– an article I wrote for the ABA’s “Essence” magazine in 2006.
My baby stirs beside me. He searches and ‘boobifies’ himself as I gaze at his gorgeous face. A quick drink and he pulls off, frowns, squirms and kicks his legs. I pick him up and hold him over a bowl, where he does a big wee as I whisper “sss” quietly in his ear.
He then continues his feed for a while longer, eyes open as he fiddles with my hair. Soon, he pulls off, goes back on, detaching and attaching in a certain ‘plucking’ way as he again wriggles then grizzles a bit. I hold him over the bowl again, cue ‘sss pss’, patiently waiting – he does his daily poo as I clench my belly muscles to encourage and help him to learn what to do. I wipe his cute little bum with a tissue.
He again goes back to feeding. Happily relaxed, he drifts off to sleep after he finishes, flutter sucking away…
All this happens without undressing, as my baby does not wear a nappy. This has been a familiar scene in our breastfeeding pattern for many months now. We have practised an ancient method of hygiene care called ‘Natural Infant Hygiene’, ‘infant pottying’ or ‘Elimination Communication’ (EC) since he was born. We stopped regular nappy use at home while he was three months old, and nappies when out while he was five months old. He wears padded underwear or knickers now, at one year old. We hold him to do his business when he needs to go.
The language we use is non-verbal at first. Over time he has begun to give vocal calls to alert us. He is now starting to use sign language. And yes, we have accidents! We have wet nappies, wet pants! Perfection is not the aim – communication is, keeping him clean and dry until he takes over himself.
I cannot count the number of times giving my baby a pee break was the solution to a fussy baby. Especially when breastfeeding, if he stopped during a feed, popping on and off, or refusing to stay attached, once he had a pee break, he’d continue happily. If he was grizzly and squirmy at other times, very often it was the need to poo making him uncomfortable – after a good ‘go’, he’d simply go to sleep! I wish every Mum knew this simple option to help baby through a fussy patch – holding baby in position to gain some relief. It was empowering for my confidence, knowing one more way to respond to and HELP my baby. Saving nappies is secondary to this wonderful benefit – communicating with my baby.
Breastfeeding is inextricably linked with our Elimination Communication practise. I hold the baby close to my heart to nurture his soul and nourish his belly, helping him to ‘go’ in a bowl, rather than a nappy. Our ‘elimination communication’ began with breastfeeding. The first sign I learnt was him pulling off and on the breast during a feed – a pretty common feeding behaviour – which signals baby’s instinct not to ‘eat’ and ‘go’ at the same time. He simply refuses to breastfeed if a full bladder distracts him. It grew from there to become an integral part of our lifestyle, day and night, just as breastfeeding is. He breastfeeds, he pees, every time. It is heaps of fun!
Like breastfeeding, the early days of discovering Elimination Communication takes practise, commitment; time spent learning signs and cues, doubting confidence, asking questions and gaining the courage to persevere. Like breastfeeding, the benefits are many – there are daily rewards, it gets easier, yet there are always ongoing challenges and fun times as my baby (and my confidence) grows. We’re both constantly learning, changing, adapting as we work in concert together.
Just as weaning is not the aim of breastfeeding, it is the bonding, nurturing, nutrition, and protection it confers – with Elimination Communication, the aim is to care for baby’s hygiene needs in the present moment – ‘now’, rather than later when it is perhaps more convenient to me. I find it much easier than using nappies. The focus is on learning his body language signs for ‘going’ as I learn his hungry and sleepy signs. Amazingly quickly he was clearly communicating his toilet needs, although not every time! That’s ok, like tumbling when learning to walk. He does his best, and so do I!
Elimination Communication is an entirely different approach to baby hygiene. Toilet independence is merely the result of a natural process of development and practise from birth, just as weaning is the natural result of a breastfeeding relationship. The baby does not require ‘toilet training’ as their natural awareness is nurtured through infancy and beyond. All babies have the instincts that my baby has. We can practise and encourage this awareness, ‘tuning in’ to these instincts during their early months before they fade and baby ‘learns’ to go only into their nappy by five to six months.
Elimination Communication: Five key points
- Elimination Communication is an ancient method used before nappies, around the world and throughout history. It is fun to do. Even today 85% of babies in the world do not wear nappies – or not for very long. It was still practiced in Australia a generation ago.
- Elimination Communication takes daily practise and evolves with the baby’s skills and development (and your own). It is gentle and takes patience and consistency. It can be done with full-time nappy use, or part-time when parents are able, for even one hour a day. (One less nappy a day means 365 fewer changes a year at least!)
- Elimination Communication is fun and rewarding every day! Each day I think my baby is a genius. The environment benefits with less ‘disposables’ in dumps, and less water use. It is a way to reduce nappy use naturally.
- Elimination Communication saves money. It saves time spent washing laundry. There is a continuing reduction in the use of nappies over the months, ending when the young child takes over their hygiene needs. You progress as slowly as they need to.
If you’d like to expand your breastfeeding relationship to experiment with some nappy free time, or to learn another way to respond to a ‘fussing’ baby, simply start observing and being aware as you learn more about this ancient, primal, wonderful and addictive way of caring for baby’s bottom end needs. Elimination Communication is a great perk – less nappies to change! That is a fantastic thing for everyone involved. Simply download my free eBook on the 7 Secrets to starting EC with a positive mind-set below…
Most of this article appeared in the September 2006 Issue of “Essence” – the magazine of the Australian Breastfeeding Association. Discover More about My Elimination Communication eBook: Part Time EC: A Personal Guide to Developing Your Elimination Communication Confidence…