There is a natural potty training method available which can help parents use fewer diapers and begin their child’s toilet experience as young as six weeks. It’s called elimination communication (EC) or Natural Infant Hygiene and many parents are trying it out. In her book, “Diaper Free,” The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene (1), Ingrid Bauer explains how this new method originated in India and Africa.
Going Potty In Africa
Mother and published author, Ingrid Bauer, traveled to India and Africa where she noticed that Mothers had a different method of toilet training. Instead of using conventional diapers, mothers would carry their babies around with them and try to listen to their bodily functions. When a baby needed to go, the African mother would carry the baby to an appropriate place to eliminate (pee or poop). Ms. Bauer elaborates in her book on the wonderful bonding experience that can be created when parents respond to a baby’s needs, including the elimination process
Sensitive to Baby’s Needs: Elimination Communication
From pregnancy to birth, many medical books and pediatricians will relate the strong parent/child bond that is created by being sensitive to baby’s needs. For example, listening to cry tones can help determine if a baby is hungry, tired, or just needs some loving attention. Elimination Communication takes this process a step further by engaging parents in listening to baby’s body language which can signal when baby needs to pee and poop. Every baby is born with different personality traits and tendencies, so each baby’s elimination schedule will be different. Baby will need a great deal of time to learn and eventually master potty skills. EC training is designed to help a child become comfortable with their body’s elimination habits and parents have the opportunity to bond more effectively with their child
Its Diaper Confusion!
The EC training method elaborates that babies from birth have a good idea of when they need to go. They express they’re elimination needs through behavioral signs that occur right before they poop and/or pee. As the diaper is used and as babies grow older, they forget how to communicate their elimination needs. The diaper is attached and a very convenient place for everything to go. Some babies are even mis-guided into thinking that the diaper is a changeable part of the human body. This theory could explain why many children struggle and sometimes seem traumatized in trying to learn how to use the potty.
When a parent engages the child in traditional potty training, beginning at the age of two to three for girls, and three to four for boys, the child must re-learn they’re body’s elimination signals. It’s called diaper confusion: when a child is trying to re-learn what they already knew from birth. A parent can reduce this confusion and build upon the child’s natural elimination instincts by integrating EC training shortly after birth and going without diapers.
Going Without Diapers!
Going with out diapers would normally cause a parent to panic, especially if there is the likelihood that new carpet is involved. Fortunately, there is a method to such madness. Author, Ingrid Bauer, recommends that a parent should always be “watching closely” for EC observation. When an observant parent believes baby needs to go, baby should be taken to an appropriate place to eliminate. This could be a small bowl, tree, bush or the regular toilet. Parents should be aware that newborns urinate based on their feeding schedule. Breast feed newborns will urinate more frequently than formula fed babies. Watching baby and becoming familiar with his or her elimination habits is essential to successful EC training. Sleeping with baby at night can help a parent become familiar with night-time EC habits. Generally, parents should expect to have about six elimination periods per day with newborns while older babies will go longer and often have less elimination. By observing baby closely, a parent can become familiar with elimination patterns and know what type of behaviors to expect from a baby prior to an elimination
Keep the Potty Handy!
When using the elimination communication method it’s important to keep the potty handy. Small elimination bowls throughout the house as well as quick access to a bathroom are essential in helping baby use the potty. When a parent becomes familiar with baby behaviors and takes baby to the potty, they create an opportunity to build on the child’s natural potty instincts. Clothing that is easy to remove in a pinch is also important. If a Parent believes that baby is about to go, they should take any bottom clothing off and safely hold baby over the small bowl, toilet, bush, or tree while making a verbal sound that baby can learn to associate with going to the potty.
Keeping Baby Safe While Using the Potty
To a small baby, the potty is as big as the ocean. Keeping them safe and using comforting tones while using the potty is the job of a loving EC parent. Parents should be sure to hold the baby safely and securely over the potty place. Relaxing is also part of the elimination process and parents should be careful not to tense up even if baby is crying or highly agitated. Staying relaxed will help your baby learn to relax and do what they need to do. If a baby seems scared of the potty, sitting with them or providing a small bowl to go in will help baby feel more comfortable.
Vocal Sounds Can Help Train Baby
Vocal sounds can help train baby while they are eliminating. As a baby picks up on the sound from the parent, the baby can learn to recognize and eventually give a clear signal when they need to use the bathroom. Vocal Sounds from a parent can also eventually help a small baby understand what constitutes a designated potty place. Older babies who have experience using the EC method can often imitate the sound or do the action that they learned to associate with they’re elimination process. For pee pee, Author, Ingrid Bauer recommends a ssss or hissing sound to use while baby is peeing. Hummm, hummm or a similar grunting sound can be used for pooping. Or better yet, be creative and come up with your own special sound. As the baby grows older and can make verbal sounds, the baby can take over his or her own potty training, letting a Parent know when they need to eliminate.
Daycare Dilemmas and Trips
Finding a daycare provider that will support a baby through EC training is actually getting easier. Daycare providers that recognize the great opportunities that EC provides for both parent and child are more than willing to go the extra mile. Of course, paying a daycare provider a little extra out of all that money saved from going diaperless lets the provider know that you appreciate the extra effort. Be sure to find a provider that has the time to work with and listen to your baby’s elimination needs. Supplying them with the a baby carrier and extra potty bowls is a must!
EC during trips is not recommended with very young babies. While EC training younger babies, it is best to keep baby home. Babies six months and older travel better and will go longer between eliminations. Having an extra adult along is also helpful so that one can focus on driving and the other one can focus on the baby. Keep a bowl/potty in the car and when baby needs to go, pull over and put them on the bowl/potty or hold them over a convenient bush
or tree. Keep extra clothing and safe, handy cleaning supplies in the car. Going the extra mile on road trips will help your baby learn how to take care of elimination needs even while navigating the great outdoors.
Save Money and Protect the Environment
The EC method can save families money and protect the environment. In many countries, landfills full of garbage are becoming a serious concern. Not using diapers on a regular basis means less waste and more protection for the environment.
Families can also save money. It is estimated that the average family will spend over three-thousand dollars in diapers just on one baby! Not to mention that with each diaper change, costly wipes are often used to get baby clean. EC training eliminates much of that cost and less wipes are used when a baby eliminates the mess instead of sitting in it for a longer period of time. Diaper rash becomes non-existent giving a family another savings of not having to buy expensive diaper cream. Baby is healthier and parents are happier knowing that they are doing something good for the environment as well as the family budget.
Is EC Right for My Baby?
Going without diapers and engaging in EC training can be well worth the effort. However, some parents can easily feel overwhelmed with taking care of baby on top of other personal and professional commitments. Some parents opt for a balance: going without diapers most of the time and using diapers at night, in the car and while traveling. Also, be sure to consult your pediatrician before beginning any type of potty training. You and your doctor can determine if EC or traditional potty training methods are right for you and your baby.
(1) Diaper Free, The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene , Ingrid Bauer, Natural Wisdom Press, 115 Forest Ridge Road, Saltspring Island, BC, Canada 2000.
The Official Website of diaperfreebaby.com an EC organization
More about natural elimination potty training
Fox News article on the Diaper Free movement
Elimination Communication, Wikipedia Definition and Explanation.