ECing Our Newborn
The first time I ever heard of Elimination Communication (EC) was in a mainstream magazine. The article was not very well written and almost seemed to make fun of the idea and I did think that it was kind of weird. Of course, I was in my mid-twenties and didn’t have children yet so I couldn’t understand the value of it and didn’t bother to do additional research. Fast forward about six years and add my friend Karen to the equation and my interest was peaked.
Karen began ECing her daughter around 7.5 months old which was right around the time we met in person (we had an internet friendship for months prior to this). I thought it was so cool that her daughter was sitting on the potty and actually using it at such an early age and that Karen could read her cues and know when she had to go. I saw it working and realized the value of it even more as I was potty training my toddler who at the time was 18 months old. Graham was a potty expert as long as he was naked and this is still actually true, 10 months later. If he is naked he will go pee or poop with only the rare accident but with clothes on he has a harder time. He is more relaxed about it with clothes on and will pee or poop in his clothes. At 27 months, he is no longer ok with peeing or pooping in his clothes (we’ve made huge progress the last month) but for the longest time he would only poop if wearing a diaper. That was his comfort zone and what he was used to and the only way he could relax enough to go.
When I read the EC book Diaper Free Baby I realized why Graham was having a hard time letting go of pooping in his clothes. The idea behind EC is that as humans do not want to soil themselves. It’s a survival mechanism. A wet and dirty baby is more likely to get cold and sick so human babies instinctively do not want to go on themselves. It’s why newborns always seem to pee or poop when their diaper is removed. We, in modern diaper wearing times, train our babies to go in their diapers for our convenience. This is also why babies eventually stop peeing and pooping when the diaper is removed, they have become programmed to go the diaper. Then once they are at the age when we think they should start learning to use the toilet, which in the US is average 2-3 years old, we retrain them not to go in the diaper. Graham was having a hard time with the retraining part. It was a bit frustrating for us so both my husband and I read the book and it made perfect sense to us. My husband was completely on board with it and would even tell anyone who would listen about it.
We decided that with Stella, we would give EC a try. If we could preserve the natural instinct of not wanting to go on herself, surely it would make potty time easier. Perhaps she wouldn’t be so conditioned to go in her diaper that she preferred it. Maybe she would actually care about sitting in a poop diaper. We talked about how we wanted to approach it and formulated a plan and waited for her to be born so we could get started.
Stella is one day shy of three weeks old while I am writing this post. The first two weeks were spent observing her and learning her cues. We learned that when she had to poop she would squirm and grunt then get really still for a butt explosion. Poops are very obvious with her. Pees are much more relaxed. She actually goes a bit limp when she pees. Every time we saw her poop or pee we made the PSSSSS sound so that she could have something to associate with going. At every diaper change we would lay her on a clean pre-fold and give her a couple of minutes to go before putting a clean diaper on her. We would make our PSSSS sounds. During the second week she caught on and began to pee on command if she needed to go. The first time she did it, I went PSSSS, and she turned her head to look at me then she began to pee. I knew she understood and it was so exciting.
On the beginning of the third week, we started holding her over a potty bowl. We were ready since she recognized the cue to go. Holding a newborn over a potty bowl is pretty simple. I put her back against my belly and held her legs in the cups of my hands so that she is in a seated position. The very first time I did it and went PSSSS she immediately peed. I was so excited I took a picture and called my husband at work to tell him. That night was kind of rough for us. Stella was up for several hours in the middle of the night and I was so tired the next day that I didn’t give her an opportunity to go outside of her diaper. I also didn’t notice that she hadn’t pooped or that her butt crack was red and had a raw spot on it. She was pretty cranky the whole day. When my husband got home he held her and walked around with her and when he went to change her diaper he did put her over the potty bowl. When he PSSSSd, she had a major poop in the bowl, probably the biggest I have seen her do since her meconium poop when she was two days old. She had been holding her poop in. She was either doing it because she didn’t want to go on herself or because she knew that it would burn the raw spot. She had some ‘sharts’ (we are so mature in this house) throughout the day that irritated her so I think she was holding it because she knew it would hurt. Once the poop was out, she relaxed and went back to her normal non-cranky self. It was an amazing immediate difference. Either way, I’m so glad we are doing EC because it saved her some pain by not going in her diaper.
We are approaching EC in a relaxed way. We aren’t going to let it become a stress factor or let it rule our lives. We are going to take an extra few minutes at diaper changes and when we notice she needs to go to give her an opportunity to use the potty bowl. I’m excited about it and seeing how aware my newborn is of her body functions is quite amazing. I do believe in the value of it and if it helps reduce a little bit of laundry from diapers that I don’t have to wash then that’s an added bonus. Mostly I hope that it helps us to learn to use the potty more easily and effectively and earlier. Karen’s daughter is 17 months old and is nearly potty trained. They have done a great job with it and I hope to follow in their footsteps.