I have been meaning to write a post about my experiences with Natural Infant Hygiene AKA Elimination Communication (EC) for quite some time now and found I kept getting bogged down in the details. It turns out I'm not very good at writing technical manuals. For some basic information about EC'ing, I suggest you check out The Diaper Free Baby. Following I will just share some of my personal experiences.
First of all, I don't think EC'ing is much more time consuming than using a cloth diaper and changing the diaper when it gets soiled. Compared to leaving a disposable on until it can't hold anymore, it is more work. For me, I don't like the idea of using disposables and I really don't like the idea of LB hanging around with a toilet attached to her hiney.
I have never been very militant about practicing EC. If LB or her caregiver were not in the mood to concern themselves with using the potty, we didn't. I do ask that someone caring for her not leave her in a soiled diaper, so in a way it is pay now or pay later. You either put her on the potty before she pees or you change her diaper afterward. I am not opposed to using paper for those days when I have a caregiver who doesn't want to change a diaper or on a few occasions when I have been just worn out. We also use a paper diaper at night and while on the road since she is a very unhappy baby with a wet cloth diaper and I can't sleep without worrying if she is uncomfortable.
She is also not usually diaper free especially in the colder months. The neat thing about EC'ing is that I usually have a pretty good idea when she is "safe" to have naked and what's cuter than a baby in her birthday suit? Of course, I have been peed on a lot too.
I thought it would be easier than it is. The women in The Gambia made it look easy and I didn't realize that very young babies pooped all the time. I only saw what was going on with potty training with older babies while I was in The Gambia. I have no idea what they did at night. I am sure they would have LOVED to have had diapers!
The funny thing is that when LB was about 2 months old I was wearing one of my wrap skirts from my Peace Corps days and was carrying LB around diaper free in order to try to get back in sync with her*. Soon, I missed her signal to me and she peed on me. I decided just to dry the skirt on the deck and put it back on later since I planned on continuing our diaper free day. As I tossed the skirt over the railing of our deck, I suddenly had the image in my mind of my host mother running into her house in one skirt, coming out in another and tossing the original over the fence. I never understood why until that moment. She had been peed on!
We caught LB's first pee and first poop less than an hour apart when she was six days old. It was so thrilling and for the first three months it was one of the most amazing ways we communicated. Sure, she made it clear when she was tired and when she was hungry, but letting me know that she had to potty . . . well, I just loved it. We caught probably around 25-50% of her eliminations in the early days. What I didn't realize when I first started, was that I would be using MORE diapers not less since I was changing her every time I missed an elimination. I am very glad I got a diaper service for those first few months as I was going through 80 diapers a week.
By two to three months we were doing quite well and we were catching around 50% of her eliminations and she was signaling pretty regularly. We used a Baby Bjorn Little Potty and I can think of few things cuter. I should post some of the hundreds of pictures of her using her potty from the time when it was still a bit to big for her until now when she has just about out grown it.
These days were a bit harder. I was working and not able to pay attention as much so I was missing her signals. She was probably also signaling less since she was now so much more aware of the rest of the world. She could grab toys for goodness sake, why would she want to think about going potty? We ended up going almost strickly by timing. We would potty her whenever she woke up from a nap (even young babies will often not pee in their sleep) and then about every 20 mintues in the morning and stretching that time out to maybe every hour or so at night. We still managed to catch about half her eliminations, but I really missed the feeling that we were communicating.
With the addition of solid foods, she became more regular and I started to notice that if we gave her a bit extra time in the mornings and evenings on her potty, she would use that time to "make a poopie". She would also need to take a bit extra time to get things going, if you understand me. If I caught her making "that face" I would scoop her up, put her on the potty and she would go. I remember that when she had her cast on at 6 months, we were rarely changing a poopie diaper and when we did, it was always just a little one.
She is now 10 months and we have changed one poopie diaper in the last 2-3 months. I remember it because I was trying to nap while Brad was watching her and I dreaming that we should put her on the potty. I suspect I was catching those pre-potty sounds even in my sleep.
I have to say that just not changing a poopie diaper alone makes it all worth while. Since sheis now trained to try to go in the mornings, she often won't try unless she is on the potty. When we took a plane trip last month, I was worried about having a poppie diaper on the plane since she didn't have time to 'relax' in the morning. Even though it was hours after her normal morning constitutional, she waited until we could set up her travel potty in the back of the rental car. A square of toilet paper and a trip to a garbage can was all the clean up it took.
I don't mean to rub it in, but when we were missing a poop here and there I thought that we always missed the worst ones, but I have since come to realize they are all that bad, they just aren't spread around inside a diaper. Honestly, sometimes I wonder why people don't practice EC.
I suspect things will continue to change in how we practice (she now stands up when she doesn't feel like using the potty. I keep waiting for the time when she stands up only to pee on the floor), but I suspect we will still catch most of her eliminations. From what I hear, she won't likely be completely diaper free any earlier than around 18 to 24 months, but we are unlikely to go through the fight to get her to accept the potty that some parents do. Using the potty has always been normal for her so I think the transition will be a smooth one.
I didn't care much for the split crotch pants or trainers. It isn't a matter of if she will wet her diaper or trainers, it is a matter of when. I use mostly prefolds and a cover and when one gets wet, I trade it out for a new one. When one of my split crotch pants got wet I would be all frustrated because now I would have to do laundry before I could use it again. The split crotch pants I had didn't open far enough on the Baby Bjorn Little Potty either.
If I were willing to spend the money and practiced EC very diligently, I would use exlusively (thin-ish) fitted diapers. These seem to be the most comfortable for LB, I can tell as soon as she wets and they are easy on / easy off.
I almost never worry about having a diaper bag with me anymore. I keep a couple of disposibles in the car or in her stroller in case she gets wet. I don't need wipes because I know that she won't go poop in her diaper. I potty her right before we leave and when we get where we are going. If I am going to be hanging out at someone else's house, I will bring her travel potty. Otherwise, I will just hold her by her thighs in front of me over a regular sized toilet.
Finally, it is never punitive. If she goes in her diaper I might say, "LB, we go in the potty." If I am feeling frustrated, I just change her after she wets. If I don't feel like the hassle, I will put her in a paper diaper. I feel kind of guilty about using any disposables and I know I won't win any records here, but we have only bought 3 Costco size packages of diapers. Each time I buy one, I swear it will be my last and I will go to cloth full time, but so far my intention has been better than my follow through.
This is an overly long post already so I will end it here. As always, feel free to ask questions.
Eggbert pooped at least 10 times/day from birth to age six months or so. Did LB do the same? It was a lot more than I had expected, and made me think that EC would have been a bit of a nightmare with her, since even if I caught half of those, the other half would comprise five big messy poops/day. How did you cope with that
We keep her in a diaper most of the time. If she is diaper free, it is almost always on my watch. I don't expect other people to deal with it and if I hand her to Brad sans diaper he says, "Can you put a diaper on her? That's the agreement." So, to answer your question, she has only pooped sans diaper a couple of times because I am usually pretty good at knowing if she has to go and when she was going all the time, I took less chances. I want to point out that Brad does practice EC with LB, he just doesn't do it without a diaper on her as back up.
Does she have a signal now for when she has to go? Is that part of the process?
She used to signal when she was younger. By "signal" I mean exhibit a behavior I came to associate with the imminent need to eliminate. Now we just aren't as in sync mostly because she is so much more independent. If I am holding her naked, she is much more likely to make it obvious she has to go because she tries to wiggle out of my arms.
We signal her by making the sign for "toilet" although I say "potty" (a rocking letter T in ASL) and say "pssssssss". I am hoping she will start signing when she has to go. Because we often say "Yeah!!!" and clap when is done, she sometimes says this as she is going or right after she has gone.
*One of the best ways to learn what you baby does right before she eliminates is to carry her around naked (at least on the business end). When she eliminates will have noticed what she did just prior. On some days, I just keep missing them and so I will have her diaper free. I also think it gives her more awareness.