Psst, psst: Thoughts on EC so far

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:

Book review: Bringing up Bébé

A few weeks ago, we heard an NPR interview with Pamela Druckerman, the author of Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.

We liked what we heard, and Matthew and I both requested the book at the [city] library the next day.  However, our positions in the hold queue made me wonder if we’d actually get a chance to read the book before Sir headed off to college.

Fortunately, Matthew also requested the book from the county library, which had many more copies, and we had the book in our hot little hands a few weeks later.  (We’re still waiting in the city library queue.)

Unlike traditional parenting books, Druckerman’s writing is witty and entertaining, part personal tale, part ethnography of French parenting, and part practical ideas to try in your own family.

Like the advice in most baby/parenting books we’ve read, we’ll take some and leave some (notably, leave the negative perception and infrequent practice of  breastfeeding in France).  The book offered reinforcement for many practices we’re already trying to implement.

Things to incorporate (or continue):

  • Waiting — teaching patience; we will respond to your needs, but not always immediately
  • Independent play
  • Introducing a wide variety of [healthy] food
  • Setting clear boundaries and enforcing them firmly and consistently, while giving room to explore and grow within that framework
  • Maintaining our identity as adults, with our own interests and needs

Overall, Bringing Up Bébé left me contemplating a move to France, with its crèches and state-run preschools, approach to introducing food (and the importance they place on good food), and practice of integrating children into the family and society (from infancy), rather than the family’s life revolving around the child.

Blue Green Mama update

It’s been a few months since I wrote about my struggles with postpartum depression (though not officially diagnosed, my symptoms and their duration seem consistent with actual PPD and not just postpartum adjustment disorder).  I met with a counselor soon after I wrote that post and continued to see her regularly for 3 1/2 months.

During that time, we worked on a lot of issues surrounding my derailed home birth plans, the unplanned Cesarean, and life as I’d known it being completely altered by the addition of a new little person.  After about ten sessions, I felt I’d accomplished as much as I could in therapy (at least for now), so I checked myself out at the end of February.  Here are some things I’ve learned in that time.

This caring for a baby shit is hardContinue reading “Blue Green Mama update”

From Dude to Sir

While I’ve continued to refer to Gabriel as “The Dude” in most of my posts, these days, we use the nickname “Sir” much more frequently.*  I’m not sure where I picked it up, but there is some irony in addressing him as such:

“Would Sir desire a shit in the potty?”

“Is Sir ready for some delicious breast milk?”

Anyhow, at some point we’ll have to drop this “Sir” business, lest he get an inflated impression of his position in this family and society at large, but for now, it’s sticking.

The nickname is not the only change.  Earlier this month, Sir passed the eight-month mark.  One part of me feels like these life-tipped-totally-upside-down-because-of-baby days can’t pass quickly enough and the other part can’t believe it’s already been over eight months.

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Here’s a quick peek at the current state of things.

Food
While mama’s milk continues to provide the majority of calories and nutrients,
Sir enjoys his solid food.  I had some doubts about BabyLed Weaning in the beginning and worried that several bouts of sickness that put Sir back on a milk-only diet would pose significant setbacks in the process, but things are going wonderfully.

He’s tried almost everything we’ve set in front of him thus far, usually displaying great enthusiasm for the whole process, proving that he is, in fact, our child.  He’s also been exposed to most of the foods that are common allergens (peanuts, eggs, soy, wheat, corn) with no apparent issues, which is nice.

Movement
Over the past two months, Sir perfected the army crawl.  He moves quite quickly and adroitly, especially when he spots a forbidden object, like the trash can.

So far, he’s displayed little inclination to pick his belly up off of the floor and actually crawl.  I’m not particularly concerned, either he will, or he’ll go straight to walking.

Potty
Very hit or miss, much to my frustration, as I mentioned here.  We continue to offer.  These days, Sir usually consents to sit on the potty, but often with no results (despite waiting sitting for several minutes at times, looking at a toy or a book), only to make a big puddle on the floor a few minutes later.

Sleep
Do I dare to even go here?  Most nights are actually pretty darn good, it’s the daytime sleep, especially at daycare, that’s killing me.  This week has actually been slightly better, but I don’t want to get my hopes up.

Quick Facts

  • Number of teeth: 8 — no molars yet, but he’s working on it!
  • Hair: still brown, though lighter than before, starting to fill in the bald spot on the back of his head, shows signs of having a bit of curl
  • Weight: Somewhere over 20 pounds — a nice little chunker
  • Height: Somewhere over 27 inches
  • Other nicknames: Baby Bulldog (when teething), Little Lizard (when gassy)
  • Likes: Outsa! (how Matthew said “outside” as a baby), eating, putting everything in his mouth, exploring, my animal sound impressions, babbling with us, peeing on the floor shortly after we offer the potty
  • Dislikes: naps, holding still for diaper changes, parental limits on explorations

*I’m sure The Dude will still pop up from time to time.  He was most definitely The Dude while sporting some sunglasses last weekend.

Too crunchy?

If you use the term “crunchy” to describe someone, you’re probably referring to a preference for a natural lifestyle, someone who, of course, must eat [homemade] granola, because that is what crunchy people eat.

However, shortly after we started cloth diapering, I developed my own theory for the origin of the term.  “Crunchy” is an apt description for our line-dried diapers.

We don’t have a dryer, so we’ve exclusively line-dried our laundry for the past few years.  Sometimes I notice that the clean, dry clothes are a bit stiff, but it’s not a big deal.  However, some of the diapers we use end up EXTREMELY stiff and rough, which IS a big deal for The Dude’s sensitive baby skin (and these would probably irritate most anyone’s skin, baby or no).

Fortunately, we have access to our downstairs neighbors’ dryer, so, although I don’t like the energy use (or the fact that the diapers will wear out more quickly — “lint” is mostly just fabric particles from your clothes), I’ve started using it to help soften up the cloth diapers.  When possible, I line dry the diapers most of the way, then toss them in the dryer for a softening fluff.

While this solves the crunchiness problem, the homemade, hand-me-down portion of our diaper collection still have rough edges, which are causing ongoing irritation issues for The Dude.  He’s almost outgrown many of those anyway, so I’m faced with buying more cloth diapers.

I’ll admit that I’ve been procrastinating — hoping, based on what I’ve read about people who’ve practiced Elimination Communication (EC) from an early age, that we’d be nearly diaper-free by now, but that is just not the case.  Not anywhere close, which, considering the time I’ve invested wasted sitting around with The Dude on the potty over the past several months, is pretty depressing.

My attempts to find used cloth diapers on Craigslist have proven fruitless thus far, so I may have to give in and purchase them new.