EC and its tribulations

When L was just a few months old one of the Aunties in my Indian Family Friends circle spoke of the wisdom and help that her mother gave during the raising of my auntie’s three sons. “She had them toilet trained by 9 months of age,” Auntie said.

Nine months? As if that is even possible, was my initial thought. I have it on good authority from the American Academy of Pediatrics that children are not ready to toilet train until they are 18 months old. The board says so, for goodness sake! What about the cloth diapers that I know and love? Ok: the truth is I do love them, but I will be thoroughly thrilled when L is able to use the potty. But that’s years away, right? Or is it?

Forget the many cultures – Indian culture included – in which the traditional diaper concept only exists because of Western influence.  In countries where diapers do not exist, children have to be supervised to know when they are going to go, and they have to be cleaned up afterward.  My memories of the tiny triangular cloth masquerading as a diaper – which mom was going to buy for my boy from India – comes back to me. And the little servant boy who would run around the flat diaperless and when potty time would come he was taken to a room and a little string was placed on his foot so he’d have to do his business there before getting to run around again. And of course the “Sssssss” sound my parents, and T’s parents, make when they are trying to see if L will do a little number one or two before they put on the next diaper.

It is all part of a technique that some Westerners call “Elimination Communication.” I’d prefer not to use this term, which sounds way too modern for me. Why give it any name, in fact? Well, just like I experience with names of diseases with which I diagnose patients, a name helps me understand that this is a technique, something real, something not in my head, and it is something that other people experience. Some great websites outline the benefits and techniques of EC including the advocacy site diaperfreebaby and Mayim Bialik’s Blog.

This is for all the times that I’ve just *known* that L was going to make a poo, and all those times I’ve experienced him fulfilling the prophecy in his freshly laid diaper. During these times, I never really thought that I was experiencing communication with my son which was guiding my intuition. But that’s what “EC” is – it is not toilet training, but it is recognizing a child’s pattern and needs and being sensitive to when they are communicating what they are doing. The easiest way to do it is via timing: case in point, L always poos in the morning, first thing. So when I hear him waking up I can be pretty sure that he is going to do it soon. Beyond timing, there are also physical cues children express before they go to the bathroom.  Of course, remember that this is *not* toilet training – this is not coercive to a child; it simply involves trying to follow a child’s cues.  EC doesn’t have to be done all the time – it can be and there are women in the US who do not even diaper their babies at all.  Well, that test is a little too much for me in my carpeted home, so I’m going for the easier methods of implementation.

So today I decided to put theory to test and scooped up the little one as soon as he woke up.  He was starting to make grunting sounds and I “knew” (ok, hoped) that number 2 was on the way. So I laid him on the changer, made “Ssss” sounds per L’s grandparents’ recommendations, and brought his legs up and told him it was ok to go poo now.  I lifted him up and carried him to the toilet, held him securely, and then I waited. And waited. And waited.  Nothing. I brought L back to the changing table, and suddenly as I reached to get his new diaper I heard it and rushed to put the diaper underneath him.  This part has happend many times before: I caught the poo.  He stopped, but I thought that there was more on the way.  So I lifted him up and took him over to the toilet  (Whaaat?) and held him pretty securely. I noticed that when he was in mid-air he seemed a bit hesitant, but as I let him rest slightly on the seat and really supported his head and shoulders, he was able to go (at least a little) in the toilet.  Triumphant, I congratulated him, took him to the sink and gave him a little wash, and put him back in his diaper. Throughout the day, when I could, I tried to anticipate and catch “bathroom incidents” though at this point he just goes in a fresh diaper. I haven’t really tried to do the journey to the toilet again.  Don’t want to overwhelm the day’s successes and as the websites say, it’s no problem to do EC intermittently.  Any event which gives me one less diaper to wash counts as a success to me! And to my Mommy, Daddy, and Ma: there’s another “tick” for your tally that grandparents know better than the pediatrician mommy!

2 thoughts on “EC and its tribulations”

  1. I really enjoyed this post and am so glad that I found it! I have talked very little with my daughter’s pediatrician about EC, but I think she considers me crazy. It’s nice to hear from someone with a medical background as well as family influences that do not traditionally use diapers, and to know that you see the logic in this way as well. You explain it beautifully!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment; it’s nice to know that people are reading my blog! I never thought about EC until I read more about it on Autumn’s website I had seen it on a few mommy website but when I read more about it it made more sense. We are taught as pediatricians that toilet training is not to be attempted and can be psychologically damaging if done too early. As a previous student of the History of Science, it is really interesting to learn about how medical theories come into practice so the “wikipedia” article was illuminating for me. It all helps me understand why and how toilet training is done the way it is in the Western World – someone led us to think that way. There are always so many ways to do things; people have been raising children for thousands of years prior to us coming up with our psychological theories, and if we have the time and energy to follow our child’s cues about their elimination habits, why not follow them?

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