My husband teases me about being a bit of a crunchy mom. Crunchy as in granola. Natural home birth mom, breastfeeding mom, babywearing mom, co-sleeping mom, attachment parenting mom, cloth nappies mom. I’m a walking stereotype, really. Anyway, right up there with all the crunchy stuff is a little-known practice called EC. I wrote about it back in 2008 when I did it with Kolya. Thought I’d revisit the topic in honour of Molly-Rose, who’s made it a walk in the park.
EC is shorthand for elimination communication, which is a stupidly long name for a very simple thing. I met a British childminder recently, a woman in her 60s, who listened to me talking about it and declared, ‘Oh yes, they showed us how to do that back when I was doing my nanny course. They called it holding out – because you hold the baby over the potty or loo.’
Which is exactly what you do: hold them over the potty or the loo. Once a twice a day. Or when you think they might need to go. It’s easy to figure out: every baby has their own rhythms (typically they’ll need to go when they wake up, either just before or during or after feeding). And each baby has her own signals, too.
People make a bit of a fuss about EC. I don’t really see the fuss. The way I see it, it’s part of a continuum of related needs: hunger, wind, the need to eliminate. Each of these works on a negative feedback system – hunger escalates; as it does, the signals escalate (fidgetiness, grumbling, eventually crying) until the need is satiated. Then the signals subside. Drinking often entails taking in gulps of air, which can result in trapped bubbles causing discomfort (wind). Again, the pain will cause your baby to signal in a variety of ways – from gestures like waving her arms and legs about, to wriggling and squirming, to grunting, grumbling and crying. Toilet needs and gas are both elimination needs – a basic need to respond to an increasing sense of physical discomfort from something that’s in the body, that needs to be expelled. As I discussed in my previous blog post on the topic, I reckon that if more people put their kids on the potty, we’d have less mysterious “colic” and happier small people.
The toughest bit about EC isn’t the effort of doing it. The toughest bit is having to explain it to people that have never heard of it, and learning to bite your lip when people behave like you’re some sort of nutty tribal warrior. Truth is, it’s extremely simple (all you need is a nearby loo, or a potty, or even a designated old plastic container), extremely obvious (as you learn to notice when your kid needs the loo, it becomes second nature to open up her nappy and put her on the potty or loo) and extremely satisfying (to listen to and watch your child in such a way that you can respond to her needs in a respectful way.