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How is EC different?

March 10, 2010

I once heard a story about a mom sitting in a parent support group with her young baby. The baby began to fuss and fussed for about ten minutes, while the mother wondered what could be the problem: she didn’t want to nurse, her diaper was dry, she was being held. Then another mom suggested that the baby might need to relieve herself and maybe felt uncomfortable going in her diaper. So the mom opened up the diaper, held her baby in a potty position and made a “ssss” sound. The baby peed and stopped fussing afterward. Imagine how that mother felt! She had discovered the source of her baby’s distress and was able to help her.

This is what elimination communication, or EC, is all about. It’s about being in tune with your baby, listening to and acknowledging what she is telling you, and responding positively. It’s similar to feeding a newborn when he roots for the breast, or learning your baby’s cue that she wants to be held. But somehow it’s more than that. Dealing with your child’s elimination needs can be a very intimate affair. It means you are becoming very aware of all of her body, even the stuff that comes out of it. You learn to be okay with poop and pee. In fact, you’ll learn to laugh about it, and even look forward to seeing it!

EC is such a positive way to deal with a baby’s elimination needs. Catching pees and poos can actually give you a rush. Instead of being a chore, this can be one more way to bond with your child. And anything positive you can do for your child helps grow your love for them, and helps them to feel loved.

How is elimination communication different from potty training?

As I’ve recently discovered, the last stages of EC can look a lot like potty-training, as you teach your child independence skills such as pulling up their pants and proper wiping technique, however, these things don’t actually have much to do with EC itself. EC is just what is sounds like: it is communication between caregiver and child about the child’s elimination needs. Baby says he needs to go, caregiver responds. Or caregiver offers the potty, and the baby responds. Or baby wets herself and communicates this to her caregiver. A whole type of relationship is built around this very important function, and everyone does their best to communicate so the baby can be clean and comfortable.

Some people think EC is early potty-training, but it’s not. Potty-training can be incorporated, but it’s beyond the point. Here are some of the ways in which I view elimination communication:

It’s recognizing that most babies do not enjoy wetting or soiling themselves.

It’s not being afraid to let your baby or non-potty-trained toddler go without a diaper (so fun for them!) because you are 95% sure they don’t need to go, and even if they do, it’s no big deal.

It’s allowing your baby to have a voice about her elimination needs. It’s helping him to feel more powerful, knowing that he can get help with this need.

It’s allowing your baby retain their elimination awareness and sphincter control, which they are born with.

It’s allowing your baby a natural progression from relying on caregivers for their elimination needs to doing it themselves as they develop skills for potty independence.

It’s a chance to build more trust into your relationship.

It’s an opportunity to develop your intuition.

It’s being more aware of your child, and giving meaning to the grunts, wiggles, cries and other signs that they need to go.

It’s helping your baby be more comfortable, and decreasing the incidence of diaper rash.

It’s not being afraid of pee and poo.

It’s fun!

It’s a way of parenting your child, of responding to their needs.

Everyone has their own reasons for starting EC with their baby, and subsequently learn that there are many more benefits than they realized. In the end, everyone realizes that it is simply another way to give care and love to your child.

related article:

75 Benefits of Elimination Communication

7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 10, 2010 5:08 pm

    GUESS WHAT?!!! Eden went potty & poo in her own potty chair last night. You know we didn’t do EC, but I will often let her run around without a diaper when I’m home, and I bought her a potty chair when she first learned to walk so she could sit on it while we go to the bathroom and feel like she was involved.

    Last night we had brought the potty into the kitchen to use as a step stool. She and I were sitting across from each other at the kitchen table playing with playdough. I noticed she was antsy-ing around and I said, “hey, if you need to go potty, your potty chair is right here in the kitchen!”

    You should have seen the speed with which she climbed down off her chair and beelined for the potty chair. She sat down, “pretended” like she usually does, and got back up. Then she sat right back down again. I said, “It’s easy, you know, just go ‘ssssss’ and put your potty in the chair instead of your diaper,” and she did!

    I was so excited b/c I haven’t had the opportunity to do EC since I work full time (and hubby and grandma are not interested) but this was like our tiny little window into it. She sat down again a few minutes later to do a little poo, and then proceeded to do 4 more poos on the floor. (Doesn’t bother me, it’s easy to clean up.)

    ANYway, just wanted to tell SOMEONE and everyone around me thinks I’m crazy but I knew you would understand. :)

    – Molly

    • March 10, 2010 8:34 pm

      lol. That’s great! I don’t get why people think it’s crazy to let a baby use a potty. Lots of babies show interest at an early age. Anyway, I totally understand your excitement!

  2. Cassie permalink
    March 11, 2010 8:22 am

    I love this post. Sometimes I get tired of explaining why EC is different than ‘early potty training’… I don’t even know what early potty training is. I love EC. If it wasn’t for you, I never would have tried it… I would have thought it was another crazy thing Ben saw somewhere!
    Also, I never really noticed as much as I do now that Luke doesn’t like to wet his diaper. I don’t know if it’s because we’ve switched from those gcloths that were fleece to regular prefolds or just because we are better at communicating? I mean, I know now when he’s a little fussy, he’s either hungryand tired OR its because he has to pee (or is in a wet diaper). The EC journey is so fun!

  3. March 11, 2010 11:34 am

    Thanks for that. I knew EC was not early potty training. But I hadn’t realised that ECers did practically the same thing at a later stage as everyone else – regarding learning to use the toilet.

    And I guess we are all ECers in some ways at this later stage in that we learn to read our child’s needs and meet them, lol

    Wow, that’s such a weird story about that mother and baby. I’ve never heard of a baby being distressed to pee, no matter where. Unless they’ve learnt not to pee in a diaper. Then obviously it becomes abnormal. I’ve never seen my girl distressed. She just stops, goes quiet, and pees. lolDid the same as a tiny baby. Does the same for a poo except she likes a little more privacy. :)

    • March 11, 2010 12:53 pm

      You got me on a roll with EC posts now…I’ve already started writing three more and have one in my head.

      Anyway, I think it’s totally possible for an EC’ed child to “potty-train” themselves by mimicking those around them, but I find that as I notice Michael being more “ready” I am gently encouraging him more to use the potty. So, maybe we are in a semi-potty-training stage? My step-sister EC’ed her daughter then when she reached 18-19 months she said she was starting to “potty-train” her. More thoughts on this later. But yeah, I do think there are similarities in the way you pay attention to your child, learn their body language, encourage them to communicate, and give them a place to do their business.

      Some babies do get distressed, others don’t seem to care so much.

  4. March 11, 2010 2:54 pm

    I love this! I loved what wrote about EC here — “We practice elimination communication, because we know that we would want help using the bathroom if we couldn’t do it on our own, and we feel he deserves the same respect.” That just summed it up for me, and cut through all the defenses of “Well, hopefully he’ll potty train early then…” I encountered some negative responses from relatives who thought I was doing EC just to skip potty training, and I fumbled explaining that it was not that and was so much more than that. Thanks for making such a comprehensive list of what it is.

  5. March 25, 2010 12:42 pm

    Great stuff – I must say I love your photos!

    I too write all the time about how EC is NOT early potty training or some parent-centred oddball activity, but instead something natural, flowing, wonderful and FUN.

    My blog is:

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