We have made a few parenting choices that aren’t those made by most others, but possibly the one deemed most odd was beginning elimination communication or bringing up a nappy-free baby.
I heard about Elimination Communication when I was pregnant and remember thinking it an utterly bizarre and implausible practice! Then, when Ramona was 10 weeks old, I decided I would give it a crack. (Me, on everything: “Bizarre? Hmm. I’ll try it.)
A few wees in and I was hooked! (I get a feeling this post is going to be filled with collections of words never, ever used in a sentence together before.) Within days she was responding to me helping her go in the potty and I was able to detect a few signals.
It hasn’t been a simple ride ever since, we have had a grand old share of rogue poos and wet pants. But I have loved our beginning elimination communication, it made sense for us. I like the emphasis on babies being born with the ability to communicate and get their needs met. I love that Ramona has had a continued awareness of her bodily functions- there was no moment, which I know other toddlers have, that involved a revelation like “WHAT THE HECK IS THAT COMING OUT OF MY BUM!” I liked that we weren’t giving conflicting messages; “Wees go here in the nappy… oh, actually you are now this arbitrary age, now they go in the loo!” I like that Ramona never had her tender little bottom sitting in wee or poo for more than a minute. It provided another channel for connection. But finally, I have definitely enjoyed the avoidance of any bribe/reward-based or punitive potty training. This has to be potty training at it’s most gentle- a pace set entirely by the child, for us it spanned two years.
Last night I mentioned the word “bath” to my just-turned-two Ramona, and got distracted by something. Minutes later I went upstairs to see Ramona running both taps, a towel helpfully placed on the side, totally nude, doing her business on the loo (no child seat) that she had evidently just discovered she could climb on to!! She is entirely independent of needing our help now and it is a complete relief knowing I will be able to concentrate on the new Spring baby’s elimination needs and leave Ramona to it.
You really don’t have to go the whole hog in order to appreciate the principles of Elimination Communication. Your babe might be a bit older- commencing toddlerhood, or you might have brand new carpets that would not welcome even a tiny spray of newborn butt-caramel!! Wherever you are coming from, is entirely possible to help your kid understand their body, keep their bums poo free and talk to them about their elimination- all of which will make the transition to their toilet- independence much easier.
If you are wondering about Elimination Communication, or even considering doing it a little bit, this tips here might be a little bit helpful.
1- Don’t expect a linear journey! This isn’t potty training. You don’t begin and get better and better until suddenly there are no accidents. Some months are brilliant (for example, when Ramona was 5-7 months we rarely had accidents) and then others are a bit harder. Once Ramona was mobile she showed little interest in sitting on the potty, and it felt like a “backwards step”- try not to see it this way. It is so much easier if we can put aside our expectations and just roll with it, accepting whatever happens.
2- Learn the lingo and develop the communication. “Signals” are when they let you know they need to go- it might be squirming, crying, pursing lips, grunting or lifting legs. “Cues” are sounds they learn to associate with wees and poos, they end up being a bit of a trigger for them We used “Psst” for wee and a “poopoopoo!” for poop. “Offering” is suggesting to them they might need to go or “pottytunity” is sometimes used to!
3- Play with different places for pottytunities. Babies and tots will have a preference. Try the sink, the loo, a big potty, a small potty, by a tree. Adding variety might get them back into it. Plus certain potties are uncomfortable, so don’t insist if they aren’t up for it.
4- We ALL like entertainment on the loo, eh? A good book and a poo = perfect combo. Have a stack of toys/ books/ action songs that you do to encourage them to stay on the potty until they have been.
5- Get into a rhythm of offering at certain times. We always offered upon waking, upon leaving a place, upon arriving at a new place, upon getting in and out of the sling/ buggy/ car seat. This helps them get a sense of when their next pottytunity might be.
6- You will soon pick up a natural rhythm – for us in the early day between 3-6 months it was every 20 minutes or so. You will soon learn how long their little bodies take to process breast milk and you’ll be able to offer when you think they are due. And then they will still surprise you every now and then! Once they are drinking juice and water you will be surprised at how quickly that comes out the other end!
7- You will soon learn what you are comfortable with when out and about. We used to hide behind bushes and trees for a wee, or aim down drains in alleyways, and do poos in a plastic bag like a doggy poop bag! Ramona didn’t used to like going in public loos at all. Other people have used the foldable portable potties, or even just an old ice cream carton. And others still don’t like offering in public at all.
8- Clothing completely depends on the season, but you will very soon discover that those baby grows with poppers are not workable! We very quickly moved on to leggings/ tights and tee shirts that could be quickly pulled up and down. Some people cut a gap in the leggings for even quicker access. Summer is the absolute best as they can be nudey pants all day!
9- Baby Bjorn do a couple of great pottys for Elimination C.ommunication We had their little potty for a while, and loved it, but we lost it on a camping trip. To eplace it we paid £1 for their potty chair on Ebay. It is HUGE but incredibly sturdy so really nurtures independence.
10 – Don’t be scared of nappies. There is a mixed feeling about this. But for a while I was hung up about putting any kind of nappy on. It annoyed me to concede to the nappy if we were in a “missy” stage after a “miss free” stage. However, when in other people’s homes, or somewhere where a miss might be awkward a nappy will help you relax and that is most important….
11- Relax. You would not believe the effect our own emotions can have on a child! They WILL pick up on any anxiety you have, and you could well get in a vicious cycle of tension based misses.
12- Avoid praise, if you can! Your child is only doing what is natural, when she does her business on the potty you WILL be thrilled. But try “Thank you for doing it on the pot, it makes it much easier for mummy” or “Doesn’t it feel nice letting it all out into the loo?” The last thing you need is a tot unable to do a poo without a clap (true story, by the way…)
13- Nurture independence from whenever they are ready. For us that was when Ramona was 1. We encouraged her to help us take her undies up and down, to wash her hands and flush the loo. Allowing them to be their own person is SO important at all times, but even more so when it comes to their bodies, eh?
14- Often, in a series of misses we just had to step right back, rather than constantly offering. Sometimes they can respond pretty sourly to us crowding them, offering all the time, which what we inevitably tend towards during a bout of misses. Better for them to miss and keep their independence then have a helicopter parent.
15- Once you get cracking join the Facebook EC group and Born Ready – the most amazing information packed website. It is vital, when choosing a more unusual path, to have people around you who have chosen the same. They are a WEALTH of wisdom and expertise and there will not be ONE issue that you come across that someone hasn’t not faced before!
16 – Consider getting some Flaparaps. They are little pants that flip open, for even the tiniest baby, we LOVED ours and highly recommend them.
There are 16 little pointers, the things I wished I had understood in my first week. Would love to hear your thoughts on beginning elimination communication, if you are doing it, and what you would chose to share!
PS Read all my posts on elimination communication:
Beginning Elimination Communication
Ten signs your baby needs to go to the toilet
Elimination Communication with a newborn baby
Elimination communication at three months old
Elimination Communication at one – the highs and lows
Elimination communication at one – (a poo in a shoe!)
Elimination Communication at 17 months old plus seven elimination communication tips
Elimination Communication is stress free potty training!
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