Tuesday, April 10, 2012

EC: All or Nothing?

Welcome to the April 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids and Personal Care
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories, tips, and struggles relating to their children's personal care choices.
EC= Elimination Communication

Definition= Using timing, signals, cues, and intuition to address an infant's need to eliminate waste.

What it means for our family: Children happier when not made to pee or poop on themselves.

Daddy uses a prefold to "protect her bum from the cold seat!"

We aren't potty training. We aren't using any kind of shaming or rewarding beyond "Yay! Doesn't it feel good to not sit in that mess?" This isn't about teaching my children anything. If anything: we are the ones being taught.

Babies do know when they need to eliminate (pee or poo). They may not have the control adults do, but when their body needs to go, they may cue. Stiffen, eyes glaze a bit, squirm and fuss. People around the world do it. But, when anyone in our culture catches wind of it, the responses vary from disbelief to anger at "just another trend expecting parents to drop everything for their children." It doesn't have to be that way. You can EC full time, day time, night time, part time, occasionally, or even whenever.

When I started, I was not about to devote my life looking for the signs my child needed to go. But, my children demanded it. Rashes, screaming, fussy, waiting until the diaper was off anyways babies. Don't they know I am too busy, and sometimes too lazy to get them to the potty every time they have to go? I have two boys running around too! Other terms for it are Infant Hygiene and Diaper Free Baby. How am I supposed to manage that? Be so on the ball I don't need those 6-9 (for my baby) diapers a day? That was such a daunting idea, I wondered if I want to try this at all. Maybe my children could just learn to deal with going in a diaper. But then, I would have to UN-teach them that later... Besides, I am already watching to meet their other needs to eat, sleep, play, and love. This was just one more part of their personality.

So, here's how we do it.

First: I have a 3 miss limit. I refuse to change my clothes, clean the floor, or any other non-diaper messes more than 3 times a day. This allows me to let go of any guilt about not being connected enough. I just can't make my life any harder!

Second: I am not excellent at reading cues. As adorable as she is: I can't keep her with me, staring into her big brown eyes all day. So, I keep it simple and offer the potty upon waking, if she seems fussy for no reason, or if we can get to a potty after car rides. Occasionally I just put a potty under her while breastfeeding because that seems to be the time when she will poo. I have come to realize that with all the extra "folds" on a baby girl, that poo gets up into everything if done in the diaper. This is much easier to clean!

Third: Using cue sounds and signs in hopes they eventually start using them. L2 only used the sign a handful of times. Maybe it is just a way to make small talk while they do their business. I know if someone just stared at me I would have a hard time. But distracted talking: ok, we're cool.

Fourth: This is not a big deal. I will not be upset about misses. If I have a day it is easier to just stick with the cloth diapers, I will. If I run short and use my emergency disposables, so be it. I can not promise that I won't make a big deal out of it when we have a good day. Really, it is freaking awesome to have one few diaper, and I feel like a rockstar for meeting my child's needs.

When we used EC like this for L2 he chose to start using the potty full time (aside from a recent regression, likely due to new baby) at 18 months. I am hoping L3 might decide the same. Not holding my breath though!

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
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(This list will be live and updated by afternoon April 10 with all the carnival links.)


  1. That is one sweet EC picture :) And I'm with you - I am horrible at reading Ailia's cues, but I do know the general times she needs to go. I figure it will get better, and I appreciate the catches we have now.

  2. Very cute pic! Thanks for sharing your experience with EC, we did it for a few months with my second baby, and then he stopped liking the potty and would freak out! We are dealing with more rashes with our third baby and just the other day I began thinking maybe trying going diaper free for a while and see how she does! I do seem to know before she poops that she's gonna go, but I don't know about pee, I have a feeling there would be lots of misses there! It might be worth it though to clear this rash! And like you said, in the long run diaper free kiddos don't have to unlearn going in the diaper--it's just natural for them to use the potty! Anyways, thanks for helping me see that EC doesn't have to be so difficult :-)

  3. I absolutely adore that picture of L3! The expression, the perfect chub. :)

    I love your explanation that the cuing and signing is a way to pass the time with small talk. Ha ha, I definitely need something to do while I wait!

    Overall, I just so appreciate your common sense approach to EC, your no-stress attitude and your three-miss limit. It's definitely not all or nothing! I'm a big advocate of part-time ECing, and the time can be as partial as you like.

  4. Life is less stressful when we let go of our perfectionist ideas (speaking of myself, here) and just go with things. :)

  5. That's encouraging, to hear it doesn't have to be all-or-nothing! I really want to do EC with the next baby, but I'm afraid of it taking over our whole life (they do pee so often at first!) and especially night time. My toddler, at two, STILL doesn't sleep through the night, and I would hate to encourage night waking for potty breaks. Do you EC at night?

    1. With my first two children, they slept through without waking to go or to be changed. L3 wakes demanding to be changed. That is as close as I get to doing it at night. I don't function well being woke at night!

  6. I had a friend go off on me when I first started about how it was just me being trained to take her at certain times. Um... yeah! Aren't we trained to feed them when they're hungry? But then I think she might have been a schedule-feeder. :-P

    I recently had an epiphany, too. I felt like I didn't have time to take Spencer. Then I just likened it to my older child needing to go. You make time. If she needs to go, I drop everything to take her. Why would I do less for him?

    And YES! Finally, a parenting tool that works in a part time setting. I was so relieved to read that when I was getting started with Sasha. I was working FT out of the house then and was the only one pottying her. It most definitely worked part time.

    Also, the prefold over the potty is brilliant!

  7. Definitely, the prefold is great (I always ran hot water over the potty to warm it up a bit). My little ones potty training was admirable - at 14 months she was telling me it was time and doing a great potty job. I'm sure you could imagine how good I felt about that! Then she realized how responsive we were to her verbal cues and the wolf cries began!! Potty training went totally backwards for a while. Now I try to pick up her cues for when she needs to go and this works frequently. She is starting to take her nappy off to pee which is great (especially if I get the potty in time - otherwise the carpet cops it!!).

  8. I enjoyed your post and overview of EC. Love the idea of the prefold over the potty to keep it warm and cozy. The picture is great too. I think the miss limit helps to keep things less stress. Our newborn is getting squrmy enough now that I can't just lay a prefold under her to safeguard my misses. especially at naps and bed times, so i've been relying on diapers a little bit more during those times. or a large towel for under her for naps. At night, she really hates to be taken out of bed to potty, so we dont do too much at night time. i can understand that. I wouldnt get up to go if i didnt have to either :) I use a 3 limit of false offers too. sometimes i feel like i must annoy her if i try to potty her too many times and she doens't have to, so if i offer 3 times and she doesn't have to go, i just step back and relax.

    i love this : "I will not be upset about misses...I can not promise that I won't make a big deal out of it when we have a good day."

    exactly :)
    i just wrote about our first diaperless outing :)