Monday, February 18, 2013

Exploring Elimination Communication

"What if toilet training was approached as a skill, like rolling over, sitting, and walking?... It's not magic, it's not psychology, and it's not a trick.  It's just a motor skill that your baby needs to have an opportunity to practice." -forward by Barbara Gablehouse, in Early-Start Potty Training by Linda Sonna

In my review of Mayim Bialiks book I mentioned how inspired I was by the chapter on elimination communication.  This is something I had heard of before but it seemed so extreme.  Isn't using cloth diapers weird enough? From some of the reactions I have gotten from people I think it must be.

When I had heard about elimination communication before I was under the impression that it was an all or nothing thing.  That babies do not want to use a diaper so if you want to practice this you never put your baby in a diaper from birth, ever.  After reading Mayim's book and her successful experience of starting elimination communication with her 6 month old son I started to wonder if my assumptions were off base.

Turns out I was way off.  The whole point is just to introduce the potty to your baby and communicate with your baby about their elimination needs.  If you verbally acknowledge that your baby is pooping in their diaper and then change the diaper immediately that is a form of elimination communication as well.  Diapers can be a part of the process as much or as little as you are comfortable with.  You can practice EC only part time, in the mornings only, or only at home but not in public.

Somehow just the knowledge that I could ease into this practice made it so much more appealing to me.  I picked up The Diaper Free Baby by Christine Gross-Loh mostly because it was the only book on the topic I could find at the library.  I also found a copy of Early-Start Potty Training by Linda Sonna so I gave that a read too.  Both were very helpful.

Believe it or not very young babies can learn to use the potty on que.  By simply making a specific sound every time your baby eliminates (psssssss... seems to be the most popular choice) to create an association you can then teach your baby to eliminate when you make that sound.  This is how elimination communication works with babies from birth.

When starting a little older the process is basically the same, but in addition to the queuing sound you can also do potty sits at regular intervals or common times when babies (people in fact) need to go, when awakening in the morning or after a nap or after getting out of the car for example.  You just communicate with your baby about elimination in whatever way works and hopefully they start tell you when they need to go either with sign language or by crawling towards or even just looking at the potty.

No matter what age you start it is all about introducing the potty and helping your little one become/stay aware of their body and what happens when they eliminate.

This makes a lot of since to me.  I communicate with my son about his needs to eat and sleep and take care of these needs in a matter of fact sort of way.  Why not handle his elimination needs in a similar way?  

So I am introducing the potty to my 7 month old son. We actually started about a month ago.

We are starting super slow. Every morning we spend some diaper free time playing on the floor and if it seems like he might need to go we do a little potty sit and read books and sing songs.

I don't think he really gets it yet but he has gone in his potty a few times and he is comfortable sitting on it so that right there is a good start I think.  Honestly if that's all we accomplish until he is walking or even older I think that is a great starting point for potty training so I feelt good about it.

When I see him go rather he is sitting on the potty or not I make the queuing sound and say "you went pee pee!".

I also think it's a good thing to just allow him to be naked. We play and I will hold him or nurse him during this naked time and I think that sends good messages about his body.

I can't help but wonder, what does it say to our kids if we never leave their diaper area exposed for longer than it takes to change a diaper or have a bath?  What does it say when we refuse to hold or cuddle our babies unless they are fully clothed?  I can't help but think it's good for him and his body image to be held and cuddled and to play while naked in the privacy of our own home.

I think our next step will be to have potty sits at other times of the day.  I got him some little underwear and maybe we will try those around the house with a cloth diaper tucked inside so that we will both know immediately when he goes and can communicate about it.  This will also help me get a better idea about his patterns and have a better idea when he might need a potty sit.

I want to make sure to keep this process relaxed, if it starts to feel overwhelming we will just cut back or stop altogether.  It's just a learning process for both of us, no pressure.

I'm not sure where this practice is going to take us.  Maybe he will be toilet independent earlier than he would have been, maybe not.  We will see. Either way I think this has been a good experience for us so far.

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