Ever heard of “elimination communication”? I hadn’t either until I asked villagers in Myanmar what they did when their bare-bottomed infants had to poop or pee. “Take them to the toilet,” the women told me with a shrug.
I was four months pregnant when my husband and I traveled through Southeast Asia. All of the naked baby bottoms fascinated me, partly because of my idealistic determination to save the world from disposable diapers. I figured if Burmese women could potty-train their infants, so could I.
That was my first mistake. I should’ve known women living in the mountains of Myanmar were tougher than me. Oblivious to the literal shit storm about to descend, I researched “babies without diapers” and learned about EC. I bought the book Diaper Free Baby and a cute infant potty seat. I calculated all the money we’d save on diapers.
It was remarkably easy at first. My son peed on command at 3 days old while I made the carefully rehearsed “psss” sound. “Why doesn’t everyone do this?” I asked my husband smugly. Those first few months at home with my son, I was ridiculously proud each time I caught his poop or pee in the potty. And I did it often!
Then I went back to work. Strike one for EC.
Next, our son started crawling, losing all interest in staying still. Strike two. Then he started eating solid food in earnest. Game over. Once our son started chowing down, I gave up trying to catch it out the other end. A few smelly brown mishaps (picture Nightmare on Elm Street but with poop instead of blood) left me with a new respect for the women in Myanmar, who must have stomachs of steel and the patience of Buddha.
I learned to appreciate the convenience of disposable diapers—and ignore the pangs of guilt as they disappeared into a land fill. We bought them by the Costco-load.
Then a friend who had also practiced EC told me that her 18-month-old son was already potty-trained.
I dug out the little potty and started “psssing” at my son again, giving him stretches of diaper-free time each day. At first, it was a 50-50 chance he’d spray the carpet with pee instead of the potty. But after a week, he started heading over to use his potty without any cues at all.
My takeaway: EC doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Even used occasionally, EC is a great way to help your baby become aware of and comfortable with bodily functions so it’s less of a leap to get out of diapers as a toddler. Here are a few tips for practicing EC:
Make it work for your lifestyle. Find your comfort zone. Start by cueing between diaper changes and work up to longer shifts of bare-bottom time. Maybe you try going diaper-free only when it’s warm enough to stay outdoors.
Keep containers handy. Babies don’t have the muscle control to hold it while you run for the toilet. Try placing bowls or containers throughout the house (and in the car) as makeshift potties to prevent accidents while practicing.
Find your sense of potty humor. This above all. Resurrect those silly elementary-school jokes. Laughing makes it a lot easier to deal with the inevitable mess-ups. Plus, babies might sense the stress if we take it too seriously, making them too tense to let that pee flow.
Commiserate with friends. Diaperfreebaby.org has a list of local groups that meet to talk about EC, or you can form your own band of supportive parents to bravely bare baby bums together.
Written by Brianna Randall for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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