EC Updates

Scroll down through 10 months...

Weeks 0 - 4

The first week was a fun and experimental week.  We tried holding her over a potty by the third day...our first day home from hospital.  Timing was right, she peed, and we laughed an awed, celebratory laugh!  Couldn't believe it.  We were finally getting our feet wet after months of reading and thinking about it (without actually getting them wet - this time!).  

In the first couple of weeks, she was wearing a diaper about 75 percent of the time, during the night and during much of the day.  We used washcloths for under her bottom the rest of the time, mostly to trial run the concept and to air out her hiney.   

-- here you can see how her dad holds a cloth under her while she rests, as we learn her elimination patterns --

-- she only needed to barely wake to pee after nursing, then often she fell back to sleep without disturbance --

We began using auditory cues when we saw she was eliminating - both a sound (psssss or a grunt mimicking her own) and a word - to begin associating the action with the cue.  We only used it after she had begun going, at first, to make sure the association would be direct.  We figured we were laying the groundwork for a future two-way communication process.  Even while we weren't using the sounds as actual pre-elimination cues, we noticed that over a few days she seemed to listen (pause and tilt head) and notice that we were responding to her elimination.  We used soft, relaxed tones (and still do) so as to not startle her.  In the third week, we tested a pre-pee cue and it seemed to work for us; she settled, took a breath, and peed.  If she hadn't needed to go, we'd just transition to something else, not holding her there beyond her own interest.  Again, that is still the case now.

The process has been surprising in that we're able to catch a lot of her elimination moments, she's noticing our associations, and we're learning so very much about her needs this way!  It's not much more work than we're doing now with all the care of a newborn, and we're not having to add the clean up of crusty bottom poop that's been drying in the diaper.  So far, so good!

Weeks 5 - 8

This second month of raising our girl has been such a joy.  We can feel how much she's growing as she sits in our hands in the squat position for going to the potty!  There's a lot more leg to hold on to now, and boy are we getting some muscle tone!  We've been troubleshooting some of the details of our role in the EC process.  We're not quite as tired, usually, and there's more brain power for the following:
  • preparing the water bottle and paper towel section for cleaning her up after the potty before we unwrap her blanket and hold her, so we're not fumbling after she's done
  • placing a potty (we use little Baby Bjorn kid potties but a bowl would also work fine) at arm's reach when we're away from the bathroom in the house, so when she needs to go, we have a container for her quickly instead of having to bring her anywhere
  • using a sleep sack at night instead of a blanket wrapped around her, so we minimize disturbing her sleepiness (sleep sack zips from bottom, so we can just unzip and zip back up instead of handling her to wrap her up again)
  • making sure we have everything we need (potty, water, paper towels, cloths) for car rides so when we're waiting in the parking lot at the store or if we need to pull over, we don't have to improvise (although that works too!  I spread cloth diapers over the floor of the car once and held her over them, which worked just fine and made me laugh.)
  • taking care of our immediate needs, when possible, before unwrapping her to potty.  Sometimes she takes extra time over the potty, and when she's done, she almost always likes to nurse right away, so if we need to use the bathroom or drink water, it's less disruptive to baby to do that first (or last) instead of between the baby's work of eliminating or eating.

These lessons, and others, have made our experience with EC more streamlined and easier for all of us.  

We've had great successes with out-of-the-house/car EC this month, too!  It's been totally worth it to extricate baby from the carrier on hikes or walks to give her a chance to potty.  She's more comfortable and we feel better about not having her sit in a wet/poopy diaper just because we're not somewhere "familiar" for using the potty.  Recently, she was on a little urban hike with us at a large, forested park.  We went on a side trail so we parents could pee, and we took her out of her carrier after I went so she could go too.  First family pee in the woods!  It was cool out - in the 40s - but her shirt and hat kept her cozy until we tucked her back on mama's chest.  She went right back to sleep after that.  Then, back at the visitor center, I took her into the public bathroom and she used her first adult toilet in a public place!  Hilarious!  I wonder what people thought of hearing infant potty noises in the stall next to them!  It's definitely unique (and cute).  

Night EC has been somewhat unpredictable, and we're not sure why other than that we have a young developing baby who's constantly changing.  Some nights she stirs, we help her potty, and she goes every time and doesn't go in her night diaper at all.  Other nights she stirs and fusses, and she's already gone in her diaper and doesn't do anything over the potty but fall asleep peacefully, happy to be held in the "colic curl" as it's been called (i.e. the squat position).  And strangely, there are nights she stirs and fusses and she hasn't gone in the diaper, but she also doesn't go much at night.  We just continue to give her opportunities when she rouses at night, then feed her and put her back on her mat to sleep. 

Weeks 9 - 12

-- shirts, little dresses, and sweaters make great alternatives to the typical onesie, which snaps shut and makes pottying inconvenient and more of a process than it needs to be --

As our daughter has gotten older, received early vaccinations, and become more aware of and engaged with the world around her, her outings are becoming more varied.  Now, in addition to our daily walks, we have volunteered in an elementary school, had lunch out with friends, searched for library books, and picked up groceries.  Mostly, we do this as a family, but when we are with others, the EC can be a little more tricky.

That has been one of our main lessons this month.  Our girl still cues us and has kept on her regular timing (on waking, halfway through a 2 hour walk, etc.) but when we are with friends or other family, we have had trouble maintaining our focus.  Then, of course, it's doubly frustrating, firstly because we feel our inattentiveness is a little unfair to our daughter, since she is working on her part of the communication and we're not responding in time, and secondly because then the people we're with end up with the impression that EC is about cleaning up missed pees!  Hilarious when we relax about it and chalk it up to learning, but also a little disappointing when it's loved ones feeling dubious about our choice already...

The learning in all of this has been complex and valuable.  Let go of the pride factor (EC had been working really well and then we hit a challenge and by its nature it was a public one).  Pay attention to our daughter even when we're hanging with friends and family (and this is not just about EC - it never is, actually - but about the broader relationship with her).  Tune in to each other, too, to help each other in parenting.  Listen to our instincts and attend to our child even if we're worried it might inconvenience or irritate a friend.  Several friends are curious, many of those are supportive, and a couple have even offered to practice EC with her if we'd like them to watch her for a few hours when she's older.  Still, most of our friends and family are either quiet on the subject or openly dubious, so with them EC can be more uncomfortable.   

Weeks 13 - 16

Like a switch was flipped, our nights of EC have been more dry ones than not.  Before, we had some successes and totally dry nights (meaning that she went in her potty during the night every time instead of a combination of potty and diaper).  Now, all of a sudden, we are surprised by the occasional wet diaper.  We remembered reading that some people begin EC at 3 months or so.  Maybe this is why.  

Leading up to this, I (the mother) had taken over night pottying, because I seemed to catch the pees (she doesn't poo at night) with more success.  Perhaps this is because as a nursing mother I'm sleeping more lightly, am closer to her and sense her pre-waking wiggles more quickly, and am used to being more active in the middle of the night from nursing her.  Her dad quite willingly helped with holding her to potty, but he took longer to rouse from sleep and had sleepy, fumble-fingers!  I could get her sleep sack unzipped and her sleep gown up over her waist more efficiently without disturbing her groggy state as much.

Dad's lack of consistent successes at night had eroded his confidence and instilled an irrational feeling that our daughter preferred to potty with me instead of him.  I say "irrational" only because he was very successful with her during the days he is home with her, but he was focused on the night misses and didn't give himself slack for being sleepy and slower.  Also, doing all the night EC and nursing for her was starting to wear me down.  I could do it if I had to, and that's because my commitment to it is strong enough, but there were certainly nights when I was tempted to give up.  I was tired, and sitting up in bed was uncomfortable for so long.  This was compounded by our daughter's sudden wakefulness at night around the same time - every two hours or so instead of a nice 3 - 5 hour sleep, followed by a couple of 2s or 3s until morning.  Several other babies in our parents' group went from 5 - 6 hour chunks of sleep to shorter gaps as well; we're thinking the 3 - 4 month developmental surge is causing it.

-- she's getting bigger quickly, and we are continually having to reassess and adapt our holding techniques for everyone's comfort! --

Now, this 3 month switch to dry nights comes with the added bonus of Dad's success in catching her night cues as well as her pees that follow!  Is she holding it longer until she feels the familiar unzipping of sleep sack and legs held over the bowl?  Is she more aware of the feeling of needing to go, so she starts to wiggle a little earlier, which gives us time to respond?  Before it seemed like there were a few night pees that she didn't even wiggle for. Is she less tolerant of a warm wet night diaper?  Don't know.  I just know things are working better for all of us at night now, and we didn't change our own behavior.  Through the wet nights of the previous two months, we always presumed she might still have to pee again even though she had a wet diaper (and often she did), so we held her over the potty before we changed her.  Now the only difference in our behavior is that we put the same dry diaper right back on.  

I think we'll reach the point sooner than later of having no back up diaper at night.  

I have frequently wondered what other families do for night sleeping when the child isn't wearing a back up diaper.  We have to dress her up in a gown and sleep sack since it's winter and she'd be cold otherwise.  Blankets for infants can be dangerous, so we can't just tuck her in like we are tucked ourselves.  So, if we were to dress her in her pjs and sleep sack without a diaper and she peed in her clothes at night, then 1) she'd be sleeping in wet clothes (I'm imagining a rash and a cold baby) and 2) we'd have to disturb her (and ourselves) to change her whole outfit in the middle of the night!  I'm only beginning to consider no diaper at night now because it seems like she almost never pees in it.  Wish more families out there were in touch to share ideas, but that's why we're creating these posts.

Weeks 17 - 32

Well, as you can see, "monthly updates" got lost among the business of daily work!  I often thought of things I'd like to post, but instead of blog entries they live as memories (also great).  With this long stretch of time to summarize for you, I've decided to focus mainly on the impact that increasing physical activity has had on our elimination communication process.  The theme is "priorities!"

DD ("dear daughter" in case you hadn't seen that before) started sitting well around 4.5 or 5 months, crawling at 6 months, and pulling herself to a stand soon after (maybe 6.5, or 7?).  She was delighted!  She began spending much more time playing on the floor, and as described in so many resources for EC, we missed quite a few pees in this transition.  I'm glad I had seen this coming because I think I felt less anxious about our communication challenge; yet, seeing her little pee puddle up on the floor always elicited a little worried sadness that she had somehow expected me to know, to have helped her.  It was not a big feeling, and she certainly didn't show any sign of actually having felt that way, but like any fumble in communication, these fumbles hit me personally.  For her part, she would at first just continue to play without seeming to care about the puddle (more irritated that I would then pick her up to clean up).  It wasn't long before her mobility allowed her to just move away and continue playing, which is exactly what she chose to do.

I've read many posts on various sites about parents feeling consternation at this stage.  They weren't sure if their child would ever cue the need to potty again, they didn't know how to move past the transition and felt like giving up on EC, and they asked again and again how others had encouraged their kids to communicate with them and develop initiative as they aged.  I read these posts and searched for more because I was feeling the same way and asking the same questions!  The good and the bad of it was that each response was a bit different.  Why?  Because each child and each family is different!  I imagine it's like when you are having communication trouble with a loved one, and when you ask your friends for advice, you feel supported but the advice might not always apply, because dynamics between loved ones are co-created and therefore distinctive.

The transition lasted about 3 weeks, until I learned her new cues and timing and she knew to expect my help even on the floor and to become more patient with pottying and going back to playtime.  During the transition, here's what we did:

  • Before crawling really took off, she would pee shortly after being on her tummy or doing the push-up/lie-down stage before her stamina for crawling increased.  If she were on her tummy, I'd put a cloth diaper under her and scoot it along as she scooted along until she peed.  She was slow enough at that point, and the pee wouldn't be long in coming.  I am pretty sure it was just the pressure on her bladder, which she hadn't had to deal with much before.  Then she was good to go for a while (how long depended on her nursing pattern), and we could just play.

  • After that became impractical, I just offered the potty a lot.  A little nagging voice in my head tried to convince me that this would just irritate her to the point of no longer wanting to use a potty at all, so I tried to balance pottying with uninterrupted play, but during that 3 weeks, I erred on the side of potty.  Months later, she is still using the potty, so my worry didn't materialize.  I didn't hold her long, and I respected her "no" even if the "no" meant, "no, not this second; I'll do it on the floor in a few minutes, thank you."  Ha!  Funny girl.  Sometimes what she was working on was just more important.  Haven't you ever found yourself in the same situation?  Only as adults, we hold it for what seems to be an interminable length of time!  This is what I mean by the aforementioned theme: priorities! She has them, and part of EC is learning to show respect for them while still keeping her clean, healthy, and moving toward new forms of communication.

  • Before we pick her up to offer her the potty, we check in with her.  We try to make eye contact, we ask if she needs to use the potty, we use the ASL sign for bathroom (perhaps she will use it one day, too, or perhaps not...can't hurt to try).  We try to pick her up in a relaxed way and bring her to a nearby potty.  Early, during this transitional stage, we didn't have much time.  Now (at about 8 months), we might even have 15 minutes from cue to pee!  That has been great for being out and about, as it gives us time to find a public bathroom or wait in line at the restaurant bathroom, for example.  Gently interrupting her activity and quickly responding to her "no" cue if she gives it are ways that we communicate respectfully with her, instead of forcefully. 

  • I have cut some of her onesies into tee-shirts to minimize the need to change her just because the little snap sections hang below and get wet in her missed pees.  I imagined hemming them nicely, but that hasn't been my priority...  I also bought a few tee shirts and hoodies at the consignment shop, and of course I had to pick up some split pants (see my links page) which are great.  You could cut the inner seams out of normal pants to make your own, too.  I use baby leg warmers with tee shirts/cut onesies most days, and this has made a great outfit for her, both in transition and onward.  (Now that we are past the learning curve from "in arms" to "all over", she can just wear pants - diaper-free - and we pull the pants down to the bend in her knee so she can potty without taking the pants all the way off.)

As a crawler and explorer, her priorities flow between moving toward areas of interest (cats, chairs, toys, mama, errant computer cords which must be removed hastily before her arrival, and now - as an 8 month old - specks of dust and other tiny treasures), wanting to nurse, rest, and sleep, and needing to potty.  Often she wants to do all of these at once, and we work together to meet her needs while she negotiates these priorities.  Sometimes she wants to crawl to look out the window instead of go to sleep at night, but she is so tired at the end of the day that she is clumsy and bonks her head or gets her knee stuck on a chair leg.  Our job is to help her learn to relax and find what she needs (sleep) even when she wants to play, too.  

Pottying is similar but manifests differently because, in fact, she can do play and potty at once (well, with a brief pause, this being the last second cue!).   She seems not to want to, however, as evidenced by her developing cues while she is playing and even crawling toward us when she needs to pee!  That took us a few times to read, and then we started interpreting that, too!  People comment on how quickly children learn and change, and it is no different with communication about elimination. 

Supplies that were particularly helpful for this stage (and are in others as well):

  • tee shirts or trimmed onesies (nothing dragging near her bottom)
  • sweaters and hoodies (diaper free also means a naked bottom, which isn't the warmest...)
  • baby leg warmers
  • split pants
  • lots of prefold cloth diapers to put under her or use for clean up
  • baby potties or bowls to have nearby her play area / bedside
  • absorbent pads (like for toddler beds) that are large enough to spread out for her play area, alone or under a blanket or quilt

Weeks 33 - 38

I'm writing after two days of wondering whether we had just converted to a diapering process rather than an EC process!  Our girl had slept fitfully for two nights before that, and when she sleeps lightly she often ends up wetting her night pants at least once.  She has a little chin rash and the itchy feeling has pestered her during the night, so this is what we assume to be the cause of her light sleeping those nights.  Following the couple of wet nights (normally our nights are dry, with one pee in the bedside potty after about 5 to 7 hours, and another about 2 hours later), we had two days of 90% misses!  Dang!  She just did not want to use the potty.  She would kick and buck if we tried to bring her close to the potty, and then she'd go on the floor, or on mama, or in the diaper I ended up putting on her.  I questioned myself, "Has she just about had it with this rigamaroll, or what??"  She even pooped in a diaper!!!  I know that if you regularly experience this, then my incredulity might seem silly, but she just never does that!  Moreover, other than that poop after two days, she was constipated (which she has also never been, though other parents tell me this is normal).  So, I was feeling bewildered and unsure how to proceed. 

On the third day, she was back to normal and I woke up with a cold.  Ah ha!  She had a cold!  I should have thought of that.  Did I mention that she was also whining and sleeping more than usual?  She just didn't seem to have much of the stuffy nose kind of symptom presentation, but she had been snoring.  I guess that could have been a clue.  It was a total and complete "potty strike" as people call them, and it was her first.  She has had a cold before, and one fever, but during those times her pottying was not so dramatically different.  This time I put her into a diaper and she stayed in one for the whole day.  The diaper poop happened that night while I was at work, and my husband realized he had never had to deal with poop in a diaper and on her bum since the meconium days!  

She doesn't feel 100% better just yet, so the night potties for the first night or two after she was sick were tricky.  I actually found I needed to offer her milk while she pottied so she'd not scramble for my breast instead of relaxing to potty then nurse (like normal); this is a trick I hadn't used since she was very small and much less in control of her body.  Now, though, she is back to her 5-7 hour sleep, with a drowsy pee and an eyes-closed nurse back to sleep in five minutes.

That's how nights are going at 6.5, 7, 8 months.  She sleeps for about 6 or 7 hours unless she is bothered by a rash or a cold or some other hitch.  Then as she moves into her lighter sleep (tossing and turning, sighing, rubbing eyes) I lift her gown, help her potty without using any cue sounds or words (she is basically asleep), then nurse for a few minutes as she drops back off for another chunk of sleep.  As morning deepens and the day opens up, she wakes more frequently and this process repeats itself until she wakes and is ready to be up.  We still put her in a little bamboo diaper (no cover) in case she has a light sleep night or we miss a night cue, but most of the time now she doesn't use it.  Part of why I like to put her in it now is because it keeps her cozy warm at night.  

She is about ready to wake, so for now I'll end.  We've come a long way with her - EC included - since we first began this blog.  My goodness but time is relative.  

9 - 10 months!

We wish we would have known that we were transitioning to 100% diaper free while it was happening so we could describe it in more detail, but maybe the not knowing is the most accurate portrayal.  At some point in her 9th month, our daughter stopped using her diaper at night entirely.  During the days, we only missed one pee in 3 weeks.  Finally, we were bold enough to stop using the diaper (it took us longer than it took her!).  We don't use it in the car seat, in bed at night, in restaurants or libraries or parks or friends' homes.  We started using normal pants instead of split pants so that her bottom is covered (both for modesty and so she is protected from whatever in the garden she sits on!).  It is wonderful!!!

Night EC
At night, she sleeps between 7 and 9 hours before she has to pee.  Then she sleeps for a bit more until she has had about 10 - 11 hours, and she's up for the day.  Usually we wake just once, a couple hours before we get up for the day, and now that she is just in a gown, it takes less than 90 seconds (yes, in my sleepiness, I've timed it several times; I think the new sleep of parenthood has given me some interesting skills...).  I sit up, gently lift her up to my lap, hold her over the potty we keep next to the bed, she pees, and I lie her back down.  I don't think she even wakes.  Occasionally she flicks her eyes open but she is asleep again within minutes.  Me too.  How do I know she needs to pee?  People ask, "Does she cry awake?" No, she just moves into a fussy kind of restless sleep - much like my own sleep when I have to use the bathroom but I'm too sleepy or cozy to get up.  Eventually, having to go wins over.  In the heat of summer, she has shown this behavior but not needed to pee, and I think it is just that she is hot and therefore uncomfortable in a similar way but for a different reason.

Morning EC
When she wakes, whether she peed a couple hours prior or not, she'll use the potty, and then we both get dressed and ready for the day, and a half hour later she needs to pee again.  Pretty predictable.  I just offer her the potty before we leave the bedroom, and then again before her morning nap at some point.

During the day
During the day, we use her cues plus timing, plus just opportunities when they come up (if I go, I'll offer her the chance, too).  Her most common cues are: getting distracted while playing, restless play (going from one thing to another quickly), and glancing at us for a moment then looking away.  A late cue is looking at us with wide eyes and doing the non-verbal equivalent of the pre-teen impatient and irritated, "Maaaaaama!"  Her very late cue, if we have been totally oblivious (visiting with a neighbor, whoops! or watering the garden, lost track of time) is a tiny "warning shot" of a little dribble.  Although that doesn't happen most of the time, it is a good reminder to us that she is ready to go now thank you!

At home, we use those two little potties we started with, plus the toilet, and certain spots in our private garden.  If we are visiting around the neighborhood or with a friend, we ask if we may use their bathroom or a corner of their garden, and we leave it to them to choose what to offer us.  If it seems like she might have to do more than pee (if she is breaking wind, for example, or if it has been more than a day since she went caca) then we ask for a bathroom or we head home.

Out and about, we just find bathrooms.  The coffee shop, the library, the public bathroom at the park...there are usually places we can go.  We take the bus places and it has never been a problem.  I figure if she really needs to go, we can exit the bus early and find somewhere, but it hasn't happened yet.  

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