Elimination communication or infant hygiene is watching your baby for signs that they have to go to the bathroom and then taking them to a potty or toilet so they don’t have to sit in a wet diaper. Half the babies around the world are potty trained by 12 months (Pediatrics Magazine), but in the United States, the average age is currently 3 years old (webMD).
I got really excited about EC when reading some eco-friendly baby books and thought it made a lot of sense. You watch your baby for cues that they are hungry, so why not do it for going to the bathroom as well? Also, our dog has the instinct not to pee where he sleeps and babies have that as well- they don’t like to sit in their own pee or poop just like other mammals. I did elimination communication part-time with Jack in that we use cloth diapers a lot, but I also take him to the bathroom several times per day.
We started when he was about 3 weeks old, but you can start at any age.
I picked cuing noises of “psss” for when he pees and “hmm” for when he poops because they sound like the noises he makes and were on a list of ideas in the Diaper Free Baby book
Every time I saw Jack pee I would make the noise for a few days, and I kept him naked on the changing pad for maybe 15-20 minutes a day so that I was likely to notice. He also peed often in the bath and sometimes when I took off his diaper.
I started putting him on a potty (which he did not really like) or holding him over the sink with his back against my chest (which worked better). I would make the noise, and he would pee about half the time right from the beginning! It made me really happy to feel like we were communicating and to see that he enjoyed peeing and not feeling wet afterwards.
Now that he’s 6 months old, he pees in the toilet (with me sitting on it backwards behind him) or in the sink a few times per day. I was really happy that yesterday I got all his poops in the toilet too! If we can have that happen most days, it would make washing our own cloth diapers so much easier!
Pros of Elimination Communication:
- So much less messy with poops! All I have to do it use a little toilet paper or wipe to clean him, versus in a diaper where it gets smeared all over him
- You really feel like you communicate with your baby and learn how to help them with one of their basic needs like eating
- I had a rough time with breastfeeding in the beginning, so I felt like we communicated better about elimination than eating, and it helped me feel connected to Jack
- It’s great to see how happy your baby looks to not have to sit in their waste
- It’s supposed to make transitioning out of diapers a lot easier. Even if you just have them use a toilet once a day, that’s enough for them to be aware of when they are peeing (other babies lose this awareness that we are all born with)
- It works well with cloth diapering since they can feel when they are wet
- It leads to fewer dirty diapers (although a lot of wet diaper changes if you try to change them immediately like I do)
- Will save a lot of money if we’re able to be out of diapers by 1-2 years instead of 3 years
Cons of Elimination Communication:
- Takes some time (taking off clothes/diapers and taking baby to the bathroom) but it’s not that much more time than changing a dirty diaper, and saves time in that you won’t be changing a 3 year old’s diaper!
- People think it’s weird. I don’t tell most people about it except family and close friends
- It works best with certain clothes. We avoid onesies (or keep them open) and keep Jack in shirts instead because it’s much easier to check his diaper or take it off without undoing snaps or removing pants. We loved using legwarmers in the wintertime!
Tips that worked for me:
- Trying taking baby to the bathroom after a nap, after taking him out of a wrap/carrier, and about 5 minutes after eating
- If you think baby needs to pee but they aren’t going, try turning on the sink a little
- If you think baby needs to go but they don’t want to, only keep them on the toilet for a few minutes- you don’t want them to get upset and have negative associations with it
- If you go to change a diaper and it’s a little wet, take them to the toilet because they might need to go more
- Around 6 months or earlier, try using the american sign language sign for bathroom when you take them to the potty so they can tell you they need to go once they learn it