This to make up for not talking about baby poo on social media
So a few weeks ago when my baby was 19 weeks old I was changing his nappy in a pub toilet.
My friend came in half way through to use the loos and started to chat with me.
I took the nappy off, said “hang on a minute I’m just going to do something a bit unusual”. I then went into the nearby toilet cubicle, held the baby over the loo and hey presto he did a wee. And then he did a ginormous poo.
He was about 4.5 months old at that point. However, we’d started using the potty when he was about 8 weeks old (you should have seen my mum’s face when she saw him use it for the first time, now *that* was a picture).
Anyway, my friend was astounded and almost ran out of the toilets shouting about the poo.
So we had to admit it and explain it to our friends. Yes, we are doing ‘EC’.
What the hell is EC?
Essentially it’s about helping the baby to go to the toilet (potty) from birth (or whenever you start it) rather than waiting until traditional potty training. The idea is that babies are born with the instinct not to soil themselves (that’s why they’ll often wee on the changing table when they have the nappy off), and that you can eventually learn their signals to understand when they need to go and then help them. It’s actually how they manage potty training in many cultures around the world.
I hesitated about posting about this because it’s kinda personal, and once you’ve stated you’re doing something like this it feels like a) there is suddenly pressure on you to do it ‘perfectly’ 100% of the time b) you have to carry on doing it and not change your mind c) people might judge you and think you are weird d) people might think I am judging them for not doing it (no no no never!).
There have been a few sensationalist and misrepresentative articles about this recently labelling it as an ‘extreme Hipster Parenting fad’, ‘eco one-upmanship’, ‘a means for middle-class professionals to mitigate some of their first-world guilt by embracing cultural traditions from around the world’ and claiming that people who do it have ‘inherent smugness and moral superiority’ and that’s just from this one piece.
Um, okay. So no judgement there then.
…but I’m sharing about it because although it’s about poo and wee and nappies and shit like that (see what I did there?) it’s actually really cool and interesting and amazing and probably more people should know about it and well, to be honest it works for us now and if it doesn’t work later on and we stop for whatever reason that’s fine too, I don’t regret doing it (as I explain below, you don’t have to be purist about it).
Obviously this is not for everyone and everyone does things differently and manages the best they can and that’s totally cool too. (And for any feminists reading this yes there are certainly interesting things to be said about privilege and parenting styles: Raising my Boychick is useful and thought provoking on the topic.)
I think this might be a bit like baby led weaning; seen as unusual and ‘hipster’ at first but later more and more people catch on to it.
Anyway, here’s what I wrote to my friend afterwards as she wanted to know more.
Sorry for the delay in sending you info about baby poo stuff. I could honestly talk about this for ages but it’s not something you tend to raise as it’s kinda unusual…!
Ok so what it is, is a practice called ‘elimination communication’ (or EC).
This is the best summary I have found:
The video sums it up really well (she’s selling her book of course but she’s fantastic and very clear…)
You do NOT have to have your baby naked all the time! I don’t! Do not be put off by the ‘nappy free’ language, you can do it with nappies on or part time.
That website sells a PDF book, video series & forum which is AMAZING and I highly recommend it to anyone thinking of getting into it.* I basically learned how to do it just from her book and website.
Although it’s best to start as soon as possible, most people are too overwhelmed with everything else to start straight away.
We started to use the potty after about two months I think (roughly). You can get special small potties for this which you can hold between your legs and put the baby over the top. We have recently changed to a standard potty.
What we were able to do *before* that was, from the beginning, every time we heard him start a poo (trust me, you can tell!) we held in him the squat/EC pose with nappy on and used our ‘cue’ which is to say stuff like ‘oh you’re doing a poo? any more poo-poo? any more poo?’ etc until he’d finished (usually he’d cry or wriggle when he’d done).
We noticed he’d often wee during a nappy change which reinforced the idea that they instinctively want to do it ‘in the open air’ and not soil themselves (which makes sense). After time, babies lose this instinct because by only being allowed to do it in their nappy, they are effectively trained to eliminate in their nappy. Then, usually, you have to train them back…
Here are my top benefits of it:
The squat pose used in EC helps him do what he needs to do, rather than just leaving him lying flat on his back pooing. Even if you know about this one thing you can hold them in the ‘position’ with the nappy on to help them do their business.
He does most poos in the potty now. Wees are so frequent it’s harder to get all those, but I’m not bothered about doing it 100%, more about him knowing what to do on the potty (which he does).
He hardly ever has nappy rash.
Less dealing with pooey nappies and bum (in a nappy, the poo goes all over the place; if he does it in the potty it’s a much smaller clean up).
He knows that weeing and pooing in a potty is normal and does not only associate those things with having a nappy on.
It’s nice to let him wriggle around naked for a bit after a potty time, getting some fresh air, and knowing that he’s not going to suddenly wee everywhere because he just did a wee in the potty.
It sounds weird but you feel good that you’re helping him to do something he needs help to do. Just like you do with feeding. It is another way to listen and communicate with your baby and deal with their needs.
However, we tend to base our practice on timing and guessing rather than clear signals from him. So, in the morning when he wakes up, we do a potty and he almost always poos and wees. We do it during every nappy change too (as you saw the other day). We offer a ‘potty opportunity’ before we go out of the house and when coming back into the house. This is a cool benefit too as it means less chance of a nappy change needed whilst out and about if he does a wee beforehand. This simple thing alone is worth knowing about! I mean, if you can offer your baby a wee opportunity before leaving the house to save having to change a nappy whilst out isn’t this worth knowing about?
We also do things like: before we go swimming offer him the chance to do a wee in the toilet at the swimming baths (which he often does).
Before doing baby massage class I’d take him for a wee so he’d be comfortable during the massage.
We use cloth nappies at home and disposables at night and out and about. Because we do EC, we have less pooey nappies to wash at home which makes using washable nappies more bearable.
If I’m at home I will periodically offer him a ‘potty opportunity’ when I think he probably wants/needs to go.
It is actually really amazing and cool when your very young baby knows what to do when you put him over the potty…
But if it isn’t working, honestly it’s no big deal at all.
There is a helpful EC UK Facebook group that’s a private group (search for EC UK on facebook) and sometimes there are London meetings!
I’d be happy to explain more if needed.
Hope this helps!
Now you know more about baby poo than you ever thought you would!
Here is a genuine email I sent to Andrea Olson who wrote EC Simplified because I was so impressed with her book:
I have been meaning to email for a while to tell you how helpful and brilliant I think you and your book* are!
I bought your book whilst I was pregnant last year as I was interested in starting EC with my first baby. I can’t remember how I stumbled on your website but I definitely remember seeing your introduction video on YouTube and thinking how clearly you explained it and non-scary you made it seem. It didn’t take me long to want to buy your book after checking out your site.
First of all, the book is absolutely brilliant. It is really comprehensive, professional, well laid out, very clear, full of information, fun to read and easy to use. I remember reading it and thinking “even if I don’t end up doing EC, I don’t regret buying this as it’s so informative anyway”. None of the regular parenting books tell you this stuff but it feels like everyone should know this! Even if you’re not doing EC, simple things like understanding why the baby might be crying (for elimination reasons) and using the EC hold to make it easier for them to do a poo rather than leaving them lying down struggling (who wants to poo lying down?!), honestly I’m amazed why this isn’t more widely known.
The pictures and videos are extremely helpful. The gallery of positions is invaluable and SO comprehensive! You went into so much detail and every step is laid out.
When our baby was born we didn’t start EC straight away and kept him in nappies all the time but I used the principles in the book to learn and help my baby and to get him used to the cues we would use. One night soon after he was born I heard a noise from him; I held him in the EC hold I learned from the book and videos and he did his first meconium poo. Since then whenever we heard a poo happen we held him in position (with his nappy on) and said our cue word for poo.
On changing his nappy we noticed that he would regularly wee during the nappy change which convinced me you are right about babies natural instincts not to soil themselves.
We started to try using the potty at about 8 weeks old offering it during a nappy change, on waking, and before going to bed and before leaving the house to go anywhere (e.g. in pram or sling) and on coming back to the house. It has been amazing. It worked almost instantly. He is now 11 weeks old and is doing most of his poo and wees in the potty. He waits until I get the nappy off and sit him on the potty to do a wee! I can hardly believe it sometimes.
What is incredible to me is that I am doing most of this based on timing, instinct and offering regular opportunities to him like you described in the book, rather than following his signals as they aren’t very clear yet – and he seems to *know* that when he is on the potty he can poo. I swear he *knows* what to do and *tries* to do a poo when offered – it isn’t just coincidence! My mum visited me when he was 8 weeks old and was totally stunned by it. It was fantastic.
We are continuing to use nappies and I really appreciate your approach that this is okay – I think you present a great relaxed and laid back attitude about it and you’re not ‘purist’ about it at all. I love that you emphasise that you can do this part time as well. We are now transitioning to cloth nappies because he hardly ever has a pooey nappy nowadays.
(I also think the way you are running your website as a business is really great to observe too.)
You are welcome to quote any of the above as an endorsement.
THANK YOU for such a great and helpful product!
Here are some resources I found useful:
EC Simplified by Andrea Olson (*Yes this is an affiliate link meaning if you buy I will get a percentage of the sales. But as you can see I am *genuinely* embarassingly gushing about this product!)
Brilliant cartoon and really good blog post by Kate Evans: “Parents who practice elimination communication are overachievers.” Discuss. This is great as it discusses some of the possible negatives of doing it in a purist way.
Lulastic and the Hippyshake various posts about doing EC from a Londoner
WELL, THERE IT IS. YOU READ IT. YOU CAN’T UNREAD IT.