Today, we're going to talk about what to do when you get no signals, no patterns, no natural timing...no nothing...no rhythm, no intervals...from observation time when doing Elimination Communication.
Whether you are just starting EC, or you are trying to get an update on your baby’s current signals and natural timing because things simply aren't working out lately, doing observation with no results is super frustrating you guys!!
I have some helpful tips for you today that will hopefully both lift your spirits and get you feeling confident about doing EC again.
Don’t give up
First thing I want to say is: don't give up!
Your baby not signaling does not mean that
(a) you're a bad parent
(b) your baby is broken, or
(c) EC is not working.
I want you to know that this is totally normal and it does not mean that you need to stop doing EC.
Work with reality, not against it
The next thing I want you to do is to work with reality, not against it.
The reality is, your kid doesn't signal right now. So what? No big deal. It's actually totally 100% normal and it's part of most people's EC process.
The reality is, you're not seeing signals because if we lived in an intact community, in an indigenous culture, these babies wouldn't need us to help them with potty time anymore.
For example, when we're wearing them in a sling they would fuss, we would pull them out, point and shoot, put them back in the sling.
But then after they're crawling and walking, they're off! Why would they need us to help them?
The reason you lose signals and you lose the ability to find any kind of pattern during these heavy developmental periods of crawling and walking is because our babies have no biological need to do that anymore.
They don't need your help any more - great!
However, in our modern society it would be great if they did signal - because then we’d receive validation that we're a good parent.
Everybody we're telling won't think we're crazy anymore because they'll see the baby signal (and it'll also be a lot less messy).
I want you to know right now that all of this is 100% normal, and it is your current reality. Don't work against reality.
If you try to fight reality, you are going to lose, and you will also prevent reality from changing by not accepting it.
This is a very zen concept...stick with me!
Use the two other roads to potty time
The other thing I suggest is that you use the two other “roads to potty time” during these phases.
- baby’s signals
- baby’s natural timing, rhythm, and pattern
- generic timing, or transition times - those times when most babies need to go, like before and after going into something, maybe when waking up, maybe during a diaper change, etc.
- your intuition.
Since you're not finding signals and you're not finding a clear natural timing pattern, then I want you to use the other two roads to potty time: transition times and intuition.
And specifically within this category of transition times, because you're probably like, "Andrea, I don't even have intuition right now, I have no confidence about this. How could I possibly figure this out?"
...I want you to...
Rely on the 4 Easy Catches
Rely on the four easy catches during this time of no signals and not knowing baby’s patterns.
By the time your child's two or three, they're going to start signaling - and probably well before that. But let's not count on it because that would introduce pressure into our scene, and we don't want pressure in the scene.
So like I said, the two other roads to potty time are transition times and intuition. Part of the category of transition times is, very simply, what I call the four easy catches:
- When you see a poop start you gently say, "Wait". Transfer them to the potty and have them finish there.
- When the baby wakes up, you offer.
- During a diaper change, offer, even if the backup or diaper is already wet.
- Before putting them in something, we offer just so they're comfortable. And when taking them out, we offer. Usually they have to go at these times...and then they'll be more comfortable and play longer independently after having gone potty.
So, during these times we don't want to fight reality and we want to use what works:
the 4 Easy Catches work.
Would you give up if…?
Would you give up feeding if your baby did not signal when they were hungry? If they were just crying about everything and you couldn't figure out which one's for feeding, would you just stop feeding them?
Would you give up if your baby doesn't signal to sleep, and doesn't say very clearly, "I am tired and I want to nap?" Would you just give up sleep, give up offering them naps?
No, you wouldn't.
I'm being a little bit facetious because I want you to get the big picture here. It's just like feeding and sleeping. If your baby doesn't signal for pottying, would you give up offering?
And maybe you have no idea what you're doing, but that's okay. Rely on what I've already told you today.
(If you're totally lost, get my book right now if you don't have it, and read it. Or, listen to it.)
What’s going wrong?
Why are you not getting any signals or patterns? What’s going wrong here?
Well first of all, you might be misinterpreting what you're seeing. Maybe somebody else would see it and you wouldn't, which is fine because you've never done this before.
It may be “ALL CRY” with your baby - every single signal for every single need is a cry. How do you discern all that crying?
I would recommend that you look into Dunstan Baby Language. The specific sound for “discomfort” is the one I think most closely relates to the “I need to pee” signal - especially for a baby who's just “all cry.”
Next...maybe the signal is so subtle that you aren't picking up on it, which is fine. We live in a distraction-full society. We want to limit our distractions - and maybe then we’ll be able to see signals and patterns.
Maybe you're sleep deprived like me. I haven't slept a full night in 10 years (and I'm not proud of it). But, I don't sleep well when I'm pregnant, and then I don't really do a lot of sleep training, unfortunately. We kind of roll with it, and I would probably do some things differently in retrospect if it meant I could have gotten me more sleep!
But if you're in the same boat as me, and you're sleep deprived, I guarantee you it's going to be really hard to pick up on much of anything. Definitely important to try to get some sleep.
Stay the course
No matter what, I want you to stay the course. Even if you have no idea why things are going wrong, you can't figure it out, you can't troubleshoot it...just relax. It's okay.
A lot of developmental change is happening right now in the background for your baby. They're rolling, they're crawling, they're sitting, they're creeping, they're standing, they're walking. There's a lot going on there.
Some babies really need to focus on all of that, yet some are super-easy, like, "Cool, things are changing and I'm going to be with you on this potty process."
Your baby’s level of distraction or cooperation depends on their temperament and how much is going on in the background - but it doesn't mean just to stop EC because you aren't finding any signals or patterns.
I want you to lead this process for the time being, and if that means to be parent-led for quite a while until they start to communicate back, that's fine.
Create a routine
What rhythm would work for you? Pretend for a second that you have five kids like me. I thrive on rhythms.
Pretend like you have twins. I've heard twin moms say that they thrive on rhythms and routines. Everything has a schedule and a routine, otherwise they would get completely lost.
I'm the same way with so many kids.
If you only have one or two kids, it's still hard - I feel you, I've been there. Find a routine and rhythm that works for you throughout your day, and then insert feeding, insert sleeping, and insert potty time into that rhythm that you create.
Babies, and mamas, and families, and daddies - we all thrive on rhythms and routines.
[Btw, we're not talking about newborns in this part...breastfeeding on demand with a newborn? I totally agree with that. The baby sets that rhythm and I like to follow their lead in the beginning. But with mobile babies and young toddlers, I think the parent should set the routine for everyone’s sake.
I totally agree with heavy attachment parenting in the beginning months, because newborn babies need everything right now.
Newborns signal more clearly. With them, using the four easy catches is super important. This gets you into a rhythm and routine: when this newborn baby wakes up I'm going to take him.
So not to confuse you, I'm not saying to hyper-schedule a newborn’s day.]
However, if you've got an 8 month old, or a 13 month old, and you're drowning in, "I have no idea what I'm doing with pretty much anything" (again, I've been there.)...the best thing I can tell you is to create a routine or a rhythm that works for you.
Create it, write it out, pretend like you have a billion kids and you HAVE TO be organized...and you will rise to the occasion.
Your baby doesn’t need to signal to do EC
I repeat, your baby does NOT need to signal for you to do EC. You can be 100% successful with EC with no signals, no patterns, no knowledge of natural timing,
- just by doing the four easy catches, transition times, and by following your own intuition
- just by creating rhythm and routine, and inserting potty time in places where it makes sense
- just by getting feedback from your baby of what's working and what's not working, troubleshooting, and doing what works for you.
I know that's kind of like a cop-out answer but I'm telling you, everybody's experience is different. I can't just give you a cookie cutter, "This is what your journey's going to look like."
But...I can tell you that I have seen thousands, and thousands, and thousands of parents do EC fine with no signals...and in ALL cases, the child eventually starts signaling, sometimes a while after they've wrapped up EC.
Finally it starts to happen and everyone says, "Oh, this is so much easier." But I want you to know that EC still works out in the meanwhile leading up to that day!
Again, if we were living something like 300,000 years ago in a community setting, our babies wouldn't need us to help them go potty anymore. Why would they signal, why would they try to stick to a pattern? They're just going to do what they do, and take themselves.
Find the range
Now for what else you can do.
If you aren't finding signals or patterns, I want you to use observation time to find the range.
So, we want to find the window; the range between all the occurrences. If your baby pees after 20 minutes, then 15 minutes, then 70, then 40, that means your range is “15 to 70 minutes.” This is great information. Now you know your baby’s capability.
My baby held it for 70 minutes the other day. I declared out loud, "Oh my gosh, you're 13 months old, this is crazy." So, 70 minutes is her max capability of holding it if she so chooses. 15 minutes is just about her minimum, so now I know a range.
I don’t offer every 20 minutes because that wouldn't work for my baby - she doesn't do that. But, I do know that between 15 and 70 minutes is her overall range. I know her max capability.
It's good information...it's just bonus points. During observation time you can find the range, and that's always a good thing to know.
Try again in a few months
The other thing I want you to do is to do observation time again in a few months. Be super lower pressure about it.
There may never be signals or patterns in a few months, and that's okay, too. But, if you try again in a month or two you might learn something new.
And you'll probably learn that the upper limit capability has changed...that it's gotten bigger. And, the lower minimum may have gotten bigger as well. I guarantee you will learn something.
Continue what works for you - and relax!
The last thing I want you to do is just please, mama, daddy, etcetera - please continue. Continue on, continue forward. Continue to do what works for you and relax.
Remember that your baby not signaling does not mean that you're a bad parent, it does not mean that your baby is broken, and it does not mean that EC is not working.
It just means you're human, your baby is human, and you guys just need to sync up in whatever way is working, and move forward with that.
If that means creating this artificial-feeling routine and rhythm to your day, great. That's your job as a parent - to provide that for your child. It's going to give you both so many gifts.
And please stop saying, "Oh, I really wished EC would look like this." Let go of that. Stop fighting reality. Accept the reality that is.
It's like Byron Katie says: "Love what is."
Because this is your reality, we're going to go with it, move with it, and know that in a month it's going to change anyway.
Are you in the “no signals, no patterns” crowd? What are you going to do TODAY to work with that reality? Please mingle with us in the comments below.
PS - here’s the video version of this episode in case you prefer to YouTube it. ;)