How do you get started with elimination communication? When can you start? What do you need? These are all great questions… and here are the answers!
Cultures all over the world practice natural infant hygiene beginning with babies of various ages – it’s as simple as deciding you want to try it!
Many parents who have EC’d an older baby and later a newborn baby say that they’re glad they started in the newborn period with the second child.
Picking up cues in the very beginning may be easier than with an older child – and you have more time to learn your own baby’s signals (though it’s entirely possible to start with an older baby.)
Decide where you’ll potty your newborn. A small container with rounded edges, such as a small plastic bowl or a small mixing bowl, is very convenient. Prefold cloth diapers are great to use at first (you can also use small towels, though prefolds are inexpensive and very absorbent). It’s up to you.
You can use a waterproof mat or “chux” pad underneath you and your baby if you’ll be in bed much of the time. An absorbent sheepskin also works – put a cotton blanket or two over it.
At first, simply enjoy your baby and learn her signals. Watch your baby and you’ll notice when she starts to eliminate. Lying with your baby stretched across your body is ideal for this. When you feel the prefold between you get warm, give your baby a slight verbal cue, such as a “psssss” sound.
Use this same sound for bowel movements or use a different sound. Your amazing baby quickly comes to associate this sound with eliminating. After you’ve watched your baby and begun to learn his cues, start offering to potty your child when you think he needs to go.
At first it may be helpful to keep a log of when your baby eats and when she eliminates. This can help you identify her body’s timing. This isn’t necessary but it may help some parents. I used charts with my third baby during his second week of life and it helped me realize his patterns very quickly, and have used them with my fourth, fifth, and sixth babies at times when I wanted to re-focus on their cues. You can check out Brennan’s charts here to see an example 🙂
Don’t get stressed out when you have a miss – that’s why it’s so good to have prefold diapers or small towels as backup. Just replace them with a dry prefold and continue to enjoy your baby.
Some newborns have a bowel movement while they’re nursing. You can either keep a diaper wrapped loosely around your baby for this or you can nurse them over a small bowl. Use whatever’s easier for you.
Many newborns have tiny bowel movements whenever they pass gas – if this is the case with your baby simply keep a prefold diaper underneath him. My third and fourth babies did this often in their early days and I found it simple to keep a prefold under their bottoms. They quickly outgrew it.
Getting started in the early months is similar to the newborn period, so review those suggestions. Before your baby is able to roll and crawl you have an advantage – it’s often easier to pick up cues while your baby is still content to be in arms or in a baby carrier.
Begin learning your baby’s cues just as you would have in the first few days of your baby’s life. You may find it helpful to chart your baby’s elimination and nursing patterns for a few days, as was discussed above.
Beginning at this point may be easier because the stress of the immediate newborn period has worn off a little and your baby is a bit stronger. She can hold her head up and it may be easier for you to hold her over a receptacle to eliminate.
Some parents want to hold their babies over a toilet and that’s fine. However, you may find your baby doesn’t like to be rushed to the bathroom every time you think he needs to go. My second baby protested greatly to this! In this situation a small bowl kept near you and your child is a good solution.
Get started gradually if you feel that works better for you. Target after sleep and after naps when you know your baby is likely to need to go. Many babies also need to go within a short time of nursing.
Watch for fussing, grunting, bearing down, or any other signs that may indicate your baby needs to eliminate and offer the potty or bowl. Use the gentle cue sound to help your baby associate it with elimination.
If your baby is older you can still learn her elimination cues. You may not have been tuning in to her cues to this point, but you can start to pay attention to those cues now.
Keeping a cloth diaper on your baby without a cover can help you learn when he is eliminating. You’ll be able to tell immediately when your baby wets and can gently use the cue sound so that he begins to associate it with pottying. A cloth diaper with snaps or velcro (aplix) is ideal for this purpose.
Using the “after nap” and “after sleep” times to try cueing your baby can work very well – she most likely has a full bladder. You can also turn water on lightly to encourage her to go.
Cradling your baby to your body may be the best position to start with because it gives your child extra security. As you become more confident in learning her signals you can introduce a potty to her.
Again, watch for cues that your baby needs to go. If he is grunting, bearing down, or seems to be fussing a lot, offer to potty.
If you think that he needs to go but he resists, walk or dance with him for a few minutes and try again. Don’t force your baby to try and potty against his will.
Starting to EC your baby at any age can seem stressful. If you find yourself getting stressed step back and take a break. It’s okay.
EC is used to communicate with your baby and help her eliminate in a natural and clean way. It’s not about “early potty training.”
There will be misses at first, but if you tune in to your baby recognizing his elimination cues can become as simple as sensing when he is hungry. If you miss a cue simply clean it up or change the cloth or diaper.
Soon you and your baby will be communicating well enough to go without diapers much of the time and some may choose to be totally diaper free!
(NOTE: Want proven, practical strategies to make elimination communication work for you? Use these 5 proven techniques to connect when your baby and have EC success! Get them here.)