Sometimes we just need to share our stories! Today I share my entire EC journey with my son, Kaiva, from beginning to end.
Since Kaiva turned 3 years old, I thought it must be a good time to share our whole infant potty training story, beginning to end.
I hope that my journey ECing Kaiva informs your EC practice or helps you in some way.
In this session, I share:
- How I first learned about EC...and thought it weird but interesting
- Starting EC
- Disposable diapers vs. cloth diapers
- Bumps in the road - crawling, walking, moving house several times, nighttime pottying, etc.
- How I started writing my book, EC Simplified: Infant Potty Training Made Easy (EC Simplified: Infant Potty Training Made Easy (version 3.0) by Andrea Olson has been replaced by my new book, Go Diaper Free: A Simplified Handbook for Elimination Communication, by Andrea Olson)
- Traveling internationally and doing EC
- Doing EC all by your lonesome
- EC Completion - daytime and nighttime
- Issues with potty trained toddlers
- EC for co-parents in two separate households
- Preparing your toddler for ECing a new baby
- Plus much more...
Some links + resources I mentioned in this session
- Finding Balance with Attachment Parenting by Andrea Olson (my other book/audio where I share about my weaning experience and technique with Kaiva)
- The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff
- The Diaper Free Baby by Christine Gross-Loh
- Baby Gift Registry
- Seventh Generation Disposable Diapers
- Cloth baby wipes by Thirsties
- Berkeley Yoga Center (prenatal and mama-baby yoga classes led by Mel Green)
- EC Simplified: Infant Potty Training Made Easy (version 3.0) by Andrea Olson has been replaced by my new book, Go Diaper Free: A Simplified Handbook for Elimination Communication, by Andrea Olson
- our community Members' area here on Go Diaper Free
Download the transcript
If you can't listen to this episode right now (um, sleeping baby!?)...download and read the transcript here:
Welcome to the Go Diaper Free Podcast with Andrea Olson, session 11 - it’s story time!
Welcome to the Go Diaper Free Podcast, where we're all about teaching you how to stop changing diapers, starting at birth. And now your host...she breastfed for 23 and 1/2 months, Andrea Olson.
I did, yes. It was quite a feat. Anyone of you who have done extended breastfeeding know how much of a mixed bag it can be. It’s wonderful, and it’s hard, and sometimes there’s ambivalence, and sometimes it’s just the most wonderful thing because you can solve any pain by breastfeeding.
So Kaiva and I had a wonderful breastfeeding relationship for almost 2 years. And then when I decided I just couldn’t do it anymore, and he was feeling it, and he was nursing more because of it, I actually decided to wean him. I did it overnight and I share that story in my Finding Balance with Attachment Parenting book. The link for that will be in the show notes of this show if you’d like to check that out.
But it was really cool. There were no tears on either side. Now, expecting the new baby, we’re talking about how the “nanas” are gonna be for the new baby, and it’s kind of nice to not have to worry about breastfeeding 2 people at once. But I do really respect those who do. It’s a wonderful thing - breastmilk - if you can do it.
This episode is not about breastfeeding. :) This is actually storytime, Session 11. We are going to talk about my EC journey with Kaiva, my first son, and then probably in another year, we’ll talk about my EC journey with my new daughter, Isadora who will be born... let’s see, I’m 33 weeks pregnant so she’ll be born sometime within the next 2 months.
I wanted to share Kaiva’s story, or my story with Kaiva, because I feel like it’s so important to share our stories, first of all, and secondly, I think that there are some things that I could teach or people could learn from what my experience with him was. Thirdly, it’s just fun to have story time every once in a while.
So next week, we will be talking about Part 3 of 4 of how to know when your baby needs to pee. But for this week, sit back and relax and enjoy my story.
In the beginning...I heard about EC years and years before conceiving Kaiva...it was about 5 years before I found out I was pregnant. I heard that a friend of a friend pottied their baby in the sink and didn’t use diapers at all. And I thought, “Oh my god, that is so weird.” But I lived in Marin County, California, near San Francisco, so it wasn’t all that weird. And I thought, well, actually, it kinda makes sense and I’m gonna bookmark that for later and someday, when I have babies of my own, I’m gonna look into that and do the same thing because, yeah, diapers haven’t been used for all of eternity, so what did they do before, and how did my friends do this, and there’s something about communication there... that sounds pretty cool. So that was the very, very beginning.
Then I found out I was pregnant with Kaiva in 2009, and I started to read up pre-birth about a lot of things. I was really sick for about the first 6 months. I had horrible morning sickness. I couldn’t actually throw up so I was just sort of nauseous all the time, and I don’t really take the hormones of pregnancy very, very well. I tried things to balance it but it just didn’t work out, so I spent a lot of time reading in my bed. I read the whole Harry Potter series. I read the Golden Compass series.
And then I started getting into parenting books.
I started reading The Continuum Concept, which I just loved. I got a copy of Christine Gross-Loh’s book, The Diaper Free Baby, and I began to read up. I actually registered for that - my gift registry was on Amazon.com so I could register for whatever I wanted. I wanted that book because I heard from DiaperFreeBaby.org, actually, that it’s a really good resource to learn how to do EC. So I read the whole book cover to cover. I really loved all the testimonials that showed that people were doing it and are doing it and got a lot out of it.
I still wasn’t very clear on how to start. I wanted to start at birth and I couldn’t quite grasp the concept... maybe because I had placenta-brain. You know, when you’re pregnant and you kind of forget how to... well, you forget a lot of things, like I am right now.
So I started to try to conceptualize it. What I always have done in my whole life is kind of categorize things that I am learning about. I do a lot of outlining when I’m in classes, and things like that. So in my own mind, I was sort of outlining her book. What does this look like to start?
So when my son was born - I had a home birth in Berkeley. Seventeen hours after I started labor, I had this beautiful little boy. I didn’t know I was having a boy so it was a surprise. We were both exhausted so we just fell right to sleep right away.
The next day, he had his first meconium poo. Now I had his bottom all olive oil-ed up ready to go, just in case he was wearing a diaper when it happened. He actually started to make some grunting noises and looked like he was in a lot of pain, kind of contorting. His father and I made eye contact and sort of both intuitively knew “Grab the potty.” He grabbed the potty, put it right underneath Kaiva, and I was holding Kaiva in the air and he started pooping. We caught the meconium in the potty, which was a real pain to get out of the potty, so I can’t even imagine how, had it been stuck in a diaper, how nasty it would have been. That was our first experience with EC.
With that much success the very beginning, I was definitely inspired, so I had a 2-week period of naked observation time. I bruised my tailbone in the birth. His hand sort of presented with his head so I had a lot to push through. I pushed for 4 hours; if any of you have had any kind of injury during childbirth, you know how painful it is to recover. So I decided to take it easy on starting EC with Kaiva. For 2 weeks, I did naked observation. I was really hot in Berkeley so we were naked all the time anyway and I was sweating off like 20 pounds a day of baby weight!
I decided early on, since he peed so often, that I would just go for every other pee and try to get all the poops. We had a lot of what I call “sharts” - that’s the fart that’s juicy. A lot of his diapers were actually not used for anything other than a skid-mark.
I had a really hard time starting with cloth. It was impossible for me to figure out how to fit it on the baby with a Snappi, with a cover, and with all that other stuff. So I admittedly used disposables for the first 5 months. I used Seventh Generation. I tried the compostable ones that my cloth diaper service had and it just wouldn’t work. So for the first couple of weeks, I went on and off between cloth and disposable, then I just switched to disposable full-time for the first 5 months.
Now, the reason I did this was because I would dry his areas very, very, very well with a cloth wipe after every change or every pee or every poo in a sink. So I actually avoided diaper rash altogether by keeping him dry.
Now, I went to my first DiaperFreeBaby group (from the East Bay group) when Kaiva was about 3 months old. What I found there was that I wasn’t really getting any kind of instruction. Nobody really knew what they were doing. They were all going off of intuition, which was great. There were toddlers running around acting crazy, everybody with their babies and the baby is crying and everything in the living room, and it was chaotic. It was absolutely chaotic. We got socialization, which was great, but I didn’t really take anything from it as far as how to do something. So I started to think “Well, maybe I should become a mentor.”
So I became a DiaperFreeBaby Mentor so that I could hold groups in the area as well, and I did. I started one, and it was wonderful, and we shared resources. It was really directed at teaching instead of just socializing.
I also started writing my book at this time. I went to Mommy Yoga a couple of times a week at Berkeley Yoga Center and I decided to make a pamphlet on EC because everybody was asking me why did I keep taking my baby out of the room. Well, I was taking him to pee...and they wanted to know how they could do that with their own babies. So I started to outline what is now my book, EC Simplified: Infant Potty Training Made Easy, which I published in 2011 as an ebook. I wanted to do a 5-page pamphlet; it turned into 183 pages, and it turned into a 25-Video Library. Also, I decided from my experience of leading the group, the people needed access to a mentor who would give directive advice and really help people and hold their hand, so I also decided to create my Forum. That is still available today at the GoDiaperFree.com community. It is a really big resource for people who don’t necessarily just need to socialize about EC on Facebook, but really need some genuine guidance and handholding in the practice.
Then we got mold in our apartment and we started moving a whole bunch and it was really hard. But we still kept doing EC during all the moving and everything.
There was one week of poop during the crawling. Kaiva started crawling and he was eating solids and I had to really figure out what his signals were again. So I wore him for a week in the carrier while inside until I caught that poop. He would signal much more loudly in the carrier. And then I also noticed that he would go somewhere and squat down behind a chair and start grunting. So he had a new signal for pooping and I had to rush him off to the potty. We adapted to that but there was a lot of moving and a lot of chaos that definitely affects EC for everybody I know who’s had that.
We made another move. For 6 months, we were in Shasta while I wrote my book and we had caregivers for about 3 months of the time. But during the time when we didn’t, Kaiva got really bored. I noticed when he was really bored, he peed a lot. He would also start signaling by knocking on the door and wanting to go out on the porch to go to the bathroom, which we let him do. We did a lot of outdoor pottying at this time.
Looking back, I probably would have encouraged the potty more, but it was just so easy and it was just mostly me watching him, so it was really hard to be “on it.” It was much easier to have him naked and be able to go outside.
When he started walking at 9 1/2 months, I decided to ditch the daytime diapers because it became too hard to change him anymore. This resulted in pee everywhere and I was definitely teaching him to pee on the floor.
His father suggested that we start using the Gerber trainers as underwear backup all the time and never have him just naked where he could pee wherever. He would soak through those Gerbers like crazy. It was really hard. It was a difficult time for me trying to keep my cool and be stress-free during all of that. What I realized, though, is having a backup was key, and also paying attention was key, and wearing him during those times when I was busy and couldn’t pay attention was also key.
At nighttime, I took a 2-week pause, a 2-week break from it because it couldn’t get him to potty at night without crying, without having to nurse him while pottying him... it was crazy. I have a wonderful therapist and she said, “You need to take a break.” So I did. And guess what? He started holding it for 7 hours at a time at night. It was awesome.
Then we did a reset. Kaiva and I decided that it just wasn’t working so we took a 2 week break...and this 2 week break was great for me to relieve my stress and to go and sit by myself on a big boulder outside and say, “What do I need to do and I will do it,” like a meditation, a prayer, whatever you wanna call it. It worked. I got good information from myself. I was able to really reset into it and figure out what to do next.
We tried an Oh Crap! Potty Training experiment with Jamie, my potty training friend, and we decided to see if the weekend could work at 13 months. And the weekend did teach him to take himself to the potty more. We also decided it’s time to use the potty full-time, no more holding him in arms. He’s 13 months old; we don’t need to do that anymore.
To briefly wrap up everything else that’s happened since then, the 3 months we spent in Thailand, every time we moved from hotel to hotel or on little plane trips or whatever (on the planes, on the trains, on the boats, everything was fine then)...but once we got to the hotel and settled in, we had lots of misses. After the transit when we’d get settled in, there would be a lot of misses and it was really frustrating for me.
Kaiva began to signal in multiple languages. He would say “hang nam pee pee” and also do the sign when he needed to go. We had the joys of pottying him in various places in Bangkok and across Thailand. We had a lot of diaper-free beach time, which was wonderful.
And then, returning from Thailand...his father and I separated at that time and I spent 2 months in Charlotte with my mother. Our issues then were the stress of doing it all myself and also Kaiva’s boredom. So we tried to integrate a lot of playdates and going out, but honestly, it was really hard. But what I did do was I was able to focus on completion at 17 months. It was clear to me that he was signaling and he was taking himself to the potty more regularly, so I considered that to be completion.
Then I moved to Asheville and my son’s father and I co-parented and co-housed and it affected EC in that we moved again. So anytime we moved, it affected EC for sure. He had some sicknesses here and there. He had teething happening here and there and that all affected EC as well. The main thing in this time period was giving him the tools to do it himself much more easily.
Daycare was really hard. He had a miss every single time he was there. I think it took about 4 months to get used to telling his daycare worker that he needed to go to the bathroom. So that was definitely a challenge.
At 24 months, we stopped co-housing and I moved down the street and I put Kaiva into his own bed and weaned him. This all worked really well for me and for Kaiva because it was clear. So sometimes the gentle move is actually the abrupt move, the one that’s very clear in its direction and doesn’t drag out forever.
Concurrently, he was wearing a cloth backup - his “night-night pants” we called them - a cloth backup at nighttime. And I started to find that he would pee in them early in the morning. So I decided, well, if that’s not there, then maybe he won’t pee in them at all. So I put him in a one-piece footie pajama and it only took one miss in that for him to realize that he needed to hold it all night or let me know that he needed to pee in the middle of the night. So his father and I both worked at that in our own households. At 24 months, he was dry all the way through the night and sleeping through the night for the first time ever, which was awesome.
Now he’s 3 years old. He turned 3 yesterday. His only issue with EC now - he never has full on misses anymore at all and he really hasn’t for the last year - but what he does do is he’s too busy to stop playing and he lets out a little bit of pee to release the pressure and he keeps playing. So by the time he gets to the bathroom or says he needs to go or runs in there or I prompt him, he’s a little bit wet. So we’ve been trying to work on that, but honestly I think its just a developmental issue right now. He does know where to go potty and he does take himself, so this is great.
Other challenges right now are that sometimes when I prompt him to go and tell him, “You need to go before we get in the car,” he says that he doesn’t want to go. I just bring him in there. I put a stool up there so that he could reach the lights and I kind of ignore him while he goes. He’s just asserting his 3-year-old-ness.
Integrating prompts into our day-to-day lives is something that’s key. That’s something that we, in both households, have to do to remind him to go to the bathroom when it works for us, like before getting into the car. So it’s still a generic timing kind of a prompt.
Occasionally, maybe once every 2 months, he wets the bed because he’s in a very, very deep sleep or he’s sick or something else like that, and he feels really bad about it, so of course there’s no punishment associated with it. But he has been doing fine sleeping in his bed without a diaper backup since 24 months.
Another challenge at this age is having two households, and also preparing for a new baby. So, having two households, we have found ways to work together. When he’s having misses, we know that there’s something amiss between our communication as coparents, so for those of you who are in two separate households, it is possible to do EC but you have to work together. For those of you who are in one household, it’s also hard to work together. You have to work together. So there’s some wisdom in there for everybody.
And then, lastly, preparing for the new baby. Kaiva’s very excited to be a big brother and he and I talk a lot about how he’s gonna help me know when she needs to go to the bathroom. And we also talk about how she’s not gonna poop in her diaper like his friend, this kid, or this other friend. He had a lot of friends here in town who were still in diapers at 2 and 3 years old. And he knows that they poop in their diapers. He’s asked questions about it over time and I just say, “Well, you know, when you were a baby, you told me you needed to go. And when Isadora is born, she’s gonna tell us when she needs to go and you can help me take her and show her where to put her pee and poo.”
So it’s a really nice wrap up to our whole process...and that’s our whole story. Three years of EC, or really just 17 active months of EC. Another 7 months of wrapping up the nighttime and a year of just learning how to have a potty-trained child, when to prompt, when to take him, when to know that something’s wrong in life based on any kind of accidents and whatnot.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my story.
I’m a little bit out of breath because I’m pregnant and it’s hard to talk for this long, but you can check out the show notes at http:// godiaperfree.com/11 and everything I’ve mentioned in this episode will be linked to in there, so you don’t have to remember anything. And you can leave your comments there, maybe share some of your story or something in my story that’s helped you. I would love to see you over there.We’ve got great new things happening in our community, so come check us out and, as always, have a wonderful time with your baby until next episode. Take care.
Please share part of your elimination communication story in the comments below...or what part of my story has helped you?
Thanks! xx Andrea
About Andrea Olson
I'm Andrea and I spend most of my time with my husband and 5 children (newborn to 8 years old) and the rest of my time teaching other new parents how to do Elimination Communication with their 0-18 month babies. I love what I do and try to make a difference in one baby or parent's life every single day. (And I love, love, love, mango gelato.)