Yesterday I went diaper-free with Darla. We are trying out Elimination Communication (you might remember me mentioning it in my post on Continuum Parenting). It isn’t potty training, but then again, in a very loose and long-term way it is. More so, though, it is just a form of natural elimination that helps children understand their bodies and urges at a young age, and in effect can negate the need for formal potty training or learning later in life.
In a nutshell, we are going to let Darla crawl around naked, attempt to follow her signs and leads when she has to “go,” and hope some of her business lands into the potty while we hold her over it. We will also develop regular patterns of taking her to the potty at strategic times of the day, giving her the opportunity to eliminate.
So, yes, EC is like potty training in that the parent & child both work together to encourage strategic elimination into a potty (or any other “appropriate” places determined by the family such as outside, the sink, etc) instead of diapers. But, no, it is not potty training in that there will not be potty independence for quite some time (that being said, many EC’ers report independence or potty learning to be naturally reached as young as 15-16 months).
I get the concern here. Many families start practicing Elimination Communication when their baby is around 2-4 months of age, and the average child in America isn’t potty trained until the age of 3. EC can look a small bit shocking at first glance.
I absolutely agree that a baby should never be forced to use the potty, and in fact, I believe pressuring or forcing a child to use one before they are ready at any age is not a great idea. But i also believe…
It is natural for a baby to experience physical urges to eliminate and for them to want to act on those. It is innate for a baby to show signs of certain needs (like routing when they are hungry), and to want to communicate desires to their caregivers long before they can speak (think babies and sign language or even just reaching toward something and squawking). It is also natural for babies to not want excrete all over themselves, which is why they usually won’t go while held close in a carrier, for example. (This is not a crazy concept – even dogs normally won’t poop in their beds or crates.)
It is unnatural for a baby to ignore their urges, go all over themselves, and sit in it for extended periods of time.
I’m not saying that diapering is wrong by any means. Diapering is an extremely helpful tool, highly convenient, and a very culturally acceptable option that fits well with our busy lifestyles. Truthfully, I’m not ready to fully kiss our fluff goodbye yet myself. BUT, if we are discussing what is truly natural for a child, then I have to assume that asking them to become accustomed to sitting in excrement for multiple years of their life and later trying to undo that and potty-train may not be a perfect picture of going with the flow of nature either.
But doesn’t EC take a ton of work?
I certainly am no expert on the topic, but I do know that our first day of going diaper-free was a smashing success; Darla and I made it into the potty 7 times out of 9, and she was dry for all three naps. I found it to be very easy – easier than diapering all day and then laundering those diapers.
I’m sure that going diaper free will involve a fair amount of effort, especially up front. I, as the parent, will need to learn to recognize & follow Darla’s lead when she has to do her business as well as getting her to an appropriate excreting site on time (yeah, that’s important and it is on me, an EC baby is still dependent, remember?). I would prefer to describe the “work” involved as a worthwhile investment though. Me giving great attention to my baby’s needs and communication can only be a good thing. The work of figuring out our proverbial potty song and dance will inevitably get easier and more efficient with practice. And, in theory, the work put in now will lead to a smoother and earlier potty learning, a.k.a less work later.
So, are we going to do this EC thing or not?
You may have noticed that I’ve been a little wishy-washy in writing this post; I know, I know, I am usually much more opinionated and gung-ho than that. I certainly see the benefits of practicing EC and feel it is worth the effort. Still, I’ve used words like, “we are trying (it) out” or “I’m not ready.” Truthfully, I do have a few hesitations: I am not sure if we waited too long to start, if I can personally handle the convenience factor of our cloth diapers being laid to rest, and how it is going to work with us being out and about (and in the car for long stretches) so often.
Ultimately I think the answer for our family requires a bit of chilling out about the method and just following Darla Bear’s lead. I don’t want to stress out about making it work. For now I plan to let her roam in the nude, and work with her to communicate and attend to her potty needs. When we go out of the home I plan to put a diaper on her.
That of course begs the question: Will using the potty sometimes and diapers other times confuse her? I think it would be very confusing for her if we were potty training, but as we discussed earlier, this isn’t potty training – it’s eliminating. Part of following Darla’s lead in this will mean reevaluating in a couple of weeks and seeing where she is at and what seems natural for her.
What about you? Have you practiced EC before? Any words of wisdom? If you haven’t, could you ever see yourself going diaper-free with your smallie?? Let me know in the comments below!
This post was shared on Simply Natural Saturdays.