Alision Myburgh is mom to one-year-old Ariel. She started elimination communication (EC) to give Ariel a chance to learn about her body, and to stop her from having to sit in her own waste.
She dresses Ariel in clothes that leave her bottom bear – legwarmers instead of trousers, for instance (she points out that, in rural areas, babies frequently go without any clothes at all while learning elimination communication). Science shows that it’s a baby’s instinct to wee or poo if they’re not covered with a nappy. (If you’ve been using nappies prior to this, you’ll have noticed that your baby seems to wee as soon as you open that nappy.)
As with any potty training, elimination communication takes time, patience and practice. You have to be prepared for regression (a “potty pause”), especially when your baby is on a nursing strike, teething or experiencing sleep issues. Alison says that when this happens, she checks in with her Facebook support groups for advice and tips. She also switches to “part-time EC”, using more nappies – cloth rather than disposable, (because disposables make it harder to tell when your baby needs a change), and concentrating more on catching the essentials like morning wees and poos so Ariel doesn’t forget what she has already learnt.
“When a potty pause happens, you need to accept that you won’t catch every single wee, so don’t put yourself under pressure. Nappy-free time is fun, and your baby gets to learn so much more about her body. Cleaning up a few puddles is also no more trouble than changing a nappy,” Alison says.
At what age can you start?
According to NaturalBirthandBabyCarecom, you can start EC at birth already. “I usually start EC with my babies within the first few days. I never determine a set date, but generally decide to try EC within the first week. I started with my third baby, Brennan, when he was a week or so. I started a day or two after birth with Galen, Honor, and Corwin, my fourth, fifth, and sixth babies,” says mom to 8 Kristen Burgess and founder of NaturalBirthandBabyCare.com. She says most parents wait until their baby has passed the meconium (the sticky substance that lines the intestines while in e womb), while others prefer catching it so they don’t have to clean it off their baby. “It’s completely up to you,” she says.
But she does point out that it’s better to start elimination communication during the early months because babies are very aware of their elimination at first and generally hate to be wet or dirty. She also says that it’s actually easier starting early when your baby isn’t mobile yet – because you don’t have to chase after a curious kid.
“Spread a mat on the floor, your bed, or your lap and let your baby be diaper free. You can watch to see what your baby does right before a pee or poop, thus learning his or her cues. You can also get a good sense of timing: that’s how frequently your baby potties. Use this information to decide how often to offer your baby potty opportunities,” she says.
But how does it work?
It starts with learning to recognise your baby’s expressions or gestures when he needs the toilet. Once you spot a telltale sign, you whisk baby away, remove the nappy (if he’s wearing one) and hover him over the toilet while making a sound he will eventually come to associate with going to the toilet – for example, “psst”.
What are the benefits of elimination communication?
For starters, you’ll be saving a lot of money on nappies. Australian mom Montana Lower told an Australian news agency that her 9-month-old daughter is almost potty trained and barely needs nappies. “She hasn’t done a poo in her nappy since she was two weeks old. We go through about two nappies a day — one at night and just one in the day,” she said.
Using nappies less frequently also means babies are less prone to urinary tract infections or nappy rash, and they gain independence quickly.
Kristen shares these tips if you want to give elimination communication a try:
- Ditch the nappies (or just use a lot less).
- Build a strong connection with your baby. Just as you can pick up when your baby needs to eat, you can also tell when he needs to go.
You can download the full guide to to Kristen’s easy elimination communnication tips and strategies here.
Our experienced editors work with trained journalists and qualified experts to compile accurate, insightful and helpful information about pregnancy, birth, early childhood development and parenting. Our content is reviewed regularly by our panel of advisors, which include medical doctors and healthcare professionals. Meet the Living & Loving Team and our Online Experts.