Elimination Communication (EC) is an alternative to full-time diapering where a caregiver responds to the instinctive signals babies give signaling their need to eliminate. Caregivers offer babies a potty, toilet, or other appropriate place to eliminate when one of these signals is noticed. Caregivers can also use timing (e.g. offering just upon waking) and intuition (feeling like the baby needs to eliminate) to determine when to offer their baby a chance to potty.
The first step in starting EC is the awareness that it is possible and that it is not early potty training. It is simply responding to a need in the same way a caregiver responds to hunger or sleep cues. Why would babies be born with the ability to express the need for hunger or sleep but not the ability to express the need to eliminate?
Since our culture has largely lost touch with the recognizing signs of impending, elimination many parents are confused with how to start, or feel it will be too time consuming. There are some simple steps that can be taken to help caregivers get started with EC.
Use Every Opportunity
Many parents start with a period of observation to become more familiar with their baby's signals, but you can also start by offering at the most likely times such as just upon waking, during or after nursing, and at diaper changes. The excitement generated by starting to "catch" can provide the momentum to keep going. EC is easier to understand once you start catching and communicating.
Use Cloth Diapers, Training Pants or Underwear
Using some form of cloth "back-up" helps your baby to stay aware of the feeling of being wet. Even when using disposable diapers slipping a piece of a washcloth or other similar piece of fabric inside the diaper can help keep a baby in touch with the feeling of wetness.
Use a "Matter-of-Fact" Approach
When first starting EC the first few catches can be very exciting, but for babies it is the expectation they are born with. Babies expect their signals that they need to eliminate to be responded to with the chance to eliminate away from their bodies. Well-meaning excitement and praise can be confusing to babies and leave them with the impression that they've done something wrong. If they are only doing what babies are supposed to do, why is there so much excitement?
EC does not work well when stress is involved. The focus should not be on the number of catches, or even on EC as a bonding activity. Bonding is something that takes place over a period of time as a parent cares for a baby in a variety of ways. When one single practice is emphasized, whether it is breastfeeding or EC, as a way to bond it can create more pressure on parents. EC simply offers another caregiving tool.
Get Information and Support
EC is the modern adaptation of an ancient practice common to an entire community. It was ingrained through observation and practice and was as matter-of-fact as eating. A parent only had to look to any other member of the community for support, and didn't have the stress of being accused of practicing EC out of a motivation to be a "super parent".
In our modern culture we have lost touch with the community aspect of EC. Support organizations, such as DiaperFreeBaby, are filling this void. DiaperFreeBaby has in-person as well as virtual support. They have a DiaperFreeBaby Shop and a free newsletter.
DiaperFreeBaby also has a getting started with EC program and website called The DiaperFreeChallenge(TM).
Make It Your Own
I will admit it...I watch American Idol. I just got finished watching it tonight. Anyone who watches it knows that most of the judges are constantly pleading with contestants to "make it their own". On American Idol they are talking about giving the songs their own unique twist. In the case of EC I am offering it as a reminder that the process is a journey that is a little different for each family. We live in a melting-pot culture which gives us the freedom to parent a variety of ways. EC isn't a set of rules to be followed exactly. There shouldn't be stress about doing it the "right way".