Family Life

Elimination Communication…It’s the S*#%


I accidentally read “The Kind Mama.” It was a gift. Out of boredom I opened it up and skimming through the pages I found this little nugget on elimination communication. I had heard of it before, but only in passing. Somewhere eons ago I recall seeing a Rosie Pope episode where she played it out with a well intentioned father to be, and it looked just as she wanted it to…utterly ridiculous and a bit disgusting. I had considered it to be a bit extreme…running to trashcans or a toilet with an infant seemed unideal to say the least. Alicia’s version sounded logical, fairly intuitive, and something I could work with.

The Kind Mama explanation is that we humans are not designed to just hang around in our waste – hence, babies crying or fussing when they are wet or soiled. Makes sense to me so far. Also, babies give little signals or signs that they need to or are eliminating. Also, makes sense. It is very common in my experience for parents to know that their child has to go or is going, but usually it’s just kind of an autopilot recognition. In my practice of elimination communication, we just started by adding on the step of making a signal word or sound to associate with the action. Bingo, bango, bongo a system has been achieved.

Well, I am sure it is not that easy, but my version is. In our house, I read The Kind Mama just before baby j’s arrival, so no code words with m, but we did start sitting her on the potty at 6 months, every night before bath just to familiarize her with the end goal. HeyBabeDaddy refused to entertain the idea of emptying one of those miniature potties so we used one of these. Working our way up from once a day at 6 months we transitioned out of daytime diapers with her at around 14 months. There were still accidents (of the #1 variety), but she was so comfortable with the routine by then I think we had a much easier time than had we started later.

When j arrived, we started with command words for #2 at around 2 months, once we were able to start reading his “gotta go” signals. Even if we missed the lead up, we tried to be consistent by telling him “poopoo” and grunting softly as he was going. I waited to start introducing him to the potty until he was holding his head up and could sit up with a bit of support. By 4 months I was rushing him to the potty when he started showing signs. Between the 4 month and 6 month mark he started trying (straining a bit) when we would sit him on the potty. He would faintly grunt and I would strip him and take him into the bathroom as quickly as I could. Sometimes it would take a few minutes, but at 6 months he was regularly peeing and/or pooping on the potty. By 8 months he was holding his poop. I didn’t really believe it at first, but he regularly would fuss until I figured out to put him on the potty and then he would eliminate. The same thing would happen if it was nap time. He would be almost hyper if he had to go until I took him to potty, and then he would fall right to sleep.

We still have him in diapers, and we are sure that potty training with him will seem like FOREVER since he started so young and children have accidents for various reasons for years sometimes, but the prospect of saving loads of laundry (when I cloth diaper) and money on disposables is something that probably brings me more joy than I should admit in public. I do a little victory dance when I go to change his diaper and it’s dry…AND THEN he goes when I put him on the potty. It didn’t occur to me that babies could be guided into such habits so young; but, as my kids have shown me, they never cease to amaze.

Here are some tips that I recommend if you are game to try it out:

  1. Come up with a plan with whomever will be with your child: Just come up with a plan that you think you can follow. For example, HeyBabeDaddy was not willing to take him to the potty and sit with him in the beginning, but he was willing to say the command words while j was in action, and then I would just quickly change his diaper so that he didn’t get used to being soiled.
  2. Be clear and consistent with the command word: We mostly use “poo poo” along with a grunt with j when he tries, and #1 or #2 happens. If you miss the cue just say it as close to the action as possible to reinforce that association as much as possible.
  3. Have the right equipment: Like I said, HeyBabeDaddy was a no go on those little portable potties. Get whatever works for your home and your family (stand alone potty seats, training seats…the great outdoors…)
  4. Give yourself a chance to succeed: As with a lot of things building a routine and a habit help. I try to take j to the potty when m goes or just before we leave the house as well as other strategic times that work for my day. Yes, the more opportunities you give them, the easier it will become; but, if it drives you crazy, you are not as likely to stick with it.
  5. Have patience and have fun: Babies can tell when you are stressed out or aggravated. Again, our process was not to run him to the potty at first, nor did we take him out of diapers. I was not up for anymore poop clean up than absolutely necessary. Have a fun toy for baby and a comfortable perch for you. Also, make sure to celebrate success. We have an awesome potty song that both kids love to hear when they make the magic happen on cue.

Good Luck! I would love to know how it goes if you are willing to try or plan on trying.

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