet as she announces 'wee wee!' and worriedly shakes her soggy feet.
Those first few weeks were fun, and enjoyable and silly as we did a lot more staying at home and being nappy free. But they also felt stressful at times, and there were a number of days when, feeling increasingly irksome, I'd abandon nappy-free and just pop a nappy back on before I lost the plot. I also put a lot of pressure on myself to give her enough time and options to do her thing on a potty or toilet - when at times she clearly just wanted to be left alone to play and would have been glad of a nappy to catch the wee so she didn't have to worry about it.
What's normal to us now?
So now, we do, essentially, a bit more EC than we did before I discovered it had a name, and a lot less than during those first excitable weeks. I offer the potty whenever I change her, after a nap or on waking, and whenever she tells me she's 'going' - but more often than not she doesn't want to and that's just fine too. If she asks to use the loo. I always let her, but if she announces she's done and she's clearly not, we just pop a nappy back on anyway. And she wears pants quite a lot, but mostly because she's discovered that a uniform of t-shirt, pants and Huggalugs (basically bumless, footless leggings) is brilliant attire for gymnastics, rolling around and general mischief when at home.
|Munchkin in her 'downward dog' and EC get-up|
And with our new baby? Arrival is imminent, and I think I'll more consciously watch for toilet cues, and maybe try to pop it's cute little bum over the potty if I catch a cue at a handy moment to do that (e.g. whilst munchkin is doing some pottyplay) - but it'll be the communication bit that I follow most, just as with our girl.
The parts of EC that work for me are the ones that help bring me closer to my kidlets - the talking about and playing around toileting. The stress of trying to fulfill a change in lifestyle threatened that benefit, for us.
So we'll still be talking avidly, and happily (in public and private), about the wee wee and poo poo habits of everyone from me to the dog, as our munchkin is so keen to do. We'll still encourage her as she 'helps' her favourite cuddly toys to use the potty and makes her 'psssst' noise to themas she holds them up. And we'll still have puddles on our floor from her misses. But beyond that, we're going to remain as we were - lackadaisical EC-ers at best, and probably non-EC-ers to anyone hardcore enough to do it properly!