I first heard about Elimination Communication after Punk 1 was born. There was a mom in my new-baby support class who was doing it with her son. From what I gathered, she was teaching him to use the potty at just a few months old and avoiding diapers by watching him closely for “signs” that he had to go. At that stage — 6 weeks postpartum, deliriously sleepy and unwittingly spraying breast milk into people’s eyes by accident — I chalked it up to craziness.
Three years later, along comes Punk 2 with a very funny and unmistakable trait: an extremely obvious, scrunched-up-nose, red-in-the-cheeks-like-the-factory’s-gonna-blow poopy face. At about 16 months, we suddenly thought of asking her, as she made this obvious scrunchy I-will-poop-right-now expression, if she wanted to use the potty. Having watched big sister use the toilet with ease, little one was actually willing and eager. We plopped her (pun intended) on the slightly obnoxious and mysteriously foamy Dora seat and – voila. Kerplunk. Ever since, she will reliably poop on the potty if we notice her gettin’ her business-meeting face on. Lately, at 19 months, she has even told us a couple times “Poop. Potty.” Whoa.
This brings me back to Elimination Communication — the method of helping babies learn to go in the toilet much earlier than Americans traditionally do. Was I too harsh with my first impression of EC in that milk-soggy state so long ago? I interviewed Jennifer Kakutani, Seattle momma, Itty Bitty camp leader extraordinaire, and successful ECer, to find out more.
Punkernoodle: When did you decide to try EC with your daughter – how old was she?
Jennifer: Alita was just a few days old when we starting experimenting with EC. My husband was really excited about it. When we placed her over the “potty”, it was pretty incredible. She released whatever was inside. “Wow”, we thought, “This works! Let’s try again.”
Punkernoodle: Is there a “right” age to start?
Jennifer: No, but the younger you start the better, and whenever you start, you’ll be changing fewer messy diapers and it’s never too late for that.
Punkernoodle: Are there any special props, materials or tools that are necessary to do EC?
Jennifer: I like to use a big plastic bowl, and a few pair of bay legwarmers are convenient.
Punkernoodle: Hardwood floors???
Jennifer: If you want to speed up the process, you can let them be diaper-free in the house and hardwood floors are easy, but not necessary.
Punkernoodle: Special diapers? Extra cleaning supplies??
Jennifer: No and no.
Punkernoodle: Is it stressful or time consuming to watch your baby for signs that they need to go to the bathroom?
Jennifer: For us it was obvious when she had to go poop. She liked communicating with signs when she was older. For wets, whenever I held her to pee, she would release. So it’s often the choice to hold your child over a receptacle regularly to keep the diaper clean, or change it regularly. Depending on how busy or distracted I was, I did a little of both.
Punkernoodle: Were you afraid to leave the house?
Jennifer: No, we’re part-time ECers. We used plenty of cloth diapers, too.
Punkernoodle: What was the reaction of others when they heard about this method you were trying?
Jennifer: People who have never heard of it think it’s amazing, but makes sense. Often people from other countries have knowledge of some version of it from their different cultures. However, we do a lot of peeing outside since it’s so convenient and I get a few concerned looks once in a while. Some folks think it’s a lot more work, I don’t agree.
Punkernoodle: What most surprised you about EC?
Jennifer: How quickly my daughter responded and how easy it was. Often, developmental changes affected her willingness like teething and walking. Sometimes she just refused to allow us to hold her in position. We had to let it be. Luckily, that would only last a few days, and then we’d be back to our routine.
Punkernoodle: What is the biggest benefit of EC?
Jennifer: Communicating openly with my daughter about her body and knowing her self-esteem around her bodily functions is whole and intact. It’s been a fun process for the entire family. And It’s sure been awesome to have rarely changed a messy diapers.
Well, there you have it moms and dads. Seattle parents and parents-to-be can learn more about the down-and-dirty (or far less dirty) details of Elimination Communication along with everything they need to know about using cloth diapers (which, incidentally, Jenn says helps tremendously with potty learning at any age) at Punkernoodle Baby’s Green Diaper Choices workshop Jan. 31 at the Seattle Holistic Center: http://seattleholisticcenter.com/parenting/workshops-parenting.shtml#dc