What is Elimination Communication?

Thursday, 23 April 2015

I'm very grateful to Jenn for writing this article for me, as EC is not something I've tried with my own children and isn't something I feel I can write about not having experienced it. If you need help with combining EC and cloth nappies then I'm your lady!

When to introduce a potty - by Jenn, a customer.

Have you considered introducing a potty at an early age? A very early age? This approach - known as Natural Infant Hygiene, Elimination Communication (EC), Infant Potty Training, or the very optimistic sounding Nappy Free - can be used from birth and is often more practical than it might at first seem. In fact, many cloth nappy using Mums find that they instinctively practice some form of this technique and are then interested to find out how to further incorporate it into their daily life.

The general idea is that you (the caregiver) try to help your baby stay clean and dry by offering them the opportunity to wee and poo somewhere other than in their nappy - and the earlier you start, the more instinctive that can be.

For a large proportion of the world's population, using a nappy isn't as practical as not using a nappy - so it's natural and expected that parental assistance will play a significant role in keeping babies clean (just as it did for your grandparents and great grandparents). But that doesn't mean you need to forsake nappies to have a go yourself.

There are several ways of incorporating some natural infant hygiene into your normal life. You might offer the opportunity to use a potty or toilet:

  1. In response to a 'signal' from your child - some sort of action that you've noticed is associated with the discomfort of a full bladder or moving bowel. The 'poo face'. A sudden stillness. A grunting noise. A newborn wiggle.
  2. In response to an external stimulus that usually triggers evacuation. After a feed. On waking from a nap.
  3. As part of a daily routine. During nappy changes. After lunch. Before getting into the car. At bathtime.
  4. An interval of time after the last time (because that's a straight forward way to go about it).

Why bother? Surely babies can't control their bladder and bowels from birth.

Actually, they can, to a certain degree. They can learn to associate doing a wee or poo with a particular position or word of encouragement. So in that way they learn very early to deliberately and consciously release a wee or strain to do a poo. And they wait (within reason) for such an opportunity to be offered.

Taking charge of the timing of this - knowing themselves, in advance, every time, and doing something about it - that comes much much later; for many children at around conventional potty training age (say, two). However, there are many advantages to be had along the way. If you decide to travel this route, you need to enjoy the journey rather than setting your sights on the end result.

So what are the advantages?

It helps your child to stay clean and dry, which saves you a lot of washing and a very fruity nappy bucket. Being clean and dry means a comfortable (and therefore happy) baby with no nappy rash. Pooing in a pot is much cleaner than soiling a nappy. When I started with my newborn I was pleasantly surprised to be able to clean up after a poo with one dab of loo roll.

Using the in-arms pottying position or squatting on a potty helps a baby to fully evacuate his bladder and bowels helping him to stay cleaner for longer (and as an added bonus also encourages him to burp). Recognising any sign of discomfort enables you to respond appropriately - in very young babies it takes some of the guesswork away from 'why are they squirming or crying' by giving you something very simple to try that may, quite literally, give them relief.

You develop a deep bond from assisting with something so fundamental, and, unlike breastfeeding, Dads are just as able as Mums! No special equipment, no long term commitment - just take off that nappy and give it a go.

What if I decide this is for me? How would that influence my choice of nappy?

You'll still need all of the basic cloth nappy gear, but with a few tweaks depending on how far you want to take it. If you decide that you want to change your child frequently, you'll want to look for nappies that aren't very absorbent. No point wasting all that absorbency on one wee.

We stock a number of specialist EC systems designed especially for ECing and not normal nappying. These EC nappies make potty stops quick and simple.  We stock the full ranges here at the Nappy Lady in our dedicated Nappies for EC section.

If you're not sure if you're going to EC then some other great options are to use pocket or all in one nappies because you can adapt the absorbency to suit your circumstances, they don't take up that much space in the wash, they dry fairly quickly and they act like an all in one for when you're removing a dry nappy to try for a wee. Easyfit STARS are a great all in one choice and come without a fleece liner so little one will feel wet, they are also low absorbency so need changing frequently. The Flip nappies are another great choice as they are relatively cheap so you can have lots of pads for frequent changes. There are two pad choices the organic cotton which is high absorbency and no stay dry layer, or the stay dry insert which is made of microfibre and is much lower absorbency. The staydry insert has a stay dry layer but only on one side so I recommend you turn it upside down so baby feels wet.

However, many people prefer two part nappies because they can leave the waterproof cover off to get a better idea of when their child has done a wee and try to learn their signals or timing intervals. In this situation, you would probably use baby legwarmers rather than full trousers. Nappies such as bamboozle stretchy or Motherease Onesize make great two part choices as they don't come with fleece linings and you can remove the boosters to make them lower absorbency.

For more information - including how to start at different ages, what positions to use, what signals to look for, helpful photos and the story of how I got into all this - visit my website: www.bornready.co.uk.

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