Enjoy! xx Andrea
When you're getting started with elimination communication, observation time is a crucial component.
However, I would go so far to say naked observation time can actually be avoided entirely.
Naked time CAN be a great tool for getting to know your newborn baby's signals, and especially helpful if you are starting with an older baby or potty training, to sweep that mini potty underneath them mid-pee.
But if it's too cold to leave your baby undressed, or maybe you aren't too keen on the potential mess, you'll be glad to learn that you may be able to avoid naked observation without hindering the observation process.
Today, I'm going to share five equally-effective alternatives to naked observation time so you can learn your baby's signals and jumpstart or improve your EC practice.
Before that, let’s explore several reasons why you may choose to skip naked time, like we did, and peek into our thought process around the whole thing.
Why you might skip naked observation time
There are several reasons you might consider limiting naked time. When we first started EC, our primary reason to skip it was because it was winter, and the house was too cold. But depending on the age of your baby, there are other perks to keeping your baby clothed.
- Especially with a boy, you might be worried about getting peed on, or where the stream might go - totally legitimate.
- And if you're wanting to preserve your carpet or furniture, you're not alone.
- Plus, cleaning up puddles (or worse) isn't the most exciting chore.
- Or maybe you just take way too many pictures of your baby (who doesn't?) and want to be able to share them with your fam on social media.
The list could go on….
If you checked one or more boxes above, and aren't sure about naked observation, that's 100% okay. You can still do observation and EC very successfully. Here in a minute I will explain those 5 alternatives you can use. But first, let's chat about….
Two Types of Observation
1. The Initial Observation Phase
This is your first shot at elimination communication, and you're trying to learn your baby's signals (read about some signals you might look out for here) . You're also learning your baby's natural timing and figuring out when and how to potty your baby.
While you can start with some of the "easy catches" (my favorite is pottying at wake-ups), if you want to quickly get in tune with your baby, you may want to do several hours or even a day or two of observation to start. During this initial observation, using the back-ups listed below (or doing naked observation) will be important for the most accurate understanding of your baby's signals and timing. (You also may want the Go Diaper Free Book or the newborn minicourse as a resource for your journey).
You may need to dive in deeper with observation like this after a reset, a break from EC, or a transition from part time to more consistent EC practice.
2. Regular Maintenance
While I do continue to observe as needed, I have not carved out intentional observation time since the first two weeks we started EC. Instead, I integrate that awareness into my daily life, and take notes only as needed.
If you jump into EC with the easy catches and find no need for the more intense initial observation, this maintenance type of observation may be for you. You can use any type of back-up for this maintenance observation, but the ones I describe below will make it easier and more accurate.
For our family, regular maintenance consists of:
- Counting every miss as "observation time" (which gives it a positive spin, instead of seeing it as a disappointment). If I reflect on things right after a miss, many times I realize she actually HAD been signaling - I just didn't notice it. So I add that to my mental list of signals and try to keep it in mind for next time.
- Taking mental note of the time and intervals between pees on a daily basis ("It's 10:00 now, so I think she'll need to go around 10:45…. Wow, okay, nothing until 11:00 - she can hold it an hour now.").
- Using training pants for a portion of the day from 6 months+ (we then switched to trainers full time at 10 months - which is SO helpful for staying in tune).
- Doing more focused observation days whenever our rhythm is off, or when her timing has changed. Instead of taking the diaper off, I go about my day as usual, but record timing and signals for every pee - miss OR catch.
Wait, so is naked time a bad thing?...
No….but it can be. I know that sometimes leaving baby naked is just easier than rediapering, and it can be helpful for littles trying to use the potty independently before they can manipulate clothing well. In those instances, among others, it may be fine. But, if your child is peeing everywhere and anywhere while naked, and you let them - you will be teaching them it is acceptable behavior.
Using a back-up, especially for a mobile baby, is key to avoiding this dilemma.
And some babies actually don't signal UNLESS they are clothed, which means they might not signal during naked observation time. BUT, if baby is wearing a back-up of some kind, they get that wet feedback after they pee, and may be more likely to signal as well.
Also, when your baby is older, more aware, and more conscious of his or her body, touching private parts when naked is not uncommon. If you are concerned about possible hygiene issues in the genital area, putting a back-up on is a quick fix.
At our house, we occasionally 'risk' naked time immediately after a catch in the potty for an amount of time that we know we can trust our baby to stay dry, and then put a back-up on before the next time she is likely to pee.
In the first 10 months of our EC journey (from 3-13 months old), we experienced only ONE full accident on the floor. I was shocked at how huge the puddle from that miss was on our hardwood floor, because I'd never seen a full pee miss, ever!
By using an appropriate back-up for observation or diaper-free time, I hope you will have a similar experience. :)
5 Options for Naked Observation Time with Elimination Communication
Essentially, we used a non-waterproof back-up of some kind that absorbed the miss, but still allowed us to immediately see and feel when it was wet. It's totally effective for observation time - and much less mess involved!
You still want to protect your carpet and furniture during observation, since these back-ups absorb most of the mess but aren't waterproof. In the beginning, we would lay down towels or puddle pads. As our baby got older and more mobile, we used foam squares (like those in the image above) that are easy to wipe down, or simply let her play on the hardwood floor instead.
I also recommend dressing your baby in T-shirts instead of onesies for observation (check out my pattern to transform a onesie into a tiny T-shirt). This allows you to change your baby from the waist down after a miss, instead of the whole outfit.
Option 1: Commando
Forget the diaper, and dress your baby in pants-only and a T-shirt. This is NOT a very absorbent back up, but it's great if you're just getting started. We went this route the first couple days when we first started EC at 3 months old.
Commando is NOT an absorbent option, so during observation, we laid baby on a folded bath towel with a plastic trash bag underneath. The towel acted as the absorbent layer when baby was in the swing, doing tummy time on the carpet, or laying on my lap, and allowed us to avoid a stressful cleanup.
In our day-to-day EC, we sometimes go commando after a pottytunity or wet diaper simply because it's easier than rediapering, but still functions as a back-up of some kind.
Option 2: Sumo Style
Quickly realizing that a little more back-up would create a little less mess, we switched to sumo style "diapering" - we used old t-shirts with a homemade diaper belt (see my t-shirt hack here) and leggings. A burp cloth or cloth diaper flat or prefold would also work fine.
Misses often leaked a bit from the sides, so we still typically used towels underneath, but it created less dirty towels than going commando.
Option 3: Cloth Diaper, without a cover
Fitted diapers, a flat or prefold that is attached with pins or a snappi, or any type of cloth diaper that baby can wear without a waterproof covering, is perfect for observation time.
We personally never went this route since our cloth diapering consisted of a simple prefold placed inside a cover, but if you have fitteds or other cloth diapering options, use them!
If you put on a waterproof cover, you can't see or feel when baby is wet, unless you deliberately touch inside the diaper to check. Though this may be fine for your regular maintenance observation once you're already in tune with your baby, typical leak-proof cloth diapering is not ideal for the initial observation phase.
Option 4: Training Pants
As soon as baby is mobile, training pants for observation are really the way to go. They are so easy for baby to move around in, and to take on and off during standing up changes. We started using them occasionally around 6 months, even before our baby was crawling.
This is our favorite and most commonly used observation back-up. And since we switched to Tiny Trainers (if you're wondering if they're worth it, you can check out my review here ) for our daytime back-up at home at 10 months old, all day - every day - is potentially observation time!
I like training pants the best because they look the most attractive, fit nicely under clothing (unlike sumo style), and prevent a mess (unlike commando). Also because of the bold colors of our Tiny Trainers, we notice a miss immediately, even from across the room.
Option 5: Disposable Diapers
This is not the most ideal back-up for observation, for several reasons, but it could be a good option in some instances - if you dress baby in a disposable diaper and t-shirt, so you can SEE the diaper at all times. Hear me out.
Why use 'sposies for observation?
First, they create the least amount of mess - they are an actual diaper, after all. So you can lay your baby anywhere or let them crawl around without worrying about a miss.
Second, use the ones that have a super handy yellow line that turns blue immediately when they are wet. After one pee, usually just the front part of the diaper shows the blue line, but it's still enough to tell.
Third, you can feel when the diaper is wet, without having to touch the inside part (like I do when baby is in a cloth diaper). When wet, disposable diapers feel squishy and gross. After not using disposables for quite a while, I have become very sensitive to this, and can hardly tolerate feeling the warm wet squishiness while holding my baby if I am not in a position to change her right away.
Fourth, you can smell when the diaper is wet, since they actually have chemicals in the diapers designed to react to wetness in this way. If you're used to using disposables all the time, you may not notice the smell - but once we stopped using them for a bit, and then used one occasionally, we certainly did.
Disposable diapers may be LESS ideal for a few reasons:
- Because they absorb the wetness well, so your baby may not signal as clearly (although for a bit, our baby actually signalled BETTER in disposables).
- Since you're less worried about a mess, you may be more likely to get distracted and not notice when baby wets a disposable diaper, or delay changing them because the diaper isn't "that wet."
- They create more waste AND are more expensive, especially if you're going through 10 or more diapers a day.
But, depending on your circumstances, disposables are also a possible observation back-up. (Check out biodegradable Dypers here, says Andrea - they also have the blue/yellow line and are better for the environment!)
Ready, Set, Observe!
Your child is in a cotton, non-waterproof back-up (or maybe a disposable diaper), and you are ready to dive into (or continue your practice of) EC.
Grab your observation log and get ready to jot down baby's signals before/during/after a pee, and note the intervals in between.
Whether you're just getting started, starting after a break, or just diving deeper into your EC practice, remember to enjoy this observation time as an opportunity to connect with your little one, while at the same time getting more in tune with their pottying needs. Best of luck!!
Now, I'm curious…..
What is YOUR favorite back-up for observation time (either focused observation or the daily maintenance type), and why?
Let us know in the comments below!
PS - here’s the video version of this episode in case you prefer to YouTube it. ;)