Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Infant Potty Training: The Beginning

Me holding Karl in the "Classic EC" position.  It seems strange, but it works and half of the world already does it!
Q:  What is Infant Potty Training?
A:  It's not really "potty training" at all-at least by our standards.  It is called Elimination Communication (EC), and it's how people in half of the world potty train their babies by the age of 1 (Pediatrics Magazine.)  It's how African women carry babies around without diapers.  It's why Chinese children go around with open-crotch pants.  It's amazing that our culture doesn't know really anything about it.  At least I didn't until recently. 

My mom took this picture in Zambia last year. The baby in the woman's papoose doesn't have a diaper on!

At some point Jesse heard about EC.  As soon as he heard about it he decided we needed to do it (aka me doing it since I'm the one at home with little baby.)  I thought it sounded ridiculous and crazy and didn't really look up anything about it.   I was curious, but I pretty much abandoned and laughed off the idea.  Too much work!

Babies in China wear "split pants" so they can go whenever and wherever.

Karl is the one who changed my mind.  Our son has what we call "explosive poops."  About 1/3 of the time as I was changing him, he would poop and it would seriously fly across the room.  It got all over him, the changing table, and sometimes made its way to the floor.  I would be in the process of putting on a new, clean diaper and he'd go again.  I would sometimes waste three clean diapers for one change.  We were constantly going through changing pad covers, diapers and clothes to a ridiculous degree.  It was after five weeks of this that I decided to seriously research EC.  It was worth a try...

So here is an account of our (rocky) start with EC:

Like I said above, I didn't mess with any of this until Karl was five weeks old.  I started by purchasing a book online (see previous post or go to ebook here.)  This woman practiced EC with her son and gives a lot of helpful tips to get started.  I started by reading that before I began.

The first thing she recommends is to have "naked time" where you put the baby on a waterproof pad and watch him for as long as you have time for (15 minutes a day for several days, all day, etc.)
p.s. when I do this with the next baby I will put them in a disposable diaper that changes color when they go.  That way the tinkle and poop won't get all over the place!!

You watch baby closely for two main reasons.
  1. See if they are giving "signals" before they eliminate (wiggling, fussiness, grimace, etc.)
  2. Keep a log of when baby is eliminating-how long after they wake up or eat that they go
Obviously it's a messy business.  I only did it for a day so I could get it over with.   I found that Karl would almost always get fussy, wiggly and sort of grimace just before he would eliminate.  If he was breastfeeding, he would unlatch and get fussy or get really still.

Here is a video of Karl I was randomly taking on his 2 month birthday.  Right after I saw a grimace, I knew he probably needed to potty.  He tinkled for me just after the video.

That day and the next when I noticed him going, I would give him a cue (a certain sound I always give for either tinkling or pooping-think Pavlov.)  When he tinkles, I say "pssss."  When he poops, I say "doodle doodle."

Finally, I actually held him in the "Classic EC Position" and gave the cue noises to see if he'd go right after he got wiggly and fussy like I noticed he usually did before he went.  And he tinkled!  A little later, about 45 minutes after I started breastfeeding him (which I noticed was a normal time for him to want to go) I tried again and he explosive pooped...this time in the sink and not all over part of his room!

Obviously I was excited.  Mostly, I was excited that I was starting to understand what he was trying to communicate to me.  What he had probably been communicating to me all along; I just didn't get it until now.

Now it has been a couple more weeks.  There have been successes and misses.  I catch about 80 percent of everything!  I'm not constantly running to the bathroom either.  It's not a big deal and it is about as time consuming as changing diapers.

I logged Karl's schedule for a couple days, here is a quick summary:
10 trips to bathroom
Went potty every time he fed but once
He went a lot in the mornings
He was dry after almost all naps (about 1-1 1/2 hours) and night (7 hours)

Jesse and my dad did a triathlon at Possum Kingdom two weekends ago.  They were both at the top of their age groups.  Karl was out in the Moby wrap.  I'll be using it again during the half Ironman they plan to do in Conroe at the beginning of November.

Karl tinkled outside for the first time when we were waiting for my mom to pick up food once Jesse and my dad's triathlon was over.  Luckily no one saw!  Since then he has also gone in a church restroom and at the pediatrician's.

We don't use this much anymore except to put on a new cloth diaper after he goes in the bathroom

How It's Done
  1. Karl either signals to me that he needs to go or I take him to go when the usual amount of time has passed in which he needs to go
  2. I take off his diaper on our way to the bathroom (or wherever else I decide to take him)
  3. If I have time, I grab a burp cloth to put on top of him.  If not, I have to aim him.
  4. Put him in the Classic EC position (or another one) and cue him
  5. Wait.
  6. If he fusses and stretches out his legs, he didn't really have to go.  If he just hangs out, I wait until he goes.  If I think he needs to tinkle, it usually helps to turn on the water if I'm at the sink.
  7. He stretches out his legs to tell me he's done
  8. I rinse off his bottom and pat it dry with a dry burp cloth (no wipes needed!)
  9. Hang up the wet burp cloth to dry (if he wet it)
  10. Go and put his diaper back on!
  11. I don't praise him by saying good job or anything-I try to treat it like it's a normal, commonplace occurrence.  I don't want him to do it for the praise (like toddlers sometimes do when they're potty training)
Since I had Karl at a birth center (read blog post here,) he had extra shots at his 2 month appointment.  The pediatrician had never heard of EC and was really interested to hear about it.  She said she wished more parents knew about it so they didn't come in with 3 year olds who hadn't started to potty train and then had a rough time doing so.
Going While He Eats

p.s. I only did this for a couple weeks at the beginning-he stopped going while I breastfed him after that!

Since Karl goes 80-90% of the time while I'm breastfeeding him, I have developed a system of holding him, diaperless, so I don't waste a diaper.  If I'm exhausted (in the morning) and I don't feel like doing this, I just put a disposable diaper on him and make the cue noise if I notice him going.  EC isn't supposed to stress you out, you just do it when you're up to it.

I sit on this waterproof crib pad with a pillow behind me when I feed Karl.  This catches any accidents I miss.  Since it covers a large area I can put dirty wipes and whatever else on it.
Next I put this waterproof changing pad liner on my lap to protect myself from misses (this has saved me from getting soaked many times!)  We have this on our changing pad too-although we don't really need it there anymore.
Once I have the liner on my lap I get baby ready.  I put a burp cloth on his front and put a circular tupperware on his behind to catch anything.  Hey, it works and saves lots of diapers since he goes almost every time he eats.
Cloth Diapers

Most of Karl's "dirty" diapers are either a bit wet or have a small dot of poop.  I felt wasteful throwing away disposable diapers that weren't really that dirty.  So I decided to get some cloth diapers.  If I wasn't doing EC I wouldn't even consider cloth diapers.   Cleaning poop off of cloth grossed me out.  But since I'm doing EC and don't have many "dirty" diapers, cloth ones aren't a big deal to clean.  I wash out any poop with soap and water, dry out the wet ones, and throw them all in my next load of laundry.  Not a big deal since there aren't many to begin with (some days he hasn't had even ONE "dirty" diaper.) See below for how I cloth diaper-it's super easy!

p.s.  I also use disposable if we're out or traveling.  I don't want to have to deal with a dirty cloth when I change him at the store or a friend's house.
p.s.s. I also used disposables for awhile at night because I didn't feel like messing with cloth.  I didn't start using cloth until he slept through the night.

Easy Cloth Diapering:   How-To and Gear
Again, I probably wouldn't cloth diaper if I wasn't doing EC (washing lots of poopy diapers out of cloth-no thank you.)  But since I don't mess with much, this makes a lot more sense to do.  It saves money, is easy to tell if he's gone (you just have to feel it,) and it's better for the environment.
Changing table:  far left are burp cloths (to pat him dry or for burping), middle are "normal day" cloths, and far right are really nice nighttime cloths. There are wipes behind the burp cloths (which I never use anymore-at least not here) with a couple diaper shells (see below) on top

Here are a couple of the Grovia diaper shells that I use (I put the cloth inside of them.)  They are one-size-fits-all as you adjust them with snaps as baby grows (saving more $$)   The one on the left uses velcro to close and the one on the right uses snaps.  Also, the one on the left is snapped down to its smallest size (there are three settings)  for Karl while the one on the right is fully expanded so you can see how large they become.

The inside of the diapers (lined with nice cloth netting.) I only use the one on the left with velcro and have since ordered two more just in case.  Usually velcro=weak, but this velcro is very strong and durable.  There are loops to secure the velcro in when you wash it.  I didn't like the snap closure diaper because the snaps are a huge bother, at least compared to the quick on/off of the velcro (which you need with EC).  (p.s. if you look there are snaps on the inside of the diapers. You can buy special cloth inserts to snap in.  I read they're not very absorbent and not as much coverage, plus the snaps just seemed like an unnecessary bother to me.)

This is the night-time cloth that I use inside of the Grovia shell.  I use it because it is made of both cotton and hemp, which is 25% more absorbent than plain cotton.  They are four layers thick by the time I fold them.  They're pricey at $8 each so I only have four, but that's enough for us (if he goes through several in one night I'll probably be frustrated and use disposable the next night or so anyway.)

This is the regular daytime cloth that I use inside of the Grovia shell.  They are 100% unbleached cotton and work really well.  Obviously they are a bit long for Karl now, but will fit better as he gets bigger and he doesn't seem to mind.  I have 12 of these. 
A normal "dirty" diaper.  Not much to clean.  I hand wash the dirty part as much I can and then hang it up to dry before I throw it into the next wash.  I may even start to turn the cloth over and use the other side once it's dry before washing.

The cats still aren't sure what to think of baby Karl.  This is how he's typically dressed (our house is at 78.)  I put him in a onesie, unsnapped with a cloth held on by a Grovia shell.  When it's time to go potty, it's easy to take the shell on and off since it's velcro.

Finishing Thoughts:
Why EC Is Worth It To Us
  1. Saves money:  the average American family spends $3,000 per child on diapers alone!
  2. Has helped me to better understand what baby is trying to communicate
  3. Less diapers=less trash22 billion diapers end up in landfills each year in the US alone!
  4. Baby goes down easier and faster now for naps:  there are other reasons for this as well, but I have found that he doesn't cry as much, if at all, when his bladder is empty.  Plus he is usually dry when he wakes up from most naps AND when he wakes up after sleeping 7 hours at night!!
  5. Takes just as much time as changing a diaper:  at least for me it does!
  6. Less work in the long runas time goes on he won't have to go as much.  He will be able to tell me himself he needs to go (some babies do this through sign language at 4 months!)  All I will need to teach him are potty basics (getting on potty, wiping, washing hands, etc.), then I'll be done
  7. I will be totally finished potty training at the latest by 2 years old:   this alone would make EC worth it to me!  The average potty trained age in America is now 3 (webMD.)
  8. No regressions-ever!!  Since they never depended on them in the first place, they won't want to go back to diapers like many kiddos do when little sister is wearing them.
  9. I won't have to mess with potty training during the "Terrible Twos"  Since my brothers are 8 and 10, I remember how hard and frustrating it was to potty train them.
  10. Parent and Child Centered:  American potty training is child-centered-you start when you think the child is "ready."  Back in the early 1900's it was parent-centered-moms were told to give out enemas or strap their kids to the potty until they went (SICK!)  EC, I think, is both-I watch for child's signals, but only respond to them when I am able.
  11. More than one way to do it Some parents don't put diapers on their babies EVER, some  use disposable diapers.  Some parents co-sleep so they can potty at night, others let baby go at night in their cribs.  Some practice EC 24/7, others only have time to do it when they're home in the evenings.  It's what works and makes sense to you and your schedule.
  12. No/next to no diaper rash:  since I usually rinse him off with water and pat him dry, he may not ever get diaper rash.  (Update-he never got diaper rash-ever!!)
  13. I can carry baby around bottom-naked if I want:  Some EC followers don't ever put diapers on their babies-I'm not quite that extreme.  I'm confident enough that I sometimes carry him around without a diaper because I know he just went and would signal me if he needed to go.  Plus his little baby bottom is so cute!
  14. Babies are smarter than we give them credit forthey really do give signals that they need to go! It just takes some time to recognize them.  He also holds it a lot until I come to potty him.
  15. People in most other countries have done it this way for centuries without the kids having any issues, so why not here?  Our culture has conditioned us to think they're crazy, but with kids not being potty trained and bedwetting until they're sometimes in kindergarten, I think we must be doing something wrong.
When I hold Karl in the classic EC position, the tinkle tends to go straight up regardless of me trying to aim him.  It gets all over the mirror, counter, him, me and rarely into the sink.  So now I use burp cloths to cover him on top.  He doesn't cry and I don't have to worry about aiming.  After he goes I hang up the wet burp cloth on the shower door to dry.  Once it's dry I use it again.  The next time I wash his things, I throw it in.  Here are some of those burp cloths, plus "dirty" cloth diapers hanging to dry after I hand washed them over a 3 day period.  (I only had to do this until he was about 4 months old.)

Note:  You can do this too!  It seems a lot harder than it actually is.  A lot of people do this part-time.  Some people only do it when they think it's obvious that baby needs to go.  Some people do it just once a day or in the evenings when they're home.  Either way it saves at least a little on diapers and helps baby keep in tune with his own needs.  

If you don't do it (like most Americans-only about 5% do EC) I guess baby gives up on signaling and conditions himself to go in his diaper-until you potty train him at a later age.  

Apparently some colicky babies simply don't want to potty on themselves.  (Read sixth testimonial on EC website here.)  If you have a colicky baby, EC may be worth a shot in case that is the problem.

It gets frustrating at times, but now that I know what his potty signals mean I don't think I could just ignore them.  If it gets too frustrating, I just take a break and try again when I feel ready.

I know this isn't for everyone.  This idea is not appealing to most people, and that's fine!  But it sure works for me!!

Karl is in the 90th percentile for his height!

I love this swaddler!  Karl is so good at going to sleep on his own in his crib, especially if he has his pacifier.
(well just a few of them, I did a lot of research over a long period of time)

If you have any questions or would like more info, either comment or e-mail me at alyssaewalker@gmail.com.  And make sure you check my blog as I update how EC is going as Karl gets older!  (Click on the elimination communication label.)

My little brothers.  Karl will be right up there with them soon!



  1. How do you ever go out on a date night?? I imagine most babysitters wouldn't know how to follow your techniques? Or leave him in childcare at the gym? Or church nursery? Are you with him 24/7?

    1. It's not a comfortable task for most people, so we generally don't ask others to do EC. If we have a babysitter we know take care of him, we show them the technique but leave it up to them to do it or not. If he's in the nursery, we don't make those workers worry about it. We don't even ask our family members to do it. Anytime he's not with us we leave him with disposables.

      These breaks with other caretakers are no big deal to me. I'd much rather he be with people that feel competent to take care of him (and that usually means disposable diapers.)

      However, we are able to do EC a lot since I am blessed enough to be with him most of the time as a stay-at-home mom!

  2. Fascinating! I could so see myself doing EC with my baby in the future. I learned a lot from your blog tonight. I'll be back to read more soon, it is very good. Take care.

  3. Hey there. Was just browsing around the web for EC articles and success stories and happened upon yours. Thanks for the high book recommendation (I'm involved with Go Diaper Free). At any rate, great read and very informative. We are gearing up for the International Go Diaper Free week, and to do so, we are asking that parents like you join us at our facebook page: http://facebook.com/godiaperfreecommunity, and engage in conversation. It is parents like you who have the answers for many of the other skeptical parents who are interested, but just haven't found the right voice letting them know it works. During Go Diaper Free Week (same week as Earth Day) We will be broadcasting Elimination Communication far and wide. Our goal is to get press coverage, raise awareness that EC isn't just a trendy Celebrity fad, and help parents make the switch. Thanks so much again and I hope to see you on the page soon. PS - tell others you know about Go Diaper Free week and joining us for the event.



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