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Elimination Communication was mentioned in a comment on another question, and I started looking in to it.

It seems an interesting concept, but I don't understand quite how it works.

How do you determine the timing? Once you've established the timing, how do you keep up with the changes as the baby gets older?

Wikipedia talks about the basics, but more details would be helpful.

For example:

Parents report that some babies as young as three months will appear to hold all their bowel movements until they are held in a particular squat position, as long as this is offered regularly enough.

What is this "particular squat position"?

What else should someone attempting Elimination Communication know?

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related: parenting.stackexchange.com/q/91/48 –  David Aug 8 at 19:08

2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I did/am doing EC with both my daughters. One is 2 and mostly potty trained, the other is 6 months old now with some #1s and nearly all #2s in the toilet.

The 'squat position' you're reading about is some variation of the child sitting on your hands, with a clear area in between for the pees and poos to fall down. Yes, the position does change as they grow up. However, although I'm about to describe them in a complicated-sounding way, I never read a book about them, nor did I ever really think about the fact that the position changed until now. It will become obvious, don't worry!

  • Newborn: over a basin, baby girl lies in a cradle hold, and both my hands held up her legs. No idea what you'd do for a boy.
  • Can hold up head: standing facing a toilet (ie backwards), baby sits with one of my hands under each leg with us reclined slightly, OR me straddling a toilet forwards, baby sits with one of my arms supporting her legs and the other arm preventing her body from slipping forward.
  • Can sit: straddling a toilet forwards, one of my hands under each leg, resting on the toilet seat (children get heavy!).
  • Toilet training or decent core control: As above, with or without without my hands.

As with what @imi said, healthy humans generally don't dribble pee and poo continuously, all day long. As in adults, the bowels and bladders of children fill up slowly putting more pressure on the muscles to stay closed, and when they are too full the muscles release. They're smaller and release more frequently in children is all. EC is about learning when these muscles are feeling close to 'too full' (behaviour and communication occurs at this point), then allowing them to release in an appropriate receptacle.

So I don't think it's the squat position that causes the child to let go, but it's a helpful and useful cue, if their muscles are about to release anyway, to remind them what to do next. It's also not the only cue - there's the swswswsw sound (or whatever consonants you prefer to simulate a stream of water :)).

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Disclaimer: I've been reading about EC in preparation for my son's birth, but I haven't tried it myself. Since nobody else has answered the question, I'll try to summarize what I've read for you. Hopefully others with more practical experience will chime in later.

The basic idea of EC is that babies are aware of what's going on in their body and can communicate that information. Think about hunger: babies don't go from "completely content" to "screaming with hunger" right away. There are intermediate stages where the child might start sucking on a fist or acting a bit fussy. The particular signs vary by child, but a caregiver can usually pick up the signs and offer the breast/bottle before the baby reaches the screaming stage. Timing can help as well; if you know the baby usually gets hungry every X hours, you'll start looking for the signals when close to X hours have passed since the last feeding.

EC extends this idea to elimination: it suggests that babies can tell when their bladder or bowels are starting to get full and will indicate this somehow. If you notice the signs, you can offer a potty. Timing can help here too to the extent that babies often go at the same time of day, e.g. after a feeding. Note that the baby's signals will change over time as the baby gets older and can communicate more easily. People who are interested in baby sign language can use it to give the baby another way to signal, making EC easier.

As for the "particular squat position", there's no one position. Young babies will need to be held over the potty somehow, while older children need less or no support. For children that need to be held, there are a variety of different positions described in EC books and websites that you can try; not all children like all positions. The position might also vary depending on the toilet itself. If you want to use an adult-sized public toilet when you're out of the house, you might need a different approach than if you're at home using a miniature potty.

I liked the book "The Diaper-Free Baby" by Christine Gross-Loh if you want to learn more. Googling will also lead you to a ton of useful websites and forums like this one.

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