Thursday, May 27, 2010

elimination communication

While I was still pregnant, some friends of mine asked what kind of diapering we'd use. We hadn't thought much about this, but our friends--who were expecting a baby around the same time as us--had done their studies and explained our options. Cloth diapers. Disposable diapers. Eco-friendly diapers. Diaper services.

But nobody suggested we'd have our baby go diaper free till I was just about due.

We picked up Christine Gross-Loh's book The Diaper-Free Baby: The Natural Toilet Training Alternative just in time for our baby's arrival and were just amazed by how sensical going diaper-free seemed. After all, it's how babies have learned to toilet train for millenniums and still do in many parts of the world where disposable diapers are scarce.

As Gross-Loh writes in the latest issue of Mothering, "as mindful parents, we aim to be respectful of our children and to be responsive to their needs. In many areas of parenting, this may not feel like a struggle." But, other areas of parenting "may not feel as intuitive, in part due to the strong and confusing cultural messages that surround us" (p. 70, May-June 2010). Toilet training is one of these areas.

Elimination communication is just not a big part of our culture's ideology. Instead, we train our babies--who're born with an instinct to stay clean and with an awareness of their elimination, which they display through body language and other nonverbal ways of communicating--to be okay soiling themselves and even wearing their own waste for a short period. And then, when they are toddlers, we expect them to retrain and regain an awareness of their elimination and no longer soil themselves.

Doesn't it just make so much more sense to pay attention to the baby's cues from the beginning, respond to these and help the baby eliminate over the toilet or some other container till the baby can sit up by him or herself and eliminate in a potty?

Our daughter pooped in the toilet before she was a week old and we continued catching most poops, and some pees, this way till she was around 6 months and started using a potty. Increasingly, as her peeing became less frequent and we became more in tune with when she'd most likely pee, we could catch more of these too. But we were a little lazy and kept having her in a diaper till she refused wearing one when she was around 20 months. Within a couple of weeks she was diaper-free, at the house and about, no accidents. At almost two years, she still wears one at night, but it's typically dry in the morning. She does not wear one when she naps.

I'm grateful for the messy clean-ups we've been spared (I can't imagine wiping up poop smeared all over a child's bum by a smushed diaper), saving some trees, and some dollars (diapers are so expensive!), lessening waste, but most of all it was being able to communicate with our baby at a very young age that felt the most rewarding. Before she could talk, sign, or even smile, we could pick up on her strains and grunts and respond to these by helping her off with the diaper and holding her over the toilet. So rewarding.

To learn more or start practicing elimination communication (E.C.) with your baby (at any stage), check out this site:

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