Elimination Communication: The New Poop Movement?

I complained in my blog last week about how hard it is to change Emmett. And I may end up trying to potty train him early–like at 18 months. Yesterday I ended up with feces on my wrist. Not fun. Then, I came across this: an article in the New York Times about the EC movement. Elimination Communication. Oh, if only I had known this existed…

Actually I was aware of this movement, but honestly didn’t know it had taken off so much. I should have guessed my old stomping grounds of Park Slope was leading the way. Next time I visit I will wear disposable covers on my shoes. Lest I step in kid sh-t.

For those of you who aren’t aware, EC means toilet training your baby from the moment of birth. Read that again. Yes, the minute they come out of the womb, in a sh-t storm of activity, you are supposed to start “observing” their bowel and urinary cues. Yeah, don’t focus on breastfeeding or your recovery, or bonding with your baby. What you need to focus on is when they are about to take a dump. Then rush them to the toilet, hold them over it, and boom, you are on your way to a diaper-free world.

I’m sure I’m going to get everyone hating on me because I’m sure moms and dads who subscribe to EC love their babies just as much as the rest of us. I’m being a bit tongue-in-cheek here. But I do have to wonder–if you’re spending literally every moment looking for these cues, doesn’t it get a bit distracting? Maybe I’m just jealous since my kid is a disaster to change. But I honestly can’t get my head around infants being able to grasp toilet training. For many, it’s hard to even learn how to latch on. Or to sleep a good stretch. More importantly, when you are a new mom, you are so overwhelmed and exhausted,  I can’t imagine putting this “task/pressure” on your plate.

The part where I am torn is, I do recognize how awful diapers are for the environment. So I dig that those parents aren’t contributing to the landfill. But I don’t want to start seeing signs in the city next to “Curb your dog” that says, “Curb your kid.”

(Sidenote: cloth diapers aren’t necessarily the answer either unless you launder yourself.  I researched it a bit in New York when I was pregnant. If you get a cloth diaper service where they pick up your dirty diapers and give you a fresh set, they apparently still have to launder them like 7 times in bleach. Then the trucks emit carbon gases and burn fuel doing all the deliveries. So it doesn’t seem like a full-on solution. Now I think they make inserts for cloth diapers that are probably a good idea…)

The author of the article, Anemona Hartocollis, says that many parents felt like they were rediscovering an ancient practice. Yup. Uh Huh. Heard that before.

This goes to the root of my annoyance on stuff like this. As in the homebirth movement and the co-sleeping club. If you want to homebirth your baby, go for it, but don’t say it’s because “that’s what they did in centuries past.” Because they did a lot of things back then that I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be down with. Like putting crocodile excrement in your vagina to prevent pregnancy.  It’s true–at least according to some historians researching ancient Egypt. I’m pretty damn happy I live in the modern world. And I’m pretty sure my vagina appreciates it, too.

In all the mommy wars, I don’t get why the go-to argument is often about ways to mimic ancient times. Like the co-sleepers who say we should do it because that’s what they did “back then.” No, actually, that shouldn’t be the reason. In past centuries families had no choice. They were often crowded into one room, and so exhausted from working the fields or the sweatshops that they’d all collapse together. I’m sure they would have loved a crib for their baby. If you want to co-sleep, do it because you love to cuddle with your baby. But then don’t complain when they’re 5 and still sharing your bed. And for heaven’s sake, please don’t make it because of “what they did in the 17th century” Infant mortality rates were horrendous–from curable things like diarrhea–which again, thank god, we have the modern medicine and sanitary conditions of the present day.

But I digress–I’ve said all this before in my blogs on these topics.

The author goes on to say that parents mostly do EC because they like being “in touch with their babies’ most intimate functions.” REALLY? I don’t know about you, but when Emmett poops, as much as I love him, I don’t smell roses. Poop and pee aren’t the things I love most about my kids. Or even second or third most. Yeah, I get it on some level…like when Fia started to get this far away look and grunt, I knew she was pooping. And as only a mom can understand, I found it cute. She was at least 6 months by then. Nowadays, some of our funniest conversations are when she is sitting on the toilet. So some of this resonates, but to make it an actual “movement” sounds like something for people who have too much time on their hands.

The article quotes one mom who says, “I have absolutely been at parties and witnessed people putting their baby over the sink.”  She goes on to say that one person took “…her baby and her bowl to a party, held her naked baby over the bowl…” I guess they were close friends. But still…doesn’t this seem a bit, well, affected??  Indulgent perhaps? Upper class hipster, um, crap?

My favorite part of this isn’t the article but the comments. I guess the people of the EC movement apparently have weekly support groups. One person left a comment saying she had 20 babies at her house while I guess the parents discussed at length the art of pooping. She said no one had an accident…but honestly, I can’t think of anything worse than taking my precious time, and the time of my baby, to go to a support group that revolves around sh-t. A playground sounds way more fun, right?

But the best was from a “Mom of 2″ in New York who says that people who don’t do the EC method are, you ready for this? L-A-Z-Y parents!!! Here’s her quote: “You know when your baby needs to go: after a meal, when wakes up from sleep etc. Just follow the pattern. Not doing it and continuing using diapers under pretense of various theories is a cover for a lazy parent. It’s a shame when your child can walk and talk and wears a diaper.”

People, people, how did we get here? I am seriously flummoxed. Guess it’s time for me to check out. I’ve never been so excited to change a diaper….

pic of poop via shutterstock
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  1. by Kami

    On April 26, 2013 at 11:29 am

    I’m not sure I really understand EC….but it’s seems like the parents are the ones who are potty trained rather than the kids! My friend, who uses EC, kept going on and on how her son was potty trained. However, the parents were the ones telling the kid when he should go to the bathroom when he was 3.5.
    Maybe I’m just jealous because I was still changing diapers until my son was 3.5!

  2. by lisacng @ expandng.com

    On April 29, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    I read about EC a year ago, and it was pretty interesting, but like you said, I already have a lot on my plate so putting this other thing on top seems unnecessary. I mean, feeding your baby is priority #1, not making sure he/she never has to wear a diaper. As for the mom who called us diaper-using parents lazy, I’m offended, but whatevers, there will always be people who judge.

  3. by Noneya

    On April 29, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    I am very much disappointed in Parents.com for even considering the use of this article. Wow, even the cloth diaper information makes me want to shake my head. Do some better research based off of facts and not opinions.

  4. by NoAdditives

    On April 29, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    How did we get here? We got here because of overly snarky or just plain rude comments like yours that perpetuate the culture of judging that we now live in. If something isn’t for you, fine. But don’t judge others or their reasons for doing something a different way. It doesn’t benefit anyone and it hurts us all.

  5. by Sarah

    On April 29, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    I had never heard of this ever. Being a new mom is hard, but really I’d rather change a diaper than sit my son on the toilet when he’s not ready. Not all kids understand enough to know when to tell their parents they need to go to the bathroom. I believe they’ll let you know. Besides, not all kids who can walk can talk. My son is a great walker and can’t talk barely at all. I think the mother who said that obviously must have some kind of einstein child.

  6. by NoAdditives

    On April 29, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    How did we get here? We got here because of rude, judgmental comments like yours. You may think you’re being cute or funny, but you’re just perpetuating the culture of pervasive judging. If something isn’t for you, that’s fine. We all have our own way of doing things and what works for one may not work for another. But the kinds of comments made in this post of yours do not benefit anyone and hurt us all.

  7. by NoAdditives

    On April 29, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Jeez Internet, thanks for the double post. I even reloaded the page several times to try an avoid this.

  8. by Naeners

    On April 29, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Thank you for wasting my time. I thought this might be an informative article, not a bash fest. I am truly curious about EC, and learned zilch from this article. I also cloth diaper, and your information is completely off.

  9. by Sondra

    On April 29, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    I’ve been putting my baby on the toilet since she was a very young age. I’m not all crazy fanatical about the whole “movement” of EC, but honestly it makes sense. You should know when your kid is taking a dump or peeing because you should change the diaper afterwards, right? Unless you just let your kid sit in his or her excrement for hours until you smell something funny. I still use diapers because I go outside and well I don’t want to have to clean pee off a carseat everday. However, I also haven’t had to change a poop diaper since my baby was 8 months old – she’s now 17 months and wearing her training panties with minimal accidents.

    You act like you have the right to judge people for doing something differently. I have a job and I DON’T have “too much time” on my hands like you’re rudely suggesting. Nobody likes to be judged for doing what they think is right for their child and themselves, just like you.

    I’m surprised Parents published such a judgmental rant. The articles of late have been pretty poor with little to no research done to back up the “advice” that they give thousands of parents everyday. You guys just lost a reader here.

  10. by lupe

    On April 29, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    ive read about this before seems legit babies are able to learn very quickly and yes even at birth, if u are able to start that early why not. to each his own. ALL kids are Einsteins.

  11. by Maddie

    On April 29, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    I’m curious about how you do this with a newborn, especially since they can’t even hold their heads up.

  12. by Kristin

    On April 29, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Love this post and the humor put into it! Sometimes moms take things too seriously so these kinds of articles are always a nice thing to read.

  13. by Tonia Spencer

    On April 29, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    It isn’t news to me that women one and all want to feel like their children are the best and the brightest!

    That being said.. How bright is your little burnt out bulb if the only way you can make them stand out is when it comes to their EXCREMENT?!

  14. by Sheila Foster

    On April 29, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    I really like this, Ive never herd of EC before. I say to each her own…I really dont think its necessary to run a newborn baby to the potty every 5 mins or so. This planet is already messed up, I dont think a few hipster parents potty training their newborns is really going to make a difference.
    Im a mother of 2 boys w/ my 3rd boy on the way Im 32yrs & I really dont care if my 2yr old isnt potty trained yet, my first I put him in underwear right away & he had 1 accident the first time & never peed his pants again. May 5th 2013, is my 2nd borns 2nd bday & I will do the same with him & see what happens. So whatever works for one may or may not work for another. So to all the moms who are doing this EC I say good luck!

  15. by Van

    On April 29, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    I enjoyed the blog. I found it humorous & with two in diapers I definitely need more of the humor side of poop! I am surprised to see how vehement some folks reactions are; gee whiz it’s just an opinion piece guys. I think it is good to examine our culturally based practices and rationalizations. Anyone else watch the documentary “Babies” that shows the bare bottomed African baby pooping while the mom is holding him & wipes it on her leg and then scrapes it off with a corn cob? Or the Mongolian baby peeing like a geyser all over a multitude of carpets & blankets? Yeah, not practices I’ll be adopting-definitely makes me appreciate the resources I have. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t love diapers & I also think today’s efficient disposable diapers may delay potty training by alleviating some of the natural discomfort, but ultimately potty training becomes a major developmental achievement when the child recognizes natural and imposed consequences, among them societal norms & decides for themselves to operate within that context, adopting “big kid” identity. After all, isn’t the basic job of a parent to teach (not train) our children how to function independently?

  16. by Jamie

    On April 29, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    A little over a year ago, we adopted our baby girl. Where she came from, this was a way of life. Everyone in her community was trained using split pants (no need to undress), from birth. Just as the article described, her foster mother would watch for the signal, and put her where she needed to go.

    Now, when we got home, we chose to diaper. Personally, I was not up for the challenge.

  17. by Jessica

    On April 29, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    Potty training from birth is a little extreme. My little one is 10 months old, I started putting her on the training potty at 7 months– when she was really good at sitting without support. She got the hang of it really quick! We went from 10-12 diapers a day to 3-5 diapers a day within a week. I put her on the potty when she wakes, after meals, and whenever I have to go. Sometimes she even pats her diaper when she has to go! I’m just going to follow her lead and see when we get to no diapers used everyday for a week..then I’ll say she’s potty trained. Kids want to learn and do things on their own, there’s no need to get so extreme– and gross!

  18. by Amy

    On April 29, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    I don’t know if I do EC really but I noticed I could tell when my baby was going to do a #2 when she started eating solids and she looked uncomfortable just sitting there trying to get it out, so I started sitting her on the toilet around that tie of the day and now she goes #2 on the potty just about every day. She laughs, thinks it’s great I guess. Now after I take off her diaper if she pees, I’ll put her on the potty and she’ll pee a bit more, she’s always been weird about peeing in a diaper that’s already wet so now she’ll get her next pee out and it’s pretty much cut my diapers in half. Some babies are totally content to pee in a wet diaper but she really won’t so this works really well for us. She’s only 6 months so I have yet to see how this will unfold though :) haha. I guess time will tell. I never let her sit if she seems uncomfortable though. Just for a minute or two to see if something will come out.

  19. by Jill Cordes

    On April 30, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    I love that potty training early–at like 6 months–is working for some of you. I think doing it from birth is extreme, but Jessica and Amy, it sounds like it’s worth the effort and you are cutting down on diapers. You have me debating if I should give it a go with Emmett. He’s so wild I can’t see him sitting still on a toilet–or if he did it would be a novelty. But you might just inspire me to give it a try….Happy for those who got the sense of humor in my blog. To each their own…even if I needle a bit.

  20. by Kim

    On May 1, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    I understand starting this kind of thing early, to encourage the potty, but I`m going to point out you have to sleep, period. Infants do not stay dry all night, period. Is washing all that laundry really an improvement over cloth diapers, ever?