Many Parents Practicing Elimination Communication

New parents have many decisions to make throughout the pregnancy and beyond. It starts with decisions such as whether or not to find out if baby is a boy or girl, or waiting until he or she is born to find out.  This leads to other decisions such as how to decorate the nursery.

Parents also have to decide whether or not to work once baby arrives or take family leave or become a stay-at-home parents.  Once the baby comes, if not decided already it is time to determine breast or bottle? So many decisions to be made.

Then there is the diapering factor. Cloth, disposable or using the toilet right from birth?

The latter, called elimination communication (EC) or infant potty training, is one trend that is making recent headlines. It is not a new concept, but it is also not one of the usual “standard” choices in modern Westernized society.

Is it making a comeback in the U.S.?

According to an April 2013 New York Times piece, many parents are going diaper-free. The appeal is due to its environmental-friendly aspect and financial savings on spending money on diapers or cleaning. Advocates also say it prevents ails such as baby diaper rash.

How it works is that the parents watch for baby’s cues on when they are ready to eliminate, these include cries, squirming or grimaces. Web MD likens it to learning baby’s signals for hunger or tiredness.

Once they note their babies’ cues, parents create their own sounds to correspond. Then they hold the baby over a bowl, toilet or sink and the baby learns how to go on command. When not at home, babies are trained to go behind a tree or in between parked cars.

Some parents will use diapers at night or when out and about. In New York City, some parents attend “Meetups” where they exchange tips on going diaper-free.

Diaper Free Baby emphasizes elimination communication is “NOT potty training”.

“It is a gentle, natural, non-coercive process by which a baby, preferably beginning in early infancy, learns with the loving assistance of parents and caregivers to communicate about and address his or her elimination needs,” the organization says on its website. “This practice makes conventional potty training unnecessary.”

Most pediatricians advocate potty training when a child appears “ready”, the American Academy of Pediatrics usually doesn’t recommend training before the age of two.

There are skeptics as to whether or not babies really learn from EC, or if they are simply conditioned. Medical experts also express concerns.

“Obviously it would be great to have kids learn to use the toilet by age 1,” points out Andrea C.S. McCoy, MD, the medical director at Temple Pediatric Care in Philadelphia, reported Web MD. “Unfortunately, their muscles and nerves are not mature enough to really be able to consistently hold urine and stool, relax to allow spontaneous voiding and stooling, and recognize the need to ‘go.'”

Many advocates point to other cultures, but some experts say the training typically doesn’t start from infancy.

“I’ve certainly heard in other countries that they do toilet train babies earlier,” Dr. Robin Jacobson, chief of outpatient pediatrics at Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan, said, according to the New York Times. “But from what I’ve heard it’s at about a year of age, not at two months of age.”

Other experts say the elimination communication method helps foster bond between parent and child, reported CBS News.

“The goal of EC is to have this tight communication and be in sync with your child,” said Dr. Alison Schonwald, medical director of developmental behavioral outreach at Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Schowald emphasized this method is not potty-training since the child cannot go on his or her own.

Like anything else, it seems going diaperless is an individual decision. What is right for one family or child would not be for another.

“When some people are introduced to the concept, it rings true and feels like a brilliant plan, but to other people it feels unsettling or uncomfortable,” Schonwald said.