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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

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In Kids & Family

Elimination Communication proves "diaperless baby" is not an oxymoron

Once upon a time, American parents believed they had two diaper options: disposable or cloth. For years, this issue triggered full-on diaper debates, resulting in experts and parents quibbling over which is worse for the environment: landfills festering with non-biodegradable nappies or the amount of detergent and hot water it takes to launder the cloth counterparts.

Meanwhile, a diaper-free movement called Elimination Communication (EC) slowly but surely gains momentum. Elimination Communication, also called "Natural Infant Hygiene," is a diaperless baby care system that's practiced in Africa, India and Asia.

Although it's sometimes referred to "infant potty training," EC bares little resemblance to the Western idea of potty training. Rather, it's a regimen of communication and responsiveness that seems to work best for parents already practicing attachment parenting.

Elimination Communication requires the mother and/or father to learn the facial or vocal "signals" their baby makes when he or she has to go -- just as they learned to read their baby's signs for hunger and sleep. Once parents receive a "signal," they disrobe the baby and hold him or her over a toilet or bucket. Finally, they make a "cue" sound -- usually a sound like "pssssss" for pee and more of a grunting or "poo poo poo" sound for poop -- to let the baby know it's time to let it flow.

The EC method is relatively simple, albeit difficult for some American parents -- even those who practice the method -- to wrap their minds around at first.

"I thought it was funny and ridiculous at first, but it's so much easier than I thought it would be," says Lisa Minella, who practices EC with her 8-week-old son, Devin. "I'm surprised it's not more mainstream."

Minella heard about EC from a friend, and later read more about it online and in the progressive parenting magazine, Mothering, before giving it a whirl. After two weeks, she says she's comfortable with the practice -- even having fun with it -- and manages to make 10 "catches" a day.

Most parents who practice EC use diapers to assist in the process. Devin wears a cloth diaper during the day and a biodegradable disposable diaper at night, just in case. Minella believes EC cleared up his persistent diaper rash, and is certain she and partner Tim Farley save money.

"We haven't bought a new pack of diapers since we started (two weeks ago)," says Farley.

Suzanne Hruska practiced EC with her 22-month-old son for about a year and a half. "We've done versions of EC since he was 6 months old, with varying degrees of success and stress," she says. "Everyone who tries it has a different story."

EC experts like Ingrid Bauer, who is credited with coining the term in her 2001 book "Diaper Free! The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene," says starting at birth to 5 months old is ideal. Hruska agrees with this, and adds that the method takes time and energy, as well as support from caretakers and partners.

EC is intended to be a gentle process, so parents shouldn't have too many expectations, nor get frustrated or angry with a baby for not performing. Also, parents don't have to be hardcore about practicing EC.

"(EC) can be as intense as you make it," says Hruska. "I took it way too seriously at the beginning. Now we're just happy if we catch anything ... EC is about an extra layer of communication with your child, and awareness of his/her bodily functions."


mcain72 | Jan. 27, 2007 at 10:03 a.m. (report)

We practice EC with our son, and you don't need to spend all day staring at your child to see when they cue you. My son doesn't cue at all, which is rare, but I potty him after he eats and when he wakes up, and sometimes if it seems like it's been a long time I let him try. A couple of minutes per attempt, at about 8 attempts a day, and it's not that time consuming. Plus, when we're pottying, I sing him songs and he coos and laughs and plays with my hair, it's actually fun time for us to be together. I also like the sanitary/comfort aspects of it - I wouldn't want poo smeared all over my rear once per day, even if it only stayed there for a few minutes, so I try to spare my son that experience. I really recommend people try this out.

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stitchnvixen | Jan. 23, 2007 at 12:37 p.m. (report)

interesting concept, it would be nice if we all could spend time listening to our babies' cues, but alas the real world does not allow this for many people. please find a better photo the child looks as though he/she is fearing for his/her life!

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