Potty Liberation

ECing Baby
This is a guest post from Go Diaper Free Certified Coach Emily Pollokoff, who serves families in Central New York. Thanks Emily for the wonderful article! xx Andrea

My family thinks I'm nuts.

This rumor probably started circulating when I was fifteen and went vegetarian overnight. Conscious eating led me to yoga, which led me to meditation, which led me to study far-away lands and languages... plus I've always been kinda into "crunchy" stuff like DIY cleaning products, essential oils, etc. A little off the beaten path. Pretty alternative, really.

So it didn't really surprise my fam when I announced I was teaching my newborn to poop in the potty - I mean, while they raised an eyebrow, and asked a few pointed questions, this "new granola Emily thing" pretty much fit into the regular pattern of "Emily's doing something weird again."

But here's the thing. Putting babies on potties was common practice up until the 1950s. Way back when, parents did anything they could to avoid washing poopy cloth diapers. Although disposable diapers are undoubtedly the norm in the US today, I’d say it’s also still pretty normal - not that “fringe” or “crunchy” - to want to avoid changing them.

So on that basis alone, I contest that we need to bring EC back into the mainstream, where it belongs, and where it has traditionally and historically been.

But what about all the other things we do to care for babies, especially newborns? Isn’t there already just so much to keep track of, that adding a “new” practice or routine will overwhelm a new parent? Honestly...I had the opposite experience.

Learning to Listen

Like many other first-time moms, when my first baby was born, l felt totally confused and stressed because I didn't know which cries meant what. I wasn't even sure it was possible to distinguish between cries! They all sounded the same to me.

But, by and by, within the first couple weeks, I came to understand which whine was a tired sound, which whimper was a hungry sound, and which was a request for a tighter swaddle or more snuggles. There were still a lot of other sad sounds I didn't understand, though.

After three weeks when I finally got up the guts to try pottying (we started our second baby from birth proper), I suddenly became acquainted with a whole new range of cries. A tight, high-pitched whine meant pee. A moaning whine meant gas or poop.

And the more I allowed and helped my baby to eliminate away from her skin, the more she came to understand and expect help, and our overall communication and understanding became so much clearer.

I grew in confidence as a mother because I allowed myself to listen to the full range of her cries, and I was then able to apply the full range of possible responses.

Result? A much, much happier baby.

gdf baby

Let’s Get Awkward (Or Not)

I totally admit that at the very beginning, I felt super silly "sss"ing to my first baby - so awkward and even embarrassed that I would whisper the cue, practically hiding under the bedcovers, while she peed in her diaper, while we were home alone.

But as our snowballing successes boosted and reassured me, I realized that if I wanted to communicate something clearly to my baby—whether it was “time to nurse” or “time to sleep” or “time to potty,” I needed to step up and speak clearly. So I did.

And so did she! Within a few weeks, my little girl was grunting along with me when I cued her to poop, and when I started copying the “tsk tsk” sound she’d make when she was done, she seized on that one, too.

OMG, my two-month-old could practically talk!

It was amazing.

To encourage her understanding, and in tune with my general habit of chatting with my baby, I always talked to her about pee, poop, and her body.

And why not?

Using pottying words and the real anatomical terms for the various body parts involved not only helps your child understand exactly what’s happening with her body, but also shows her that you feel comfortable with these processes and parts, and that she should too.

On a more serious note, down the road, if your child should fall and hit his groin, or get an infection, or have any other unpleasant experience involving his private parts (Heaven forbid!), you will be able to talk about what happened using specific language, with no embarrassment on anyone’s part.

If you have any feelings of discomfort with specific language here, there’s no time like early infancy to get over these feelings. Your baby won’t judge you or get grossed out, or repeat these words at dinner with your in-laws. You are safe!

Tools of the Trade

Talking to your baby is free. But for everything else, babies seem to need lot of material things to help them through the first year of life. For instance, lots of folks own multiple baby-carriers (buckle carrier, stretchy wrap, mei tai), or several pacis, bottle types, or decorative headbands.

And there are so many types of diapers in stores now, it just boggles the mind. In addition to the range of disposables, the cloth market has really taken off, and I know some mamas who can even identify which diaper fiber content is ideal for which diapering scenario (hemp vs. cotton vs. bamboo, for overnight vs. car trip vs. daycare, etc.).

Luckily, adding pottying to your baby's life will not involve a new deluge of pottying accoutrement.

All you really need is a toilet, which you probably already have at your house, and they're readily available everywhere else. Sure, it helps to have a top hat potty for the car, or a tiny potty so you can sit the baby down to do her business, but owning these items is not a requirement for successful toileting.

For the sake of your own sanity, though, let me tell you that the Go Diaper Free handbook remains one of my favorite baby gear purchases I have ever made - and I'm so crunchy that I never buy books if I can help it, as I prefer to patronize my local library--so take it from me that it's a worthy purchase!

This is to say that starting a “new” pottying practice can actually help lessen the overwhelm and stress a new parent is experiencing. If you’re a pottying parent, you can pack a lighter diaper bag, and you don’t have to strategically plan your outings to incorporate restrooms with changing tables.

You can also take satisfaction in knowing that you’re doing something super healthy for your kid’s development without dropping $$ on fancy vitamins, an enrichment class, or any exclusive service.

Oh yes, and you save hundreds of dollars on diapers. Now that’s a good deal!

Naturally Normal

Learning how to potty my baby was a liberating experience. Once I committed to the practice, I felt free from the the stress of not understanding her needs. I felt free from poopy diapers (most of the time ;) ). I felt free to be comfortable with her body, and my body. And I felt free from total dependency on diapers, and the clutch of commercialism (although, let’s face it, there are some really cute diapers out there!).

The best part:

I felt free to make my own choices as a parent, to follow my instincts as a mother, and to do what I felt was right for my baby without worrying about the judgement or pressure of other parents or other people.

For these and so many other reasons, I am a huge advocate of starting EC early. Considering toileting a regular part of our babycare routines has always felt right to my heart, and made sense to my brain. Holding my daughter out to pee or poop just became part of how we responded to her cries - to her needs - to her calls for help.

Learning to understand her fidgets, squirms, and fussy sounds in this regard was absolutely no different than figuring out what "rooting" was and what to do about it.

gdf baby 2

Do you know your baby's cries?
Do you know when he's hungry or tired?
Then I assure you, you can learn when he needs to pee.

All it takes is the same attention and observation as you used in the very first few weeks of his life, when you were busy learning all his other signals. You don't need to be crunchy to do this! We are biologically programmed to tune in to our kids.

If you have a baby, and you feed, soothe, entertain, and snuggle said baby, well...then I say bring on the potties, because using them is just one more normal way you can love, nurture, and care for your child.

What’s your “most unusual” parenting choice? How did you get there and what made it feel normal for you? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Loved this post? Here are a few more:

Emily Pollokoff

About Emily Pollokoff

I am that quirky natural-living mom drinking from a mason jar, an aspiring urban homesteader who loves to can and bake from scratch, sew and garden. But I am also a savvy world traveler, a practical coupon-code-cutter, and like you, a parent who wants the absolute best for her kids. That is why I am passionate about EC and gentle potty training. Serving families in Central New York and around the world via Skype, phone, and in person.

6 Comments

  1. Noora on March 3, 2016 at 9:55 am

    Dear Emily!
    So lovely to read your article! Friends and family may raise their eyebrows, but when I tell them I rarely have to change a poopy diaper, I see the, “Why didn’t I think of that?” lightbulb go off.

    Folks, this lady is the reason I hold my baby over a potty everyday, and it is AWESOME! Pottying should be mainstream and it’s a shame it isn’t. Think of the hundreds of dollars low income families like mine would save if they knew this option existed!

    • Kerstin on March 14, 2016 at 11:41 pm

      Dear Noora,

      I am trying to reach out to low income families as I believe this would make a major improvement to their economics as well as life in general. On our neighborhood network they were asking for diaper donations for families in need last holidays. So I posted that I could offer free EC workshops/guidance to those families (Free of charge!!!) and NEVER heard back from the organizers (a church) – I just found it incredibly disheartening to rob them of this information that could make a huge impact. So, no I will be offering classes at our public library free of charge to see if it draws disadvantaged families.

      • Karolyn on October 6, 2016 at 4:12 pm

        Good on you for not giving up, Kerstin! Community organizing is SO based on relationship building and trust and isn’t as easy as it might seem. So many times well-meaning folks get frustrated that “no one comes” or “no one wants” services and information when it is really a lot to ask to attend a class, even free, with very little free time, shift work, gas money, etc. etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if your library courses are attended primarily by folks with more resources, at least at first. Have good courage and humility and you’ll do well!!

  2. Heidi on March 3, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    Thanks for sharing! My friends and family think I am nuts too:). Cloth diapers and EC are definitely the parenting choices that people are shocked by. I stumbled into cloth for money reasons mainly. I always wanted to try EC, and one day I just got up the guts to give it a go. Stepping out of culture and finding something I enjoyed doing for my kids was so liberating as a parent. I really came into my confidence because of it.

  3. Heidi on March 12, 2016 at 12:01 am

    EC was my most unusual parenting choice. I agree that it’s time to make it mainstream! Or at least as well known as cloth diapering. I felt nervous practicing EC in public and would whisper the cue sound to my son in the public bathroom stall. Now I wish I hadn’t cared so much what other people might think.

    When my son was young he had a distinct sharp single cry he would let out when he needed to pee. It was easy to recognize.

    Let’s keep spreading awareness that elimination communication is an option!

  4. Kerstin on March 15, 2016 at 12:46 am

    Emily,

    I love your article. You always find the right words to describe EC as the natural, easy and logic thing to do. For us it was a game changer! When we started doing it, I never thought about the communication part that much but over time have realized that it has made our bond stronger. Our families and friends were very skeptic of EC until they saw it with their own eyes. My in-laws were here when we started and they totally started taking our son to the potty and had tons of fun doing it! I think some of my friends, once they had to think about potty training, could see the smooth communication and awareness we had about our son’s elimination needs. When they were struggling to get there with their kids. One of my friends actually is starting EC with her second one because she saw that eventually she will have to take the plunge and learn the 4 roads (and she realized that clean-up is easier when pottied)!
    I love how natural it is for our son to be aware and take care of his bodily functions – that’s a major plus in my opinion.

Leave a Comment