As an adult, we’re well aware of when to go to the toilet and usually have the wherewithal to know we don’t want to sit in our own dirty pants.
We don’t normally ascribe that level of consciousness to babies; mainly because they can’t even hold their head up properly.
However, an age-old technique that puts a lot more faith in babies’ capabilities is making a resurgence here in the West, and it’s called elimination communication.
Parents who practise this may use no nappies at all, and start toilet training their kids right from birth. Here’s how it works.
What is elimination communication and does it work?
Although it’s making its way onto the Insta feeds of new age parenting bloggers, elimination communication (or EC) has actually been around pretty much since babies have.
Parents in less industrialised countries have carried their babies without nappies for centuries, and have found ways to ensure a minimum of ‘accidents’.
There are a number of ways to do this, but they essentially centre around working out the cues your child has for needing to use the loo, and taking them there when you think it’s time.
It also involves teaching your baby to tell you that they need to go via signing, sounds, and eventually words.
You can start from birth, and completely forgo nappies, or start at a later date and gradually reduce their need for nappies until full potty training is received.
Pros and cons of elimination communication
The pros of EC are first and foremost that you’ll use fewer nappies – both saving money and helping the environment – and that it’ll be easier to fully toilet train as your child gets older. It can also help avoid nappy rash and even (by supporting your baby in a certain position over the toilet or potty) reduce constipation. The most obvious con is that it might not fit in with your lifestyle. You need to be personally present most of the time to interpret your baby, which isn’t compatible with a number of childcare situations. It can take a lot of time to start off, and also could be messy at the very beginning.
How do you get started?
Proponents of EC recommend starting off by leaving your baby without a nappy for a while when they’re sitting on a baby mat to gauge their timings.
Newborns often pee every 10 to 20 minutes, and poo after feeding and before waking up. From there, the timings may change, so you’ll need to get used to your own child’s rhythms.
Interestingly, many babies won’t automatically go to the toilet if they’re held close (such as in a sling), and will signal through crying or noises that they wish to, prompting you to take them to the potty.
Cueing is another technique you may choose further down the line, which involves you making a ‘psss’ or ‘shhh’ noise as your child goes to the loo, effectively signalling to them that this should be associated with it. Some parents use visual cues like sign language instead of noises.
EC is not for everyone, and there’s nothing wrong with not having the time, patience, or want to do it.
A number of these parenting trends might seem silly, and EC is certainly one which might make you double-take.
However, what’s worked for centuries can’t be completely wrong, even if it has been co-opted by parents whose lives seem pretty unattainable.
It’ll take work, and it may take a lot of cleaning up, but if it’s something you wish to do, conquer that elimination.