elimination communication (n.) -a practice in which a caregiver uses timing, signals, cues, and intuition to address an infant's need to eliminate waste. EC emphasizes communication between the caregiver and child, helping them both become more attuned to the child's innate rhythms and control of elimination.
Sounds crazy I know. I thought so too when I first heard about it, but after hearing encouragement and success stories from other AP mamas I thought "what can it hurt to try?" So we did.
Typically, EC families start at a very young age, some from birth. Starting at a year, like we are, is considered late, which is obviously very different from typical potty training methods that indicate 2 to 3 years is ideal. The idea behind EC is that babies are born with instinctual awareness of their bodily functions and if the parents encourage use of the potty from an early age, not only are they capable of learning to use it and become diaper free very young, it also prevents having to 'train' them twice: once to use a diaper and a second time to use a potty.
Now I don't know if I buy into all that, but I started my investigation into the method with a book called The Diaper Free Baby and the method was easy enough. You put baby on the potty during times she will likely potty (aka pottytunities) and if/when she goes you make a "sssssss" sound, followed by lots of praise. For poos you can use the same sound or use a different noise of choice. The idea is that once the noise association is made with going potty you will be able to cue baby to go, ie. when I put her on the potty I say "ssss" and she knows that means it's time to go. At the same time she will learn to say "ssss" when she feels the need to go. Even though she is not able to hold it for extended periods of time, she is capable of gaining awareness of the elimination sensation.
For those of you still doubting me, IT'S WORKING! We had our first catch last Saturday. I put her on the potty when we woke up and she went. We've had several more catches since, and this morning when Daddy put her on the potty, she even made the "ssss" sound with him while she went.
We've been trying to let her spend more time sans diaper, especially right after she goes in the potty, and admittedly we have had one miss, but the great thing about EC is that you can do it full time, part time or just every once in a while. It doesn't have to be all or nothing, and it certainly isn't like I originally pictured with a naked baby and a frantic mommy constantly running back and forth to the bathroom because she *thought* baby might have to pee.
It is a little time consuming, but we take advantage of the time on the potty to play with toys and read books -- its no different than if we had been sitting in the living room playing. She is never forced to sit on the potty; when the toys are no longer intriguing and she wants down, we get down whether she went or not.
Right now we are very part-time ECers. We usually have potty time first thing in the morning and before bath or bed. Occasionally during the day when Charlie or I are home she will sit on the potty after naps or after we have been wearing her for a while. We just have one Nora-sized seat on the upstairs potty right now, but Nana Buskirk indicated that's what she was planning to get Nora for her birthday, so then we'll have one for the downstairs bathroom too. Call me nutty, but as she gets better at signing she has to go, I'd also like to have one to keep in the trunk of the car so she always has a place to go when we're on the road. It is my understanding that after they make a distinct connection with using the potty, that often becomes the preference and many times early-pottied toddlers will refuse to go in a diaper -- I'd prefer to have our own clean potty for her to use than to have to stick her on a potentially yucky, too big public one. We'll think through that further as it gets closer.
The most important thing to keep in mind about EC is that it is more important to focus on the communication than it is to focus on the elimination. It is very much in line with attachment parenting in that the success is in the journey, not the result -- it is about learning to communicate with a pre-verbal baby, rather than being the first to have a potty-using tot. I look forward to keeping you updated on our EC journey, and hopefully, creating some other believers along the way.
More about EC philosophy
75 Benefits of EC
Find a local EC group