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:

Psst, psst: EC at six months

UPDATE: Hello to all BERF readers!  Because of all the interest in EC, I’ve just added a new post that synthesizes what I’ve learned thus far.  Thanks for visiting Her Green Life. 

So, this post originally had a “five” in the title, but five has come and gone.  At this point, we’re actually closer to seven months than six, but who’s counting?

I’ve been sitting on this post, waiting to have a “Dude on the pot” photo to include, but I’m afraid no photo is quite appropriate.  Most potty opportunities in the past weeks ended with him making his body completely rigid and refusing to sit on the pot.  I finally started joking around with it, holding his rigid little body up over the pot, saying, “Light as a feather, stiff as a board,” except more than half the time, I caught myself saying, “Light as a board, stiff as a feather.”

Anyway, when he resists, we’re not forcing it, but our enthusiasm for offering the potty has definitely waned.  We still offer sometimes, but our number of catches is quite low.  Many of the books talk about “potty pauses,” but I assumed those were numbered in days, maybe a week or two, not weeks or months.  We shall see . . . .

**EC stands for Elimination CommunicationIf you’re new to the blog, you can read more about it in the “Psst, psst” series:

Psst, psst: EC at Four Months

Babies change so quickly in a month’s time, but I don’t think much has changed EC-wise.  At this point, the communication feels fairly one-sided, especially when it comes to pee: we give potty opportunities and cues and he [sometimes] responds.

Despite no diet change (still 100% breast milk), his poops are becoming more, um, interesting, providing extra incentive to get them in the potty rather than the diaper.  His poop cues are fairly distinctive: farting, grunting, fussing while feeding.  Unfortunately, these cues that sometimes mean, “I’m about to poop,” can alternately mean, “I have gas,” or, “I might poop sometime in the next 24 hours.”

In other news, I found a second potty on Craigslist for eight dollars — same brand as the blue pot, slightly different design.  The blue pot now stays at daycare during the week, and I offer potty opportunities when I go over to feed The Dude.  On the weekends, I just leave the pot in the car.  If I slide the passenger seat all the way forward, I can place the pot on the floor behind it, and I’ve caught a couple of pees when we were out and about.

I’ll close this update by sharing a couple of things we’ve discovered on our EC journey.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Sometimes The Dude needs a little help chilling out enough to pee.  For awhile, letting him suck on a pacifier helped accomplish this.  (It also gave me visions of him standing at a urinal in a public restroom when he’s twenty, casually pulling a pacifier out of his pocket before getting down to business.)
  • More recently, the hairdryer is our calming tool of choice.  We’d been using the dryer to calm him during diaper changes and make sure things stayed nice and dry down there.  Matthew discovered that it also helped while on the pot!
  • At daycare, in lieu of the hairdryer, I’ve sometimes resorted to running water in the sink.
  • If you’re not quite “diaper-free” (and we definitely are NOT),  something that’s easy-on and off, like a simple velcro cover with insert, makes potty opportunities more convenient.

Further reading
Diaper Free: FAQs and Facts — Good answers to common EC questions and concerns, written by a dad.
Elimination Communication — Tons of information in this two-year-and-counting chronicle of one family’s EC journey.  While I try to avoid doing too many comparisons, I find it helpful to see where “Itty Bitty” was at various ages and what lies ahead for us.  It also provides encouragement when I feel like just throwing in the diaper towel.

Psst, psst: EC at three months

I’m a bit overdue for this post — the “three months” part of the title is quickly becoming dated — time to write!  We’ve made a good bit of progress since my first Elimination Communication (EC) post.  While he’s still most definitely in diapers, Gabriel pees and poops on his potty regularly when we’re at home, and we’ve had some 24-48 hour stretches with only one or two wet diapers 🙂

I’m not amazing at reading his pee signals (if he’s giving them), so pee catches involve putting him on the potty at regular times: when he first wakes up, right after a meal, if he’s hanging out and it’s been awhile since a pee, etc.  Poop signals are easier to read, but I still hesitate to interrupt a good feeding to rush him onto the pot.

The biggest issues at present?  Diaper rash and the daycare dilemma.Continue reading “Psst, psst: EC at three months”

Psst, psst: The EC update

Startling statistic: 40 years ago, over 90% of babies were out of diapers by 18 months, and today, only 2% of babies are out of diapers by 2 years!  Whether cloth or disposable, that’s a lot more diaper-time for today’s little ones.

Reading about Elimination Communication (EC) midway through pregnancy activated my green radar — baby peeing and pooping in the toilet (or in a little potty or other receptacle) equals less dirty diapers to wash.  Less washing means less water and energy used — what wasn’t to love.

I read Diaper Free Baby by Christine Gross-Loh, and it all seemed pretty straight forward.  And then I had a baby . . . .

Matthew actually caught a few pees in the hospital, but between my surgery recovery and Gabriel’s fussiness, we got off to a pretty slow start with EC.  I was pretty frustrated and discouraged, especially after the book made it sound so simple.  Gabriel met our attempted potty opportunities with cries, but no pee or poop.  We worried that his back was sore from the six UNNECESSARY lumbar punctures and that the potty position led to more pain.

The Dude is now 11 weeks old, and in the past few weeks, things seem to be clicking.  Most pee and poop still happens in a diaper, but we consistently catch 2-4 pees a day.  It is amazing how long he can stay dry, and he really does seem to know what is going on when we give him a potty opportunity.

"What's a guy have to do to get some privacy around here?"

When we’re home, we offer the potty when he wakes from a nap, and with almost every diaper change, using “psst, psst” to cue pees.  I can read his poop signals pretty clearly, but at this point, he usually poops DURING a feeding, and I really don’t want to interrupt his meal just to set him on the pot.  I do acknowledge the bowel movement by making the poop cue (we use a gentle grunt).

While we are far from diaper free, we are succeeding at Elimination Communication.  Each catch provides encouragement to continue the journey and see where it ends.