I AM in the toilets at a café with my husband. My two-week-old baby is doing poo in the toilet and my poor husband is madly cleaning up what didn't make it into the bowl when there was an explosion of poo.
This is all part of the fun, and at times, messy experience or journey of elimination communication (EC) which we have been sharing with our baby since her birth. It is fun and addictive and I love that it allows for an even deeper connection with my baby.
When I first told my husband I planned to do EC before our baby was born I think he thought I had really gone mad. This quickly changed after watching me hold our baby over the sink and asking her to do a wee a couple of times. He leapt into this new parenting challenge and is also now addicted.
Elimination communication or natural infant hygiene is practiced by many cultures around the world, but unfortunately has been lost in the West. Babies are no different from adults and naturally don't want to soil themselves. Using a nappy is something they get used to when their cues to go the toilet are not heard or understood. This instinct is then lost altogether at about six months old if it has been ignored.
A lot of people think it is too hard or don't believe a baby can communicate it's need to do wee or poo. However, just as they can let us know when they are tired, hungry or when they have wind, if we slow down and tune in it is possible to read their toileting needs too.
I use a combination of common sense, instinct, timing and listening to my baby. Often if I get it wrong and we have an accident it is because I haven't listened. I will then kick myself for ignoring her vocal and physical cues. These cues can be lots of squirming with vocal cries/grizzling which becomes more desperate the longer I take to respond to her. Over time it is also possible to get a feel for your baby's routine. With Chloe for example this means frequent wees in mornings. Sometimes I will think to myself, "oh you can't possibly have to go again, you have just been." But I have learnt if it's in the morning she generally does. Sometimes while I'm holding her over the sink she might kick out her legs and push against me away from the sink giving the impression that she doesn't want to go, but if I stick to my instincts and gently persist (sometimes making a joke about it) she will wee.
How to start
The easiest way to start is to try to taking your baby to the toilet when they wake from a sleep. Most of us have to go to the toilet after we have been asleep and babies are no different. The other good time is shortly after a feed. At night she will start to wriggle and squirm quite a bit in her sleep when she needs to go to the toilet.
I will gently take her to the sink where she yawns and then wees. I can then put her back to bed for a feed and straight back off to sleep.
I hold my baby over the sink; that way we can both see in the mirror. She likes to look at herself and me in the mirror and I can see what she is doing with her face and body to tune in to her cues. I then say "wee, wee" and make the sound psss so this cues her to go to the toilet. If it's a poo I say "poo, poo".
Using these cues means that I can communicate with her as she gets older and she will know that it is okay to go to the toilet, rather than just eliminate anywhere.
If I misread her or can't get to her in time and discover she has done a wee I talk to her about it saying, "oh you did a wee, wee" and repeat the word wee, wee a few times so she again associates the word with her actions. She will look at me with a big cheeky grin telling me she has and we both have a laugh.
Just like a puppy?
I'm not sure if other people who practice EC liken it to toilet training a puppy but I think it's very similar. With my puppies I would take then to the grass and tell them to wee. Now when I need them to go the toilet, for example at night, I just put them out and tell them to do wee.
Initially it may feel like a bit of work on top of all the other demands of a newborn. I'm always washing cloth nappies and face cloths that I leave beside the sink to wipe up the dribbles. It is also much easier in the summer when you don't have to be removing layers of clothes to take them to the toilet and can leave them bare-bottomed. But as I remind my husband I'd rather be doing this than changing a two or three-year-old's pooey nappy and the closeness that you develop with your baby is even more intense and rewarding.
This article originally appeared on Kidspot and has been reproduced here with permission.
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