The P Words

Pee, poop and potty training, pardon my French, was the topic of our heated conversation at the dinner table last night.  For mothers, discussing such niceties is of utmost and takes precedence over other less pressing issues like the recent NSA revelation and Abercrombie and Fitch’s homeless brand readjustment.  These dining room discussions can also become extremely impassioned, some what aggressive and unnecessarily melodramatic.  The guests included a veteran mother of four diaper-less children, a rookie soldier currently engaged in potty training combat with her toddler, and myself, with my rugrat in tow, relieved that I wouldn’t be stepping into that battle zone for at least another year… or so I thought.  (Warning: smelly territory ahead)

‘You can go diaper free from the beginning you know!’, exclaimed veteran mama-four-times.  I almost choked on my exceedingly healthy buffalo wings!  ‘You mean EC?!?!’, I shrieked.  EC, or Elimination Communication, which sounds more like a conflict resolution technique than anything baby related, is a method of communicating with your child in order to respond to their need to relieve themselves without relying upon diapers.  Or in mommy language, teaching baby to aim for the potty instead of the pampers.  Easy peasy!  All it requires is that you march boo boo to a toilet, sink or a bowl, every twenty minutes all the while looking out for signals from said boo boo such as smelly fumes and funny faces indicating that they need to ‘go’.  You must also develop sound cue associations to make them ‘psss‘/pee and ‘grrrrr‘ /poop, or whichever noises take your fancy.  Others let intuition be their guide, but we’ll save that and other fairy tales for bedtime.

I’d come to know about this preposterous practice quite accidently.  Late one night as I mindlessly flicked through Pandora’s box of evils, also known as a television, I stumbled upon an Attachment Parenting report.  It was all blissful, rosy and freakishly wonderful.  Fathers carried their overgrown toddlers in slings for most of the day, mothers nursed their preschoolers, and entire families including grandmother slept in the same bed.  Nothing odd about this picture, except maybe the super extended breast feeding, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.  And then I witnessed a parent’s worst nightmare… poop smeared walls and floors.  An EC mama wasn’t quite as attentive as she should have been whilst the cameras were rolling and missed her baby’s poop signal.  Poops! I mean Oops!  She continued to ignore him so he preceded to play with it.  The end result?  One happy baby and one giant Picassoesque poopy piece of artwork.

Veteran EC mama then tried and convince me that dumping the diapers was the way to go.  She touted all kind of benefits from environmental to butt related, but I wasn’t having any of it.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for reducing our big fat carbon footprint and keeping my child’s delicate nether regions clean, but I’m already washing yesterday’s dinner off my sons cloth diapers, and there’s only so much poop a girl can take.  And aside from the really impressive ‘I need to pee’ gang signs your baby will eventually start throwing, why should I succumb to such madness?  ‘Relying on diapers causes babies to loose their ability to control their bowels and bladder’.  Come again?  ‘Babies are born with sphincter control and can effectively ‘hold it in’, and by practicing EC you’re enhancing this skill in your child until they gain conscious control of it, so eventually they’ll be able to eliminate their waste on cue… ‘pssss’….grrrr’.

I don’t doubt that it works.  I myself was potty trained by nine months.  In fact, I think it’d be marvelous for my baby to be able to control his motions until I plop him on the toilet but does that mean I’ll be singing up to the EC camp anytime soon?  A resounding ‘NO!’.  In this instance my sanity is far more precious to me than the environment or my baby’s behind.  Can you imagine taking the little cherub for a pee break three times an hour, every hour of their waking existence, for the first few months of their life? (yes they do pee that often!)  And if you were brave enough to go completely diaper free can you envisage the amount of hit and miss situations you’d have to clean up?  Not to mention that it’d probably be the only thing you’d discuss at the dinner table… ever again!  I don’t think any EC parent will disagree with me when I say that ECing is a ludicrously laborious task.  I for one love to put on my son’s diaper and forget about its contents until that all too familiar funk comes wafting in my direction.

Resources

Here are some great websites for those interested in finding out more about EC.  A simple google search will also bring up a variety of discussion and opinion for those wishing to join the debate.  Let me know how you do or don’t get on.

http://www.nappyfreebaby.co.uk

http://www.diaperfreebaby.org

http://www.ecsimplified.com

http://www.eliminationcomm.livejournal.com

http://www.tribalbaby.org

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12 comments

  1. hate to tell you, but we are going diaper free with ya sin;)! i’m potty training the 3 yr old, which is ludicrous. so i decided why not go for the one year old too? 50% of the world’s children are potty trained by one. as for the poop smearing, the 3 yr old did that a year back, and it had nothing to do with EC, just her own perverse version of fun. it even landed on her cha-cha once. funny in hindsight, but such a trial at the time!!! great post. keep ’em coming!

    1. Flying poop? Dear me! I believe you can do it Shannon, I’m just far too busy lazy. That and it’d drive me completely potty. I’d love to hear how it goes for you. Perhaps you can write a guest post about your experience in the near future 🙂 Good luck super mama!

  2. I’m quite intrigued by it, only heard about it after motherhood began but it seems strangely common! It also seems a cultural thing, I wonder if more traditional Islamic countries do ec?

    1. Suky, so many aunties have told me that they practiced EC many eons ago. I’ve observed that many of the people that practice it in the East keep their baby completely diaper-less (if they can even afford diapers) and more often than not live in homes conducive to constant accidents, such as tiled flooring and courtyards (if they live in homes at all). I for one do not have the patience for it, but respect people who choose it for their children. Perhaps Shannon (above) would be a good point of reference if you want first hand information from an EC super mama.

  3. Found this through Mothering’s website… I have been practicing ec with my daughter since she was 5 weeks old (she is now 7 months), and would have started sooner but I had a very difficult recovery from labor. I understand you are poking fun here, but I can also see this writing having the potential to dissuade others from trying ec at all if they had any interest. To me that’s sad. Given my experience, ec is no more difficult than cloth diapering. I have a lot less mess to clean and laundry to do, and potentially less long term potty training concerns. I have her in a cloth diaper without a cover, so if I miss I just have a diaper to wash. I have a potty or other receptacle right by her so when she needs to go, I put her on the potty – no running to the toilet every 20 mins… And she hasn’t gone that often since she was very little and even then it was only in the morning. If you read one of the amazing books out there, you’ll see that knowing a few basics is all you need. I am not sitting by my daughter, watching her every move and waiting for a sign. Bottom line, (no pun intended) ec is much easier than you think, and the benefits go beyond your carbon footprint or your baby’s clean bum. I understand you’ve made up your mind not to practice ec, but I hope others reading this find my response and feel encouraged to try. Here’s a great book that inspired me to try: Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene, by Ingrid Bauer

    1. Dear Sara. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my post. I’m glad that mamas who EC are also contributing to the discussion. The intention of my blog is to inform through satire, but also through honesty. I certainly do not condemn EC, I have many friends who practice it and if I didn’t think it was so difficult I would have given it a go too. I think it’s great that you’ve been practicing it since your child was so young and I commend you for that. My intention is not to dissuade others from doing it either, although it may not appear that way at first glace. On the contrary, many mothers have written to me informing me that the blog post, including the pro-EC resources which I have included, have sparked an interest in them to explore further, and that is exactly what I’d hoped for. I hope they will also read your post and be inspired to do further research. Also, the post was not supposed to be comprehensive, but just picking out a few humorous aspects of EC. I hope I haven’t offended you. Again thank you for stopping by and recommending the book, I shall add it to the resources section 🙂

      Sincerely

      Mother Joyful

  4. We started EC at 6 weeks and love it. We’re pretty lax about it and don’t stress if we “miss,” but now at 6 months, we just started solids, and 80% of his poops are in the potty. Lately, his cue has been to make zombie noises. But the best part is that when we sit him on it, he’ll try to go, and it’s great for emptying him out before a car ride 😉

    1. Dear chirechan.
      Thank you for your comment. You started at 6 weeks?!?! You’re a super super mama! Do you mind me asking how often your son has to potty? Do you find it is easy to read his signals? And zombie noises – not sure if that is cute or creepy 😉
      My son is 15 months old and only poops once a day. I can tell when it’s time to ‘go’, but feel it all happens way too fast to rush him to the poop-a-scoopa. I’d love to start catching those instead of cleaning them off his cloth diapers. Any recommendations?

  5. Kudos for raising the subject and getting interest going but I’d love to see something about a middle ground because for many of us EC moms, 24/7 EC from birth simply isn’t realistic (as you’ve pointed out). I’ll say this: I started part time EC with my kiddo at 11 months, used diapers all day and night but gave her multiple potty opportunities throughout the day. Basically whenever her bum would be bare at home (ie diaper change), I’d plunk her on the little potty, read a board book and then diaper again. It wasn’t labour intensive at all and it had the practical upshot of no poopy diapers after about 18 months (outside of illness). She’s 27 months now and recently completely trained for pee as well. There were no power struggles and no potty fear. We had about 3 weeks of some pee accidents to clean up and that was it. I credit EC in making pottying a very gradual and natural progression. I know this isnt an amusing anecdote but it may be something to ponder for those intrigued but intimidated :).

    1. Dear Skycheat

      Thank you for your invaluable insight into EC’ing. I received a lot of angry EC mama comments after this post on various forums so as a challenge to myself I’ve been trying to catch my son’s poops. I’ve managed two so far. They were both accidental as he was playing in the bath tub, but I have to say I was elated at not having to wash those poops off his cloth diapers! Perhaps I do need to reconsider EC? If I manage to give it a go I’ll write another post on it from a EC rookie perspective 🙂 It’s actually very refreshing to hear your experience. Do you think it is too late to give it a go with my 16 month old? Also did you concentrate on the poop first and then eventually move onto the pee? How many times would you take your daughter to potty? Any advice is most welcome! I still can’t imagine myself EC’ing from birth, but why not try it out now even if it be part time? 🙂

  6. Disliking poop IS the reason we did EC. We started at the beginning, and within just a couple months he held his poops for the potty. I have been completely mortified watching other people’s toddlers by the grotesque task of cleaning a toddler poop- I can not imagine people thinking THAT is easier.
    We used cloth backup with no covers until DS could walk, then just pull-ups. If you use the right dipes (ECA-pants!) that are easy on/off, a quick potty trip (potties are small and portable guys, it’s not a mile away or anything) literally takes about 20 seconds. Some people let their babies sit around in a plastic bag full of pee until it is so heavy it is falling off, but most folks change whenever it is wet, right? (I hope…) so time your next diaper change folks- see if you come close to 20 sec. By 17 months our DS was potty trained at home (when his butt was naked), and as soon as he was old enough to manage his clothes, he was potty trained entirely. We co-sleep and he has not missed in bed since 1 yr old, despite what people say about boys being slow to night train. We used waterproof dipes at night before then and waterproofed the bed well just in case.
    This isn’t to say there weren’t hiccups (at some point he did the practice holding till you can’t when he realized it was a function he had control over, and when his poop changed from BF poo around 12 mo, he had a week long adjustment when, gasp, I actually had to clean poo off his butt and undies). I still think it was easier. And the way parents of 18 mo and up kiddos sighed with envy when we explained why we couldn’t give any advice to get their kids out of diapers sooner reinforces that belief. Yep, I took him for 20 sec potty breaks every 20 min for 8 or 9 mo (then 40 min for 3 mo, then every hour for 5 or 6 mo) and then just reminded him, but you are going to be changing shitty diapers for 2-5 YEARS. What’s harder?

    1. Hi Rachel. Thank you for your insight. It was most useful. (And apologies for the delay in approving your comment – I have been MIA from the blogsphere for a while).

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