Posts Tagged ‘Elimination Communication’

My Happy Place: Day 23

Today’s Happy Place: Books and the Potty

I’ve written a bit previously about our EC experience and about how I love my daughter’s voice. Well, today’s Happy Place combines these two things.

Lately, my daughter will say she wants to read a book and then trot over to the potty. ??? Turns out she seems to have a sense that reading takes place on the potty. If she is on the potty, someone needs to be reading a book to her. Usually over and over or book after book. She’s pretty clear about what she wants and when.

Well, this morning after the sweetest, kissiest morning snuggles, I asked her if she would come in the bathroom with me (so I could keep an eye on and connection to her). “Ok!” she said, as I had a brilliant idea. I turned the tables and asked her to read to me while I sat on the potty. 

Having my daughter say “Brown bear, brown bear what do you see? Red bird, red bird what do you see?” in that sweet voice and seeing her excited face at reading me a book in a moment so often the other way around simply melted my heart. I knew then that the moment would be today’s Happy Place…..and that I will think twice before rolling my eyes at having her tell me to sit and read her a book on the potty (even though we both know she won’t go and just wants to read a book)…..

(Photo coming)

EC: Beyond Diapers

The Beginning: 1 month

Recently my daughter went three days without a potty “accident.” Another way of saying it might be that we, my husband and I, went three days without a miss. Yes, we practice Elimination Communication (EC).

I can see why people call EC infant or early potty training, but I don’t like the implications of the word “training.” I think this is why some people who aren’t familiar with EC might assume it involves a level of force or authority. I prefer the term EC because it clearly mentions my main goal, which is simply to communicate with my daughter about her natural functions and needs.

What is EC?

EC is a traditional cultural practice worldwide.

Tribal Baby is an in-depth/how-to resource, but the communication piece is about three main things:

  • talking to the child (saying “Do you need to go potty?” or using sign language — potty is generally a shaken “t” for toilet)
  • timing potty opportunities (peeing after waking or before leaving house)
  • watching for the particular cues (squirms, squeaks, red noses, hiding in corners, squatting — each child has their own set of cues)

Steady on the Path: 7 months

Aside from the communication, there is the actually taking her to the potty and allowing the her to go diaper-free. Everyone practices EC differently, but I like the way the Diaper Free Baby site gives a range of possibility for everyone to find a comfort zone:

  • Full Time — diaper-free  majority of the time (often including at nighttime), potty opportunities when out of the house
  • Part Time — diaper as a backup (particularly when out of the house), diaper free on and off
  • Occasional — potty opportunities might be focused around nighttime or day time or timing (such as after baby wakes up or before a bath), diaper-free time once in a while

The amount we do both opportunities and diaper free has changed many times since we started at a month old. Our journey, cataloged from the beginning on Life and Times of Uma Pai, and Stay at Home Papa‘s posts offer a view into two experiences of EC.

EC language uses the terms catches and misses:

  • Catch — You, the adult or even an older sibling, caught the cues, used timing or “got a feeling” and got the child to the potty to pee or poop.
  • Miss — You missed the cues. ….. : )

Rather than focusing on building a child’s awareness of body and self, some people, when traditionally potty training or ECing, focus their goal on having the child eliminating in the potty. Our goal, as I said, is communication. We are easy going when it comes to misses (wood floors?). I honestly find it to be a cleaner and healthier for my child to be as diaper-free as I can stand her to be. Sometimes she doesn’t want to go in the potty; we still talk to her, naming and signing so she can gain more understanding about things.

Grandparents can EC, too!

Finding a (local) support group can be helpful. Things can be up and down and get frustrating, especially if outsiders are judging or calculating your “success.” When she was 3 months old, we went 3 days without a miss. She was cueing in obvious ways and beginning to “wait” or be in step with the timed opportunities we gave her. Obviously, though, she wasn’t going without diapers from the age of three months. Due to a bitter winter and her screaming, a year later we were barely offering opportunities and didn’t have too much diaper free time. Then, at 16 months, came these last few weeks of warmer weather, lots of diaper free time, and the recent 3-day streak without a miss.

The lessons for us? Observe, trust, listen, communicate and relax. All will develop in its own time and rhythm.



Helping Children Sleep

In the early days, weeks and months after birth, sleep is a focus. Indeed, for at least the first year everyone wants to know how you are sleeping. Sometimes in conversation I get the feeling I am supposed to feel guilty or ashamed for still co-sleeping with my little one or for nursing her to sleep, but I don’t. Sometimes her teeth hurt or she missed me because I worked late or she was busy all day hanging with her friends and family; then, at night, she wants to be close and nurse. I understand, I don’t mind any sleepiness. Nothing seems as hard as those early days.

Back in those times, exhausted, desperate for information, I found a wonderful article: Helping Young Children Sleep. The gist of the article is that sometimes sleep disturbance is caused by pent up emotions. If you listen to your child’s feelings, they can offload emotional tension (what they know to do innately), get to sleep and be happier beings.

What do I mean by listening to your child’s feelings to help your child sleep? You can read the whole article for stories and examples. This is my own, recent experience followed by excerpts from the article I found helpful.

Tonight, my little girl told me (signed) she was sleepy and walked over to the stairs to go upstairs. We went into the dark bedroom, and, as I put on her diaper after some diaper free time, she goofed and giggled with me while she wiggled in a funny little shiver motion and made a little noise. As I zipped up her Woombie sleep sack/swaddle, something about that strange wiggle of hers told me she was wound up inside. As I put clove oil on her gums (to numb the pain of teething), I felt a teeny tiny point of her very first tooth edge…finally! I imagined that such a long, painful process now at its peak would cause me to have some feelings.

She began crying but not moving to nurse. Not saying anything, I held her close but a bit loosely so she could choose to get milk or to have some feelings. I had done this a few times when she was very young, but since then each time the idea floated into my mind she didn’t seem to want to have a feelings session. This time was a bit surreal, as if we seemed to both know that her crying was just to get her feelings out.

She did the textbook back arch and leg shoving, essentially throwing her head back and howling at points. I was not a bit disturbed by her wailing and writhing because it was clear that she could have milk whenever she wanted or get her arms out of her swaddle whenever she wanted like she always does. I did have to check in at one point because it seemed to be going on longer than I expected at first. (In fact, it was at most five minutes.)

She started squirming down towards milk a little while after she finished getting out her feelings and instantly went from crying loudly to nursing, done with the session. She nursed a good deal and was deep asleep in less than ten minutes. She slept soundly for over six hours, something she has only done once in the last four months or so.

Listening to a child’s feelings (being there, embracing and observing, often silently) rather than trying to solve a child’s problem seems like one of the hallmark lessons of parenthood.

I can see how this will come in handy in the future. For now, I just feel like something momentous happened between us — one of those moments when you feel effortlessly in the flow of the universe. I felt a raw closeness I haven’t felt with her since she was a dependent newborn. There was a trust there between us, a feeling of letting go on her part, and then there was her sweet sleeping face. Yes indeed. Sure did like and appreciate this article.

Here are the parts of the article that I found most helpful.

The principles on which this approach is based are these:

  • When children can’t sleep through the night (and there are no health or developmental issues such as a fever or a growth spurt), the cause is most likely some kind of emotional tension that bubbles up in the child’s mind during sleep.
  • Children’s tensions are relieved when an adult can stay close and listen to how the child feels. The crying, struggling, perspiring, and trembling that children do actually heals their fear and grief, if a parent can be reassuring and attentive. Expressing intense emotion is the child’s own best way of getting free of feelings he harbors. Those feelings have sprung from some difficult, unwell, or restless time, either recent or long past.
  • Children’s systems are built to offload feelings of upset immediately and vigorously. But our training as parents is to stop them from offloading their feelings! We are taught to give them pacifiers, food, rocking, patting, scolding, and later, time outs and spanking, if the crying or screaming goes on for more than a minute. We are taught to work against the child’s own healthy instinct to get rid of bad feelings immediately.
  • So our children store these upsets, and try many times a day to work them out, usually by testing limits or having meltdowns over small issues. If they can’t offload them during the day, the feelings bother them in the night.

If daytime listening isn’t enough to ease night waking, listen at night

For nighttime work on fears, here are the measures that work very well. You may need to take a week to set things up so you can get an extra nap during the day, or buy earplugs for the rest of the family, or warn the people in the apartment next door (earplugs for them might be a thoughtful touch).

  • Listen to him cry. If he trembles, writhes away from you, arches his back, shuts his eyes tight, and makes lots of motion, things are going well. Those signs indicate that he’s offloading the fears that won’t let him or you rest. It looks and sounds awful, but he’s using a powerful healing process—one he was born to use—he’ll be able to sleep well afterward. Some children will work on their feelings for a whole hour before they relax and fall fast asleep. As you listen, your child absorbs your love.
  • Once he is crying vigorously, you may be able to bring him into your arms and hold him while he cries. After a few moments of crying, many children have grabbed onto the feelings they need to release, and being held by you doesn’t distract them from crying hard. Other children stop crying the moment they are held close. If your child stops crying in your arms, remind him that it’s time to go back to sleep, and move slowly toward putting him back to bed. Keep moving until he remembers the feeling he’s working through.
  • Allow your child to struggle as he offloads his fears. Children working through their fears usually cry without many tears, look terrified as they cry, and struggle constantly, as though they want to get free of your embrace. However, if you let them go, it breaks the safety they need to keep working on the feelings. They don’t need to be held tightly. They need to struggle mightily, with you giving them a “corral” in which to act powerfully. The feelings they are working through may be connected to earlier times when they felt both frightened and helpless. They must struggle while they cry, to counteract the memory of being so helpless, and regain their self-respect.
  • Remember as you listen that your child has everything he needs. He has you watching over him, he has your warmth, and he is safe right next to you. He can’t tell all is well because of feelings inside of him, not because of something lacking in the present moment.
  • Allow him to cry until he either is happy to be put back to bed, or until he falls asleep in your arms. This can take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or more, depending on how many feelings have been pressing on him.
  • Observe his behavior the next day. Generally, children who get a good chunk of crying done are able to make visible gains in confidence, closeness, and relaxation. Sometimes you’ll see gains in their physical skill and courage. Sometimes, after a parent has listened at length for the first time, the child’s instincts say, “At last! They’re listening!” and he finds ways to set up another big cry the next morning. If you can listen again, his load will be lightened once more. It might take several listening “sessions” before a child is able to sleep better, but you will see some positive changes in his functioning that will tell you he’s making progress.

Baby-led Solids: Part 2: Overview

This post gives an overview of Dos and Don’ts for child-led introduction of solids. Other posts include information on choking, a photo gallery of skill development, and a reflection of my own experience. See all posts on this topic here.


“Baby-led Solids is an exercise in Trust.”This statement is at the top of the Tribal Baby site, a wonderful resource for baby-led solids/weaning and EC, which compliments BLS/W.

Before 6 months, if mama has no health problems, breastfeeding is ideal and worth the effort of seeking support, trying new things and persisting. Breastmilk is liquid gold (from Kellymom — a major resource to the breastfeeding mama).

Around 6 months, most babies grab at food showing unmistakable readiness to explore and begin the long-term weaning process.

15 DO’s for Baby-led Solids (based on resources below) in my own words and from my own experience:

  • Breastfeeding is baby’s primary source of  water (and nutrients and immunity). We offer water at each meal for learning purposes. I still breastfeed on demand at 13 months for health and nutrition…and joy of connection.
  • Baby can and wants to eat when and what you eat. This makes it easy to know what types of foods to offer.
  • Whole fruit and foods are more fun and stimulating. These allow baby to learn what the food actually looks like.
  • Think “handle.” If you do make pieces, make them long and grabbable.
  • This is an opportunity for the whole family to eat healthy and diverse foods. These are the same types of foods that mama should be eating during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • Slow the pace down. You can relax and enjoy baby’s learning and growing before your eyes. Children are slow processors (half-speed) and need time and experience to learn.
  • Let go of the food, and then let go of your expectations. Resist the urge to “help.” You know how to eat; your baby still needs to learn. Letting your baby explore does help them learn more readily.
  • Baby will eat little or nothing at first but more over time. They will surprise you with what they can do if you give them a time and a chance.
  • Continue to offer “rejected” foods. Throwing food on the floor isn’t necessarily dislike now and forever. Again, if you’re eating it, offer baby some.
  • Holding or sitting baby in an upright position allows nature to work and can thus relieve your fears.
  • Expect mess at first, less over time. With more skill, your baby will make less mess, but only if given frequent and consistent opportunities over time. Possible tip: Use an old sheet underneath the chair for an easier cleanup.
  • Don’t want a mess right this minute? Hand baby a carrot or apple. “Meals” don’t have to be big productions.
  • Keep at it. Don’t let expectation (yours or other people’s) stop the fun and learning. Frustrated? Take a break for a meal or two and try again.
  • Observe your child to see what they are learning and working on. Offer food that provides opportunities for learning those things.
  • ENJOY the EXPERIENCE. These can be some of the most fun and deep bonding moments when you see clear development and learning.

Only 3 DON’Ts for Baby-led Solids, from a Dutch Breastfeeding site:

  • DON’T leave your baby on his own with food.
  • DON’T offer foods which present an obvious danger, such as peanuts.
  • DON’T offer ‘fast’ foods, ready meals or foods that have added salt or sugar.

Concerned about choking? 

Babies are made to learn everything; eating is no exception. They have strong gag reflexes and can cough up pieces that get stuck. In fact, the baby-led method might cause less choking than traditional spoon-feeding of purees. (More on choking, here and here.)


Rapley Weaning article

Tribal Baby

Adventures in Solid Foods Blog

Babyled Weaning (.com)

Natural Mothering

Wikipedia: Baby-led Weaning

Blog Story: Nourished Kitchen

Book: Baby-led Weaning

The Nature of Family

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of family and what family means in our modern world and in the United States in particular. This questioning arises most naturally when the way I have chosen to live, how I have given birth to and am raising my child and what I believe and hope for seems, at times, radically different or even diametrically opposed to the vast majority of the people around me and society at large. What does family mean to a first generation East Indian who grew up in rural Kansas but now lives outside a major city? What does family mean to a homebirth, breastfeeding, baby-wearing, co-sleeping, EC-practicing mama?

We are born into our families, rather than choosing them, as we might our friends, based on similar personalities, interests or belief systems. Every family is different, but each family must navigate the waters of relationship. More than ever, now that I have my daughter, I believe that family is created intentionally. This is clear even from the fact that some children are given up for adoption; in those cases, family is intentionally not created at birth for whatever reason but, hopefully, is created with great intent later in life.

What does it mean to create family? As a mother of a one-year old whose parenting choices alone often relegate her to minorities within minorities of society, I find myself thinking about this often. In India, both of my parents had time in their lives where they lived in a more universally traditional way, with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and distant relatives all packed in under one roof in a family compound, so to speak. Understandably, family was whoever lived in the “house.” Though extensive, it was indeed immediate family, and, by the nature of life, often included neighbors or other non-blood relatives. Stories of huge groups of children and adults literally gathered around light in the darkness listening to stories made up on the whim of my own grandfather or singing bhajans led by my mother’s cousin’s cousin’s wife, stories that seem out of some version of a book called Laura Ingalls Wilder Goes to India where everyone’s working by candlelight and going hungry.

Here in the United States at this time, immediate family often means the parent(s) and child(ren). What a fraction of the people that family once was! Those few people surely would spend all their time together, more than their counterparts of the past, would they not? No! It somehow means fewer people to share the load of living. Granted, the sea of societal structures and self-destructive sloganism brutally bombard these tiny rafts of familial relationship. In fact, many of us feel ourselves floating alone through the trials of life. What happened to family?

Creating family requires conscious intention. How do I do this when my small, immediate family of four is strewn across three states and thousands of miles? Then again, today’s technology allows me to blog, Skype, Facebook, email, scan, fax, and phone my child’s grandparents as well as mail them things next day or even same day! My mother raised me in Kansas while my Indian grandparents, eight times more distant had to have someone go down the block to the corner store to get on the phone call list so they could call us. Logic and reason suggest that creating loving and close family bonds with access so many methods of connection should be relatively easy, a matter of effort rather than intention.

Family for me has felt both immediate and elusive. Barriers of culture, communication, emotion, and perception pop up to block connections I intend to make. Hurt feelings and confusion abound, but perhaps this is part of my parents having raised me in a country and culture with such opposing values to the ones of their own upbringing. Respect, seeming simple and singular in definition, somehow contradictorily means hearing out ideas and agreeing to disagree versus doing whatever I say or letting me do whatever I want in the face of disagreement. Vertical and horizontal hierarchies create very different feelings of family.

For me, creating family for my daughter has meant that I have intentionally explored and chosen to implement a number of independent ideas that work together cooperatively to create a community around my little raft of a family despite differences and difficulties with my immediate family. Indeed, creating a family, even within the intimacy of our three-piece immediate family, requires all my intention and spirit when I find myself having to give the very energy I would devote to creating family with my loving husband, who is a wonderful father to my precious daughter, while I am, essentially, a mother to other people’s children. In the environment and structure of this country and culture, driven by time and money, it is actually more efficient for me to think about Living Family rather than creating family.

Living Family means many things to me, but all help me stay focused on the goal of creating a  sea of family and a community in which to live and ideally thrive. Living Family means:

  1. being in and living from the present moment
  2. creating structures and routines that support family bonds
  3. expanding the limits of family to other families that support the family life I intend to create ….. in essence, creating a community of others who want to consciously create family in a vein similar to ours
  4. make a living…as opposed to making “it,” whatever “it” is…in a way that allows my “selves” to not be so separate from each other and/or from family
  5. living our family life in such a way that allows us, others as well as the natural world to live and thrive while being mindful of resources and relationships

Having this goal feels lofty to me. It requires that I shift my whole focus and think broadly and creatively. It also feels vital, however, if I want to reach any semblance of traditional family connections and experiences of shared living. My daughter has just turned one. Now, with this intention, we begin the journey towards a Living Family….

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