Elimination Communication or EC, is an ancient approach to baby hygiene that involves getting to know your babys patterns and rhythms of elimination so that, together as a cooperative team, you can ‘catch some of their business in a potty, potty bowl or other suitable place.
Yes, you will still use nappies, despite what some dreadful articles and T.V shows love to sensationalise! Being ‘Part-Time Nappy Free is perhaps a more accurate term, as you use nappies some of the time, or training pants, sometimes nappy-free time. You can certainly use nappies or other reusable cloth options as backup between potty visits. I do, and I have practiced EC since birth with both my children. My baby is 9 months old at the moment, he is at the stage of wearing mostly cloth trainers and some nappies (I like eco-disposables for my single-use nappy needs) and he signals each day a few times with baby sign language that he needs to go! It is very thrilling. It is a gradual approach to toilet learning for sure, but this is because it is about the relationship, the communication with your baby, not about toilet training – that is just the end result, not a short term goal.
Its actually quite fun and exciting to practice EC in this relaxed and flexible way, and may have been what your Grandma or Great Grandma did to reduce her washing load all those years ago, just as my Granny did!
Wearing and carrying your baby, breastfeeding and simply playing with your baby offer you a doorway into baby pottying. These natural mothering activities can be used to turn on your EC ‘baby radar and help you to begin reducing your use of nappies.
Lets look at 3 natural parenting activities that can help you to develop your EC senses:
1. Baby wearing and carrying – you can use this closeness to reduce your need for nappies by focussing on some common signs. When your baby has a sleep in the sling, or in your arms then wakes up, youve got what we call a Prime Time- the need to wee wakes babies just as it does us. Theres a pretty good chance youll be able to catch a wee or more and start making connections with your baby by using a cue sound or word. So, have a warm potty ready, pop baby out of their sling, whip off their nappy and gently help them on the potty, talking brightly all the time. See what happens!
2. With breastfeeding, you can use this natural process as a window into the elimination rhythms of your baby. When your baby fusses at the breast, slowly remove their nappy, offer them a wee break. You may find a full bladder was distracting them from feeding. This is a really common signal to know when your baby needs to go!
3. Another game to play. When practicing EC, youll learn Potty Songs, make Potty Charms, as you play with Potty Puppets and enjoy fun moments connecting with your baby. When they go in their potty or while you hold them lovingly in an in-arms position to go, cheer, enjoy their thrill as they look up at you with bright eyes that say “You got it, Mum!”
Smaller washes each week? Yes, please! Fewer nappies to buy? Yes, please! EC offers you these opportunities to reduce costs and the ecological footprint of your baby as you enhance your relationship with new tools of understanding; using your familiarity with their elimination patterns and rhythms to reduce the amount of waste and washing produced by your baby.
Imagine if every baby wore 1 less nappy each week, then, in time, one less nappy each day? That would add up to sizeable benefits to the environment, and positive experiences around a potty will make it an everyday, familiar item, so that eventual regular toilet training can flow smoothly. Perhaps youll even find yourself with a baby that only wears nappies part-time? Its a liberating place to be!