Diaper Free Mentoring: Elimination Communication
What is Elimination Communication?
As humans, our babies, like other mammals, are born with the innate ability to recognize their own physical needs and to communicate those needs to those who care for them. This includes hunger, tiredness, discomfort, and (surprising to some) the urge to void!
Let’s consider first what humans may have done before diapers were invented, and what many communities who lack the resources for diapers still do the world over.
When I was living and traveling through Africa and India, I quickly noticed something about many of the babies—they were not wearing diapers! Mothers would carry their infants wrapped against their bodies and would remain dry. When they suspected their little one needed to potty, they would simply get their baby out and into a familiar position in an appropriate place, make a particular noise, known as a cue, and the baby would toilet as needed. It was a respectful, connected, and harmonious way of living and everyone involved seemed content with the arrangement.
The phrase Elimination Communication (EC) is therefore rather concise: communicating our body’s need to eliminate. For you and your baby, this means developing respectful two-way communication to honour their toileting needs, where both parties contribute to the understanding. EC is implemented completely without the use of reward or punishment.
Elimination Communication is based on a few basic principles: your baby’s signals, rhythm, timing, and intuition
"Elimination Communication is a gentle, non-coercive way to respond to a baby’s natural hygiene needs, from as early as birth. Like all mammals, human babies instinctually resist soiling themselves, their sleep space, and their caregivers, and they clearly communicate about it from birth. With EC, we learn baby’s signals and natural rhythms and assist them with this process until they naturally gain independence (usually by 9-18 months of age)."
- excerpt from Go Diaper Free, by Andrea Olson
EC Out of Africa
When my daughter, now three years old, was conceived, I was living in the town of Jinja, Uganda. Her father and I decided to move back to North America about half way through the pregnancy to be closer to our families. I had it set in my mind that I would sustain many of the ways of life I had adopted while living in Africa; one of these being to live in connection with the Earth. To me this means simplifying life, producing less waste, being more present, and spending lots of time in nature. It was fitting, then, that EC could be a natural practice once my child was born.
Many of my friends and family thought I was a totally 'out there', and suggested that EC was not practical for a Western lifestyle. I disagreed. I had seen it in practice and believed, deep in my bones, that it made complete sense!
Turns out, EC was a wonderful complement to a conscious style of parenting. From birth, my daughter had an hour or two of Diaper Free time on most days. The rest of the time she spent in cloth diapers, with me responding to her elimination needs as they arose by bringing her to use the potty and using simple sign language and our cue words. She was out of diapers at night by 10 months, we stopped using daytime diapers around 12 months, and she was completely out of “training,” or learning, undies by 18 months.
As with anything, we had good days and bad days, days where I felt frustrated and days where I could not believe our immense progress. I trusted my intuition, and my baby, and was determined to stay the course, adapting my approach along the way. EC was a deeply gratifying and respectful way of responding to my baby’s needs, and a choice I always felt good about.
Environmental and Financial Benefits of Going Diaper-Free
Not only is Elimination Communication a wonderful way of being in connection with your baby, it is also wonderful for the environment and will save you money, as potentially thousands less diapers are being purchased and discarded. Since the invention of the disposable diaper in 1959, the average age of potty learning completion has doubled or tripled from 12-18 months to 3 years of age! Imagine the benefits of being done with diapers before your child is 2 or 3 years old, and you can see in that alone the value of giving EC a try! EC goes along very nicely with cloth diapering, and many EC families use cloth diapers as a back-up to catch any missed opportunities. In fact, lots of parents living in the West choose to only do part-time or occasional EC, and they reap many of the same benefits as full-time ECers.
Ready to Try EC with your Baby?
Many parents cannot believe how easily they sync in with their infant’s cues and timing from birth, and for these families, they may begin EC at the newborn stage. Some families wait a few months to start, and still others begin past 18 months of age. Each step of the way brings different benefits and challenges—the learning curve is never linear. There are many different ways I can support you on the EC journey depending on your unique circumstances.
It is never too late to start EC!
I am here to support and encourage you as you and your baby learn from one another how to communicate elimination needs. I offer private mentoring in your home and group classes and workshops.