:: By Nicole Moore ::
Nappy/diaper free, elimination communication, natural infant hygiene … all names for a system of toileting so ancient that it probably precedes names altogether! This very natural, gentle, environmentally friendly way of dealing with your babies waste is based on the belief that babies are aware of their elimination processes from birth and are able to communicate this awareness, and that sphincter control is learnt from birth in a gradual process until full control is reached, somewhere between 1 and 2 ½ years of age.
“Chinese parents practise this style of elimination communication as they believe that eating and eliminating are co-existing elements and should be given equal importance for good health.” Says Laurie Boucke in her book, Infant Potty Training.
The nappy/diaper free method begins with observation on the part of the carers. This can take place at any time from birth onwards, but will probably be easier with a younger baby, whilst he or she retains an awareness of and communicates their elimination needs in some way. Many babies lose this awareness around 6 months, and this method is more difficult after that time.
The method involves the child being bare bottomed, so that the carer can see exactly when urination or defecation has taken place, and the signs or body language that the baby gives prior to elimination. It is very easy to have a newborn that doesn’t yet roll lying on a small blanket, or a cloth nappy that can washed if soiled. There is an increased likelihood of mess when starting with an older child, but as the carer comes to know their child’s patterns, this is reduced very quickly.
Weighing up the time spent cleaning up your child’s mess, as opposed to washing cloth nappies is a little redundant here because with this system you are doing more than dealing with your child’s wastes.
You are also enhancing your communication and bond with your baby, moving gently towards early toileting independence, removing the risk of genital rashes and saving heaps of energy and water used in washing cloth nappies and /or all the money that you would otherwise be spending on disposables.
As Sarah Buckley, GP and mother of four notes, “Elimination Communication also makes a beautiful contribution to my experience of mindfulness in my mothering. Like breastfeeding it keeps me close to my baby, physically and psychologically, and provides immediate feedback when I am not tuned in… The beauty of E.C has been in the process, not in the outcome, however remarkable and convenient.”
The nappy/diaper free way of dealing with your babies elimination, shows respect for your baby’s needs, openness to their communication and willingness to respond. When you have become aware of some patterns emerging around their elimination needs and communications – for example, most babies eliminate upon awakening, or after a feed and will often wriggle or show discomfort prior to elimination – you can begin to hold them out over a bucket, potty, toilet or even a garden bed when you suspect it may be time.
It is a good idea to experiment with different positions for holding your baby during elimination, as what is comfortable for you and your babe will differ according to their age and size, and where elimination is taking place. A supported squat is commonly used; with the baby’s back resting against your chest, where they feel safe and secure, and your hands holding them underneath each thigh. The baby’s bottom is pointed slightly away from your body to avoid mess. This open position actually helps the baby to release their bowels, a handy advantage in those early months when small babies may have a struggle to release.
You can also use a cueing sound when you hold the baby out, which can be anything you like, different for urination and defecation or the same for both. Some carers use a “psss” noise, and others others make up their own. Consistency is the key, and the same sound/s should be used by any carers who are using the nappy/diaper free method with the babe.
This helps to establish a communication link the baby gives a sign or signal and is held out in a similar position, with the same sounds. Very quickly the baby begins to learn, and may exaggerate those signs, or may cry when he/she needs to eliminate. Likewise, the carers become more and more confident at reading those signs and responding in time to ‘catch’ the elimination. The baby learns to relax their sphincter muscles on cue, thus gaining an awareness of where the muscles are and what purpose they have, as well as an awareness of control.
As the practise progresses and the communication deepens, the carers intuition may also come into play. We can come to intuitively ‘know’ when our baby needs to eliminate and can respond accordingly. This adds a deeply satisfying element to our relationship with our babies and reminds us of the incredible energetic exchange that is taking place between carer and babe.
Elimination Communication can be practised full or part-time, or can even be put on hold during times when circumstances make it more difficult.
ie; when taking long journeys or at stressful times in a family’s life. Not all families use EC for nighttimes and naps, or they use nappies/diapers as back-up in case they don’t make it to the baby immediately upon awakening. As each family and baby is unique, so is the way they tailor their practise of EC to suit their needs.
This method of toileting has not been packaged, sold, and marketed to the masses. It has been handed down from generation to generation, and is used in different ways by different cultures. More and more Westerners, aware of the problems our planet is facing, are also turning to this method as a way of reducing our environmental impact. The savings in water usage, detergents, plastics consumed, trees used for wood pulp, chemical production methods, not to mention non-biodegradable landfill, unsustainable, non-organic cotton farming, and of course transportation, are very significant for the Earth.
Elimination Communication turns the tables on infant toilet training, making it ecologically sustainable, fascinating and fun!