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EC- a different way of thinking about pottying

When do you think a child goes in the potty for the first time? Two years old maybe? When do you think they start being able to control when they go? …again, two years old maybe? How about two months old… or two weeks old! Say whaaaat?!

Another wonder of the natural parenting world that I learned of through my Bradley Birth teacher was EC: Elimination Communication. EC is a different approach to pottying, not potty training, by the way. It’s not about training, it’s about communication.

EC has two principles that go against much of conventional pottying thinking. Babies are born with the instinct to not soil themselves and they are born with the ability to hold it. Think about it, traditionally the belief is that babies have no control of their body elimination functions. They just go when they go and that’s that. And they end up sitting and wiggling in their own filth, and they seem pretty dandy with that too.

But here’s the thing: babies don’t like feeling soiled. However, they get put in a diaper where they feel it all the time, and they get used to it. It basically ends up making no difference whether they hold it or not, so they just go. They learn that it’s ok to soil themselves any time, any place. And then, roughly two years later, they have to unlearn it, and learn how to use a potty instead.

According to healthline.com, in the US, average starting potty training age is somewhere between 18 months and 3 years old, most commonly around 27 months. It’s often advised to look for signs of when a child is “ready” to start using the potty. But some kids (who are now toddlers, at this point) have a tough time letting go of the diapers they have gotten so used to.

I was inspired to write this post because I recently came across some blasts from my daughter’s past:

First time peeing in the potty, at five and a half months old!

This came up in my memories today. My daughter was five and a half months old. You can see in the picture how little she was, and you can see that on that same day, she went in her potty for the first time!

I remember that she would “pee on cue” waaaaay before then, but unfortunately I have no “evidence” of it. :/ We used to check her diaper (lying down, on her changing pad) and we’d say “psss, pshh, pss…” and quite often, she’d pee! Just into her actual diaper, and then we’d put a fresh clean diaper on her, and go on with the day. I don’t know how old she was, but she was just a couple weeks old when we started.

I would also bring her into the bathroom with me when I had to go, and I noticed that more often than not, when I would go, she would go too. This started creating an association for her that the bathroom is the room you go potty in. We would also check her diaper often, and change it as soon as we noticed it was wet. We went through a LOT of diapers this way, but it nurtured her instinct to stay clean. This was before she started sitting on her own potty, because she was too little to sit up at all yet.

I remember when she started sitting up on her own, I took her to Babies R Us and sat her (diapered and fully clothed) on a little potty, on the floor, in the middle of the potty aisle. She wiggled and fussed. Not ready yet. I went back a few days later and tried again. Same reaction. Still not ready yet. A few days later, I tried one more time. This time she just sat calmly on the potty. She was ready! I bought it, took it home, sat her on it and nothing happened the first try. But the second time I sat her in it, eureka! There was pee in the potty!

I found this in my memories too:

Proud mommy moment at my daughter using the potty like a pro, at just one year and three months old.

By now she was a year and three months old, and I just couldn’t help myself in sharing. I had one of my (non-mommy) friends comment that she got I was proud, but gross. But the point is, just-over-one year olds aren’t typically using the potty yet, especially not this successfully. But they can be!

The C for Communication in EC is all about having a closer connection to your child when it comes to pottying. It’s another line of communication in getting to know each other. You learn to pay attention to the signs they show when they need to go, especially when they’re tiny. You set up “pottytunities” and learn when they are likely to need the potty. The easiest place to start is to give baby a pottytunity right when she wakes up, either from a nap or from overnight. The next easiest thing to do, is to put baby fully clothed on a potty (or something similar to it, like a Bumbo or a bouncer) when you go potty, and keep them right next to you, and then check/change their diaper right after. As baby gets a little bigger, they’ll be comfortable sitting in a potty. Either their own tiny one, or the actual grown-up one.

This was the other blast from the potty past that I recently found:

News from her first day in her new Early Pre-School class.

This is from her first day in her new Early Pre-School class. At this point, she was 27 months old. Most toddlers are just starting to learn to use the potty. You can see her teachers were impressed that she went on her very first try. But she’d been using the potty for almost two years.

She still wasn’t fully potty independent (as they say in the EC world) until about two and a half years old, but it was a super smooth transition, especially at home. She had some shyness issues to work through at daycare. She also almost never would go overnight (even when she was a baby), and never had night accidents once she was fully out of diapers.

I learned about EC through my Bradley teacher, but I learned all about it from the Diaper Free Baby by Christine Gross-Loh. It was super interesting and a really easy read.

Paperback The Diaper Free Baby : The Natural Toilet Training Alternative Book
A wonderful resource to learn all about EC!

You can also visit diaperfreebaby.org for more information and to find a local EC support group.

As with many things, EC is something you can jump into headfirst, or something you can just dip your toe in. In other words, some parents actually go diaper free, and others do EC here and there, when they can. It’s really just another tool for your parenting toolbox. More than anything, to me, it’s a shift in perspective. Babies CAN have a part in keeping themselves clean and using the potty early on. It’s something that made my life easier (less soiled diapers!) and a way I felt more closely connected to my baby. It’s something that I didn’t know existed, and I’m happy to have found. So I pass it on to you! I hope it brings you closer to your baby… and farther from their dirty diapers!


My Start as a Hippie Mommy

I want to take a moment and share why I consider myself to be a hippie mommy.  And I think it appropriate to start at my “graduation date” aka the day my daughter was born!  And speaking of appropriate, seven years ago TODAY, was the day it all happened!

When I was pregnant, I wanted to have a natural birth.  I was reading several pregnancy books and I stumbled across the Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth (http://www.bradleybirth.com/).  I’m going to pause and say that finding Bradley changed my life.  Big statement, I know, but it was really the start of a new perspective on pregnancy, birth, and all things parenting.  The Bradley Method was a 12 week course and it made me realize that natural birth is nothing to take lightly. As my instructor put it, you don’t decide to run a marathon and just buy the shoes, go for a couple runs, and then run the whole race.  You train! You prepare yourself. Bradley was that preparation. It educated me and daddy to really know what to expect during labor and delivery. What was going on, and how to best adapt to the current situation.

Me at 7 months pregnant on the beach in my homeland of Costa Rica.

When we first sat with our instructor, she asked where we were planning for me to give birth.  We told her at a local hospital. She said ok, but just keep your minds open because after you learn what you are going to learn, you may change your choice.  Ok, well you know, you never know what will happen so to play it safe we’d feel more comfortable at a hospital. We continue our classes and learn of all the things we do and don’t want as part of my birth.  We write a birth plan. It includes things like no continuous electronic fetal monitoring, no internal checks every hour, no pitosin, no episiotomy. I also wanted a water birth, and the hospital had a bathtub in the room, but you can’t go in it after your water breaks.  You know, when you need it most, but anyways, risk of infection and all that. We sit with our ObGyn to let him know all the things we do and don’t want and he very kindly explains that for mommy and baby’s safety, they can’t honor those wishes because their top priority is making sure everyone is safe and that’s just what they need to do.  Hmm, well now we knew enough to know that, in a healthy pregnancy, that’s just not necessarily true.

So we decided to go tour a birthing center, just to compare.  Every point that we said “we want to do this” the answer was “sure, no problem”.  I mean, within reason. If it comes down to a true emergency, they will do whatever they need to do to make sure everyone is safe.  But they respected the kind of birth I wanted to have and were able to provide that experience for me. I want to save my whole birthing story for another post (spoiler alert, perfectly healthy baby born in a birthing center, and I am SO glad that we made the switch!)  But suffice to say, choosing a birthing center was totally the first flower in my hippie crown.

Inspiration Family Birth Center where my daughter was born.
(Sorry I couldn’t fix the formatting but I figured a not-cropped picture was better than none!)

During our Bradley classes, our instructor also talked to us about co-sleeping, babywearing, Elimination Communication, amber teething necklaces and Baby-Led Weaning.  See why she changed my life? Again, stay tuned for blog posts on each of those practices, but it was so eye-opening to even know these things were out there! I did each of these things with my daughter and each one brought us closer together and more in touch with each other.

Something I loved about Dr. Bradley is that he grew up on a farm.  He watched animals do their thing when it came time to give birth. Fast forward and he becomes a doctor and watches how “modern” women give birth in a hospital.  There was a huge disconnect in these two birthing ways! Yes science and medicine have come a long way and no I have no desire to crawl into a barn and give birth in a pile of hay.  But there IS a lot of wisdom in nature and I think the closer we can get to the way things are naturally done, the better off we are.

I think trusting our instincts goes a long way too.  When your baby cries, it sucks. When you pick them up and comfort them, it feels awesome.  Their soft little skin on your face as you give them kisses and cuddles feels great. Then a study comes out saying it actually is scientifically proven that there are therapeutic benefits of touch!  But you didn’t need a published article to tell you that. Follow your instincts, in your gut and your heart it feels right.

Me and my little Bird on my 30th birthday. She was 11 days old.

There are lots of mainstream parenting practices that are really easy to just do because it’s what you do.  I mean look at any baby shower decorations and you’ll see cute pictures of baby bottles, pacifiers, diapers… all of these are actually optional.  There is so much room for reducing waste and using natural products. This of course spins out beyond parenting into everyday life. Now that my daughter is older, it’s not about the baby stuff.  It’s about composting, recycling and reducing waste wherever we can. It’s about spending less time indoors and more time outdoors. It’s about eating clean and remembering to stretch. I do still live in an All-American suburb and drive an SUV.  But I do try to turn off the AC and open the windows when I can. It’s all about balance and striving to do just a little bit more every day.

So that’s my origin story, so to speak.  As I go on, I’ll share my experience with each of these practices in more detail and I hope to inspire you to trust your instincts, live a little greener, and celebrate your inner hippie.