Basically, Elimination Communication is about watching for the signs or signals your baby makes when they need to go to the bathroom. When you see those, you take them to the bathroom or grab a bucket or whatever you want to use, and hold them over it so they can poop or pee. It essentially trains the infant to recognize the appropriate place to go to the bathroom. The theory really centralizes around communication between infant and parent.
So like I said in the previous post, this whole method is developed off the idea that humans instinctively want to be clean. They don’t want to sit in their excrements as we make them do in diapers. The guiding principle for us as we began our potty training was this: nurture that instinct to be clean. This really was the heart of everything we did.
Here is the outline of our plan:
- Keep her diaper as fresh as possible and reasonable. (Which probably means we go through more diapers than on average, but we figure we’ll be money ahead in the end.)
- Focus on poop first. Infants generally pee about every 15 minutes. I don’t have the time or patience for running around every 15 minutes. We just focused on getting the poop where it needed to be. If we got her to pee over the sink or toilet, awesome. If she peed in her diaper, no worries. We’d tackle that when we got to it.
- Try to recognize patterns for when she would normally need to poop in order to try to get ahead of when she would need to go. Also, get a feel for how much time on average elapses between bowel movements.
- Watch for her signals or signs communicating or demonstrating that she needed to go potty.
- Buy cheap diapers. We didn’t want to buy the heavy duty, fancy diapers that absorb everything. We wanted her to notice quickly when she was wet or poopy and not feel too comfortable sitting in it. (We buy the Parent’s Choice diapers from Walmart, if anyone cares.)
- Pray and ask Heavenly Father to help us recognize when Thea needed to go potty and to help Thea learn and understand.
We had pretty good success that first week she was born. Thea would pee and/or poop generally the second we would open her diaper. So even though she wasn’t going where we wanted yet, we felt like she was a step ahead.
However, Thea really struggled to learn how to poop. She would writhe and scream and it was sad to watch. I thought she was just having painful gas, but the nurse said that infants have to learn how to control their muscles that help them poop, and it can be a painful process. It made it hard for her to sleep on her own at all, which is why we began co-sleeping. If she was being held, it wasn’t so bad. But right before she would poop, it was the worst.
So we decided to nix the potty training. It didn’t do anyone any favors to try to hold her above the sink or toilet while she was screaming in pain. So we just focused on changing her diaper immediately after she pooped and trying to stay pretty regular with changing wet diapers before they were too wet.
Trying to change her diaper immediately after we would hear her poop taught us something important: Thea poops in waves. There were multiple times when we would open up her diaper and she’d hit a second wave. Or we’d just get a fresh diaper on and she’d unleash another load. So we began taking her up to the bathroom when we’d hear her poop and hold her over the sink just in case. Sometimes there would be more, some times not. But doing this helped Thea be familiar with the process of pooping into the sink.
Knowing she poops in waves has been really helpful to know now that we have gotten Thea to go in the toilet. Just because she has pooped, doesn’t mean she’s done. Sometimes we sit there for a couple minutes for 3-4 waves of poop.
It wasn’t until she began to eat solid foods that her potty training really started to take off. Her poop began to have substance instead of being that runny, seed-like poop. This was helpful for two reasons:
- It seems like Thea is able to hold it to some degree, meaning she can control her poop. (But that’s just like us, if you have more runny poop, you better find a bathroom quick because it’s coming and there’s nothing you can do about it.) At the beginning of this stage, Thea would poop a little bit in her diaper, but then would close it off. Most times we would know she was pooping, so when we would grab her and run to the bathroom, she’d hold the rest until she was over the sink or toilet. But there were a couple of times where I wasn’t watching, just went to change her diaper and there would be a little bit of poop in her diaper, so I’d hold her over the sink and she’d unload. She’s not perfect, but I swear this is real to some degree.
- She has begun to strain before she poops, so it’s fairly easy to recognize now. If I see her starting to push, we run to the bathroom. Sometimes it’s a miss, and she’s just pushing. But most often, we have poop in the toilet and a clean diaper. Ahhh, girl.
So I keep using sink and toilet interchangeably, huh? We started her off going to the bathroom in the sink. It was nice because you could just turn on some warm water and wash her bum off right there instead of putting her down on the counter and getting poop all over the towel. Also, I would watch her bumhole to know if she was straining for another wave of poop or not. We have since moved to holding her over the toilet. We made that move when she was consistent at pooping in the sink and not her diaper, so we were sure she understood what we wanted her to do.
Positive reinforcement is perhaps the most important part. We never get mad or punish Thea if she doesn’t go to the bathroom in the sink or toilet. When she is successful, we celebrate. We smile and holler and kiss her and tell her good job and sometimes even dance a little bit. This was another reason starting in the sink was helpful: she could see, not just hear and feel, our reaction. It’s cool because now that Thea successfully goes to the bathroom in the toilet, she’ll look up at me as I hold her because I think she’s looking for how I’m reacting. I always smile and encourage her. Then, she’ll turn back around and go potty. It’s pretty awesome.
In the next post, I’ll write more about the signs and signals Thea gives to let us know she needs to poop.