As a parent of multiple babies at this point, I feel as though Ive earned some clout in the management of other human bodies department. The subject has been coming up in conversation lately, so I decided to put down some thoughts on diapering, or rather, not diapering.
Elimination Communication/Natural Infant Hygiene is an effort to use minimal diapering on your baby. Did you know that even a newborn baby can hold it because they prefer to pee and poop when their clothes are removed?! Believe it or not, it’s a physiological truth! Reaching a harmonious routine does take commitment on the part of caregivers, that is, if your socio-economic position will allow for this level of attachment. All you do is hold them in a certain position, as often as possible, and when it makes sense. If you do this immediately from birth, there forms a routine of communication and trust, – et voila! Pretty darn quick you have a tiny person who can manage their own waste.
It is the physiological tendency to eliminate when clothing is removed.
It feels like some secret I need to tell everyone about. “Public Service Announcement! You don’t have to let your child fester in a sagging plastic bag of their stinking excrement! Spare yourself the arduous duty of scraping, wiping, and treating the aftermath of full time diapering, and deal with it like most of the Earth’s population do! Elimination Communicatioooonnn n-n- n- n- n” (maximum reverb, fade out).
In the past I have covered the basics of EC here on my blog (especially in the second one when Fox was 8 months). If you’d like to read my smart-alecky posts from the archives, here they are:
1. When Fox was 2 months
2. When Fox was 8 months
Since then, Fox achieved total diaper freedom by 16 months, which was 4 months after learning to walk. He was able to get around on his own and we were sure to keep a potty option/opportunity close. Currently, Fox is almost 5 years old, and has quite a well-adjusted handle on his elimination needs.
Now I have June Moon, who was born on June 16th, 2018. We have been pottying her right from when she was born as well, and 95% of the time she eliminates at the time of our given opportunities. It’s working like a charm!
I know that everyone has different life circumstances and whatnot. I have no judgements on parents for how they choose to do their parenting. It’s just that not many people even know about EC as an option. My goal is to spread the word and let people know that if they’re planning to have a baby-in-arms for roughly the first year anyway, there is this (way easier/cleaner/less expensive/more hygenic) option for dealing with all the pooing and peeing their tiny human will do. If you’re interested and want to learn from my experience, read on.
How it works for us, how it can work for you
First and foremost, have an easygoing attitude. Pee is sterile, so chill out.
I have been so fortunate to get free hand-me-down clothes from friends and through a great resource program in my community. Since babies grow so fast, baby clothes are usually pretty easy to come by. To me, the biggest variable when deciding on what clothes babe should wear, is ACCESS. Making it easy on yourself with loose fitting pants that quickly pull dow is preferable to a buttoned and snapping nightmare. Preferred baby outfits would be: long dresses paired with high-fitting socks, or, cotton pants that are easy to pull down paired with a separate shirt.
Advice when screening potential clothes; avoid onesies and overalls. Socks are a valuable commodity. See how many pairs of cotton pants you can collect! Think – easy off, easy on.
Clothing mods: With my trusty fabric scissors, I have cut the crotch out of pants, the tips off of socks, the legs off of tights, and the snaps off of onesies. Dont be shy about hacking up some baby clothes to make your life easier.
-Get 4 or 5 small waterproof blankets
-Collect an arsenal of those dime-a-dozen cotton nursing blankets. These are used in conjunction with the waterproof blankets, one on top of the other, because they are easy to switch out in the event of a miss.
-Put waterproof sheets on all the mattresses in the house. This helps with the whole “keeping an easygoing attitude” when a miss happens.
-Have a comfortable potty available (we have a tophat potty that I got here)
-Diapers of your choice (preferably cloth, or compostable) for the occasional times its handy, like on a long car ride or some other pressing thing that is keeping your attention.
-toilet paper, obviously.
Most importantly, you will need the resolve and commitment to stop everything you’re doing and bring your baby to do *yet another* bathroom break. At some points of the day, this could be every 15 minutes. To allow the interruption when he or she gives you that signal, is the root of high success rates. Are you willing to pull off the highway and unbuckle them for a squat in the ditch?
Besides verbally telling you they have to potty, some other signals could include:
-displaying of the proverbial “ants in the pants”
-becomes very still and concentrated
-suddenly wants out of your arms
-suddenly wants into your arms
-starts making the hand sign (pick one and stick to it. We used the one where you stroke a downward pointing thumb. This eventuated toward stroking any finger)
-starts making the cue sound
-gets frustrated easily
-telekinetic psychic powers!!!! Anything is possible, people.
-Really use that cue noise. “PSSSS!” actually works very well, and even a running water faucet works wonders. Especially paired with a big deep breath and a true releasing of tension.
-Any time you would have to go to the bathroom, they would have to go to the bathroom. Waking up after sleeping, after a long car ride, having a big drink 20 minutes ago, etc.
-Always respect their decline to remain held for a potty. A squirm, a squeal, disinterested, just take them out of position immediately, and try again in a few minutes if necessary. Edit: I have been adding a small bit of persistence, just offering one or two opportunities to be distracted and relax into it. It’s given me about 25% more pees/poos. A wetted foot, an interesting object, etc. This might risk losing their trust, though. I dunno.
-Avoid interrupting their play as much as possible. Bring a potty to them, or their toy to the potty.
-Don’t be shy about pottying in public. Would it be socially acceptable for a little dog to defecate there? Then it’s fair game in my opinion. Grass, parking lot, sink, drain, toilet, flowerbed, gate post, stream, potty, bush, tree trunk, ocean, etc , I have pottied my kids just about everywhere. It doesn’t really matter too much, especially before they’re eating solid foods. Do what you’ve got to do.
-Trust your intuition and the intuition of those around you. Did someone just bring up the fact that she’s not wearing a diaper? Or ask when the last time she went? Or just “get the feeling”? Take that as a sign, and potty ASAP!
-Once your baby trusts that you will give them enough opportunities, you may notice time patterns. Like how they’ll poop first thing after waking up in the morning, and also pee every 15 minutes until their next nap. And how they will hold it when in-arms or in their carrier. Or how they just don’t have to go as often after a certain time. There is actually a chemical that gets released in their brain that signals to slow down elimination functions when the sun goes down! This is what happens when you dont mess with the natural rhythm of our bodies.
Conclusion (for now)
OK, so you’re generally giving your babe the opportunity to go once every 20 minutes. It is a lot. But think about how you’re spending this time. Mostly you’re just standing or sitting with your love pressed against your body. If you adhere to a consistent practice, success rates are very high. If a miss happens, just put it in the laundry and move on! The clean up and expense is far less in my opinion, especially if you’re prepared, and willing to bring along 5 tiny pairs of pants. Even if it’s the same amount of time spent, its just spent doing different things. Compare A to B:
A.) You’re reading a book while your baby grunts away on the potty on your lap. When she’s finished, you use a few squares of toilet paper on her, as you would your own self. Everything gets flushed down the toilet, pants back up. That took 5 minutes. Half hour later you take her to the sink for a quick pee. Quick pants down, deep breath, release your own tension, cue noises *psss*, she pees, pants up, and that took 2 minutes. A half hour later she squirms out of your partners hands, so you pee her again, 3 minutes. Half hour later, you notice she peed on the nursing blanket she was lying on. NBD, throw it in the laundry, put on dry pants, 1 minute. Half hour later, quick pee off the deck, (1 minute). Half hour later, more grunts and more bearing down, she’s gotta poop. This takes 3 minutes. Total: 15 minutes over 5 hours.
B.) Thanks to the high-absorbancy of the expensive diapers you bought, you have avoided changing a diaper for 5 hours! You walk to the designated changing station and lay down your baby and carefully open the diaper up. Poo is all over her butt, up in her front parts, in every fold, and up her back. Using a few non-flushable wet-wipes you have to wipe off every surface of skin and meticulously inside each fold. You notice things are quite red and irritated so now you treat with one or two uric rash products. You arrange a new diaper, and snap and zip and button it all back in there for the next 5 hours. Total time: 15 minutes over 5 hours.
The exact same time, just spent doing different things. One way involves buying lots of things in order to avoid a perceived inconvenience of removing your baby’s stored waste, and the other way involves being present to receive their communication in order to facilitate your baby’s waste leaving the vicinity of their body immediately.
The choice is clear to me! Though I understand my privileged position of being able to carry my baby in arms for the first year of her life, this option may not be available to everyone, for example, a single mom who has to work full time at 4 month postpartum.
Im sure I’ll remember more points to make eventually, but that’s all for now. Some resources to support your decision to commit to helping your baby eliminate *outside* their clothing from day one: