Friday, October 9, 2009

How to Start Elimination Communication

According to Wikipedia, "Elimination communication (EC) is a practice in which a caregiver uses timing, signals, cues, and intuition to address an infant's need to eliminate waste."

It is still the practice in much of the world and has been the way that baby elimination has been done for thousands of years. I would assume that this is what Mary did with Jesus, but I have not researched it extensively.

The key to elimination communication, or EC, is communication. Any baby can eliminate the day away. It is the communication that makes it special.

When we had our first baby, I was all for EC, but it just didn't seem to happen. With our first, even though we told everyone we wanted to use cloth diapers, we got a ton of disposables as gifts, and we got hooked. It wasn't until our second came that we broke our disposable addiction.

I started EC with Bobby this past spring when I started getting serious about potty training Daniel. This worked well as they learned together. Except, Daniel is fully potty trained; Bobby is not. He's not tall enough for his feet to touch the floor while sitting on the potty.
There are cues in this delicate communication between baby and mommy that let me know it's time for him to go.


He stands differently when he has to go. You know when a kid stops swimming in the pool because he's peeing? It's kind of like that. He holds his legs a little different where he stands and stops what he's doing.

His Face

Everyone has a pooping face. Catch the pooping face while the goods are moving down his bowels and before they come out.


Sometimes, when Bobby has to go, he stands by the potty. This is the most clear signal, and I'm glad he's learned it is effective. Sometimes he'll come stand next to me and do the other signals.

Internal Clock

I couldn't tell you exactly how frequently he pees or poops, but every once in a while, I think, "He needs to pee."

Does this save money?

If you're using disposable diapers, this definitely saves money. Not too much is saved with cloth diapers, except some on laundry. We still use diapers at night and when we go out, so I am still cleaning diapers. When you first start out, it feels like you're cleaning up messes continually, which will actually increase your laundry.
The Husband Factor

Sometimes, I go out to run errands on Dan's day off by myself. This is pleasant for me, but my husband, I have found, is not as keen on catching subtle communication cues.

The Brother Factor

Daniel is keen on catching subtle communication cues. He wipes my tears during sappy movies. He and Bobby spend all day together, every day. Every once in a while, I hear Daniel say "Bobby ew," which means, "Bobby's pooping." I run and check and sure enough, he has the pooping face. I whisk him to the potty and, plop!

This isn't fool proof, by any means. We still have accidents. He's better with pooping than peeing, although I've heard other moms have it the other way around. I have to be paying attention for this to work. Having a small apartment is to my advantage, because he's always just a few feet from the potty.

For this next baby, I'm going to wait until the baby is past that newborn stage, when the baby sleeps all the time. Then, we'll see how it goes. Baby wearing is helpful for younger infants, as you can see their face and that is where they will be sending cues. I didn't do much baby wearing with Bobby by the time we started EC because he was old enough that he wanted to play on the floor with his brother.


Anonymous said...

I was hoping you'd post about your diapering/pottying strategies! (If you ever get a chance to write about what kind of cloth dipes you use and how you wash them, that would be great?)

We've recently started EC too. We were so late getting started (13 months) that really it's more early-potty-training than EC, but it's going well so far. And in our case, it's saving us a *fortune* on laundry. We live in a building where a wash-dry cycle costs $4, and we were spending about $20/week on laundry when the baby was still in dipes full time! (I work full-time, so I just don't have the time for handwashing, although we do hang them to dry rather than using the dryer whenever we're not in desparate need of a clean diaper ASAP.)

Anonymous said...

I was going to post about diapers too ;)

Although...this is not so much about cd's.

Honestly, I never really understood the point of EC'ing. To me, it seems like you are just potty training your kid for 3+ years? But I know it does work for some moms.

I think babywearing ROCKS. It's totally helped me keep up with my chores and still be able to clean! Do you have a carrier/sling?

Emily said...

Athiest Mama, it is kind of like early potty training, but it is more parent training, and slowly your child takes over. Personally, I find it less work than scrubbing diapers.

I have a carrier that I love and it will be a necessity with a third little one, for sure.

Funny you were going to post about diapers, because I've been working on posts about frugal fashion and you've got the fighting the frump posts going. (:

Anonymous said...

Because of ECing we found out my daughter has food allergies. We also taught our babies sign language, so my youngest actually signed that she needed to potty before she went, the first time right before she turned 9 mos. Because of the food allergies and my not understanding where they were hidden, it was quite a while before she was really trained. I also HIGHLY recommend the sign language as well, I always knew what they wanted.


Rhonda Jean said...

My babies are long gone so I have never heard of EC but I found your explanation fascinating. It makes sense to me. I think it would help with a wider understanding of body language when your children are growing as well.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering, while practicing EC, do you leave your baby diaper- and pants-free? It seems like that would make it easier to get them on the potty in time, but on the other hand, more of a mess when they don't make it!

Emily said...

Anon, we go pants and diaper free for Bobby. There are these Chinese pants with the butt cutt out that I'm planning on making for the winter. When there is an accident, it's easier to clean it off the tile floor than soak, scrub, wring and hang a diaper.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you posted this. I'm planning to go the route when I have a child as well as with the sign language. It just seems like they both make life easier. My mom calls it parent training as well. The baby already knows when it needs to go its just the parent that has to hop up and get them there. Cloth diapering is on my list as well. I can't wait to try it all out! Great blog!

Rachel said...

My FIL spent time as a lay missionary in the Phillipines, Cambodia and Mexico. He told us how babies in these countries were potty trained as early as six months. They are often naked due to the heat, and they go to the bathroom when they are taken. I would imagine it is sort of like a schedule they follow, going to the outhouse with mom, for lack of a better way to put it.

SoMo said...

I have heard of this, but never wanted to take the time to do it.

We are cloth diapering our 2 month old, although my husband still goes for the disposables and I use them for night and when we are out. I will change that once the baby is older and can fit into her BumGenius one size better. I am thinking that will be in another month. I think my husband is scared of the prefolds.

It has been very hard to potty train my almost 4 yr old son. He is having trouble with pooing in the potty. I switched him to Pull-Ups, but was frustrated because I was changing him as much as when he was in diapers. So we have gone to underwear all the time, except at night.

While I am still buying some disposal products they are lasting much longer. I figure I will spend less in the long run. I like to think of it as my hybrid system. ;)

Jill said...

There's a documentary that my friend was interviewed for - the website is . I have quite a few friends who do EC, but for me, at the risk of sounding lazy, it's way too much work! Kudos to those who do it.

Anonymous said...

SO... you wash your cloth diapers in the bathroom? How can you effectively sanitize the diapers (assuming a poop diaper).

Scottish Twins said...

Just wanted to let you know that I nominated you for an award at my blog.

AnnMarie said...

I just have to disagree with the signals--my DD, now 4.5 NEVER indicated she was peeing or pooping. There was no standing still or with legs apart or facial expressions or hiding while doing it. IE, not everyone has a pooping face.

We spent over 18 months (off and on) potty training her. She's still not dry overnight but we're working on that (and have for the last year or so). ::sigh::

I had such great plans for early training with her because I detest changing diapers. She was over 3 before she was trained (maybe 3.5?). And only the last month (she's almost 5) that she can do it completely on her own (she doesn't need someone to wipe her butt that is). For some kids, it just doesn't happen very quickly no matter what you do. ::sigh::

Anonymous said...

I have been interested in EC for years now but never had the guts to actually DO IT! Maybe with sweet Frances coming.... (((((HUGS))))) sandi

Saved Sinner said...

Just thought I'd give you a link to my EC post in case you're interested:

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