When highlighting the green options for diapering our wee babes one of the front runners… if not the front runner is EC or elimination communication. We live in a society that is obsessed with convenience, which is probably why the idea of Elimination Communication (or EC) has met with such mixed emotions.
What Exactly is EC?
The term “elimination communication” was coined by Ingrid Bauer after she had traveled throughout both India and Africa where diaperless babies (who did not seem to be having potty accidents) were the norm and not the exception. As a result she raised her own children with a limited use of diapers and started to share her methods with others.
In a nutshell, elimination communication is a method of toilet training in which the person caring for the child uses a mix of signals (timing, body language etc.) as well as their intuition to potty train the child. In short, by anticipating when the baby has to eliminate their waste, they can take them to an appropriate place to take care of this and cut down on or eliminate altogether the need for diapers. Supposedly, the more attuned to the child the caregiver becomes, the easier it is for them to be able to anticipate the child’s toilet needs, which all sounds good, but may cause some raised eyebrows regarding its viability as an alternative to diapers.
Does EC Work?
One of the primary reasons that diaperless babies are the rule and not the exception in countries such as India and Africa is that the baby is with the mother almost continually from birth on. The mother becomes very much attuned to her child, and it is pointless to put them in diapers if you can tell when they need to use the toilet.
So yes, the theory behind the method is sound. Unfortunately, when it comes to western societies the idea of a parent or dedicated caregiver being with the infant 24/7 is not as common as it in these other societies. In western societies it is far more common for the mother to go back to work within six weeks of the baby’s birth, so unless a mother (or father) stays home to raise her child or there is a dedicated caregiver who is willing to use the EC method, that EC training may only be practical in the evenings and/or weekends which can seriously slow down or even impede the progress of the method. But if you can manage it, successful elimination communication can be significantly beneficial to both the parent and the baby.
The Benefits of Elimination Communication
EC offers a broad range of benefits. First and foremost is the reduction in the number of diapers that you will need to purchase; a significant savings to you. But fewer diapers also means and this means savings to the planet in the reduction of diapers being sent to the landfills.
Then of course there is the elimination of the whole “rash” of problems that can be caused by traditional diapering including (but not limited to) diaper rash, urinary tract infections, yeast infections as well as difficult or resistant potty training.
And finally, EC enables an even deeper connection to be made between the infant and their caregiver. By practicing EC you are, in effect, practicing awareness of your child and their needs, an action that can bring you even closer together.
Should You Practice EC?
The choice of practicing elimination communication will depend to a great extent on the choices you make as well as the practicality. For many, full time elimination communication will not be an option as they are not able (for whatever reason) to stay at home full time with their child and most day care providers are not willing to go to this great of lengths when it comes to toilet training.
One of the easiest ways to get started to is to read a few books about the subject, like Diaper Free Baby. They are filled with real life stories so you can see what others had success with and what didn’t work as well. Attachment parenting forums are usually a good place to find EC moms online as well.
Even if you cannot practice full time EC, you can still take advantage of it whenever you are home with your child, and even though it may not be as effective as a potty training method when done part time, it can still provide an incredible bonding experience and reduce your reliance on diapers.
So what do you think? Worth a try?