I first blogged about our new adventure of EC (elimination communication). For those who do not remember, do not know, or are new around here it's essentially boiled down to as 'early potty training.' Now, true ECers or super crunchy mamas might scoff at me for calling it that but honestly that's the easiest way to describe it without going into it. To describe ECing by going into it the idea is that babies are born with the natural instinct to not soil themselves; this being supported by how common it is for babies to urinate/poop when their diaper is off. The socially recognized idea for this happening is that it is caused by the cold air touching the bum and genitals but in the ECing world this is not the belief. Have I lost you yet? I've often heard ECing be referred to as 'parent training.' I get it, I spent probably over an hour a day for months sitting on the bathroom floor as Gabriel got some toilet time. But think of it this way, your child communicates to you when s/he's hungry, tired, or bored right? Well why wouldn't your child communicate with you when s/he needs to use the bathroom? If a child can walk to the fridge to tell you when s/he is hungry why couldn't s/he walk to the toilet to tell you s/he needs to use the bathroom? If you think of it this way, then it's not parent training at all, its just identify and listening to how your child communicates their needs.
Though not very common in practice here in The States (how many of you have actually heard the term ECing?) it's basically standard practice in every other part of the world. Did you know that the age at which children stop using diapers is much higher in the US than many other countries? Did you know that the age at which children stop wearing diapers began growing exponentially with the introduction of the disposable diaper? And though the pull-up is advertised as a way to help kids potty train and transition to underwear when it was introduced the average age at which children potty train went up again?* Many countries in the world don't have the luxury of using disposable diapers thus instead they focus on elimination communication, learning the body language and cues of their child that are presented at the time of needing to pee and poop as well as providing verbal cues for those actions.
As you are probably already piecing together, this is a hot topic, what parenting topic isn't? I want to stop here before I go any farther and say that by no means is ECing for everyone and which ever way you choose to go about transitioning from diapers to the toilet and at whatever age that happens is totally fine by me- it's your child and I'm not here to tell you how to do your job or make you feel guilty, I'm just simply sharing my experience because it's unique to our culture and I've had people interested in what we've done. There is no right or wrong here. I also want to admit that though I'm going to try and EC again with Brenik, I'm not as optimistic about it going as successfully as it did with Gabriel. This time around I'll also have a toddler so I don't feel like I'll have the adequate amount of time each day to commit to ECing.
A girl friend of mine first mentioned the exercise to me and initially I found it odd since I never heard of it before but I was also simultaneously super intrigued, fascinated and convinced that the idea would work- I was also motivated greatly by the idea of not washing poopy diapers for much longer (yes we cloth diapered too). I approached Chris about the experiment but my excitement was met with far less enthusiasm than I expected... I'm pretty sure he thought I was an idiot (okay not that harsh but you get the idea) for thinking this would work. I was caught off guard by his lack of support because typically he's really supportive, somehow though I eventually got him to agree to purchase a child's toilet seat cover for the bathroom. Some people practice ECing with a child's training toilet but I honestly just didn't care to have to clean that out all the time; let's just catch the poops and pee in an actual toilet and flush it rather than in a child's toilet to then dump the bucket in a toilet to flush and then wash said bucket.
I can't remember whether the first time we put Gabriel on the toilet seat was after a nap or feeding but either way his very first sit was at 5 months old when Chris was around and thank the LORD it was a success! Chris quickly (I mean INSTANTLY) switched from being a skeptic to a ginormous supporter. From that moment on we began sitting Gabriel on the toilet after naps and nursing and at those times we made a cuing sound (we chose 'tss tss tss' for peeing and 'uh uh uh' for pooping) and when we noticed he was either peeing or pooping in his diaper we'd make the cuing sound at that time too. Because we were focusing so much on his bodily functions it didn't take us long to notice he had a pretty routine pooping schedule so when we knew it was about that time we'd sit him on the toilet, make cuing noises and hangout until he had a bowel movement and within a month we were successfully catching all poops in the toilet- yes Gabriel became toilet trained for pooping at 6 months. Let my run that by you again, I stopped changing pooping diapers once my son was 6 months old.
I would be lying if I said it wasn't a huge time commitment in the beginning (as previously mentioned). Each sit on the toilet could easily be upwards of 20 minutes and during that time I'd be cuing and entertaining through talking, playing and reading books. Never was this time forced, he loved all the one on one time like any child and couldn't care less where it happened. We also had a mirror directly in front of the toilet for him which he enjoyed as well. Please understand that, this was not forced time, Gabriel very much enjoyed his time and if he hadn't we wouldn't have sat there so long. For me being a stay at home mom with just the one kid, the time commitment was worth it to stop changing poopy diapers at 6 months of age (remember, we did cloth).
I wish catching pees were as easy as poops but sadly they were much more difficult for several reasons. Totally committed ECers let their child hangout naked a lot to more easily make a connection between their child's natural body cues and urinating. I didn't really care to have Gabriel pee everywhere so we didn't do this, we focused more on the logical times we'd expect him to pee (like adults- after sleep and drinking). If you google ECing you'll also come across people who carry around pee/poop pots everywhere, once again we weren't that committed. When we were out and about we just let Gabriel go in his diaper and only really focused on ECing when we were home- this did though became an obvious issue later in the process.
My goal was to have Gabriel potty trained (beside sleep time) by a year and a half. At around 15 months we purchased trainer underwear. If you haven't heard of or seen training underwear they're pretty great, they feel and look just like underwear but there is a little bit of extra cushion in the bottom so little pee leaks are somewhat absorbed instead of leaking straight through. We started out just using the underwear here and there in the morning and evenings (middle of the day during errands we didn't worry about it) when it was convenient for us since we were moving to Japan shortly and didn't want the full commitment as one more thing on the to-do list.
When we got to Japan (where there is no carpeting) Gabriel was 17 months. I started putting Gabriel in the trainer underwear more regularly but continued to rely on diapers for errands and trips on the weekend. It didn't take too long for me to notice that the end of the weeks were typically more successful than the beginning of the weeks after spending an entire weekend in diapers. It made sense, it had to be terribly confusing for him to use the bathroom in his pants some days and other days not. We tried to then go straight into underwear 24/7 but at the last second trying to find a toilet in Tokyo, while on a train, or walking shrines turned out to be far more challenging than expected and we were getting a lot of potty puddles in the stroller as well as wearing it ourselves. We got frustrated, felt defeated and went back to the sometimes wearing underwear, sometimes not and sometimes just strictly diapers.
I was all over the page not quite sure what to do. It got the point where Gabriel just wasn't interested in sitting on the toilet anymore besides for poops and he would fight it. We never forced him to use the bathroom, I didn't want him to have a bad connotation with it, so in those times we either used more diapers or had more accidents. I'll be honest, I was incredibly disappointed when we reached 1.5 years old and we hadn't also accomplished being potty trained for peeing. Because he poop trained so easily and quickly I didn't think it would take over a year to get pee trained. After all though, he was only 1.5 years old and had been pooping on the toilet for a year, that's pretty amazing and I tried to remain focused on that.
Once I didn't make the 1.5 years old goal I set a new goal of before 2nd baby arrived (so essentially 2 years old) because I really didn't want to have to be managing two diapered children at once. About a month before leaving Japan (20 months old) I decided to give it one more valiant effort. Gabriel had grown quite a bit over the recent few months so when it came time to give peeing on the toilet a go I instead stood him next to the toilet on my feet and he went! We quickly realized that Gabriel much more preferred this method because it was a quick in-and-out that didn't interfere with all his other very exciting and entertaining toddler activities. We quickly went from upwards of 5-6 accidents throughout the day to just a couple. He also began communicating with him about whether or not he needed to go. If he said no, he usually didn't, if he was quiet that meant he probably did. If we thought he needed to go even though he said he didn't we'd tell him we were going to try anyways. When we went to the park we'd talk about how he was in underwear and if he needed to go potty he had to tell me, if he went in his pants we'd have to go home and clean up and leave the park and that seemed to resonate with him. We also taught him our own developed sign for toilet (we found the actually ASL sign too difficult for a baby/toddler) that he would also use. When he had accidents never once did we scold or embarrass him, we'd simply say 'bummer' clean up and keep going. We also used an incentive- whenever Gabriel successfully used the toilet he'd get a single chocolate chip which was a big deal to him.
As he got a little older he wouldn't pee as frequently and just like his poop schedule we noticed there were times that he just always peed, like while sitting in his highchair at meal time. Once we noticed that we were constantly having accidents at meal times, we started taking Gabriel to the toilet before sitting down, making sure of course to ask him beforehand giving him the opportunity to tell us.
When we flew back to The States (21 months) we did have a lapse for a couple weeks because of all the traveling, visits, and outings. Once things settle down we got back into wearing a diaper only when sleeping. Errands in the beginning were extremely long because Gabriel found a lot of enjoyment out of trying out all the public restrooms (I'd take along a little container of chocolate chips so he'd get one for outing toilet success too). A quick 10 minute trip into Target easily became a 30-40 trip because of the 3+ trips to the toilet most of which did not result in any bodily elimination. Though frustrating, it was nice to see that Gabriel was starting to tell us he needed to go even if he didn't really need to go. At first we would hit the restroom upon entering the store and then when exiting on our own initiative and then throughout the stay in the store on Gabriel's. After time the newness wore off and Gabriel would ask less and less to use the toilet and we eventually switched to only hitting up the restroom on our way out of stores.
Until about 22 months Gabriel was allowed to hangout in his diaper in the morning and after nap until it was time to use the toilet. Just like it hit me that underwear on the weekdays and diapers on the weekends was confusing, so was diaper every day in the mornings and afternoons briefly but underwear ever time else. We switched to the diaper coming off IMMEDIATELY after getting out of bed; diaper comes off, Gabriel takes it to the trash, and then he picks out which pair of underwear he'd like to wear. At around 23 months we upgraded from the trainer underwear to actual briefs, his having Thomas which makes picking which pair to wear that much more exciting. Getting new underwear was a BIG deal, he loved it and made the whole experience that much more enjoyable. Gabriel was very proud of the new underwear he got to wear because he was doing so well with using the toilet.
It's hard to say exactly when Gabriel potty trained but I consider my goal of by 2 years met. At 25 months we still have an accident every now and then (typically on longer car rides) but they are few and far between. When we're at home we rarely need to remind him to use the toilet. At friends' houses and in stores I still do ask him quite often but that's not because he necessarily won't tell me, it's more because I just don't want to clean up an accident in those places so I'm a little naggy. I do though respect his responses unless it's right before we are getting in the car, he has to try then. We're still in diapers for sleep and I imagine that will continue until he's able to reach the toilet on his own as well as pull his underwear up and down on his own which we are starting to work on.
As I said, we'll absolutely be trying to EC with Brenik and hope to have a smoother transition with less accidents based off the knowledge we now have from the experience with Gabriel. However, we acknowledge that Brenik is not Gabriel and that we also have a toddler to tend to in addition to our baby so though it would be nice to be done with poopy diapers at 6 months and have Brenik potty trained by 2 years, it may not happen that way. What I love about ECing is that it alleviates the 'when do we start potty training' question. Kids who EC are familiar to the toilet from the beginning and it's as normal to their life as anything else their body needs.
No two kids achieve this amazing feat the same, even in the same family. Every parent approaches this milestone for their child a little or a lot different. Once again, my intentions with this post were simply to share our experience. If you have any questions that are lingering after reading this post or in addition to what I've shared, please do not hesitate to ask!
*The actual statistics can be found in the book The Diaper Free Baby by Christine Gross-Loh