As promised, here is the second installment in the Beeswax posts on Elimination Communication. If you missed the first post, you can find it here. For those of you who are already caught up, enjoy this interview with my very dear friend and EC expert, Maggy Smith, mother to three-month-old Fern!
When did you begin EC with your daughter?
We started when she was two months old.
What attracted you to EC?
I always like to think about how parents raise their children in other cultures, where they may not have what we have or view life the way we do. I realized that I had never seen a diaper while traveling and living in developing countries . . . and I also never saw poopy moms! Also, after being joined at the hip for two months with Fern, I realized that I already knew so many of her cues for "normal" baby stuff like burping, sleeping, hunger, etc., so I started to see if I could recognize cues for peeing and pooping. The cues were basically no-brainers and so easy to pick up on. It's a simple idea, simple to execute, and I'm a simple kind of mama.
What's the most difficult thing about EC?
I think the hardest thing is when I realize Fern is doing everything short of yelling in my ear, "I have to pee!" and I still miss it . . . because I was being distracted from her by something silly like the computer or not wanting to interrupt someone to take her to go potty. It's hard when I realize how much I ignore her. If I'm too preoccupied, I just stuff the boob in her mouth when she starts to squawk without asking myself why she's really squawking.
EC is also more difficult at night. Taking her to pee isn't the difficult part, but thinking in the fog of midnight mothering and realizing that no, she doesn't have to burp, she's asking to use the potty! What the books and blogs say about EC is so true - babies do not want to soil their nest! I usually see it in hindsight, but the times when Fern is the most restless and nursing like a maniac in the middle of the night is actually when she is trying to tell me to put her over her potty!
What is the biggest reward?
Hands down the biggest reward is knowing my baby better. She is one happy girl when she tells me she has to pee, and I meet her need . . . and that makes me one happy mama.
Also, she pooped in the potty at our favorite coffee shop and just generally uses public restrooms as she desires. It makes going out in public so much easier!
What's the most common reaction you get from people who haven't heard of this before?
One friend of mine said, "WHAT?! That's amazing! I've never heard of that!" but most people generally say something like, "Oh . . . hmmm . . . that's interesting," while scratching their head. But when I whip her cloth diaper off and she poops a big one in her potty, they usually sing a different tune. Of course there are always the people who think I'm a nut in general and write this off as being nutty, but I think that if these people stopped to learn about EC, they'd be wishing they had known about it for their own children. I will say that it isn't for everyone; our culture is different than the many cultures that have communicated with their babies in this way since the beginning. In our culture, it works best for parents who want to be with their children in a more communicative way. This can still happen when both parents work outside the home, but it's an attitude centered around being together as a family, not raising a young inconvenience, which is sadly the attitude promoted in our society.
Have you noticed any changes in Fern since you began EC?
Not really. It's natural for her, and she doesn't think twice about it. Although she is very happy when I hear her and act on it. The changes are mostly in me. It's like a new tool to use to know her better. I know that when she becomes what people in our culture call "fussy," she probably has to use the bathroom! (I hate the word fussy. I believe fussiness in general is a baby trying to communicate a need that is going unmet, leading to major frustration on the baby's part!)
How does EC fit in with your overall parenting philosophy?
This is another thing I love about it; my husband and I are 24-hour parents. That includes bathroom time. Knowing Fern so well that we know when she has to pee is amazing. Fern is with us constantly. We think of her as a happy addition to the two of us, not a burden. We wear her everywhere we go - we actually don't even have a stroller! I wear her in the house almost constantly, and she sleeps next to me in bed every night. Basically we practice attachment parenting, which works well for all three of us.
What advice would you offer to parents wanting to begin EC with their child?
Hold your baby over the potty after she wakes up in the morning, when you go to change the diaper, and ten minutes or so after nursing, after a nap, and before bed. You'll be surprised as how many times your baby will pee in the potty. Not always, but you'll see! Hold the baby against your chest, with your hands under her thighs, lifting them up closer to her chest, butt over the potty. That position is helpful for eliminating, and it is also a great cue for them to know, "Hey, it's time!" When they go, choose cue words to help them learn to connect the word with what they're doing. While Fern pees, we say "Pssssssssss," and while she's pooping we grunt and flex our stomach muscles so she feels them. Those are her cues. Soon she'll associate them with what she is doing. You can start by just using timing to learn your baby's cues and when she generally potties, but even by letting her try those times, or even just some of them, you'll start to learn her signs. And you'll see when she has a wet diaper and when you maybe could have pottied her.
Read Diaper Free for more detailed info and suggestions, and be ok with being geeked out of your mind that your little one peed in a potty! Don't be embarrassed to tell other parents how rad your kid is, cause theirs can be too! And talking about it is the best way for parents in our culture to learn about it, and to see what it could mean for their family.
Last piece of advice, don't hold your baby over the sink to potty unless you're SURE she doesn't have to poop. Learned that one the hard way.
I hope you enjoyed and benefited from the first ever Ear to the Earth interview! If you have any other questions for Maggy and Fern, just leave them in a comment. I'll be happy to pass them along and then get back to you with more of her expertise!