I’ve been meaning to write about our experience with EC (Elimination Communication) for quite some time now. This is a topic that comes up from time to time with friends, usually friends with their first children or those thinking about trying EC. I always say the same thing to these friends- go for it. EC is something you can do as little as you like but you’ll never regret the connection it creates for you and your child. Regardless of how part time you do EC, you’ll have a better understanding of your child’s elimination needs and your child could be out of diapers sooner.
The widely held perception of EC, by people who don’t do it, is that it’s “too much work”. I can’t help but laugh a little when people tell me this. Not only have they not tried it but in my experience it’s a lot less work. Certainly, it takes more dedication in the moment to be attentive to their needs but in the medium and long term you’re way ahead. It takes being present, some patience, a willingness to be unsuccessful from time to time.
I’d consider most of the parenting choices I subscribe to as being the easier choices. The choices that are akin to taking the lane of least resistance. EC is certainly one of those choices. I didn’t mind dealing with diapers but I was sure glad when we didn’t need them anymore and we didn’t have to use any harmful and frustrating methods like shame, rewards or punishment to get there.
The message we always wanted to convey to our children about eliminating is that it’s natural, it makes our bodies feel good to get it done and that it’s just another element of living.
We did late starting EC with Lily at about a year old. She was out of diapers in the day time at around a year and a half . I’m really resistant to soiling my mattress (or sleeping on waterproof sheets) so we didn’t chance going diaperless at night until about two years old, much longer than actually required.
We did EC with Leif from birth. His last poop in a diaper was at four months old. It’s a pretty awesome thing to not have to clean poopy diapers or the messy results of pooping in a diaper on my baby’s body. Leif was out of diapers/one-wet-pants before a year and a half and again he slept in a pair of one-wet-pants longer than necessary because of my concern with keeping the mattress unsoiled.
So, what did it actually look like for us to EC? I’ll stick to sharing the practicalities of our experience with Leif since it was most recent.
I worked mostly with timing and intuition, rather than looking for specific cues from Leif. I would always offer the potty upon waking from any kind of sleep. I’d offer before a car ride and as soon as we arrived, before and after doing the grocery shop… you get the point. I’d always offer if I knew it’d be a while before we had our next chance. I’d also offer the potty whenever I had to go to the bathroom and then we’d go together. I’d listen to myself if I ever thought that Leif might have to pee. I wasn’t often wrong and if I ignored my intuition then I was usually left with a diaper to change or a puddle to wipe up. I learned quickly not to ignore my intuition. There were the occasional times when I could recognise a cue from Leif. He’d stop and look like he was thinking or he’d squirm in bed.
Leif’s typical daily outfit was a snapped up the front shirt or t shirt with an uncovered fitted diaper or one wet pants. To this we added baby legs, padraig slippers, robeez or soft star shoes, split crotch pants, a sweater and jacket, all depending on the temperature. Easy access to peeing was important! If it was much colder, I’d wear him in a sling and my big down coat and stonz boots.
We had two baby potties and they floated around our main floor of our house as we needed them. They weren’t the kind of potties you’d buy in most chain store baby departments and thankfully my preferred style is a lot easier to find these days. The best kind of baby potties are the one piece kind that can be squatted over. They are easier and more comfortable for smaller children to sit on which increases the children’s willingness to use them on their own. For night time I had a small bowl type potty tucked under my side of the bed. I sometimes carried a small tupperware container in my truck to work as an on-the-fly type potty for unexpected poops.
When Leif was just little “offering him the potty” didn’t actually mean offering him the potty to eliminate on. I most often used the bathroom sink or the potty bowl. He was too tiny to really use the actual potty. I took care of a friend’s son for about a month and while he was EC’d from birth, he didn’t know or trust me like his mama. I found the most success peeing him outside off the porch where the cool air would motivate his eliminating. Sometimes it takes a little creativity to make something work.
For night time ECing when Leif was very little, I’d lay down a folded crib sized wool soaker pad and on top of this was a folded receiving blanket. I had more receiving blankets and diapers on my bed side table. On this I would put Leif in a snapped up the front shirt (I HATE onesies) and a fitted snapped diaper- no cover. The lack of cover offered me the immediate knowledge of Leif wetting his diaper. This scenario works well with boys, since they pee up the front of the diaper. For Lily I used the same wool soaker pad/receiving blanket set up with her and I would either put an extra liner in her diaper from front to back or used some loosely fitting wool soakers. Things changed for us when Leif started to turn over and move around in bed. It was then that I started to put the loosely fitted wool soakers over his diaper or put him in one-wet-pants.
Early on I got used to popping up on my knees in bed to changing Leif’s diaper and I got to the point where I didn’t even realise I was doing it anymore. I’d wake up in the morning and see one or two wet diapers next to the bed ready to put in the laundry. Leif got used to not waking while being changed as well. He also got used to not being in a wet diaper and never enjoyed when he was.
Having him on the wool soaker pad and receiving blanket combo coincidentally helped slide him from one side of me to the other for comfortable nursing through the night after any diaper changings.
Night time ECing wasn’t always easy for me. I would sometimes realise that Leif had to pee but I was too darn lazy to pee him on the potty next to the bed. I always changed Leif as soon as he wet the diaper though so I wasn’t actually saving myself any effort. Having a pee in the diaper result in a diaper changing asap was really important. Not only do I not want my child to sit in soiled clothing but it reinforced Leif’s dislike of being that way. It helped us move away from diapers.
On diapers: If I had to do it all over again, I’d still buy fitted diapers with snaps but I’d buy fewer of them and not in ‘one size’ style. Instead I would invest in a few more one wet style pants. When you only have one wet in them, you become quite diligent about catching that pee, especially when you’re out and about!
I’m not a huge fan of all-in-ones or pocket style diapers. I know they’re sometimes popular because they’ll hold a lot of pee, but I’m frankly disturbed by anyone’s interest in having their child carry even one load a pee between their legs any longer than they have to.
I’ve talked a lot before about the insanity of disposable diapers with their colossal waste to our landfills, the fact that they don’t break down for like 800 years, that they are loaded with harmful chemicals… so I’ll refrain from going on about it now.
I like how you emphasize the fact that you can do as much or as little EC as you’re comfortable. Even only catching the morning pee is one less diaper to wash.
I started EC when my second child was 3 month old and after that she almost never pooped in a diaper, that was great.
I don’t think she was potty trained early but that was not the point.
Thank-you Annie! I found this sooo helpful! LOVED the video of Leif’s first steps… lol…adorable.
Thank you for the inspiration to start up again with Penelope, even if it is a little late in the game.
We had pretty considerable success with Mira (thanks to your encouragement then, too!) I remember being in the hospital when she was around a year and the nurse telling me they needed to put a catheter in to take a urine sample. I offered that all we needed was a bed pan and that M could go in that. She looked at me as though I were from another planet!
Her whole perspective changed pretty quickly after watching me put Mira over the bed pan and giving her the cue to go. She was surprised it was so effortless and thought it was pretty terrific that we were able to save Mira the trauma of a catheter. I had to agree!
A year or so later we had a funny experience at Shawn and Tanis’ when M, who was not well, pooped in her pants. John and I looked, hmmm, a little less than competent trying to change her, but since M had been using the toilet fairly consistently from such young age, we weren’t used to dealing with poop in that way!
Yay!!! EC is one of the things I actually miss from having my girls be that little. For me the “part time” that I felt most successful at with Eliza (who started around 8 months with EC) was at night – we slept on a pad a friend devised that was made of soft, thin polar fleece and lined with gortex-type waterproof material and was large enough that we didn’t have an edge to deal with – another receiving blanket or flat cloth diaper under her and when she’d stir (predictably a couple of hours after falling asleep), I’d grab the potty from next to the bed, sit her on it and nurse her while she peed, and she’d never fully waken. She was always bare butt at night. Ani was a great communicator about discomfort – never “fussed” much, but when she had to go, so it was easy to read her cues in a way it never had been with the very busy and vocal Eliza.
As you can tell, I’m still excited about our experience!
Thank you for this post. It’s so timely as I’ve been hoping to start EC any day now but have been putting it off for when I feel settled with my 10 week old daugher Eloise. Your post inspired me to start today. I dressed Ms. Wheezy in her baby leggs (which are just about the cutest things in the world!) and tried to really connect with her all day. Even though I missed every single pee today, I loved getting Eloise’s diaper off immediately after she eliminating – she didn’t need to cry to let me know she was wet. Very good feeling. I’m excited to keep trying.
Steph- that is such an important point! You don’t have to go full on and will likely find more success if they approach it with lower expectations and cut themselves slack.
Rae- isn’t he?!
Bridie- awesome! I’m sure it will feel good to get back at it.
Deb- I miss that too now that my babes are getting older!! xx
Julia- That’s so great to hear! Pees are not easy to catch but they do get easier especially as babe grows and matures and you get more into a rhythm together.
I also loved reading this. It took me back to our EC days! Both my girls were EC’d – the first from a few months and the second from birth. I also got that comment a lot – how much more work it must have been. But – like you – I always felt like it was the opposite: easier not to have to clean up and wash poopy diapers and easier to have such a smooth transition to “potty trained” toddlers. . . I don’t even remember exactly when my girls were done wearing diapers, but definitely before their second birthdays.
We still have our little white baby bjorn potty under the sink in the girls’ bathroom, which they sometimes use for their baby dolls!
Thanks, Zane. I still have our baby bjorn potty too, for when our littlest friends visit us! I’ve given away the others but I kinda want to hold on to this one.