Monday, April 18, 2011

Elimination communication, part 2

***Warning: This is a post about potty training. It may be mildly disgusting.***

I posted a long while back on Diary of a First Child about my (failed) attempt at elimination communication at about four months. The short summary is that it seemed to be making him upset, so we stopped and never really got around to getting back to it.

What is elimination communication? Some people call it "infant potty training," but it really is more parent training. You learn to watch your baby's cues and provide a potty when you think they might want to go, and they mostly take care of the rest! Most parents make a "cue noise" when they offer the potty, and the baby responds to that noise by going in the potty. Some parents do it a couple of times a day, just to provide another option. Some keep their babies diaper-free all day long! It is possible and doesn't have to mean a ton of mess.

EC is practiced by many other cultures, particularly where it's warm (making diapers uncomfortable, and a ton of other clothes unnecessary). By a few months old, babies are able to go only where appropriate and to signal their parents when they need to be taken outside or to a pot. Our American culture tends to stick with the idea that a child can't control his elimination until the toddler years, but it just isn't true. An infant is aware of when he goes and has some control over it, even from birth. But a year or more of always going in a diaper tends to build a habit and a lack of awareness.

Think about it: most newborns will go the instant you take their diapers off. Why? Because they don't like to be wet. Some babies cry before going because they don't want to go in their diapers. Take the diaper off, they go and stop crying! It's a great way to be responsive to a baby's need to eliminate away from themselves. After awhile, though, habits start to be formed. Either the baby, like an adult, automatically feels like going when their diaper is off and they're in the right place, or they ignore when they need to go and just go in their diaper, becoming accustomed to the wet feeling so it doesn't bother them.

For the parent, there are pros and cons to EC. Pros include not having to wash diapers, not having to buy diapers, and preventing diaper rashes. Cons include having to pay attention to your baby (if you're not already!) and take them to the potty right when they need to go, rather than in ten minutes when you're available for a change. It also can be a little more complicated when you're on the go, though parents do manage.

Anyway, that's an awfully long introduction. This post is about my experiences trying a bit of EC now, with Marko a year old. It's bound to be harder, because he's so used to going in diapers. But he does still seem to show some awareness that he is going, and he can be counted on to go at certain times (first thing after waking up, before bath, and often during changes). So I decided to try, now that I finally bought a potty and everything else in our lives is going fairly smoothly. Likely it will not result in complete potty training for quite some time, but it can blend into "real" training more seamlessly, and keep him used to the potty.

I got a Baby Bjorn Little Potty, which is small and convenient, as well as nicely sized for smaller children. I put Marko on it one day before his bath, and turned the water on. The sound of the water usually makes him go, as I've discovered when I take his clothes off too soon. The very first time, it worked! I made the cue noise (a "psssss") sound and signed "potty" so he would know what that sign and sound meant. Then I gave him a hug, put him in the tub, and dumped out the potty. EC doesn't use rewards, because it's not supposed to be something we're trying to coerce the child to do. Either they want to go in the potty (as babies generally do), or they don't. Anyway, I'm not much into rewards; I think that children usually are happy enough just knowing they're learning and doing well.

Since then I have been trying to put him on the potty a couple of times a day. When he wakes up from a nap, I put him on there and he usually goes. Sometimes he takes his diaper off, and whenever he does that, I put him on the potty. Each time I make the cue noise and sign "potty." When I make the cue noise and he doesn't go (which happens just as often), my guess is that he probably had just gone and doesn't need to. I'm not completely sure.

But the Holy Grail of the whole process has been getting him to poop in the potty. I thought that would be the easy part, because he tends to go after breakfast every day, and I can usually tell when he's about to go. But day after day, I've spent ten or fifteen minutes having him sit on the potty after breakfast, and eventually he gets bored and wants to get off. Five minutes later, he's gone in his diaper ... or, one time when I wasn't in a hurry about getting the diaper on, on the bathroom floor. Uh-oh.

Today, as he was finishing up his breakfast, he was making that face and I knew he needed to go. So I scooped him up, took his diaper off, and put him on the potty. The second he was on it, he began to cry! A toy to play with didn't help a bit. My guess is, he really needed to go, but didn't think he could do it on the potty.

So I sat behind him and reached my arms around him so it felt like he was sitting on my lap. I read a book to him. He calmed down, but he still wasn't going. The cue noise and sign didn't do anything; I think he associates them with peeing, not pooping. I remembered what I've heard elsewhere, that sitting is a bad position for pooping, and that squatting is much better. So I scootched his feet up toward him so he was more squatting than sitting. Of course, he started to stand up. So I stood next to him and squatted down ... which he imitated. So he and I just squatted up and down for awhile, him on the potty and me standing next to him. He was happy enough doing that that I wandered away for a moment ... but when I came back, he was standing up and looking in the potty ... which had a poo in it!

I know I'm not supposed to be making a big deal of it, but I did. I gave him a big hug and a kiss and told him he did a good job. Then I took him with me to the bathroom so he could see me dump it out and flush the toilet. I wanted to give him some diaper-free time after that, but unfortunately we had to leave for work right then. But I am VERY proud. Yes, sadly I guess this has to happen when you have a kid ... you start bragging about their bodily functions. I hope anyone who doesn't want to talk about those has left already! ;)

So, for now I'll just keep doing what I'm doing, having him sit on the potty a couple of times a day. It's no big deal if he doesn't go, and I'm okay with changing diapers the rest of the day. But it's a nice introduction. Once we move, I plan to let him play diaper-free whenever we're outside, because he hates wearing a diaper, and I figure that can help him remember the connection between the feeling of relaxing and actually going potty. We'll keep the potty handy, and he can go on it when he wants to. Seeing as he's so young, I'll keep it low-pressure. But if he's ready to try -- and I think he is -- there's no reason to hold him back just because he needs my help getting his pants off and sitting down.

Have any of you tried EC? If not, what was your method for potty training?


Sarah Faith said...

How exciting for you both that you caught his #2 in the potty! I keep thinking I'll try EC with the next one. :) I was thinking about starting it with my youngest soon. She'll be 9 months this week. I think it's probably a good age to start. But maybe I'll just wait until the next one. ;)

Sheila said...

I don't think nine months is too old. If I could do it again, I'd start before he learned to walk ... because he keeps climbing off the potty.

So I'm not the only one who keeps planning things for "the next baby." "The next baby" is going to be born at home, breastfeed right away, cosleep, and hopefully EC. But ... maybe the next one will be like this one, and those things won't happen. Who knows!

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