Elimination Communication: Is the Diaper on the Endangered List?

Elimination communication (EC) is a practice by which a caretaker trains a baby to reduce or eliminate his need for diapers. As radical as it sounds, it has been proven to work in many cultures, such as third world countries where disposable diapers are not available. There is now a growing western trend to use EC on infants long before the usual age of “potty training”. It has slowly gained recognition in the U.S. after being featured on popular television programs like “Good Morning America” and in magazines such as “Parenting” and “American Baby”.

Author Ingrid Bauer coined the term “elimination communication”. Her book, Diaper Free! The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene, was written after she had traveled to countries such as India and had noticed that many of their children did not wear diapers. Even stranger, these babies did not seem to be having any “accidents”. Their methods would be learned by Bauer who, in turn, raised her children with minimal use of diapers and passed that knowledge onto others.

The process of EC is based around reading a baby’s cues. Much of Dr. William Sears’ Attachment Parenting” philosophies apply to EC. Close physical and emotional bonding with a baby allow for a caregiver to better read the cues of an otherwise speechless child. The four fundamentals of EC are: timing, signals, cueing, and intuition. Those combined make it easier for a caregiver to place baby over a toilet to “eliminate”.

Timing is all about the physical schedule in which an infant needs to urinate or defecate. Typically, a newborn will urinate every 10-20 minutes. This is a time of their lives in which babies are very regular with their urination. As they get older, around six months of age, babies may urinate every hour while awake. While sleeping, urination may not occur at all. Timing is more difficult with bowel movements, however. Some babies move their bowels several times a day, while others only do it every other day.

One also reads signals to know when baby needs to eliminate. Every baby has a different signal before they go. Grunting, facial expressions, a particular cry or sound, are all examples of an elimination signal. Some babies become restless while feeding right before they move their bowels or urinate. It is up to the caregiver to learn what signals their baby demonstrates.

Another component of successful EC is cueing. These are cues that the caregiver sends to the baby so that he knows it is alright to eliminate. For instance, one culture has a cue of blowing on a baby’s head to signal that the baby is in the right place. Some people use training, portable potties and some use a full-size toilet to hold the baby over. Consistency and repetition are important for the baby to learn cues.

All of these methods would be useless without good, old fashioned intuition. The closeness between guardian and child help to foster a mutual understanding. The more a child is held and communicated with, the stronger the intuition will be. Elimination communication isn’t for everyone. The idea may seem a bit radical to some and if sufficient time can’t be devoted to it, there will be messy results. However, it has worked for many people and experts in the subject claim the children will be healthier for it.

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