Having done everything to its fullest with my first child I thought I’d try Elimination Communication in a slightly more relaxed way with my second child. I tend to be an all or nothing kind of person which has its positive and negative aspects!
Niwha was born at home in the birthing pool in an hour and twenty minutes! You can read more about that here. I was in ‘baby moon’ mode for a few weeks. It was wonderful. I decided not to attempt to catch pees and poos for a few days (had to hold myself back! It was a good challenge for me.) On day 5 I accidently caught a poo on a nappy over the change table.
Ok, time to start acting on the signals that I had been looking for since birth. It was great. I caught some and missed lots and it was ok! This time around I’ve used nappies so much more. Eli was out of nappies at about 3 months!!! How did we do that?! We used padded undies that were way too big initially, but were a good back up. I prioritised Eli’s need to go over everything else. I’d stop the car when I thought he needed to go. I’d park in a place where I could use the bushes when he wasn’t keen on the potty – generally just for pee, but occasionally he’d catch me out and I’d be picking up poo or burying it as best I could.
Child number 2 is so different. You just can’t imagine being busier when you have one child. Then the second one arrives and wahoa it’s busier! Eli took a long time to adjust to having to share his parents. It was important to us to give him an equal if not greater amount of our attention. I just couldn’t focus on Niwha’s toileting needs enough to catch even most of his pee/poo. Niwha is now 1 year old and he is as aware of his need to go as Eli was at the same age, as far as I remember! We’ve hardly missed a poo as his signals are strong. Recently he was sitting in his high chair (often a place where he needs to poo – in one end, out the other!) and he looked at me and grunted a few times. It was really obvious. Sure enough he happily let me get him out and onto the potty where he had his poo. He has also recently slid the potty over to me and that ended in a poo in the potty too. I have definitely been more motivated to catch poos. A pee in the pants or on the floor isn’t a big deal, but a poo is a different story.
We still catch lots of pees, mostly based on timing and our thoughts that he needs to go. When we are making an effort to focus on him and remember to help him go we are rewarded with less washing. Just recently after weeks of illness – hand, foot and mouth, followed by chicken pox, I noticed that I didn’t have any washing to do for a couple of days. Ah, he’s feeling better! When he was sick, he just didn’t want help to go in the right place. We continued to try to help him without forcing him and just accepted that we’d do a bit more washing until he felt better. He even pooed his nappy a few times. Once in the middle of the night! He doesn’t poo at night anymore, hasn’t for ages. So I knew he really was sick.
Night times have been a different this time around. I helped Eli on the potty every time he squirmed before waking. It was tiring. He would then want to feed back to sleep which caused him to need to go again a couple of hours later! Or maybe he was going to wake that often anyway! Who knows. So I decided the emphasis at night this time around, was sleep. My plan was to feed Niwha when he woke at night and then try him on the potty. This was so I could leave him when he squirmed to ensure that I wasn’t actually waking him when he was just stirring and because in those first few months I knew he would need to poo and it was easier to catch it in the potty rather than change and clean a pooy nappy. Eventually he stopped needing to poo at night (around 3 months I think) and I stopped putting him on the potty. He would often need to go when he was going to sleep. Lying down for big feeds to sleep often stimulated his need to go, even just a pee. He would pull off the breast and not settle to sleep. Once I’d given him the opportunity to pee or poo on the potty he would settle down and feed to sleep. He still does this sometimes.
In order to maximise my sleep even more I bought a pack of the Moltex eco disposable nappies. This came about when we were off to a friend’s wedding, involving a weekend of camping. I just couldn’t get my head around cloth nappies for a whole weekend in a tent so at night I had him in a disposable. First time I had ever bought disposables! Didn’t think it was worth it for a while as he was peeing out of them. I thought he could go a whole night in one disposable, but it seems he just pees too much for that. So back to cloth we went. However at about 9-10 months he was sleeping sooo badly I decided to give disposables another go. I changed him between 2-4am into a cloth nappy, otherwise we’d just feed, roll over and go back to sleep. It did help me. I didn’t have to wake up as much as I would if I had to change him more often and it always took me long time to go back to sleep. So I was getting more sleep. I put these nappies in our compost to see what would happen. 6 months later they were still there barely, broken down! They also came all the way from Germany! Not ‘eco’ at all really. Guess I fell for the green washing! The only ‘eco nappy’ is ‘no nappies’. So it was back to cloth and the fabulous Brolly Sheet (you need a few!)
So at 1 year old, I’m teaching Niwha the sign for potty. Well I’m attempting to! He doesn’t normally wear a nappy when we’re at home and sometimes – when I’m feeling connected and onto it, we just wear undies when out and about too. Most of the time Niwha wears a nappy when we’re out. As he hates the carseat, I know ‘hate’ is a strong word, but at times I really think he does! We don’t get him out even when we think he needs to pee. We would for a poo! The struggle getting him back in the car seat is just not worth it!
Going ‘nappy free’ (it’s a concept rather than really free of nappies for us this time) has been and still is great. We love it. My husband loves that he can help Niwha to go to the toilet in the correct place, in a pleasant way rather than simply change a nappy. The difference is the empowerment given to Niwha. He gets to choose where he ‘goes’ rather than wearing a mobile toilet that is changed while he is passively lying on his back, at a time that is convenient to Mum or Dad. He is an active participant in his toileting and at the same time he is learning the correct place to go to the toilet. So many toilet training struggles come from parents inadvertently ‘teaching’ their babies to go in their intimate clothing, then at some age (between 18 months and 3 or older! these days) telling them that going in their pants isn’t ok anymore and now they need to go on the potty or toilet. This is confusing and upsetting for a small child.
Helping Niwha to go to the toilet is not hard, it’s not stressful and it’s very rewarding for both us and him. I’ve been heartened to read about elimination communication in many mainstream forums lately. ‘The Natural Parent’ New Zealand magazine has an article on Dr Sarah J Buckley’s MD experience of elimination communication with her 4th baby in the recent Winter edition. This ancient (in more than half the world it’s still current!) practice is being rediscovered. It is just another way of bonding with your child. Another way of practicing attachment parenting and parenting in the present moment. It is a gentle, very gentle process that involves working with your baby. They definitely let you know when they don’t want to go! When I think Niwha actually needs to go, but is not keen, I try a different place (outside on the grass often works!) or give him 5 minutes and try again and if we still ‘miss’, oh well at least I knew when he went and can have a go at catching the next one. This is a problem when he’s in a nappy. If he’s wet, I don’t know when he peed and it can be hard to pick when he needs to go again.
For more information on the ‘how to’ of nappy free you can read my other article. There are lots of great books and websites out there too. Ingrid Bauer’s ‘Diaper Free’ is inspirational, though it does encourage a very full time approach, not great for an all or nothing person like me! I’ve heard, though I haven’t read, that ‘The Diaper Free Baby’ by Christine Gross Loh is better in terms of offering part time options etc.
Elimination communication, natural infant hygiene, infant potty training or ‘nappy free’ can be done by anyone interested in working ‘with’ their child in helping them go to the toilet when they need to go and eliminating toilet training struggles. It can be done full time without nappies, full time with nappies or part time with any combination of nappies. I would recommend cloth nappies as much as you can for environmental reasons and because your baby will feel they’re wet which is a good thing! It motivates them to signal so long as their signals are being responded too.
Most of all enjoy your experience in helping your baby to go to the toilet! It is fun.