Diaper Free!   

Elimination Communication

Babies don't need diapers!

That's right, babies just don't need diapers.  Around the world, since the beginning of time, mothers and other caregivers have successfully relied on natural infant hygiene as a means of dealing with their infants' elimination needs.  Most people don't even have a name for it, it's just a way of life.  Babies need to relieve themselves, just as everyone else, so their need is recognized and dealt with, without the need for diapers.  In more industrialized countries, this form of infant hygiene is being called Elimination Communication, (a term coined by Ingrid Bauer in her book Diaper Free! The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene ).  

I've practiced natural infant hygiene with many babies.  It started with my own son.  Long before he was even conceived, I told my husband that there must be a way of 'listening' to a baby's needs, and understanding when he needed to go to the bathroom. I had never heard of elimination communication, however, I had taken several courses in anthropology in college, and I knew that less industrialized cultures did not use diapers. I told my husband that once I could understand my baby, I would hold him over the potty instead of diapering him.  

I'd just like to take a quick moment to tell mothers who find this incredulous that there are many loving ways to care for your baby's elimination needs, be it disposable diapers, cloth diapers or un-diapering.  Please be positive and respectful of each mother's choice in diapering, the same as you would to each mother's choice to breast or bottle feed, or to have a natural birth or medicated birth, family bed or crib... There are lots of sites on the internet, not just this one, that go into great detail about elimination communication, as well as many support groups which provide tips and encouragement to moms who want to take their relationship with their baby to this new level.

I'd like to share with you some of what I've learned and experienced with natural infant hygiene.  I'd have to start by letting you know that I am a breastfeeding mother.  Breastfeeding helps women to develop a deep bond with their newborn.  Now, take that bond and double it.  The intensity, the feeling, the love for your infant...you reach an even deeper bond with your child when you begin to rely on natural infant hygiene.  You start to understand what every squirm and facial expression mean.  You begin to feel what your baby feels and you relate to your child on a different level.  The realization sets in that you not only are relying on your baby to notify you when there's a need, but your baby is also relying on you to respond to that need - and the baby gives you the opportunity to respond.  Many cultures have a saying that translates to "If a baby is crying, find out what is wrong with the mother."  Babies DO NOT just cry.  They cry for a reason; pain (colic, teething, rash) hunger, frustration, boredom, over-stimulation, etc...  An adult who is practicing natural infant hygiene with the baby learns what every cry means and is better able to deal with the cry immediately.  My first suggestion to mothers who have fussy babies is to take the diaper off, babies cry when they really need to go and have been holding it for too long.

The consensus says that breastfed babies have a higher IQ than formula-fed babies.  A woman in La Leche League International pointed out that breastfed babies are normal and formula-fed babies are a bit behind.  

"Babies are born to be breastfed!"
quoted from LLLI

I say the same about diaper-free babies.  Babies are born to be bare-bottomed!  Babies are born potty trained, they simply lack the ability to get themselves to the toilet.  Like a puppy that doesn't want to dirty the bed - babies do not want to dirty themselves. 

Babies are born to be bare-bottomed!

In-arms babies will prefer not to pee in their baby sling or on the caregiver because that is their 'space' and they do not want to dirty it.   An adult who is holding a baby is more likely to notice the baby's signals and more likely to respond immediately to the baby's need.  In the MamaRoo baby sling, the baby can even be scooted forward when worn facing sideways, and peed right from the sling when bare-bottomed, (as shown here) or wearing split-crotch pants.


MamaRoo Baby Sling
Double shoulder support 

Babies give strong signals, right from birth, when they need to relieve themselves.  They grunt, squirm, wiggle, grimace, and finally scream and cry to get your attention.  When you put a baby in a diaper, you are beginning to train the baby to pee in that diaper.  When you do not respond to the baby's signals, you are reinforcing that you expect the baby to pee in a diaper.  When you practice natural infant hygiene, you train the baby right from the start, not to pee in a diaper or in their clothing.  A baby that is consistently given the opportunity to relieve himself in a toilet, will do just that.  

I am ec'ing (practicing elimination communication) with my nephew.  I have ec'ed him consistently since birth.   His mother has diapered him since birth.  At six weeks, he would hold himself for as long as possible so that he would not have to pee in the diaper.  As soon as he was put in my arms he would give me the signal and I'd take him directly to the toilet.  On the other hand, after being separated from his working mother for several hours, on being placed in her arms he would actually pee in the diaper immediately simply to show her that he knew that she expected him to pee in a diaper.  At six weeks he did what he could with his abilities to communicate to show that he understood and was willing to please the people who love him.  Our solution was to bring him to the toilet just before his mother's arrival.  He would pee, even just a squirt to be sure that he was empty.  At three months, still undiapered by me and diapered by his mother, he was consistently dry and diaper-free with me, his part-time caregiver, yet understood that his mother expected him to use the diaper.  This shows that even if one caregiver prefers diapers, the baby will still respond with the caregiver that prefers to un-diaper.  However, he still refuses to poo in a diaper with his mother, he holds it until he is given the opportunity to eliminate in a toilet. Yes, babies are born with the ability to hold it and even stop 'midstream' if they suddenly become aware that they are peeing or poo-ing in an undesirable location!

There are people who comment that it's the mother who is being trained, not the infant. 

I disagree.  

 
2 weeks old

It is both the mother and the infant who are learning together to recognize the need and deal with it appropriately.  

People have called ec'ing women less than favorable nicknames because they simply cannot fathom how any educated adult would want to un-diaper a baby.  They have the idea that babies are unable to control their bowels.  They imagine messes on the floor and rather unhygienic living conditions.  I try to stress to people who are interested in this form of infant hygiene that it is very clean and, well, hygienic.  I point out that babies who are given this option will begin to try to make their own way to the toilet as soon as they become mobile - even squirming along the floor before they are able to crawl!  Babies do not want to pee on themselves, it just doesn't make sense to train them to do so.  There's no pressure, no frustration, no punishment... it's simply an understanding between baby and caregiver - baby needs to be brought to the bathroom, baby makes that clear, adult takes the baby to the bathroom.  Occasionally babies do have accidents, some are the caregiver's fault, some are the baby's fault, but that's dealt with by changing the baby's clothes and going about the day again as usual.  

As your child grows and you become more in-tuned with the whole EC process, you will begin to recognize your child's signs and even get a "sixth sense" or intuition that a pee is about to come, even if no sign is given.

Learning the peepee sign.  At four months this baby was able to sign his need to use the toilet.  Though Infant Sign Language typically begins at 8 months, the peepee sign seems to be learned much sooner with EC infants.  

In the meantime, these hints will help you off to a good start

EC timing:

Put your baby to pee when first waking up in the morning or after a nap, (most people will naturally need to use the bathroom after waking).

When you have been in one position and then suddenly change position, you tend to notice that you need to use the bathroom, same with babies, so if you've been holding the baby on your lap for a while, get up with the intention of making a quick stop at the toilet first!  How often do you need to find the rest area!  It's a good idea to help tiny bladders by starting and ending a car ride with a trip to the bathroom, (keep a container with tight fitting lid in the car too).

After or even during nursing, (everyone feels the need to use the bathroom after a good meal).

Look for squirming or facial expressions; grimaces, grunting, pushing (even just for pee!), unexplained crying.  As your child grows and you become more in-tune with the whole EC process, you will begin to recognize your child's signs and even get a "sixth sense" or intuition that a pee is about to come, even if no sign is given.

You don't have to have the baby completely diaper-free all the time.  In the beginning it helps to use cloth diapers or training pants so you can see right away when the baby pees and this way begin to understand your baby's signals and timing.  Try dedicating time each day to being diaper-free, even if you feel it is too much for you because of a job or a hectic schedule, even a few saved diapers each day will not only be financially rewarding, you will also be giving your baby a little boost to diaper freedom!

Going out in public.  Dress your baby in a dress or pantsuits that have easy to open snaps between the legs, even leave the snaps open if you like.   Some moms find that sweatpants work well because they are somewhat absorbent for the occasional EC miss.  MamaRoo now carries some special EC Pants!

Caregivers may prefer to diaper out in public, but make the effort to reach a toilet often on their outing.  In this way they are protected if they can't reach a toilet in time, however they are not relying on the diaper.  Most find that an ec'ed baby will hold it if he's realized that the caregiver is aware of the need.  The baby will give ample time for a toilet to be found.  

9 Month Update
My little guy crawls into the bathroom on his own now!  He can't get onto the potty on his own, but he at least makes the effort to get into the bathroom. He's so funny to watch!  If there is someone in the bathroom, he'll crawl up to the bathroom door, bang on the door with one hand and sign "Pee-pee" with the other hand!  
16 Month Update
He's been out of diapers since he turned 12 weeks old. We never did go back to diapers once we learned how to be diaper-free.  We helped him stay dry until he finally was able to sit himself down unassisted on his own potty chair at 14 months, (before that he couldn't balance himself to sit down without help.)  My son now uses the toilet independently.  He still relies on me to help him with bowel movements.  He wears cotton underpants out in public.  At home he has a bare-bottom , making it easy for him to use the potty because he isn't old enough to raise and lower his own underpants yet. 
17 Month Update
What a proud little man I have!  He can now pee in his potty standing up unassisted.  He goes poo on his own but he needs help wiping up.   I'm happy to help and proud to see him so independent!
20 Month Update
We've mastered getting the pants up and down, so now he only needs me to wipe him and clean up the potty when he's done.
26 Month Update
We're well beyond the "potty training" period.  My son goes into the bathroom, closes the door, uses his potty, dumps it in the toilet and flushes on his own.  After he finishes, I go in and rinse out the potty.  He still relies on me to wipe up, but he prefers to keep the door closed until he's all done using the potty, then I go in to wipe him.

On a Personal Note:

Please refrain from making snide remarks about EC in your chatgroups, blogs, etc...MamaRoo is proud to be able to offer you a wide array of attachment parenting topics, including EC.  We realize that it is not for everyone.  Please congratulate the thousands of successful moms out there, and quietly ponder this topic, rather than strive to bring negative attention to the site.


Industrialized world, EC'ed baby

Unlike the Chinese Crotchless Method, 
babies who practice 
Natural Infant Hygiene 
use the toilet, 
keeping home sanitary 
and teaching them 
proper hygiene 
right from birth.


3rd world, not EC

I'm fully aware that many people in the more industrialized countries believe babies to be completely incapable of controlling their elimination functions.  People tend to believe that babies do not have control over their muscles and simply pee and poop uncontrollably.  I'd like to show you that babies DO have control and will respond to positive reinforcement right from birth.

The same as a baby is capable of eating but needs to be fed, a baby is capable of relieving himself in a potty but needs to be given the opportunity by a loving caregiver.  

A baby who is constantly in a diaper becomes desensitized to the control over these muscles and simply learns to pee whenever and wherever, rather than in the proper receptacle.

cover
Diaper Free! The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene

cover
Infant Potty Training : 
A Gentle and Primeval Method Adapted to 
Modern Living

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Nappy Free dvd details the EC process.

Available at checkout.

Learn the art of elimination communication, with or without diapers. You can start at any age, even at birth. Both "infant potty" books contain photos of mothers using this natural method around the world, favorable Western medical opinions, cross-cultural studies, testimonials, anthropological reports and more.
Laurie Boucke

cover

4 months

Demonstrating 
the correct way 
to hold the baby 
to facilitate elimination. 

 

More links!  
Don't just take my word for it!

Decommissioning the diaper

Mothering.com

Diaper Free Baby.org

http://www.timl.com/ipt

http://www.natural-wisdom.com

The EC Store!

Tribal Baby, Australia

DiaperFreeBaby

ABC News article

MSNBC - Diaper Free

A culture in Diapers
Our baby pee'd held over the toilet at two hours old when my husband held him while I was still lying in the hospital bed. Worked just fine.
- Anita

Diaper-Free in 3 Days
Boys, Girls, Toddlers
Downloadable eBook
http://www.pottytrainingbasics.com/

Be On The NEWS!  Are you a passionate follower of Attachment Parenting or Natural Parenting methods? Do you believe that breast is best and/or co-sleep with your children? If so, Channel 5 would like to hear from you. Following the principles of Attachment Parenting from co-sleeping, baby wearing and extended breastfeeding through to elimination communication/cloth nappies and non immunisation, we are making a one hour documentary on the growing phenomonenon of AP in the UK. We are keen to talk to mums who have given up work in favour of full time motherhood and are passionate advocates of this gentle parenting philosophy. We are especially keen to talk to parents who have just had a second or third baby and are practising elimination communication for the first time. If you or anyone else you know are planning a move into EC and would like to know more, please contact Kate on 0207 749 3132 or katev@monkeykingdom.com 

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Articles:

Baby Wearing

Breastfeeding

Infant Sign Language

Natural Infant Hygiene (Diaper-Free)

Co-Sleeping

Bilingual Infancy

Instinctive Mothering

Loving the Lost Baby

Working from Home

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Products:

EC Open Crotch Pants

Baby Sling

Face Kushes, Chiropractic/Massage Towels