Elimination Communication – Is it worth all the poop?Rhena Tantisunthorn
My daughter starting pooping in the potty at 9 months and we haven’t looked back.
If you’d like, feel free to stop reading now. Walk away with the impression of me as a skilled, gifted, baby-whisperer kind of a mother. Because if you read on, you will find only the truth, which is a tad more disappointing.
Just before Little A was born in December of 2009, I read about toilet training babies from infancy, sometimes referred to as “infant potty training” or “elimination communication” (because what adults with children need is more rhyming). Books and articles I read espoused the beautiful bond created with your child while you held him or her in your loving arms as he or she pooped into a plastic bowl. Bond? Love? Poop? This was something I could get behind.
In addition, many articles mentioned that toilet training from infancy was something that was practiced by cultures all over the world and I have always been a joiner. I could almost hear my own mother saying, “Just because the rest of the world is potty training early, are you going to do it?” “Sign me up!” I’d say. “And while we’re at it, I’d like to join that group jumping off a cliff.”
- Do I want to spend more time with diapers or with a tiny baby potty?
- Am I ready to dedicate hours to learning what signs and facial expressions might correlate to urination or defecation?
- Am I prepared to be peed and/or pooped on (or have my floors peed or pooped on)?
- Do I have strong forearms?
- Am I able to sit in an awkward squat position in a public restroom stall and other tight spaces?
- Am I prepared for odd looks from strangers when I take my infant into a stall in a public restroom?
- Would I do almost anything to avoid the potential stress of potty training a preschooler?
More importantly, I had actually witnessed this practice in action. I’d lived in my father’s native country of Thailand for a number of years in my twenties and I’d noticed that some friends and neighbors often let their kids run around without pants on – peeing or pooping into a ditch on command. I watched another friend who, upon completing a nursing session, took her baby into the bathroom, whispered “sh, sh, sh” to her and held her, bare bottomed, over the tile floor. Miraculously, she peed (the baby, not my friend). When I read the books about elimination communication, I thought, “Oh! This is what they were doing!” Well, if it works for them…
What I failed to recognize when I started this potty training adventure is that my neighbors and friends in Thailand were living under slightly different circumstances. 1) They had either dirt floor houses or large tile bathrooms with drains that allowed the entire room to be hosed down. 2) They mostly could not afford diapers, disposable or otherwise.
Some books recommended an observation period during which I would lay my bare bottomed babe on our bed on a pile of towels and observe when and how she peed and/ or pooped. It was about as exciting as you might expect, but I was a new mother, charmed by every grimace, every expression of pain or joy. I timed how long it took for her to pee or poop after a feeding session or after she woke up. And what I learned is this: she peed and pooped at utterly unpredictable intervals. I also learned my pajama pants took a long time to dry.
Still, I stuck with it, regularly holding her over the little potty or sink or our adult-sized toilets. On occasion, she hit her target. There was pee or poop everywhere, except her diaper. And we were thrilled.
Eventually, we were able to observe, mostly by her facial expressions when she was about to go and I’d whisk her off to the nearest “appropriate” receptacle. I was washing a lot fewer diapers than other moms, but I was cleaning a lot more potties. Was one really better than the other?
She learned the baby sign for “potty” and now uses it regularly to mean “take me to the bathroom.” Unfortunately, sometimes it’s because she wants to pee or poop, but many times it’s because she just wants to check out the bathroom or because she wants to have an excuse to get out of her high chair or because she is trying to delay going to bed.
Yes, in general we’ve probably had to wash fewer diapers and wipe less poop off of butt cheeks, but I’ve also probably spent more time in public toilets with a toddler who wants to touch everything. She pretty much knows what it feels like when she needs to poop. She definitely hasn’t gone through and won’t go through a phase when she’s afraid to poop in the potty. But, yes, I’ve cleaned all sorts of “elimination” off of our wood floors more than once. It’s a trade off.
Would I do it again? Certainly. Poop, pee, diapers, toilets, training: it’s all punishment any way you look at it. And I’m a glutton for punishment.