What is Elimination Communication?
Most babies communicate a few things early on: they say “I’m hungry” with cues like rooting or hand sucking and “I need to burp” with grimaces and gurning!
The practice of “Elimination Communication” tries to add cues for “I need to poo/wee” to the list of things the parent/s understand and act on. Usually this action is putting them on a potty or toilet.
The end result of this process is, hopefully, is a child who is potty trained much earlier than normal in the western world. You can even buy tiny little underpants for 6 month old babies who don’t need a nappy full time anymore!
So basically, Elimination Communication is “potty training” from birth, though personally I feel it’s more avoiding nappy training.
Primarily we are doing this becuase it makes logical sense to me. I don’t think teaching babies to poo in their pants, then trying to un-teach them just at the point they are developed enough to have an opinion about it makes much sense.
However, I do accept it’s not a common practice in the UK. It’s only even possible because of our privileged situation: both parents working flexibly from home and with access to a washing machine is a real luxury!
When to start
The first few weeks of life with a newborn baby are so weird and ovwewhelming, even if you’re really committed to trying Elimination Communication there’s no need to start right away. Just don’t worry about it!
Then when you’re ready you can look for simple opportunities to get started. I would suggest letting your baby lead… what things are they already doing that you could turn into an opportunity for using the potty?
Spotting the opportunities!
We found that our baby would often do a wee while being changed. So the first thing we tried was putting her on a little top hat potty after taking off her nappy. We found right away she would do a wee in the potty.
We tried making the psss noises at her when we thought she was doing a wee, and later tried baby signing for “potty”. But really, this is all just about getting her used to eliminating in a squatted position and the feel of a dry bottom.
There’s not expectation that she can be potty trained like a 2 year old, it’s not the same thing. It’s just giving her opportunities, building on her natural instincts and us learning to understand her cues.
Building on the basics
The next thing was to try and catch some poos in the potty. This is a little bit more difficult because she didn’t have an obvious queue for when she was going to do a poo in the first few weeks.
When we heard her start to do a poo, we immediately took off her nappy and put her on the potty. If she started doing a poo while changing her nappy we put her on the potty then. Then we let her finish doing the poo on the potty.
Enjoying them learning
It really surprised me how quickly our daughter seemed to learn some toilet skills. Within 10 daya of starting with the top hat potty she seemed to have already learned that needing the toilet is like milk, something she can tell me about and I will help her with. Now I just have to listen!
Enjoy the bonding
At 7 weeks old she hardly ever poos in her nappy. I don’t know if she’s “holding it” till she is on the potty, or if I am just getting her on the potty at the right time. I can’t even really tell you what the exact cue is. It feels like magic!
Enjoy the benefits!
The biggest benefit of Elimination Communication so far is how much “cleaner” it is. When she has done a poo, the wiping process is pretty similar to that of a grownup: she needs her bum wiping a little, but most of the time that’s it. When she poos in her nappy it’s all over the place, she basically needs a bath to sort it out!
I also found that it gave me satisfaction for her to “make progress” in something, while we were otherwise worried about her feeding and weight etc. It was another way to engage with her when she wasn’t developmentally capable of being responsive to us in other ways. It felt good to meet her needs in this additional way.
Baby Clothes for Elimination Communication
Ideally, you need to be able to get their bum on the potty about as quickly as you can/could whip out your boob for feeding. We have nursing bras for feeding – so what are the clothes for Elimination Communication?
There is a lot of talk and specialist items, but you’ll find you’re constrained by temperature most of all. It’s important in the UK climate to have warm enough clothes, and with a newborn it’s hard to do that without at least a vest that poppers up under other layers. Remember, American videos that describe t-shirts, nappy and long socks or EC nappy belts may be in much hotter climate, or have very hot central heating compared to the UK.
Really the key isn’t which clothes you buy: it’s being able and willing to get them on the potty quickly when needed. I thought poppered up sleep suits would be difficult to remove in a hurry, but actually they’re fine to take off (just fiddly to put on again).