Elimination Communication

Earth Care, Life Choices, Make No Waste, Observe and Interact, Obtain a Yield, Parenting, People Care, Permaculture Ethics, Permaculture for Children, Permaculture Principles / Friday, January 16th, 2015

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I spend a lot of my time dealing with the toiling of my little ones.  We still have 3 in diapers; my four year old wears one at night, the two year old is hit and miss during the day, sometimes opting for a diaper, sometimes underpants, and the baby is always in one, but thankfully has slowed in the number of diapers she’ll use in a day.  We cloth diaper our children, because as I see it, there is no other option.  The amount of waste created by disposables is mind boggling, and not something we’re willing to participate in.

Cleaning diaper laundry isn’t the most fulfilling job in the world, to say the least.  Thankfully, Rob is excellent at staying on top of it.  We have a routine.  Every other night, diapers are washed using two cycles.  The first cycle we run cold with no soap and as much water as possible to rinse them well, then we set the second cycle to hot and run it overnight with natural detergent or soap nuts.  I hang the diapers out to dry in the morning…or sometime the next day.

The worst part of diaper laundry is cleaning feces off of diapers.  When my first was born, we purchased a diaper sprayer to attach to our toilet.  It was the best investment we made.  We would spray the poop off right into the toilet.  Due to constant use, it began to leak.  We tried to fix it, as this is always our first response to any problem in our home, but to no avail.  The sprayer was cheaply made with plastic parts that could not be replaced.  We didn’t want to invest in another ‘throw away’ product, so to replace it, I headed into the city for a visit to a specialty plumbing store.  They sold me a ‘T’ shaped joint to attach to my toilet water intake that had an on/off valve.  To that we attached a kitchen sprayer tap.  It works just as well as our first model, except its better, because the parts are good quality and independently replaceable.

The best thing we’ve done to mitigate diaper cleaning is to teach our children to use the potty from an early age.  Before my first son was born, Rob learned of something called Elimination Communication (often referred to as EC and sometimes called ‘infant potty training’).  It sounded strange, and yet too good to be true!  The idea is to teach the child to eliminate when they hear a cuing sound.  As a new mom, wanting to ‘get it all right,’ yet feeling overwhelmed in my first few weeks with my bundle of joy, I started ‘potty training’ him at 2 weeks of age.  I would cradle his torso along my forearms while I held onto his thighs with is bum pointed into the shower.  I read a few books that discussed the strategy and the process was fairly straight forward.  The books suggested to do a day of ‘diaper free’ time, making the cuing sound when you notice the child going.  We use the cuing sound ‘psssst’ for both pee and poo, although some people separate the two, using a grunt for poo.  I have used this on occasion when I’m trying to refocus my child while on the potty.  For my first, it took only one day to get our first ‘catch’ (EC’ers use this term when you successfully get a pee/poo in the potty – or in our case, the shower!).  I was amazed at how quickly my child responded and how much easier it was to clean him up after…I never looked back.  I would take him to the ‘potty’ and make the cueing noise each time I did a diaper change during the day.  Some people will take their children throughout the night, but I found this to be too disruptive to our sleep.  I began by holding him in a reclined position with his bum pointed into the shower, then when he resisted being held in arms by trying to sit himself up and arching his back, I started to put him on a little potty.  By 5 months of age, he no longer pooped in his diapers.

With my second, it was not as easy to be consistent with taking him to the potty and he took until 6 months to consistently go on the potty for poop.  My third was trained by about 8 months.  I think there are a few reasons.  I believe it was in part because I didn’t start with her until she was about 2 months old and even then I was quite erratic with trips to the potty due to other demands on my time.  She also did not like to be held in arms in the shower.  Once I started to support her while she sat on the small potty we have, we started to make progress.  I can say that it was a real benefit to have my first two trained for the potty before the 6 month mark, when babies usually start solid foods.

EC has not trained our children to be out of diapers early, but it has saved us hours of hosing out poopy diapers!   I recently took my 9 month old to the doctor for her checkup.  When asked to undress her to put her on the scale, the doctor requested she keep her diaper on.  I said “We practice EC so that should help,” to which he replied, “There is no evidence to prove that it works and I’ve been peed on by enough babies who are apparently potty trained to know the research is sound.”  Well, my research shows it does work…for poo at least!

Want more information?

Cloth diapers we use: Peachy Baby (the best because there is no ‘stuffing’), Bum Genius (with snap closures, our velcro ones wore out!), FuzziBunz

Detergent we love: Laundry Tarts, Soap Nuts

Books I read (I recommend borrowing them from the library, since the information is not too detailed):  Diaper Free Baby and Infant Potty Training

6 Replies to “Elimination Communication”

  1. I was interested in your gadget initially. When in India, also in Mauritius, I found that people use this sort of gadget instead of using toilet paper for themselves. I found this a very good system and have been looking to get something like that fitted in my bathroom here in Europe. But I have never found anything like it, and I never actually bought back this gadget/system when in foreign lands, maybe next time. I am sure that it does the work you have fixed it for easily.

    1. What a wonderful idea to use water instead of toilet paper! When I got the parts, the man at the store was telling me he’d had other customers request the same thing in lieu of a bidet. I’m looking into toilet paper alternatives right now, so thank you for helping with part of the solution!! Perhaps I’ll prepare another post on how to make your own sprayer. We have loose parts for another toilet that my husband couldn’t affix since the joints on the water intake are fused. I’ll see what I can do 🙂

      1. Oh that’s great! As a matter of fact I used this sort of gadget myself when in India, and if I may say so I found it much more gentle to use than toilet paper, and very clean. I will look forward to your info on making it yourself as I am still interested in fitting one in my bathroom.

  2. Wow, three in diapers! I had never heard of EC. I’m glad you’ve been successful with it. I used cloth diapers but had a diaper service. I didn’t even have to rinse, which was nice. The service worked well, unless I forgot to put the bag of diapers out on the porch the night before the very early morning pick up. Then I was stuck with a large bag of poopy diapers for a week. But that didn’t happen often.

    1. I am lucky my husband heard about it and was excited enough about the idea to nudge me into trying it. I couldn’t believe how well it worked to be honest! I don’t put enough time into it to have my children out of diapers, but I’m grateful for them to be pooping on the potty, without a doubt!

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