I remember starting Elimination Communication with my third baby back in 2020. “This will be easy!” I thought. I had all the essential gear from my two previous babies. Being a Go Diaper Free coach, I had all the information I needed. I also had plenty of experience in baby pottying and parenting in general, one could say.
As I did with my previous baby, I was starting EC from birth, which is said to be the best moment to start EC. What could go wrong?
Well, it’s not that it went wrong. I am always amazed by the instinct babies have to use the potty. As little mammals, babies know how to communicate their need to eliminate. They have a natural instinct not to soil themselves and the adults that take care of them.
Just a few hours after his birth, I caught our first pee on a disposable pee pad, while we were still at the birth center. We caught quite a few pees and poos when we returned home. I was happy and proud, and baby seemed satisfied too.
After a few weeks, however, I felt EC wasn’t as easy or instinctive as it was with my two previous babies. In my EC classes, I like to say that EC can be adapted to fit our modern-day parent schedule. Just like changing diapers, EC shouldn’t be seen as a task, but a moment to connect with our babies.
Diaper-free time, visits to the potty, and use of alternative protections such as prefolds and Tiny Trainers were always well included in my routine with my two older children. But this time around, it just wasn’t as natural. It took me a few months, during which I continued to part-time EC my baby, but I ended up identifying 4 unexpected factors that influence EC.
I have read lots of blog posts and podcasts about how the following factors can influence EC: the information and equipment parents have on hand, the age of the baby when they start Elimination Communication, the type of diaper used (and if they should be used at all), and the general care of baby (home vs. daycare, parent vs. caregiver).
The 4 factors I have discovered in addition to these are:
the home layout
the sex of baby
the size of the family
As I currently EC my fourth baby, two years after I started this reflection, I find that these elements really have an influence on one’s motivation to offer the potty and their subsequent success at baby pottying. However, none of these factors are decisive, and I included in each section some tricks to overcome the difficulties they might cause.
You might very well succeed in establishing a good EC routine in a less than ideal situation. My goal here is to help you pinpoint the causes if you are having trouble with EC right now, and to offer solutions that have worked for my family that might also work for yours.
I’m a proud Québécoise from Canada and I’m not afraid of cold weather. But I must say, it makes EC a little more complicated. A mother recently emailed me because she recently moved to a colder climate, and found it harder to EC her second baby in that situation.
My first son was a winter baby. We even left the hospital in the middle of a snowstorm! During a friendly talk with my midwife, she said to me: “Next time, try a May baby.”
Close enough: my second was born in June. It was so nice to have her lightly dressed all the time. It was so much easier to remove her diaper to potty her, and quick to put it back after.
And did that kid do diaper-free time! That, too, made Elimination Communication much easier.
My third was a winter baby again. I struggled with EC during the first months of his life, because I often preferred keeping him warm and nicely bundled up.
Still, there are many solutions to help us practice EC in colder climates. (See Podacst #114 – Dressing baby for cold weather pottying) It is a nice mix between warming up your living space (with an electric heater for example) and dressing your baby with appropriate gear, such as Tiny Chaps.
The home layout
We are a young family that moves often. As a result, I have EC’d my four babies in SIX apartments over six years. None of them were really big, none of them had stairs, but the layout did influence my EC success.
Having a bathroom close to the bedroom where baby sleeps is very helpful. My first child always had his room close to the bathroom. At 10 months old, he would crawl to the toilet first thing in the morning to pee in the potty.
After my second baby’s birth, we co-slept for a while. I used my bed to change her diapers. The bathroom being next to my bedroom, I felt confident enough to carry her naked to the sink to potty her. It wasn’t too tiring for my postpartum body and I knew she would “hold it” because it was quick!
With my third baby, our bedroom was far from the bathroom. The solution I found was to keep my Top Hat potty on my bedside table. While it was easier to have it on hand, I was not very motivated to walk across my cold apartment to go empty it.
The solution I found (after a few complaints from my husband) was to toss the content of the potty on a cloth diaper and to throw it in my diaper pail. I would wash my potty after every use with a cloth wipe and wash it more thoroughly after a few uses.
That strategy didn’t reduce my laundry much, which is usually an advantage of baby pottying, but I still had other benefits from EC : connection with my baby, a more hygienic way to handle his pees and poos, less skin irritations for him, and good potty habits early in life.
That potty arrangement stuck with me: I still do that with my fourth EC baby!
The sex of the baby
Boys are said to be harder to potty train. Whether that is true or false concerning older kids, (See Podcast #97 - EC with boys) I have never heard such argument regarding EC practice with baby boys and girls.
My first-born is a boy and I remember thinking: “How am I supposed to hold him to get his pee where I want it to go!?”
Having no penis myself, I was a bit clueless about how to aim it properly. After wiping a few accidents, I have found that baby boys are EASIER to potty than baby girls. Their stream is straight and precise, while with girls… I find that it leaks a bit everywhere.
That is why it is best to have your child sit on the potty as much as possible. It will avoid an unnecessary mess. The Mini Potty is perfect for babies and young toddlers.
Another reason why boys would be easier to EC is that they can pee standing up (which is a great injustice for women).
This is super helpful with toddlers and older babies, when they start standing up. In public restrooms, when I encounter a dirty toilet seat, I have my little boys stand ON the toilet seat and aim directly in the toilet.
I also let my young kids pee outside. In my opinion, anywhere a dog can pee, my babies and toddlers can pee there, too. Needless to say, using nature as your toilet is always easier when you can pee standing up.
The size of the family
As an EC enthusiast, I see lots of pottying content on social media and one recurring negative comment is: “Well, that’s easy when you have only one kid. Wait ‘til you have more!”
As a first-time mom, that type of comment always exasperated me, especially when it was about attachment parenting. I am a great advocate of natural parenting and I knew a mom of 6 who co-slept with her baby, a mom of 4 who wore her baby all day long, and I saw Andrea from Go Diaper Free who did Elimination Communication with her third baby at the time. She now has 6 kids and I’ve seen her do EC with all of them.
Now that I have 4 kids myself, I must say Andrea is pretty impressive with potty thoroughness. I started EC from birth with two of my babies. I couldn’t with my first because I didn’t know at that time that EC even existed! With my fourth baby, I didn’t start EC at birth because I was exhausted and overwhelmed.
Now hear me out: you can be overwhelmed with two kids, even with one kid. All babies can be difficult in their own way. I think exhaustion is part of most mothers’ postnatal period.
So even if I wanted to start EC from birth with my fourth baby, I just didn’t have the time or energy. It was the same thing for cloth diapers. Even if I had them nicely folded next to me, I just couldn’t motivate myself to use them.
One week passed, one month passed. After two months, I kind of made my peace with the idea that I wouldn’t EC this last baby. I even sold my favorite potty!
But when she was 3 months old, we moved to a new town. And in that new home, I found the time and energy to use my cloth diapers and to place my baby on the potty. She likes to be held over the potty, which sometimes make a mess, but I haven’t changed a poopy diaper in over 2 weeks! For quick potty emptying, I toss the pee with my cloth diapers. For poop, I walk across my apartment to empty in the toilet and properly wash my potty.
All things considered, I still think I am right when I say that Elimination Communication is an ancestral method that can be adapted to modern day lifestyle.
Sometimes we are able to do EC, and sometimes we are not. Sometimes we can do it a lot, and sometimes we have success. Other times, we have to leave the potty aside and focus on other things.
Doing that doesn’t make us worse mothers. When we have to stop EC, it’s often to love our babies better, in other ways. And that’s what makes us great moms.
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What surprises did you encounter while practicing EC? Did you have any of these same experiences?