Our nappy and toileting journey with Strong has been a very different one from those with Bear and Star. With both of my first two bubba’s we used cloth nappies for their whole nappying years. With Bear I also used homemade reusable wipes soaked in my own organic solution. With Star I was less diligent about this using organic or natural disposable wipes.
Bear went from cloth nappies to very quickly being toilet trained, mostly of his own accord, during the day at around two years of age and overnight soon afterwards; Star similarly doing so during the day but taking much longer at night times. With both however I did not give much thought to the possibility of not using nappies, however environmentally conscious I was, and had not heard of ‘elimination communication’ or EC.
When Strong was born 21 months ago I was very determined to once again use cloth nappies. And this was how we began. But without our own washing machine this time round, and with a journey to the mainland fast approaching I found cloth nappies unsustainable and too draining to handwash, and impractical and unrealistic for travelling (I have become much more ready to acknowledge my shortcomings as I have become older despite my often very high ideals!) So, we regrettably fell into the regular use of disposable nappies, be as they were the most environmentally friendly we could find wherever we happened to be on our travels (this unfortunately meant sometimes buying the worst plastic disposables in small towns and less progressive places, adding further to my ever increasing waste guilt!)
We left home when Strong was 5 months old and for those first months of journeying he was in disposable nappies, however we always embraced the warm weather and gave him plenty of hours nappy free wherever possible. I have always thought this important and likewise Bear and Star had many hours nappy free as babes. But It was not until he was 13 months old that I began to read more about EC, was inspired by what I read, and decided to embrace it. The ideas, reasoning, and practice of EC resonated with me very much; being connected to your child in a way so as to learn the signs, signals, patterns, and behaviour of their bodily functions more intimately and respectfully, eliminating the need for nappies.
To begin EC at this stage was, as I read, more difficult as having worn nappies from birth Strong had learnt to ignore the signs of his body but I was very willing to do what we could in the ways we were able. We bought a pack of flat cloth nappies, a couple of pilchers from op shops, and nappy pins (which were very hard to find!) to use at night and when we were going out. Initially we just used a bowl (it was originally his placenta bowl) for a potty, holding him over it to wee and poo.
Notes from my diary at this time explain how he first started weeing into the bowl,
‘I’ve been catching his wees maybe half the time. This is usually when he wakes up in the morning, when he wakes up after a day nap in the ergo, and after a feed. I haven’t been that successful at catching his poos yet, only catching half of one so far. He’s adorable when I place him over the bowl; I say ‘wee’ and tap his willy, he smiles and wants to sit in the bowl. When he sits in it this is usually when he starts weeing, so then I pick him up again, holding him over the bowl and saying ‘wee’ again, telling him it’s come from his willy. The only thing is that afterwards he wants to play or touch his wee and poo and gets upset when I take it away! But I just explain that we are tipping the wee on the grass and putting the poo in the toilet, and do this so he can see. I then clean the bowl and put it near him so he can play with it if he wants.’
I kept the bowl close by, in easy to grab reach, and he loved to play with it and sit in it. Then after a while we bought a potty he could sit on, which he loved, although I still held him if he was pooing as he didn’t like to sit for this.
I began paying very close attention to Strong’s behaviour and any patterns that I could discern, and when at camp he wore no pants unless it was too cold, in which case I would put him in a cloth with no pilcher and pants, or just pants so that he would still feel the wet sensation when he did a wee.
I started to notice particular patterns, especially with wees, so at these times I started gently sitting him on his potty, saying ‘pssss’ and ‘wee wee’, at the same time tapping his willy so he would begin to connect where his wee was coming from. When he did a wee on the ground or in the tent I would also gently show him his willy and say ‘wee wee’.
Excitedly and surprisingly quickly, Strong began doing some of his wees in the bowl and then on his potty, and we started to get into a rhythm. In early May 2016 I wrote,
‘On the 7th, night before we left Tyalgum, Strong did a wee and poo at around 6pm in the bowl! (Before bed).’
And about a week later,
‘Today, the 13th, after I took Strong’s night nappy off I sat him on the potty before putting a cloth on him (it was too cold this morning for no nappy) and he began to get off but then remained seated and did a wee straight away. I think he is beginning to understand that the potty is for weeing in.’
Soon I had discerned the main times when Strong regularly eliminated and wrote on the 17th,
‘I am getting better at knowing when Strong needs to wee and poo. He’s mostly weeing first thing in the morning, after he wakes from a nap, and after he feeds and boobs. I’m not catching all of them but he’s certainly beginning to understand that the potty is for weeing into, and if he wees during the day on the grass I’m not bothered at all.
I have noticed he is needing to do a poo in the mornings but even though I’ve been watching for his signals he always seems to do one in his pants when I’m not looking, or as he did the other day, in his nappy before I’m properly awake. We’ll get there though, I’m so glad we made this change.’
Poos were much more difficult to catch and it was some time before Strong began to understand the connection between his feelings of needing to poo and how to do this, but to start with when he began to do a poo I would take him to the potty to finish and say ‘poo’, showing it to him afterwards.
After wees I would show Strong how we empty the wee on the earth and give a tree or the grass a drink and as he started to become used to this rhythm he really loved this part! Poos of course were a bit different, and as we were travelling we would wrap them in paper and take them to the toilet block, or bury them when there wasn’t one, but we always talked to him about it and told him what we were doing.
Over the following 5 months throughout the remainder of our mainland journey our practice of EC with Strong was up and down. There were times that we spent up in far north Queensland, where we experienced an extremely wet and humid winter, that it was impossible for me to dry Strong’s cloth nappies and had to resort to buying disposables again but during this time we always kept him out of nappies as much as possible during the day. In this way I could more closely observe his signals and patterns, and he slowly began to understand his own body’s functions and feelings. ‘Wee wee’ was actually one of his first words which he still uses for both wee and poo.
At another time we stayed with family which made things a bit more difficult and Strong spent more time in nappies during the day, but the progress we had made was not lost.
During these months Strong would happily sit on his potty for wees but really didn’t like the feeling of sitting down for poos so I continued to hold him over the potty. When he became more aware of the sensation of needing to poo and what it meant he actually developed a real concern about the process, and for a while when he began to do a poo he would get visibly upset and seek support and comfort; the poor little fella. We of course gave him all the comfort he needed and I always spoke to him about how pooing was a good thing; expressing happiness for him that he had done one, and continued to say ‘poo’, telling him it came from his bottom. I think this fear came from the realisation of his bodily function of pooing; before the whole process having been covered up by a nappy.
Once we returned home and Strong was 18 months old we were really able to embrace EC wholly again. And as we started transitioning to waste free I started using cloth wipes (we are all using family cloth) permanently. Due to Strong’s reluctance to poo on the potty I started just taking him to the toilet, holding him over the seat, and gradually his fear of pooing was overcome. Then, a couple of months ago I brought his potty out again and he was super happy to use it! Gradually, with our encouragement and by my communicating with Strong and having learnt his patterns and signals (signals such as becoming a bit frantic, clutching his willy, getting upset for no other obvious reason, my own intuitive signals when I just suddenly feel like its time for him to go, for poos certainly in the past he would start to look very worried and begin to get upset and seek support but once he moved on from his fear it became more of just a slightly concerned look, suddenly stopping what he was doing, a look of deep concentration on his face, saying wee wee, and of course a red face and starting to grunt gives it away!) he has become more and more independent with his toileting and all of his elimination.
So now at 21 months Strong only ever wears a nappy at night and is almost completely toilet trained during the day. At home he goes to the potty mostly of his own accord (I just help him with his pants if he’s wearing any) when he feels the need to wee or poo, to the point where if he starts to accidentally wee he will stop it and run to the potty to finish. He will usually say ‘wee wee’ first and then go to his potty, sometimes running if it’s urgent! He has now even started standing over his potty to wee sometimes, gorgeously imitating his Dad and big brother. He is not concerned at all by pooing anymore and excitedly squeaks and points down at what’s in the potty. Strong also really loves a book that I’ve been reading him; a book we’ve had since Bear was a bubba, called Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi. He particularly loves the last page and questioningly points at all the animals and their poops.
Sometimes I see that Strong needs to wee or poo and remind him to go to his potty or ask him if he needs to go, and before a nap and bedtime I will ask if he can please sit on the potty and see if he needs a wee before his sleep, which he does happily. If he’s outside he steps off the verandah and wees on the dirt! Strong still has occasional accidents but that’s totally not a big deal with wooden floors and he very adorably helps to clean it up by getting the ‘wee towel’ and wiping it up, or trying to help with the mop. He also loves to help carry and empty his potty into the toilet.
When we are out I just try and keep on top of regular visits to the public toilets where Strong wees or poos with no worries. If he does have an accident whilst we are out it is always in the car when we haven’t made it to a toilet or suitable stop in time and we’ll hear a little ‘wee wee’ from the backseat.
Strong’s night nappies are now often close to dry unless I don’t get them off fast enough in the morning, which I’m pretty amazed by as he still boobys heaps during the night! And he never has accidents whilst napping on me in the ergo or on the lounge during the day.
Now, looking back over the years and our recent journey with Strong, it would have been lovely if I’d come to EC earlier. It really does bring another path to deeper communication and connection around your child’s bodily rhythms, and a heightened awareness and respect for their elimination needs. If I was to have another bubba I think I would practice EC right from the beginning. It really is no harder than having to wash countless nappies, or purchase and deal with the huge accumulation of waste produced by disposable nappies. But in saying that I did not start until later and cannot be sure of how the process would unfold in those first few weeks in particular, after a bubba’s birth. My thoughts are though that it would be a much more holistic and pleasant way of managing a bubba’s waste and working their elimination needs into your daily rhythm, and blend another bonding ingredient into that most special of times getting to.know each other.