Shocking new stories of 5-year-old children being turned away from school because they are still in diapers are very worrying.
Compare that to reality just 100 years ago when all children were dry before their 1st birthday. Or even just 50 years ago before the success of the disposable diaper, which increased the average toilet trained age from12-18 months up to today’s average of 3 years old.
It is clear that society has undergone a fundamental shift in the perception of toilet training.
From something which used to be considered as another dimension in child-rearing that had to be taught/learned, like walking, weaning, eating with a fork, and the like, to something that should be avoided, not talked about, and hidden away in a diaper, until the child shows you he is ready.
In 1960 a leading diaper company along with a noted pediatrician developed and promoted the idea of waiting for a set of readiness signals before which potty training should not be started.
This idea was adopted quickly and now 50 years later, despite the fact that a study in 1994 The Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics found no data to support any signs of social and emotional readiness for potty training, the average age is nearly 3. What a cash cow!
However, 50% of children in the world are still dry/toilet trained before the age of 1, while in western society the majority of children are spending their 3rd birthday in diapers.
Can we un-learn this thinking? Can we change? Do we want to?
A growing movement of people practices something called Elimination Communication (EC). The concept is also called Infant Hygiene, Born Ready, Infant Potty Training, Diaper Free Baby, etc.
The ethos remains the same: Babies are born with the instinct not to soil themselves and will communicate this via eye contact and body language signals to the parent/caregiver from birth.
As a new mother, you will soon attune to your baby’s cries for its basic needs of food, hunger, and comfort. Her elimination needs are no different.
What is elimination communication (EC)?
The practice of elimination communication is essential as a parent you have to learn to recognize and respond to these signals and offer the baby an opportunity to go to a chosen place or receptacle.
Encourage this behavior in your baby by cueing sound, sign language, and speech to over time develop a bond of communication and strengthen the understanding of each other.
Elimination Communication is not a new concept. It is simply going back to the way humans dealt with “potty training” in caveman times. Now clearly we do not live in caveman times and what is acceptable in society has changed and so EC has adapted as well.
A common misconception of elimination communication is that it is too messy and complicated and that it would not fit into modern life.
What is important to remember is that to practice EC does not mean that you surrender yourself to living in waste until you have “figured it out”. There are many ways of doing it and elimination communication can easily be incorporated into any lifestyle. (You won’t even need to tell anyone).
Use a diaper all the time, some of the time or not at all, the choice is totally yours and will only marginally affect the success rate, but be ready to whip the diaper off and offer the potty when you see the signs that your baby needs to go.
The crucial thing to remember is that you are not relying on the diaper, it is purely there as a backup if and when you feel that being diaper-free is not possible.
If you do choose to use diapers, the cloth version is preferable, as the key to EC is to capitalize and build on your baby’s innate wish to not wet the soil itself. The disposable diaper is now so absorbent it slightly defeats its purpose where EC is concerned.
Does elimination communication work?
As with everything with a newborn baby, be it your first or third, there is a steep learning curve and it takes time to get to know each other. If you choose to try elimination communication (EC), it is advisable to look at this as your journey together towards toilet learning rather than a shortcut to a (compared to today’s average) very young toilet-trained baby.
Remember your baby is teaching you, not the other way around. Of course, elimination communication is not about allowing your child to pee anywhere and anytime and if you find there are a lot of misses, there is likely an underlying factor such as illness, teething, emotional upheaval like new daycare, house move, etc.
The four classic stages of elimination communication (EC)
Manage your expectations by recognizing the four stages your child will go through as you implement elimination communication:
- You and your baby are in tune and you are aware of his signals.
- The baby is clearly able to communicate verbally or via signing.
- Baby no longer needs to be reminded to go to the potty and you no longer feel the need to carry spare clothes.
- Baby can now take himself to the bathroom and complete the process independently.
Does it work? Yes!
There are of course no guarantees to instant success, how you practice EC when you start, the nature of your baby, and developmental milestones are all factors to be considered, but some degree of daytime dryness can be achieved between 6-20 months.
There are so many benefits to practicing EC, primarily your baby’s hygiene as you will eliminate diaper rash and greatly reduce the risk for UTI but also the environmental and financial benefits.
Time is also a valuable commodity these days; imagine avoiding the diaper change battle every time. Just wipe, flush and go.