Commenting on Kath’s EC post on Baby KERF helped me reflect more on our elimination communication (EC) journey thus far.* If you like the “journey” metaphor, I will say that, after nine months of this journey, most days it feels like we’re still trying to pull out of the garage. There have been a few periods where we made it part way down the driveway, maybe even out into the street, but then we remembered we forgot something and had to go back to the house.
While I’m trying to be patient, and understanding, and optimistic, I fall short much of the time. Despite all my best intentions to be realistic and not set my expectations too high, especially once he started daycare (where they refuse to sit him on his potty), it’s hard.
So, given my experience thus far, what would I do differently?
- Wait to start EC until baby is about 6 weeks (or more?), instead of from birth, which is when many cultures that have retained this practice start.
- During those first weeks, you can watch your baby for elimination signals and try to get a sense of his timing and patterns, but, especially if you’re a first-time mom, you’re dealing with enough other [non-literal] shit.
- As with any other baby-advice/parenting book, don’t expect YOUR child to match the description of “most other children” — you will just be frustrated.
- Sleep is more important than diaper-free! Practice EC during the daytime ONLY. My initial zeal for trying to catch Every. Single. Pee. probably contributed to some sleeping problems for bébé.
- Instead of observing The Pause (a la French parents) when he gave a little cry at night or during nap times, we would rush right in, un-diaper him, and set him on the pot. Not only were these efforts usually unproductive, but they deprived him of the chance to learn to consolidate his sleep and get the rest he needed.
The anecdotes in the EC books bias one toward thinking the practice is easy and straightforward — if you build it, they will come, and all that jazz.
And maybe it works that way for some people, but when it didn’t for us, it just created one more frustration, one more reason to question my parenting decisions and abilities, at a time that was already stressful and fraught with uncertainty, all fueled of course by sleep deprivation and my struggles with PPD.
I really, really like the idea of EC and I really want it to work. Most of it makes sense to me in theory, but in practice things just don’t fall into place. Is it because we’re only part time and the daycare situation? Because we have yet to go “cold turkey” and ditch the diapers, as some suggest?
Either way, I’m not quite ready to give up — maybe we’re just days from a developmental milestone and a big breakthrough, but I think it’s important to share a perspective that differs from that in most EC literature.
*If you’re new to the blog, you can read more about our EC journey in the “Psst, psst” series:
wow i admire your perseverance! He will for sure be totally diaper free by 18months or even a year! Even these little steps are preparing him to be diaper free early. I agree that parents shouldn’t make EC a goal right and birth, breastfeeding and recovery/transition should take priority.
Thanks, Christine. I saw that you’re working on diaper-free with Ada (or should I say Princess Buttcheeks?) — I’m excited to see how that goes and would be happy to hear what works for you guys.
I agree that the books are unfortunately a little overzealous in making it seem like your little one will be diaper free by 12 months, and that it would all be easy. I wish there was a study out there looking at when most EC’ing babies were really potty-reliable. I’m guessing it’s really closer to 18-24 months, and depends GREATLY on the circumstances. My little one was about 50% reliable by 12 months, but wasn’t really fully there until closer to two years and now at 2.5, she still has the occasional accident (especially but not exclusively at night). I think it’s really important to remember that EC is more about the philosophy and attitude toward pottying, rather than about a specific time for being declared “potty trained”. So if it’s getting frustrating, interfering with other important things (like being about to bond with baby, or your sanity), it’s probably best to back off a little, at least for a while. For me, it was a challenge not to get upset when an accident happened, which is TOTALLy counter to the whole point of EC. Those were the times when I had to head back to the garage for a bit. Even making it to the driveway occasionally will help your baby know there’s a world out there. I’m like you, I like the “idea” of EC, but my reality differed greatly from the books too. The fact that you’re giving it a go is commendable. Don’t beat yourself up because your reality doesn’t match the books. We’re all just doing the best we can. **Funny note – my little one has been completely diaper-free even at night for a long time, but recently has started insisting on putting a diaper on under her sleeper at night. I figure it’s HER choice at this age…
I think that when we start the journey, unlike traditional cultures we are starting from -10 rather than from 5 on the scale because we have never seen it, never grew up with it never practiced it, and have no mentors or helping hands. When a person with childhood and adult experiece in a traditional EC culture starts ec they are already adept not green. Our culture also thinks babies are lumps and puts a lot of pressure on mothers to conform or perform if they choose to not conform. It’s not fair and a lot of un-needed stress.
I’m an advocate of night EC but not in the sense of catching every single pee, but in a sense of being aware no more than I am aware of being asked for boob-in-mouth-please. I have to change the secured diaper or unsecured draping anyway so if I am awoken for a wee and the baby is dry and refusing to nurse or settle I try and loose nothing, if I miss I change the cloth and note how I was awoken or if I kept insisting on trying to feed and the baby was nibbling on and off. Had I paid better attention I would be asleep sooner 🙂 It’s a multitasking thing to take advantage of being awake anyway so I can catch the most snooze 🙂 A hit shouldn’t take longer to remedy than a miss.
Also we have to give ourselves a break. Our environment makes naturalnparenting harder because it isn’t set up for it. Mattress and bedding require different consideration than nest, hammock, or sleeping platform. It is easy to carry a naked baby outside and instinctively hold them away from you when the begin to wee, in modern homes you have to be either more “on” at first or use more cloth to compensate. And again, mentors are hard to come by! I wish I had a traditional woman to talk to faceto face so she can show me how she handles the boy hose attachment!
Sorry so long! Hang in there! It is sooooooooooooooo worth even the hindsight.
I never thought I would be saying this… but I’m actually sort of relating to this post. No, no… I haven’t been harboring a hidden love child or something like that, but after Princess peed on the bed and the vet checked her out and determined that it was not a physical problem but a behavioral one (most likely she was afraid to use the litter box because one of the other cats has been stalking her) I’ve been sort of obsessed with watching her for signs that she needs to go, and whisking her off to the litter box at the first inkling! 2-3 supervised potty breaks per day seems to be doing the trick, and we haven’t had any further accidents. If only babies were so easy!
Thank you so much for this very honest post. I was wondering how things were going in this department. We’ve been trying late-start EC with our little guy since he was about 12 months old. I’m trying to be laid back about it and we’re still in the “learning to recognize the feeling that I have to go” stage. I’m sure that my house will reek of urine once summer hits. 🙂