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.

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