A nappy-free newborn?

When I was pregnant with my first child, I stumbled across mothers on some of the parenting forums talking about EC (elimination communication) or Nappy Free.

The idea seemed crazy to me. After all, we are so conditioned that a baby needs a nappy.

I started to research more, and I found out that what sounds like a radical 'new age' concept,  has in fact been common practice for centuries in many African, Asian and South American cultures. It's a general Western misconception, that infants have no sphincter control.

I like the term elimination communication because this is more about communication with your baby, than it is just about being nappy-free or potty-trained as early as possible. It works on the idea that babies from newborn can let us know when they want to eliminate, just like they are able to communicate being hungry or tired. If we tune into these signals, we can help them eliminate in an appropriate place and not in a nappy worn on their body.

Signs of impending pee

You start by watching your baby and seeing what signal they give when they go. Look for facial expressions, grimace, and cries, and when they do go, you make a sound like water, psst psst. Within a few days they learn to associate the sound with elimination.

Once you know their pattern you can pre-empt their need to go and hold them out in your arms over a toilet, basin, plastic bowl or outside. Thus helping them eliminate in a dignified way and not all over themselves in a nappy.

I tried it with my daughter when she was born, and was amazed to see how quickly she learnt my signal. You also learn your own baby's rhythm, and how long after waking or feeding they will need to go. You learn to trust your instincts. If there is a small voice in your head saying they might need to go, the chances are they do. Trust your instinct.

I had lots of flat towelling nappies that I had under her, in case we missed a wee, I would just make the sound to reinforce the association. I used a sling a lot, as having them close to you helps you know and read their signals in time.

There were times when I did use a nappy but then I used cloth so I could feel when she was wet and change her immediately.  It also helped her associate a wee with being wet, which a disposable does not do.

Dry by a year

She was totally dry at night by a year, by this I mean she did not wee at all at night and would go the next morning on waking. Before this, if she woke I would just hold her out, feed her and let her go back to sleep.

We caught most wee from very young, and by 15 months she was able to verbally tell me consistently when she wanted to go. Before that she would use sign language. Sure we had misses and accidents but we were learning together.

Although the goal is not early potty training and there is no punishment or control used in this method, it does make them more aware of their elimination patterns and able to communicate to you.

With my 2nd child it was harder to be as focused and dedicated as with the first, but we still tried. Although I did use back-up nappies more and he was potty- trained slightly later than his sister, it was still a great way to bond and communicate with him.

To learn more about elimination communication feel free to email me (info@earthbabies.co.za) or visit earthbabies.co.za for starting tips and photos of how to hold the baby at different ages.

Is nappy-free is an option you would try?
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