I was lucky enough to hear about “natural infant hygiene”, “elimination communication”, or “nappy / diaper free” before our baby arrived, so I had researched it online and in the book “Diaper Free” by Ingrid Bauer and was ready to start from birth. You can start later, before they turn five-six months is ideal. (before they become mobile helps) Before that age they still have a natural awareness of when they eliminate – hence babies who pee as soon as their nappy comes off. They want to eliminate away from their bodies, and try to let us know to help them. Some babies start later quite well, especially if their parents use cloth, and there is lots of advice for that. Any time is good.
We wanted to start as soon as possible so that EC became a normal part of our infant care routine. We started at birth. I caught my first pee when he was 1 1/2 days old – I got up first thing, took off his nappy as soon as he awoke and gingerly held him over the sink and whispered ‘sss sss’ quietly in his ear – and he peed! I was smiling like a loon all day! Actually the pee went all over the sink area – at home the pee went all over the wall a few times until he got easier to handle and aim. There were many times if he was fussing that all he needed was a good poop and then he was happy and relaxed again.
We asked for a cloth nappy service for a baby gift. We used nappies full time, and changed him often so he was used to feeling dry. Each time we’d give him a pee break over the laundry basin – he’d almost always go, and we’d use our cue sound ‘sss pss’ each time. Within a few days he would wait to go until we held him over the sink and said the sound. It was astounding. He couldn’t do much as a newborn, but he could do this by golly! It really helped him to get out all his business in one go. He knew exactly what to do with his muscles.
We’d give him a pee break if he was crying and wouldn’t feed, or if he was simply fussing or squirming. Often the full bladder or need to poo was making him uncomfortable – young babies often interpret their discomforts as pain. This was a great solution that helped him numerous times, and he’d relax so obviously afterwards. We’d give him a pee-opp when he woke up – often he awoke because of the need to go – still does now. I’d give him a pee break after a feed as well. These are known as using ‘timing’ opportunities.
The first ‘sign’ I learnt to separately recognise and respond to was during breastfeeding. He’d pop on and off while feeding, and wouldn’t stay attached despite my help. This is really common sign of baby simply not wanting to eat and go at the same time! We use this sign every single day many times, and giving him a ‘boob test’ is a good way to see whether he needs to feed or just have a widdle, then a feed again.
Boys get what my friend calls a ‘pee horn’ when they need to wee – by around 5 weeks this sign became clearer, and we’d peep into his nappy to see if he needed to do a wee! From these few physical signs and body language clues, and the timing pees we slowly learnt more over time, and our communication improved. It goes on from there. There are plateau stages of not much improvement from either of us, other times leaps as he’d develop or we’d recognise a new sign or signal. It is like walking a winding path, not a straight road.
We used many many, many nappies, then almost suddenly it seemed, noticed they were starting to drop- around 8 weeks I seem to remember. I was also starting to incorporate some nappy-free strategies into our day, I was doing well and not needing the nappies so much. It was very inspiring to get to this stage. I’d have him nappy-free on a mat on my lap, or have a flannel between his legs, sit outside in the shade and wee him onto the grass when I thought I’d seen a sign.
My confidence improved fast at that point, and I had him nappy free a lot of the day. We treated it a bit like a game or a challenge to see how long we could keep him dry be responding to his signs or giving timely pee breaks. I remember keeping him dry for a couple of hours really clearly, then not having to clean a pooey nappy for 5 days.
From around four months we started more often ‘nappying’ his environment rather than him, as it was easier to change a mat than a nappy, plus it was much easier to spot signs and get an idea of his patterns, and poos were all first thing in the morning by this stage. Chris took care of them while I snoozed in bed a bit longer!
Out and about, we used disposable nappies for a long time (4 months full time), then cloth, still giving him pee breaks when we could, but it was a nice time to take a break each day on our walks, and visits, and he felt dry. We changed to EC underwear or training pants (Onewet Pants) after being able to keep them ‘dry’ on outings quite well. We used disposables on family visits and movies and restaurant visits until even 10 months, although only very occasionally by this stage, plus, he’d often refuse to pee in them, waiting and complaining until I took him to the toilet! He’d be in nappies for other carers who wouldn’t wish to pee him. This was no problem to him. EC is flexible with babies.
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