EC doesn't have to be complicated! In this episode, we're breaking down the basics of Elimination Communication for beginners. You'll learn how to make this simple practice a part of your daily routine with your little one. It’s not rocket science, and anyone can do it!
Whether you're a new parent or looking to try something new, EC is a great way to connect with your baby and promote healthy habits from an early age. Join us to learn how to simplify infant hygiene with EC.
You Will Hear:
- What EC is and how it benefits both baby and parents
- Tips for overcoming your hesitation and get started
- How to know when your baby most likely needs to potty
- Challenges you might face with EC and how to tackle them
- How EC can simplify infant hygiene for any family, even when practiced part-time
Links and other resources mentioned today:
- Go Diaper Free Resources
- Go Diaper Free Book
- Waterproof Pad
- The Log app for iOS and Android
- Blog post - How to Know When Your Baby Needs to Pee
- YouTube Easy Catches series
- How to begin elimination communication - Podcast #75
- Just START - Podcast #86
- Top Hat Potty
- Super-part-time EC success story - Podcast #82.5
- The elevator pitch for EC - Podcast #83
- How to Solve Road Trip Potty Resistance - Podcast #189
- 100% eyes-on-potty at all times?? - Podcast #185
- My baby resists the potty and pees on the floor right after - Podcast #230
- Encouragement: Success Stories - Podcast #157
- “The Golden Window” Newborn EC Program
- “Movers + Shakers” Mobile Babies EC Program
- “Passing the Baton” Young Toddlers EC Program
- The Premium Course Pack for EC
- The Bundle - All 7 MiniCourses
- Private EC Support Group on Facebook
- Tiny Potty Training Book
- Go Diaper Free Store
- Tiny Undies Store
Download the Transcript
If you can't listen to this episode right now (um, sleeping baby!?)...download and read the transcript here:
EPISODE 232: Elimination Communication for Beginners: A Simple Guide to Infant Hygiene
Hello, and welcome to the Go Diaper Free podcast. I'm your host, Nicole Cheever, Go Diaper Free Certified Coach and mama to three kiddos who all went through EC and potty training at different ages and stages.
Hi everyone, thanks so much for joining me on the podcast today. I'm Nicole Cheever with Go Diaper Free, and this is episode 232, Elimination Communication for Beginners: A Simple Guide to Infant Hygiene. I want to welcome everyone who's new here and encourage everyone who's been listening for a while, no matter where you are in your EC journey, please stick around. Even though this is a beginner's guide, it is never a bad idea to go back to basics, regardless of where you are in your journey. If you've been practicing EC for a while or even if you've just gotten started, we'd really love to have you here. You're going to find a lot of value in this podcast, no matter where you are. So, stick around!
I'll be providing a ton of resources, but don't worry, you don't have to keep track of them. As always, you can head over to the blog when you're finished listening here, godiaperfree.com/232. You will find links to everything I mention, you can leave us comments there, we'd love to hear what you think of the episodes, or if you have experience on this topic. And of course ask us any questions you have there on the blog.
In going back to basics here, my main focus really is that EC is simple. It may not always be easy. What in parenting really ever is? It may not always be convenient, but it is very simple. It's not rocket science. You don't need to have a high level certification. You don't need to have lots of training or do a ton of research in order to practice EC and reap the benefits of even just occasional or part-time EC in your life with your baby. Anybody in any lifestyle, with any baby can get some benefits from practicing EC. And that's what I want to remind everyone of today.
When I was a first time mom, I absolutely suffered from overwhelm. I know that's very common with tons of first time parents. I had known about EC for about a decade. One of my good friends had practiced with both of her girls. Her second one was hardly ever in diapers. She started right from birth with her, and they had a lot of great success. So, I already knew that I wanted to practice EC with my baby. I was already bought into all of the benefits and all of the reasons why it was a great thing that would be beneficial for both of us, and yet I still didn't feel ready. I didn't think that I could start practicing until I was ready to do it “the right way.” And that is a huge point I want to drive home today is, there is no right way.
EC is so flexible, it's so versatile, it really is so simple. There is no one way to practice, and it's not all or nothing either. I really felt like once I started down the road to EC, I wouldn't be able to look back. There's a huge misconception out there that if you're practicing EC, you have to be with your baby all the time and you have to never use diapers, and all of these sort of extremist ideas. And maybe some people practice like that, and that might work for them, and that's wonderful. But there is so much between here and there. There's so much between full-time diapering and never using a single diaper. There is a place for everybody, and that's really what I want to emphasize in today's episode.
So let's just cover what EC is quickly, before we get into really how simple it is. EC is helping your baby with their pottying needs from as early as birth. All mammals are born with the instinct to keep themselves, their caregiver, and their sleep space clean. And we're just helping them with that, the same way we help them eat or bathe or get dressed or fall asleep until they're able to accomplish those things by themselves or for themselves. Sometimes even we still help them when they're old enough to do that because we're parents and we love them.
But we can start helping them with their toileting needs from as early as birth. The communication aspect of it is that baby is born trying to communicate all of their needs with us: that they're hungry, that they're sleepy, that they're afraid or lonely. And they are also trying to communicate with us that they need to go potty. In our modern diapering culture, we are taught to just put a diaper on and ignore that. In fact, by doing that, we're also teaching our babies to ignore that instinct because we're showing them, “you want to go potty, this is where it's available. I want you to go potty in this thing that's strapped onto you.” And we train them into the diapers. So when you have a brand new baby who's crying and you're going down that list of: “are you hungry, are you tired, are you lonely, are you cold?” All you need to do is include, “do you need to go potty?” in that list. When you've got some kind of crying mystery, you don't know what your baby needs or what your baby wants, you've got nothing to lose to just try them on the potty, and really in my opinion, everything to gain.
Crying is just one way that your baby might communicate to you that they need to go potty. We have a variety of different tools at Go Diaper Free to help you keep EC simple. The first one is the Four Roads to Potty Time. This is probably one of the biggest questions we get is, "How do I know that my baby needs to go potty?” And the Four Roads are what will get you there. The first one is signals, and I already mentioned crying. That's really common with newborns. We also have a big list in the book and in the resource center of common signals.
Every baby's different and every age and stage comes with different types of signals. Obviously a brand new baby isn't going to be crawling to the bathroom to tell you they need to go potty. But your eight-month-old will probably be doing that because they've seen you go to the potty and you've taken them there, so they understand that that is a way to communicate with you that they need to go potty. And then you are communicating to them that you will be helping them with that, the same way you've communicated throughout their whole life that you can help them eat, and you can help them sleep, and you can comfort them, et cetera. That's the first road to potty time, is their signals.
If you want to really tune into your baby specific signals, you can do some observation time. That is simply just having the diaper off, protecting your floors however you need to with either a waterproof pad or maybe going outside, and observing your baby and seeing what they do right before they pee or poop. That is your baby's specific signal. These can change throughout their development, so you can always come back to some observation time to determine what their signals are. We've got a paper log in the book and in the resource center and we also have the free Log app for both Apple and Android devices. You can just mark what your baby's doing, make a little note in there, right before they peer poop.
The second road to potty time is natural timing, which is just your baby's natural physiological cycle, how long it typically takes them before they need to pee after either waking up or feeding. The Log app can help you with that as well. And again, you can just do this during your naked observation time. You can start it right when baby wakes up and observe your baby. Notice the timing, notice their signals. Those are great ways to understand your child and how to know they will need to use the bathroom.
The third road to potty time is generic timing, and this is just when potty time fits into our natural rhythm throughout the day. I'm sure you probably try to use the bathroom before you leave to go somewhere, or before you go to bed, or after a meal. These are natural times throughout the day that we need to go potty. Your baby will have those same generic times. Whenever it's convenient for you as a family, and if you have older children and you're already doing this, it'll make a lot of sense to you, getting everyone to use the bathroom before you get in the car, at least giving them the opportunity. We call it a “pottytunity,” an opportunity to go potty. It doesn't always mean they're going to, but these are just opportunities.
The last one is your intuition. Your intuition will guide you to be able to tell when your baby needs to go potty. You probably are already noticing that either your baby is pooping or thinking about, "Oh, she probably has a wet diaper. Let me check." This is your intuition. So many messages for parents in the modern day and especially from the diaper companies, try to dissuade us, try to discourage us from using that intuition, but it is so valuable. It's there for a reason and it's really an incredibly powerful tool in helping you understand your baby. At the end of the day, nobody knows your baby like you do. You know your baby best.
Those four roads to potty time are how to know that your baby probably needs to go potty. And then we also have the Four Easy Catches. If those four roads are just a total conundrum for you, there are signals that come and go. Like I said, they change throughout development. I'm going to include a blog post in the show notes, How to Know When Your Baby Needs to Pee, and you'll see kind of with those ages and stages how those can change.
There are times when you just really want to stick to the easy catches. You haven't really noticed that your baby needs to go potty or you're having a hard time figuring it out, but you really want to have those small successes. So the easy catches are: first, the wake-up pee. Almost all of us need to pee pretty soon after we wake. It's part of our physiological function. We have a hormone that prevents us from wetting our bed by kind of shutting down our urinary tract. And then when we wake, that hormone wears off, our bladder fills, and we have to use the bathroom. So you can bring your baby to the potty, either right when they wake up or a little while later. Sometimes they need a little bit of time to wake up before they want to use the potty. But the wake-up pee is super valuable, especially with a newborn, because they're sleeping all the time, so you have tons of opportunities for that one.
Poops is another easy catch, usually. We do have some stealth poopers, but for the most part, every parent knows when their baby's pooping. Whether they run behind the couch and hide, or they squat, or grimace, or start to grunt. And even if they've already started pooping, you can take them to the potty and they will start to learn to wait for the potty.
Another easy catch kind of ties into generic timing, or what we can also call transition times. It's the ins and outs, before you put your baby in the car seat, after you take them out of the highchair or the carrier. All of those little in and out of carriers or containers, those are often good opportunities, good pottytunities, and can result in an easy catch.
The last one is diaper changes, which can seem a little counterintuitive. But when your baby is wearing a diaper, they're sometimes just peeing all the time, especially if they're kind of bored. And they might not be peeing everything, not be completely emptying their bladder. Especially if you've got a newborn who's trying to resist because they haven't been trained into the diaper yet, they might just let off a little bit of pressure, wet the diaper a little bit, and then finish later when they can't hold it anymore. So, offering your baby the potty at every diaper change will teach them that there is a regular time that you're going to be offering them the potty, and they will start to learn to hold it. They might even start to signal more strongly because they are trying to get your attention more. They're learning that, "Okay, mom or dad is going to take me to this thing so that I can pee instead of peeing on myself. So, I'm going to try to get their attention a lot more." I know my baby, as she got a little bit older and we were ditching diapers, she would signal very strongly in the diaper, because she did not want to pee in it. That can be really helpful, taking them at diaper changes.
Those are the Four Roads to Potty Time, the Four Easy Catches to really keep it simple. I'll link our YouTube channel on here as well where we have a little playlist for the Four Easy Catches. You can take a look at those. I also have a couple other podcasts. Episode 75 is How to Begin Elimination Communication at Each Age and Stage, because it will be a little bit different. And then episode 86 is Just START. Take the diaper off and there you've started. That's how simple it is.
That kind of leads me into part-time EC. As a new parent, like I said, I really thought that I had to go head first into it. It was all or nothing. I'm that kind of person who feels like I have to kind of do things all the way or it's not really worth doing. And that's just not true. I really wish someone was there to tell me from the very beginning, that I didn't have to ditch diapers completely.
Andrea just had her sixth baby. She practices EC from birth with all of her children, and she still uses diapers. It is a tool. We use it as a backup because we have cars, and carpets, and places that we can't just be letting our babies pee if we're not fully paying attention to them. And most of us don't have the luxury or don't even really want to be sitting there watching our baby all day long and doing nothing else. So, we have the diaper as a backup and as a tool. And you can still get the benefits of practicing EC even if you're not doing full-time EC.
With full-time EC, most of us really just try to aim for about 50% because, especially with other kids, it's just impractical to try and catch everything. Everybody in my household is going to have to wait at some point, so the diaper's there to help me out so there's not pee on my floor. But you can still really get all of the benefits of practicing EC part-time.
That was a big catalyst for me. I had started my coach training when I had my third baby. And even though I didn't actually start at birth, even though I was starting my coach training and I had had some EC success with my first two, I didn't have the Top Hat Potty with me there in the hospital room. I forgot it in the car. We just kind of got right back into the rhythm of home. And again, I was kind of falling into that trap of, "Well, I kind of need to be perfectly ready." No I didn't. So finally when she was about 10 days old, I looked at my husband and I said, "Let's just try it. Let's just see what happens. What do we have to lose?" Because really, we didn't have anything to lose. He agreed. I took her over to the sink, I held her over, she peed. And for the third time, I experienced what I call the “first catch high.” When you catch that first pee or poop, it's just so exciting and so rewarding. And that was it for us. We started very part-time, we eventually moved into full-time EC. She's 18 months now and we're diaper free. But we just took the diaper off and there, we started. It really is that simple.
And even if you're only catching one catch a day or one catch a week, you're still reducing your diaper usage. You're still increasing the communication and bond between you and your baby. You're still helping out the environment. Every single disposable diaper that was ever manufactured is still in existence today, somewhere in a landfill. So you are reducing that environmental impact just by saving one diaper. You're reaping the financial benefits because diapers are expensive. Even if you're using cloth, you're still using resources like water and energy to be able to clean them.
I have episode 82.5 that I'm going to link here, a Super-part-time EC success story. If you are just thinking, "This is too overwhelming and there's too much here.", listen to that episode, hear from that family. You can really have all of the benefits with practicing EC just part-time. You're still honoring your baby's natural instincts and using them to your advantage. You're helping them maintain that body sensitivity and awareness so that when it comes time to finally ditch the diapers and potty train, you're not having to reteach them that link between the sensation of, "I have this feeling in my body and then something comes out," because they've been able to still keep that connection their whole life. You're also avoiding things like diaper rash. You can be confident having some diaper-free time when you're catching pees so you can start to give them more airtime and avoid diaper rash.
Another thing, when babies are familiar with the potty and the whole routine from a very young age, you can avoid a lot of the pitfalls of later potty training like withholding, refusal, constipation that becomes chronic or even a medical issue, and fear around the potty. I can't tell you how many of my clients come to me because their child is afraid of the big toilet. But if they are familiar with it from as early as birth, you avoid so much of that. That will make your potty training experience, when you finally get there, so much more smooth and less stressful. Who doesn't want that?
I do want to quickly acknowledge that of course, there are challenges with EC. It is very simple, but again, it's not always easy. You could have some resistance from family members and caregivers. I sometimes advise people not to really broadcast that they're practicing EC or even if they're potty training at 18 months to two years. That can seem really early for a lot of the general population. I tend to say, unless it's somebody who's really going to give you a lot of support, maybe just let them know later when you've already had the success. And then you can share the success with them.
We have a podcast episode 83, which is How to Talk About EC Without Seeming Judgey or Crazy. It's the elevator pitch. You can give people a really quick simple synopsis of what you're doing in a very positive and encouraging way, and even start to answer some of their questions if they have them. If you get pushback from relatives or friends or family, or you think you might, again, maybe just keep it between those folks who are really going to support you in this endeavor.
Especially if you're just practicing part-time, you don't really necessarily need buy-in. When we were doing part-time EC with my youngest, my father-in-law was caring for her a few days a week and he just used diapers because that was easier for him. It was what he knows with his children and his older grandchildren. They've potty trained at two and a half and three years old. And so when she was about six months, that was easy for him, so that was our compromise. We just did part-time and we still had all of the benefits. Again, we're 18 months and diaper free. But we went ahead and let him use the diaper because that was going to be easiest for him.
There can also be challenges practicing EC on the go. If you are only doing part-time EC, you can just not worry about EC out of the house. But we do also have episode 189 that I'll link, How to Solve Road Trip Potty Resistance, because that can be a little bit difficult when baby's really only used to going potty at home. It will give you some tips on how to transition that to on the road, in the car, at other locations that will make it a little bit more smooth for you.
You can also fall into the trap of being really potty-centric, really just being obsessed with catching everything in the potty. And that is super important to avoid. If you're that kind of personality, keep an eye out for that. It's not a contest, we're not trying to catch everything. Episode 185 is 100% Eyes on the Potty at All Times? (No, thank you.) Take a listen if you think that you could fall into that trap because again, it is not an all or nothing thing. We really want to encourage you that your life does not have to revolve around the potty.
I mentioned before that signals can change, they can come and go. That can be really frustrating and challenging for a lot of parents and caregivers. Episode 27 goes into why signals stop and start, and what you can do in the meantime. (Hint, stick to your easy catches.)
You can also experience resistance from your child, especially as they start to get close to that 18 month mark and they want to be doing things for themselves. There are different developmental phases, mainly when they're learning to crawl and then when they're learning to walk, that you can go through what we sometimes call a “potty pause” where they're really just too busy doing all of that and not interested in using the potty at all. So episode 230 goes into details on what a potty pause is and what to do.
So, there's a little brief overview of the challenges you can face and how to handle them. Please utilize those links as your resources, but only if you're facing those challenges. Don't psych yourself out and go and read all of the things that could happen. Just take the diaper off, and there you've started. Very short and simple.
We've gone over a lot of information. We've talked about what EC is, some simple ways to practice EC, a lot of the benefits you can get, and some of the challenges you can face. I hope you're encouraged that EC really is something that everyone can try. And even if you just try it one time, I really fully believe that you will be hooked. You will experience that first catch high and you will want to keep practicing, at least in some form, with your baby.
Please head over to episode 157 that is success stories from our listeners in using elimination communication. If you're still feeling a little hesitant, listen to those success stories. I think you'll get a lot of encouragement from that too. And at the end of the day, you really have nothing to lose and everything to gain from simply just trying EC.
Thank you so much for tuning in to the Go Diaper Free podcast with me today. We've been discussing EC and how it can really simplify infant hygiene. If you've already been practicing, we'd love to hear from you. Please head over to the blog, godiaperfree.com/232, and share with us your success and your challenges. Were there any roadblocks for you starting EC, and how did you overcome them? What tips would you give to folks just starting out?
If you're new to EC or you haven't started yet, we hope this episode has encouraged you to give it a try. And we'd love to know which of these tips you're most excited to implement. Leave us a comment on the blog, godiaperfree.com/232. Ask us any questions you have there, and let us know what you think. Our community is a place where everyone can learn and grow together, so we really want to hear from all of our listeners. And if you want to learn more about EC, be sure to subscribe to our podcast. Stay tuned for future episodes, where we'll be discussing more tips and strategy for getting started. And as always, we offer a lot of troubleshooting here, in our free communities, and in all of our resources over at godiaperfree.com. I'm Nicole Cheever with Go Diaper Free. Thanks so much for listening, and we'll see you next time.
Thanks so much for listening. This is the Go Diaper Free podcast at godiaperfree.com. We'll see you next time.
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What are your tips for starting EC and overcoming any roadblocks? If you’re just starting out, which of the suggestions in this episode are you most excited to try?