Obstacles to EC
Elimination Communication is not right for everyone. Parents who choose to use EC are most often people who practice Attachment Parenting or Continuum Concept Parenting. Attachment Parenting typically involves keeping the baby on the parent's body with a sling or similar hold, extending nursing schedules, and co-sleeping. This does not mean that a parent using EC must also follow all parts of the Attachment Parenting regimen, but many aspects of EC fit in better with a parent who is constantly and consistently with his or her child.
Similarly, EC is made more difficult by alternative schedules. If you have chosen to follow a more rigid schedule to which your baby adheres, EC is probably not right for you. Strict schedules are typically designed by the parent and according to the parent's schedule, whereas EC requires the parent to follow the baby's lead.
It is also important to consider who else will be taking care of your child. Day cares cannot and will not participate in EC because it is against the law and licensing codes for a day care to have a consistently un-diapered baby on the premises. Likewise, EC requires one person to be alert to the baby's signals at all times, which is generally too difficult in a situation where one person is responsible for multiple infants in the same age range. This is not to say that a parent of multiple children cannot practice EC, but a parent of multiple infants may find this too difficult. EC becomes easier if some of the children are older, and thus more independent and capable of taking care of their own elimination needs.
One Mom's EC Story
“Years before I was a mom, I knew that I wanted to use EC with my children. When Thomas first showed signs, I snatched off his diaper and plopped him on his tiny potty. He immediately screamed, and my husband exclaimed “What are you doing to him?” An inauspicious start, but within two weeks, the crying subsided. For the next two months we had only a few dirty diapers, and I was with him constantly. Peeing proved to be more difficult to catch than pooping, but he and I were learning together and he was happy. He had a specific cry, and that meant we had around five minutes to find a bathroom. I quickly learned if I ignored his signal, he would grow increasingly upset until he was taken to eliminate.
“Soon, two things happened that made everything change. First, Thomas developed painful, frequent gas; his response to gas was indistinguishable from his signal to poop. For two weeks we ran to the bathroom every few minutes, usually for nothing more than gas. Second, the worst cold snap hit Portland, turning our ill-sealed apartment into a fridge. When he was undressed to go to the toilet he shivered, looked at me in distress, and refused to pee or poop until he was redressed.
“By the time the cold snap finished, the combination of time away and continued gas had ruined our success. However, EC is based on communication, and so I continue to try. Even if I only occasionally catch elimination now, I still try to communicate anytime he signals. “Do you have gas?” “Do you have to poop?” “Are you going poop in your diaper?” “Good boy, going bathroom!” and change dirty diapers immediately. As a result, he still connects his body's signals with elimination. Sometimes we catch a poop or pee in the toilet, and sometimes Thomas startles his relatives by clearly asking for the bathroom at only thirteen months!”
–Jessica, mother to Thomas, age 13 months
Risks and Regression
As you probably noticed in Thomas's story, babies who are trained for EC can get very upset when they are not taken to eliminate. Just as potty-trained toddlers may cry or yell when they have an accident after they know they are supposed to wait for a toilet, babies who are used to using EC may grow confused, agitated, and even distressed by not using an elimination container or by not having someone respond quickly enough to their signals. This adds to the number of complications that accompany using EC.
At this point, you may ask yourself: what's the harm in trying? Well, if a baby is used to using a container with EC and his caregiver misses a signal or is unable to take him to the proper disposal container, he will often withhold his elimination. This means the infant is risking constipation, bowel compaction that can lead to bowel obstacles, urinary tract infections (UTI), and more.
Although many mothers have reported success using EC on a part-time basis, this may not work for everyone, and you as the parent will not have much choice about whether or not your baby is capable of part-time EC. Just as you cannot force a toddler to potty train before he is ready, you cannot force a baby to participate in EC.
Although these risks sound serious and can be serious, they are not exclusive to Elimination Communication. An infant using EC runs the risk of these consequences early in life if he doesn't have access to a container and has been trained not to eliminate in a diaper. On the other hand, a toddler who has not used EC is accustomed to eliminating in a diaper and will often withhold pee or poop when he is still getting used to a toilet. This, too, can cause constipation, bowel compaction, UTIs, and more. This section is not intended to frighten you or turn you on or off any one method of potty training. Instead, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the steps and potential consequences of each method as you determine which method is best for you.