Elimination Communication

Everyone seems to be curious about our elimination communication (EC) experience, so I thought it was time I write about that.  I’m going to make this two posts, as there is plenty to say.  Today is the EC intro, and tomorrow I’ll write a bit more about how we EC in our house.

Today’s photo is old (from May 15th), but related, so I’m using it.

Elimination Communication is the practice of following an infant’s cues in combination with getting to know their schedule, to anticipate their need to eliminate.  When an ECing caregiver knows the infant needs to “go”, they help them to do so – without a diaper.  Some use an adult toilet, others use a small potty like the one Annabelle is on above, and still others use a chamber pot or some improvised version of one of these.  It’s all a matter of preference.  Some begin this practice at birth, while others choose to begin later — it can be started at any time, really.

The idea is fairly simple, and it’s certainly not new, but I think it’s important to note what EC is not.  While some may disagree with me, in my humble opinion, to call it infant toilet training is simply incorrect.  Many people dismiss the idea right off and wonder to themselves why people can’t just let babies be babies anymore, because they look at it as just another attempt to raise babies who are “advanced.”  I am a huge advocate of letting children be children and will never understand why so many modern moms feel their preschoolers need to be able to read, write, name all of planets in the solar system, list off all 50 states and their capitals, and do simple mathematics.  That attitude and the beliefs that drive  EC could hardly be more different.  The former expects, and drives children to do things that are not developmentally appropriate and that are of little or no value to the child in their current state.  None of this is true of EC.

The elimination of waste is a not a skill, but rather a need.  An infant is intimately aware of his or her basic needs.  When they are hungry, they know how to make us aware of that, and when the food source is nearby, know how to use their hands and any other muscles necessary to bring food to mouth and begin eating.  While somewhat limited in the early months, the infant has control over his or her head, neck, arms, legs, hands, feet, etc.  Most of us fail to note, however, they also have control over the muscles that control the elimination of waste. The fact that babies everywhere eliminate in diapers is less a developmental issue on the infant’s part, than one on the adult’s part!  [And I include myself among those adults – there is certainly a learning curve, and as I will explain tomorrow, I’m not quite there yet!]  Because babies learn to eliminate in diapers, which get fancier and fancier all the time and better at keeping babies from feeling that they are wet when they are, they are conditioned not to pay attention to their bodies.  The need to eliminate is no big deal, because they can do it anytime and anywhere!  ECing babies are very aware of their need to eliminate, and they have the added benefit of never having to deal with the pain and discomfort of a diaper rash.

Elimination communication is about keeping babies in tune with their bodies and with all of their needs – even the stinky ones.  It’s also about keeping caregivers in tune with the needs of the babies in their lives.  I feel like this builds a huge amount of confidence for new parents, too.  Many claim they won’t know when their baby has to go; this reminds me of the common new momma fear that we won’t know when our babies are hungry. With elimination, as with feeding — we figure it out!  We are moms!

Elimination Communication is also not necessarily about being “diaper free.”  For many, this is a huge part of it, and one of the goals of ECing is to eliminate the waste generated by the use of diapers, too.  Being diaper free is not integral to elimination communication, however, at least not in my opinion.  Annabelle is not diaper free, but she is an ECing baby.  I’ll go more into that tomorrow!

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