Friends who came to visit Jedidiah and me a few weeks after his birth will know that one of my favorite topics of conversation has to do with his pooping skills. Yes, skills. We have been practicing elimination communication with Jedidiah since he was two weeks old. Elimination communication is defined by Wikipedia as "a practice in which a caregiver uses timing, signals, cues, and intuition to address an infant's need to eliminate waste. Caregivers try to recognize and respond to babies' bodily needs and enable them to urinate and defecate in an appropriate place." We have enjoyed learning EC with Jedidiah and I wanted to describe our experience for others.
I remember having heard of EC long ago and thinking it sounded weird. I had heard that some people potty trained their babies and let them go completely diaper-free, and that sounded really bizarre. Early in my pregnancy a friend sent me a link to an article on EC and I remember being curious about it. Perhaps it was worth a try. Avinash, my Indian husband, also remembers how his mother would take his younger brother to the bathroom and give him a cue sound like "shhhhhh" to encourage him to go, so the idea of an infant eliminating on cue was familiar to him. We decided on using cloth diapers when our baby came but thought we might experiment with EC. If it wasn't for us we could just revert to using diapers only.
When Jedidiah was just a couple weeks old Avinash took him in his arms and held him over the sink for the first time. I was unsure. Wasn't it too early? Jedidiah's head and body were still so floppy. But then he peed and we were astonished and so happy! The first time he pooped in the sink a day or two later we were over the moon! In those first weeks it was kind of a game to take him to poop and pee in the sink. We started to learn his timings and signals. He might grunt a bit, lose interest in the breast if he was nursing, or go about ten minutes after nursing. Sometimes we would give him diaper-free time to kick his legs, feel the air, and pee on a cloth diaper or pad on the changing table as needed.
Now Jedidiah is nearing four months and we are still at it. I like to say that EC has shown me Jedidiah's intelligence more than any other thing we do with him. It is easy for people to think of babies as dumb, since we know they don't remember their early days, they can't talk to us, and their needs are so constant and yet simple (eat, sleep, poop, eat, sleep, poop, eat...). But babies are truly intelligent and learn constantly about the world around them. Practicing EC has shown us how quickly Jedidiah can learn. He definitely knows now that the potty is the appropriate place to poop. A couple days ago Jedidiah woke up and was lying happily on the bed. I heard a toot of gas and came running. When I opened the diaper, there was just a little spot of yellow poop. I quickly took him to the bathroom and he let out a very large squirt in his potty. It was clear that he had held the poop until the appropriate time to let it out. After doing so, he relaxed in my arms with a look of satisfaction. Pooping in the potty is a skill that he has truly learned and feels good about. And understanding his needs and cues is a skill that I continue to learn, with satisfaction as I grow closer to my baby and more instinctive about caring for his needs.
In part two I will give more tips and details about our EC journey.