When you have a bub who’s not yet toilet trained you can choose to use disposable or cloth nappies, but did you know you can also try (GASP!) no nappy?! Yep, it’s an actual thing, called Elimination Communication.
Say what now?!
The Elimination Communication (EC) method is when parents or carers train themselves to recognise cues that their baby needs to wee or poo, so they can then take them to the toilet instead of wearing a nappy. Also called ‘Natural Infant Hygiene’, it sounds incredibly tricky (and messy!) to westerners, but has been practiced for centuries in other cultures.
How it works exactly
Apparently babies (just like adults) really don’t want to poo and wee in their pants, but become used to it when nappies are placed on them. They are actually capable of giving us signs that they need the toilet (just like when they’re hungry or tired) but if these are ignored, they lose this ability after six months (until toddler toilet training time).
Understanding all of this, parents look for patterns and watch for cues, taking their baby to the bathroom when they think they need it. When babies are very little, they will need to be held over the toilet or sink to do their stuff and a verbal encouragement is also required, such as saying “poo poo” or making a wee sound.
Eventually babies start to communicate more effectively when they need to go, by touching their underpants or making particular sounds – amazing!
You can start the practice from birth or any time, but it’s generally more effective the earlier you start as your baby has longer to get in tune with their body movements and signals. You don’t have to go the whole hog either, you can do EC partially or fully – e.g. nappies only for night time.
Why parents do it
One huge benefit of this method is of course not having to buy (or lug around) nappies, which saves a lot of money and helps reduce landfill. Sure, cloth nappies are better for the environment than disposables, but EC users also save a ton of water and time not spent on messy nappy clean ups.
There is, however, another reason why many parents are now turning to EC and that’s the close bond that it creates. By following your baby’s instincts and becoming more in tune with their needs, many believe it strengthens your relationship by allowing more communication and understanding, which can also make parenting a newborn a bit easier too.
The trouble with EC
Poo and wee – in their clothes, on the floor and more. There will be accidents ahoy in the early stages when you and your baby are learning the ropes, but even later on you could still miss these cues, especially when you’re really tired or distracted. So if you’re not down with cleaning up urine puddles and a whole lot of poo, then maybe this isn’t for you.
But the potty or toilet training phase can often be really messy too. Family members may struggle to understand and support this method, particularly if you’re out in public and there’s an accident, or they are asked to babysit.
Ready, set, poo!
Keen to give Elimination Communication a whirl? Take a deep breath, get the wipes ready and try these tips to get you started:
- Don’t begin too late – The best age is between 0 and 4 months, giving your baby time to get the hang of it. Summer is the ideal time to start as they can be bare-bottomed a lot of the time, making it all a bit easier.
- Start with a wake-up call – We all need the toilet when we wake up from a sleep, which is why taking bub first thing when she wakes up is the best way to start introducing your baby to EC.
- Take them after feeds – Next up? Of course what goes in must come out, so after a feed take your bub to the toilet to check if she needs to do a poo or wee.
- Night time signs – If bub is wriggling or squirming in her sleep then it is usually a sign that she needs to go.
- Praise them – Just like you would with toilet training a toddler or a puppy, praise your baby when she wees or poos on request in the right place.
- Don’t ignore signs – Once you’re aware of the toilet cues, trust your instincts and don’t ignore them, which can be tempting to do if you’re in the middle of something else or it’s not convenient.
- Be prepared for accidents – Put down towels, buy lots of wipes and don’t stress about the mess if you miss the cues.
- Don’t give up – Persistence is the key so don’t think you’re failing if you keep having accidents or are misreading cues, the hard work will pay off eventually.
Need some more toilet training advice? Our Parent School Toilet Training Support program can help. Click to find out more or book a one-on-one session with a toilet training expert.