What is elimination communication?

Elimination communication, also known as EC, is what happens when parents believe their babies can communicate to parents or caretakers when they need to “eliminate” waste. When a baby gives this signal, the parent brings them to a toilet or other designated container so they can do their business. Strong supporters of this method often choose to begin it in early infancy. Variations of this method are often more common in countries where diapers are costly, and it became prominent in the US around 2005.

Parents can choose to use EC for a number of reasons, but some of the big ones include environmental friendliness and a desire to get their children diaper-independent early on.

This isn’t to say that there’s no room for diapers in the life of an EC baby – plenty of parents use a diaper for backup, while others might just go diaper-less for a few hours or days each week.

How does it work?

Supporters of elimination communication say the key is being especially in tune with their babies, and unless you want to live in a constant “elimination”-filled home, you’re going to need to be a really strong communicator to make elimination communication work.

A big part of this is paying attention to when your baby last ate or drank, and noticing any signals or facial expressions they make when the need to eliminate starts coming over them.

Start by lifting them.

If you’re ready to try EC out, and you notice the baby showing signs that it might be elimination-time, start by lifting them over your chosen receptacle, then make a pre-selected sound that you’ll use as your “elimination time” sound. Most EC caregivers use a watery sound, like “ssss.” Make this sound, or turn on the faucet, every time baby needs to eliminate, even if you miss their cues, and they start without you. This will help baby connect the sound with the action. EC supporters then say that if the baby does not need to go, they will let you know.

Does it actually work?

It’s a bit unclear. Some logic suggests – and many doctors and experts agree – that a child under a year old is in no position to control their elimination needs, whether by knowing when they need to go, or by holding it in.

However, some parents swear by it, claiming it works for babies as young as 3 weeks. There are various resources available online for parents who wish to use, or at least try elimination communication, but if you do, make sure to temper your expectations. Even the most dedicated of the pro-elimination communication movement don’t guarantee its success without fail, so even if you love the idea, make sure you have some backup, at least at first.

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