Sunday, February 16, 2014

If School House Rock did a parenting series- Elimination Communication

      Ok, so here is my super informative post on elimination communication (EC). Let me first start by saying I am not a potty expert. I have zero EC credentials. I read a book and started letting Perrin running around like a naked little hooligan a couple times a day. However, a couple people have expressed interest in learning more about EC and what I am doing with Perrin, so I'll tell you as much as I know. I got most of my information from the book Diaper Free Baby as well as The Other Parenting Book. Joey and I discussed EC when I was pregnant and agreed we wanted to try it, but it was never much of a priority. I knew I was going to breastfeed, I wanted to cosleep, I had every intention of using cloth diapers, but EC was just an idea that seemed interesting that I wanted to try out. I originally said I would start at 3 months because I figured I would have a handle on the whole baby thing by then...ha. So then I said 6 months, but that didn't happen. So I ended up starting at 7 1/2 months. Better late than never? I apologize if this isn't super organized; EC can be a done a bajillion different ways so there is a lot to go over. Let's start with some EC basics.

      EC is not "potty training." You are not using rewards and punishments to elicit a behavior and the main goal is not to have a child who is completely toilet independent. EC is first and foremost about communicating with your baby. The example the Diaper Free Baby gives that made a lot of sense likens it to reading your baby's hunger and sleep cues (versus sleep training and scheduled feeding). It's baby-led elimination. It's based off the premise that newborns have a natural instinct to not soil themselves. Ever notice how new babies like to go as soon as you are trying to change them? That is the instinct at work. This is also culturally based. Diapers are very modern and very western. In other places, the practices we associate with EC are normal infant care practices, just like feeding them.
    So, the basic gist of EC is to create an awareness between you and your baby about their elimination needs so that you can help them to maintain the awareness of their bodily functions that they are born with. When we diaper babies, over time we essentially teach them to become accustomed to soiling themselves (since it goes against that natural instinct) and then have to un-teach that for conventional potty training. When you are aware of their elimination, you can give them an alternative place to pee or poop besides a diaper such as a potty, bowl, or toilet. The benefits are mainly allowing your baby to follow their natural instincts and becoming closer to your child through a new form of awareness and communication. However, many times EC also includes the added bonuses of less diaper use, and easier and earlier toilet independence.
     There are about a million different approaches to EC. You can do it full time or only occasionally. You can use diapers all the time, some times, or never at all. You can start on day one or wait until toddlerhood (although the book states that 3-8 months is the ideal starting time due to the child's abilities and the existence of that initial instinct). You can buy a bunch of props and gear or go minimalist. It really depends on your goals and needs.

    Our goals are pretty simple. I want to help Perrin maintain his awareness of his elimination and give him opportunities to potty outside of a diaper. I like the idea of learning his cues better and I am also hoping that it will make his transition to toilet independence smoother and faster since he will already be familiar with the process.
   The book suggests starting out with just an hour or so of diaper free time a day do let your baby get used to being naked. If he pees, cue him with a sound or word you intend on using to bring his attention to what is happening and letting him associate the action with the sound (we say "peepee" over and over again, almost like a baby chick sound and sign for 'toilet'). You can also pay attention when they have their diapers on and if they are obviously going to bathroom, cue as well and try to change them as soon as possible.
The first few days I aimed to give him at least an hour a day with no diaper. Now I usually let him go diaper free whenever we are home as long as I'm not wearing him or he's not napping.
   The book also gives suggestions for key times when babies usually pee so that you can try to "catch" the opportunity on the potty. After a day or two of diaper free time, I noticed Perrin usually goes after waking up from a nap, so now I give him a few minutes after waking up then let him sit on his potty for a bit. Also at the suggestion of the book, I offer a potty opportunity when I take him out of a carrier because babies generally don't like to go to the bathroom while being worn. So these are the two keys times where we try to put him on the potty, and then while home we provide lots of naked time. We still use diapers when we go out and when Perrin sleeps. It is totally possible to EC over night as well, but since Perrin sleep nurses in a side lying position and I barely have to roll over, I'm not willing to wake both of us up to try it. We also have only been focusing on pee. The book suggests starting with bowel movements since they are usually much more obvious than pee, but Perrin usually goes first thing in the morning as he's waking up and I don't want to rush around trying to get him on the potty.
    So basically we are just taking it slow and trying to have very low expectations, though I will say both Joey and I have been impressed by how much success we have had. Today, less than a week from starting, Perrin peed on the potty four times (plus twice on the floor :) ). I really think he is starting to trust that we will provide opportunities on the potty and as a result is developing a preference to not go in his diaper. Above all, this is a journey and a process- an experience to learn from. It's not supposed to be stressful for us or Perrin. If he doesn't want to sit on the potty, he doesn't have to. If he gets up and immediately pees on the floor, so be it. But I must say, he looks pretty adorable while he is on there.

   Oh, and before I forget- the potty itself. You can just hold the baby over the toilet or help support them on it, but I wanted a potty to keep in the living room so I didn't have to take him back and forth. You just use a bowl or something if you want. A friend recommended this Beco potty. It's made from recycled plant waste and is completely biodegradable. It's the perfect size for Perrin.

    I hope this explanation made at least a little sense. If have any questions, please feel free to ask!

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