What did people do before Diapers?
*A Gentle Reminder to Readers: Diapering and Elimination Practices are not a One Size Fits all for every baby & family. The following blog post is not meant to persuade anyone into this specific type of Elimination Practice. You know what works best for you & your family. No judgements here, only open minds & hearts as Always on this Blog. Enjoy the fun Journey that I share below & how it has made me a better Mama & more Mindfully Present with my Son*
This is a special blog for starters. One because, it’s something I’ve become Super passionate about but more importantly, we have our first contributor to a Mindful Mama Blog Post that’s NOT a Birth Story! You may have read her EPIC Birth Story about her twin baby girl’s on the blog, but she’s ALSO a Mama who practices Elimination Communication! She’s not only a powerhouse Mama, but also a Psychologist. Her personal but also Professional opinion on this practice can add great value to us all!
One of my favorite things to talk to others about, parents and non-parents is EC, or Elimination Communication. I love seeing people’s faces when they come over our house and Paulie signals he has to use the Potty and I take him to the Toilet or when they see a small potty in our bathroom that a typical toddler would use. It absolutely compels people to ask more questions. This is SUCH a foreign concept to Western Cultures and it’s often met with raised eyebrows and wide eyes. However, being diaper free is very common in many Eastern cultures, European cultures, and especially in less industrialized cultures who do not have access to diapers.
Yes, I LOVE talking about all things pee, poop & potty. I’m That Mama. I had heard about EC Years before I even got pregnant or married. It always fascinated me that you could be so in-tune with your child that you actually know when they have to eliminate WAY before they can even speak or use hand sign language to communicate such needs. The idea was SO crazy that I was totally enamored as I watched YouTube videos of parents holding newborns over toilets or sinks and that they went to the bathroom on command. But then, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. In Western cultures we train a baby for them to eliminate anytime, on themselves and then we have to totally “un-train” them of this Years later and then re-train them to hold and eliminate on a Toilet. No wonder “typical” potty training is so hard !
In short, EC is a practice where a caregiver uses timing, signals, cues and intuition to address an infant’s need to eliminate waste. As a Caregiver who practices EC, we try to recognize and respond to babies bodily needs and offer them to eliminate in another place besides their diaper, such as a toilet.
Dr. Melissa Schroeder speaks about her experience: “My 5 week old daughter just peed in my sink, and so did her twin sister. When you tell that to friends and family, they sorta think you’re ridiculous. However, when you explain the science (yes actual science) behind EC, they sorta think you’re a genius. Here’s the nerdy background on it: ever hear of Pavlov? The guy with the dogs and bells? Well, any pet owner can thank him for learning how to train their animal to do ANYTHING on “command.” I put that in quotes because this is really just the product of classical conditioning. In short, when any involuntary action (e.g., peeing) is paired with a neutral stimulus (e.g., saying pssss), the once neutral stimulus becomes a conditioned stimulus that can now elicit that response. This is why we sometimes have to pee when we hear running water, which sounds a lot like our own ::ehem:: running water. Throw a little operant conditioning in there with a reinforcer (e.g., yay mommy is so happy, ah what a relief) and you have a double whammy. With EC, our babies learn that peeing in a potty feels a lot better than being wet and dirty. You can take conditioning a step further and pair peeing or pooping with the sign for bathroom- you know the, “I got your nose” hand gesture? Just make that and twist your wrist back and forth while your little one is eliminating.”
What’s great about EC is it’s totally up to you how committed you want to be with it. It could be full-time, part-time or just on special occasions. There’s NO pressure at all for how often you do this. It takes patience and time investment in the beginning, but it’s SO worth it! Even for older babies and even toddlers heading into toilet training years in Westernized cultures, the resources below can be SO helpful!
Dr. Melissa Schroeder also writes, “As mentioned early, EC can be done to any degree. What about when I’m out of the house? Here are a few tips: keep a training potty in your car, educate friends and family and use their toilets by either holding your little one over it or sitting on the toilet with your baby between your legs, squat outside with your child between your legs. No matter how faithful you are to EC, every little bit helps for many reasons. There will likely be less struggle over getting a potty training-ready toddler to sit on a toilet when they have been doing so for as long as they can remember. Additionally, they are more body-aware by having learned what certain sensations mean at a very early age. The best part- you will be bonding with your child in another way by providing them with relief and giving them a language to communicate a basic need. That’s all we really want as parents, to make our children comfortable and happy. So what do you have to lose? Give it a try, it’s easier than you think.”
Think about it, we do this attunement ALL THE TIME with our little ones.
All day every day. Just for OTHER biological needs such as eating, sleeping, and even changing their diapers. Think of what babies do when they are hungry, what physical cues do they give us to communicate that need? (Ex: increase movement, suck their hand, engage in “rooting” behaviors, make certain cries) Now think of when babies get sleepy, what physical cues do they give us? (Ex: rubbing their eyes, yawning, “zoning out”) You get the jest. I came to learn it’s the SAME exact thing when babies have to Eliminate!
They display just as many physical cues if not more when they need to urinate or defecate.
There’s also many benefits to using EC ! (see info graphic below & I put PubMed Research Articles at the end in Resources Section for you so you can check the Medical Literature on its efficacy. This isn’t just some crunchy Mama practice, science is backing it up).
(Infographic from GoDiaperFree.com)
EC broke SO many barriers to me in regards to how I view babies and even my own son. Babies are Not Dumb or helpless or unable to communicate their needs. They do so in amazing ways since the moment they are born; so we as caregivers can address all their biological needs like eating, sleeping and also eliminating. But it’s our job to Listen and Respond. I was blessed enough to have a close friend that also does EC with her little ones, so it was nice to have another Mama to bounce ideas off of and how to even start this journey. I jumped with both feet in when Paulie was about 12 weeks old. Honestly, I would have started earlier, but I was listening to my body and my physical limitations while still recovering from my son’s surprise Belly Birth since I was still sore in my lower abdominal area (I knew I would be on the floor A LOT with this training).
HOW IT ALL STARTED…
I Bought the following items as we embarked on this Journey… However, I know some parents have literally just used a bowl to start and lots of towels !
1) Pet Pee Pads
2) Water Wipes
The First Step- Learning Physical Cues & Timing
This was hands down the most challenging, messy, but BRIEF part of the whole Journey. For about 2-3 days for as long as I could for periods during the day, I put a large mat down, with Puppy Pee Pads all over and just let Paulie roll around and play on the mat and pads. About every 15-20 minutes, he would urinate (yes, it was messy, but hence the pads, super easy cleanup!). After about a few hours of him being diaper free, I started to notice certain physical cues he would display right before he would urinate (he would be playing nicely and quietly then have a shift in energy to being fussy and way more vocal and then all of a sudden “zone out”, and even hit his abdomen, when peeing). For his Pooping cues, he would usually show at the end of a feed or during a feeding. His face would get flush, pass gas, make grunting sounds, pull off the bottle and not be interested in eating, and get super red in the face. See video below for an example.
When he would show either any of these cues, I would whisk the diaper off and hold him over his mini potty making the Cue/Association sound of “Pssss” which mimics the sound of Pee and “Mmmm” which mimics the sound of grunting when having a bowel movement (see video below). Over time, these sounds help him associate eliminating and the physical muscle release of his bladder as well as his bowel.
Babies are freaking GENIUSES. We just tend to get in the way.
There’s SUCH a sweet victorious feeling after “catching” your first poop or pee. The very first Poop catch is all sorts of happy dances for Mama & baby. Think of ALL you typically need to clean up after a poop, and now think of the idea that all you MIGHT need is ONE baby wipe or piece of toilet paper. I literally can see the money being saved every poop or pee! HA!
Paulie is SO happy, especially after he poops when he does not go in his diaper. He often dances and even giggles.
It’s so rewarding to see how much more comfortable he is when he’s able to eliminate in other places besides in his diaper.
It’s an honor to offer him just another option so he’s not 100% dependent on diapers all of the time. Every family, and baby is different. But with Paulie, he’s a happier baby when he does not eliminate on himself and I want to respect that any way I can.
So I did this naked baby play mat deal for a few days and once I felt confident enough after a few catches I slowly moved to trying to hold him over a toilet with the training seat while holding him in a squatting position (SPLASH GUARD is a MUST have on these seats for little boys, because well, Penises). Here’s some videos below of what this looks like! You can even see the non-verbal communication between Paulie & I too while he eliminates and how he looks for cues from me too to release.
So wait are you doing this every 15-20 minutes now ? NO way. After about a month of doing EC part-time and Paulie wearing diapers (both cloth and disposables), we’re getting the hang of it ! After a few days of tracking and learning cues and timing I only offer Paulie to use the Toilet When he actually communicates with cues to poop or pee, upon waking from a sleep, before sleep, after a feeding, and after a transfer such as getting out of a car seat, bouncer, etc…).
Think of the times you often need to use the bathroom yourself, same deal!
I’m so thankful for EC. It has restored parts of my communication gaps with Paulie that I think were created once we stopped breastfeeding.
I regained a sense of confidence in him, me and my ability to still be a kick ass Mama and be in tune with his needs. It also has saved me money on diapers and wipes and less MESS believe it or not. It’s such a sense of satisfaction when I can’t remember the last time I changed a diaper filled of poop. There will be messes and misses and also catches but if you have the presence, the patience and the desire to attune more to your little ones needs give it a try ! Here’s some pictures of some EC in action !
Feel free to leave a comment below and we can connect if you have more questions about this process ! Also, feel free to join our Facebook Community Group to connect with others !
It Takes a Village,
Melissa & Dr. Melissa Schroeder
:: Resources ::
- Helpful Videos Below: