Thursday 1 August 2013

Elimination Communication: Our Journey

When Ebony was five and a half months old, and had just begin to dabble in the art of sitting up, I bought her a potty. When I told my mum, she raised her eyebrows in a “how very modern,” sort of way, and told me a story about people trying to potty train their children too soon. I lowered my unruly brow (remember, I had a five month old baby at this point. Apart from the Wii Fit, my tweezers were the most unused item in the house) and explained that I didn’t really want to train Ebony.

Elimination Communication (EC) isn't about potty training, it's about letting your child communicate their needs. When they communicate that they need the toilet (by straining, pulling a certain face or crying), you respond by taking them to the potty. It's not about training them. There are no rewards and no punishments. There are no angry voices or exasperated sighs. It's just a process where you learn to listen to your child, and they learn to listen to their body.

It may sound ridiculous to buy a potty for a baby so young, but lots of people use potties from birth so I knew it could be done. If anything, I worried I might be a bit late for the game. I wasn’t worried about getting Ebony out of nappies, but I wanted to try and reduce the amount of nappies we were using.

Wash the nappies. Dry the nappies. Feed the inners back into the nappies. Fold all the nappies neatly into the nappy basket. Notice bad smell. Remove nappy. Wipe bottom. Put on clean nappy. Carry baby downstairs. Notice bad smell. After a few months in this dreaded nappy loop, I was pretty keen to reduce the number of nappies we were using.

Most newborns (if not all?) will wee when you take their nappies off. This is either something to do with a change of temperature, or it’s because they were holding it in, I forget. Ebony used to wee during most nappy changes. She would lie on the changing mat, roll onto her tummy, and wee. It happened almost every time. When the potty arrived, I decided to see if I could catch those wees. When Ebony rolled, I would explain what I was about to do, and then I’d lift her up and sit her on the potty. The very first time I tried it, she did a wee into the potty. I was amazed. She had no problems using the potty, and so I started sitting her on it at every nappy change (not just when she had rolled over). I read books to her and played with her while she sat on it, and she would wee.

Dealing with breastfed baby poo is fine, but when they start eating solids, it’s a different ball game. All of a sudden, there is some pretty human-looking poo smushed into a nappy, and all over a bottom, that you have to sort out. Bleurgh. I decided to see if she would poo in the potty too. It was pretty obvious when she was about to poo, she would either squat down, strain or look very serious. As soon as I noticed her doing that, I’d tell her we were going to the potty, and pick her up and place her on it. Usually I’d either just missed, or caught her half way, but when she was seven months old I managed to catch it in time. After that, we caught the majority of poos in the potty. She would indicate when she needed it, and would then wait until we were at the potty.

It’s certainly much nicer for me not to be having to scrape poo out of a nappy, but I think it must be nicer for her too. It can’t be pleasant sitting in a nappy with poo smeared all over your bum. I think being sat over a potty must make it easier to poo too, simply because you're not fighting against a nappy, clothes and a seat.

I wish we'd started EC sooner really, I think some of her cries and grumbles during the early day were probably down to needing the toilet. I'm going to write more about our EC journey in coming posts, pop back if you're interested in such things.

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