Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Correction! Nursing is a two-person job made even better with others!

Soon after posting my last note, I reflected on how much help my husband has been with the whole experience of breastfeeding.  He looks up information in our many library books for answers to concerns or questions, assuaging our new parent worries.  He keeps me company at all hours of the challenging feeding nights, smiling patiently through it and giving me breaks when she gets too worked up from the oversupply.  In countless other loving ways, he has been as much a part of breastfeeding our girl as I have.

Also, the support and celebration of nursing that good friends, neighbors, and family have shared with us are gifts I carry with me long after the visits are over.  Thank you!  I know our daily work of nursing is helped by many.

-- diaper free nursing and napping is so cute! --

Nursing is a two-person job!

I'm taking a few minutes between our afternoon nursing session to type this note.  It's the first post on nursing, and it's taken me a few days to consider what might be most valuable to post for new parents.  Here it is:

Nursing is a two-person labor of love.  Before experiencing it directly, I had unconsciously formed an idea of nursing as a simple act of offering the breast when the baby was hungry.  Baby roots or otherwise cues (or cries, if mama's late in responding), mama offers the breast, and baby eats until she's full.

Well...sometimes that's accurate.

I have learned that nursing involves a learning curve that wobbles at times.  Both of us needed to learn the most efficient techniques to latch, how to maneuver the baby's body without being overly clumsy or rough, and how to read signs that there are other needs happening concurrent with nursing!  She might be tired *and* nursing.  She might need to nurse and pee at the same time!  She might want to keep nursing but have to burp.  She might feel distracted but still hungry.  And it's not all her conflicts, either.  I might need to tend to the dogs, want to finish the paragraph I had been reading even as she's cueing me to pay more attention, or I might need to shift my body or grab a cloth that I didn't place close enough.  Our best sessions in these early weeks are when I am fully focused or prepared to fully focus on her instead of multitask.  (*note: I didn't realize I was so used to multitasking, so I hadn't anticipated the challenge of truly doing one thing well.  this has been a very good personal lesson for me.  thanks, baby!)

Also, before breastfeeding, I was not aware of the many potential physical complications.  I knew that some women had trouble with things called, "let-down" and "latching" but I didn't really know what these were.  I hadn't seen - and don't see - many women breastfeeding in my neighborhood or on the bus or in my town; this, in my view, is regrettable, if only for the lack of exposure and education it leaves for us, the new parents.  

After the 2nd week or so, my baby found herself challenged by my early oversupply of milk.  It meant that she choked on the milk, felt frustrated by the rate of flow and her inability to manage swallowing and breathing and sucking, and often tired out before she was able to really feed, and so gave up.  Also, she seemed to react physically, her symptoms matching what we read about oversupply: rash, frothy poops, sometimes greenish poops (due to the amount of lactose she ingested before she could get to the fatty milk that had risen to my upper ducts).   Needless to say, these responses to our nursing sessions provoked emotional strain as well practical worries.  As the weeks passed, my milk supply and baby's ability to manage the milk seem to have evened out more, and I may avoid "true oversupply" which can last beyond the early stages.  We have *both* worked hard to overcome this period.  As I said, nursing is a two person job - and very much worth it!

-- Here you can see an early nursing session while I hold her over her potty bowl --

As far as EC and nursing, there have been great lessons. When our baby is nursing, she might need to pee every 10 minutes.  Heck, if she fusses 5 minutes after a pee, I'll hold her over the potty and she just might pee again!  I don't take her off the breast to do it, but generally if she has to pee while nursing, she's taking herself off the breast in a frustrated manner and getting back on, and off, and on again, so I just remove her when she takes herself off and give it a try.  9 times out of 10, she just has to pee.  Then she settles into nursing more peacefully (until she has to pee again, which might be in 5 minutes, or in 30.  Up to her.).   This was a great learning process in trusting  your baby to tell you what she needs, because before I got wise, I just responding to her cues by thinking, "but she *just* went 10 minutes ago!"  Then, she'd pee on me and go back to nursing with a relaxed face, and I would laugh at myself and think, "I should have listened to her!"

I love the dialogue, closeness, and complexity of nursing.  It's a gift to both of us.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Let's Get Started

Here are just some of the questions I might have asked someone as I was considering practicing Elimination Communication with my own child; please add your own questions or insights in the comment box below:

How did you learn about EC in the beginning?

Several years ago, we both heard about diaper-less babies in other countries and the practice being renewed in Europe and North America while listening to a story on our local public radio station (check out the "Reaching Out" page under "Other Media" to read more).  How intriguing!  We liked the idea - although it seemed crazy logistically - but it was not immediately relevant to us and remained only toward the back of our minds after a while.

We revisited the idea of EC during pregnancy.  We had recently discussed diapering, toilet training, and all the common issues about cloth vs. disposable and when and how to teach toileting.  We figured we'd be a flexible, mostly cloth diapering family that would learn toilet training as we went, knowing it was potentially 1 to 2 years distant.  Without the baby in our arms and having forgotten about our radio program, our creative problem solving hadn't kicked in to guide us to potential alternatives.

Browsing a used book store for pregnancy and infant resources, I found Diaper-Free!  The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene by Ingrid Bauer.  It's probably my naivete and curiosity that prompted me to take the book home, but after reading through the chapters on logistics, I didn't see a single reason to not try it.  When my spouse came home, he checked it out too.  We talked for weeks about it, read the whole book, looked at online sources, and imagined practicing it.  We felt convinced that EC fit our nascent philosophy of parenting, with its emphasis on building respect, fostering communication, and encouraging our child's participation and engagement in daily life.

When did you begin EC with your child?

We began our practice on her third day, I think.  Those days blur a bit!  I remember smiling at my husband, raising my eyebrows in a laughing, incredulous expression, and saying, "Well, why not now?"  Our incredulity grew in those first days as we watched our baby relieve herself in the little potty bowls we'd gotten at our baby shower for just that purpose!  We met comments of, "You're really thinking ahead in asking for a child's potty!" with, "We actually plan to use them right away!"  That was kind of fun.  We've used the potty bowls (lifting out the white bowls from the seats where an older child might sit) every day since that first whimsical attempt.  You really can start with an infant.  It's been so rewarding!

How did you know when to give your infant an opportunity to use a potty?

The first several days we tried, both of us relied on timing, which we'd learned from the book.  Early timing included immediately after waking, just after nursing, and between breasts during nursing.  These times were surprisingly reliable.  We added some nighttime EC soon, and gave her opportunities every time she woke.  These were also successful, although catching those didn't mean we hadn't missed earlier pees or poos that she hadn't woken us for.

Now that she's a month old, we've become much more adept at reading her facial cues (I often think of that scene in the first Look Who's Talking when the kid is using his diaper in the fancy office), as well as learning from her behavior shifts, such as when she becomes suddenly fussy while nursing.  Even if she just peed 10 minutes prior, her sudden frustration during a peaceful activity almost always means she needs to potty.  Lastly (so far), we've found that if the question, "do you need to potty?" comes to our mind while we're hanging out with her, or if we even think of giving her the opportunity, we give it a try and find we're more often in tune with her than not.


Is this just one-way communication?  Does she even know the difference?

We've gone back and forth with wondering if we're successful at the timing because she needs to go so often that the odds are in favor of getting it right.  Yet, though this might be part of it, at about 3 weeks we started noticing she seemed to be either waiting to pee until we uncovered her and held her in position, or we were hastening her process by doing so.  Either way, we'd get her cue (a wriggle, a grunt or cry, a thoughtful face) and get set to hold her over the potty, and within a minute, she'd go.  This was true whether we responded immediately or delayed while gathering supplies (paper towel & water for wipes, the potty itself, a replacement cloth to go under her).  It hasn't mattered whether she is over the potty or the garden; the point has been to get her in position to cue release, not specifically where it is.  Since then, we've tried cueing her before she goes to see if she is picking up on the association of our sound with her action, and if she needs to go, we perceive that our cues focus her attention and hasten her release.

What's the point?

Practicing elimination communication with our daughter since her first few days has deepened our appreciation for her experience; we have learned more about her nuanced behavior, moods, motivations, challenges, physiology, and development than we feel we would have if we'd just soothed her through her cues and changed her diapers.  The practice has pressed us to be ever-more attentive, to interact with her directly more frequently, and to respond to her with humility.  We're learning to leave our egos out of our practice - focusing on her and our communication and not on "successes" and "failures" - which is how we hope to practice all of parenthood.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


This is a blog to focus our own attention and share our experiences as new parents practicing elimination communication with our daughter.  Because it's such a frequent, daily exercise, we've learned how integrated the practice is with our other work of breastfeeding, playing, sleeping, and learning fast!  That's how our original notion of an "EC blog" morphed into a more holistic story of new parenthood.  We hope by sharing our posts, other parents might benefit as we have from others' blogs and books: gaining knowledge, sharing diverse experience, and perceiving a sense of community.