Elimination Communication With a Newborn (First 2 Weeks)
Anna is my second baby. You can read her birth story here. She’s also my second ECed baby (thus far). She’s only 2.5 weeks as I write this to share a realistic view of elimination communication (EC) with a newborn. At least, how it has been for me.
For those that don’t know, EC is a gentle method of taking a baby to poop and pee in a potty from as early as birth instead of waiting until they show “signs of readiness” as a toddler. It’s also called Natural Infant Hygiene (both of these terms were coined by Ingrid Bauer, author of Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene). The practice of EC is based on the foundational principles that babies are born not wanting to soil themselves, understanding when their eliminations happen, and the ability to release or elimination upon desire among others.
In this blog post, I’ll only be sharing about my experience thus far with Anna. I intend to write a post soon about comparing my first couple weeks with my first and second babies.
Anna was born via an unmedicated VBAC, the complete opposite of my first baby. She was very calm and is exclusively breastfed. She’s a great nurser. I feel like all these factors contribute to how alert and aware she is of what’s happening around her as well as picking up on EC.
At the birth centre, just a couple hours after birth, she had her first meconium poop. On Daddy’s chest. It was a silent one that came without any warning. After I transferred her to her dad for some skin-to-skin while I walked back and forth from the bathroom and tried to pee, she let out her first dark, blackish poop that ran down my husbands chest. He had a fun time washing that off.
A few hours later, we came home. Anna was in a cloth diaper. I had my system pretty much set up. I’ll describe it in my next few paragraphs.
HOW WE CLOTHE HER
For the first few days, we had her clothed from the waist up to allow for easy access for potty trips and diaper changes. Here is what we dressed her in:
Coverless cloth diaper. Our cloth diapers are a mix of prefolds and flannel blankets folded up. I had used flour sack towels with my first, but they were a pain to fold. Plus, I ended up using them all in the kitchen. I realized that really anything can work as a diaper if you’re doing EC since less poop will get on them. Flannel absorbs really quickly, but they are a bit bulky. I found the prefolds a bit rough and wished I had a set of nice stretchy flats. But, although I’m saving so much money by ECing and using cloth diapers, I’m still a pretty frugal person, so I’m using what we have.
Bandie (from Bandie Band). It’s basically the best diaper belt around. It’s also made in South Korea (like most of our Komfi Baby products) and designed by a Korean mom who cloth diapers and practices EC. It is adjustable and super easy to use with soft velcro (not the scratchy stuff) holding it in place and a stretchy waistband. I used to use Snappis with my first, but these are just SO MUCH BETTER that I haven’t touched my Snappis. They’re also machine washable.
Leg warmers and socks. Sometimes she has leg warmers and socks. Sometimes just socks. And we carry her around with a blanket covering her bottom half so that her legs stay nice and warm while allowing super quick checks on whether she was wet or not. The younger the baby, the quicker you’ll need to be able to undress her to catch poops and pees.
Komfi Baby EC-friendly tops. We are dressing her in the bamboo jeogori top (NB) with a couple of other long sleeve T-shirts from other shops. The bamboo top is super soft and warm. It’s stretchy and is quite long, so it covers her well. She also uses a couple organic cotton sleep gowns (3M) which keeps her legs warm. I cracked open a blue organic cotton jeogori top (3M) and folded the sleeves up. It has room to grow, but she fits well in it. The ties make it very adjustable and the fabric is soft and eco-friendly as well as healthy!
An interesting thing to note is that she hasn’t touched a onesie or a footed sleeper. Those are just too annoying to undo and don’t allow for coverless cloth diapering. I used to use those with my first and it’s frustrations led me to start Komfi Baby! So, the greatest blessing so far in my business journey is dressing my own sweet newborn in clothes that I designed! I may be the furthest thing from a Pinterest perfect mom and I may not dress nice or ever look put together (give me about 3 years grace unless I get pregnant again), but I’m very proud to have my daughter wearing my clothes!
USING THE SINK AS A POTTY
I was tempted to buy a top hat potty or another similar potty, but I realized what I did with my first just made more sense. We use the sink to potty her. We don’t use any other portable potty for now. Those need to be emptied out afterwards and using the sink eliminates that step. There’s a couple reasons why we use the sink.
Breastfed poop just washes down. Anna is exclusively breastfed. Her poop isn’t gross and can go right down the drain as well as right into the laundry machine since she hasn’t started solids yet. She poops in the sink and pees there, then we rinse it all down.
It’s the perfect height. The sink is the perfect height for holding Anna in the newborn EC pose against our bellies. No bending or lifting. Not yet.
There’s a mirror. It helps us see what’s going on without straining to hear. You don’t know EC satisfaction until you cue a newborn and see poop shooting out in response. It’s so satisfying. Call me weird. I am.
Water is there for washing. We don’t use wipes to wipe Anna clean. Disposable or cloth. I just don’t think wipes do a good job of cleaning. And it can irritate the skin. All that friction. Plus it creates more laundry. After Anna is done her business, I run the warm water and wash her privates clean right away. Whether she pood or peed.
The faucet makes for a great cue. My husband likes to run the faucet so she can hear the sound of the water and understand it’s time to pee. I like to run it a little and wet her privates so she can feel the water.
I need to emphasize that, in my opinion, pottying her in the sink is not dirty. Her liquid-like breastfed poop is not gross and washes down easily. We will only use the sink for the first bit before transitioning her to some other sort of potty well before solids are begun. Once she starts eating other foods besides drinking breastmilk, the sink will not be a suitable poop potty and all poop will be dumped into the toilet just like ours.
OUR GENERAL ROUTINE
Anna spends a lot of time nursing and sleeping. EC doesn’t take too much time at this point. Every time she wakes up, I take her to our little station next to the sink, lay her down, and remove her cloth diaper. If it’s wet, I chuck it into our designated cloth diaper laundry tub which is also in the bathroom. I lift her up and hold her in the newborn EC position at the sink. I turn on the water and wait for it to run warm. Once it does, I wet and gently wash her privates. Then I wait. If she pees, I say “psssssss” as she’s peeing. If she poops, I grunt. I wash her again when she’s done. If she doesn’t do anything, she will usually get sleepy or kick her legs down in a newborn attempt to arch her back. It’s so cute. Then she’s already clean, so I lay her down and put a new cloth diaper on her.
During the nights, we use a waterproof cover on her so that we can dress her in pants or leggings since she has been sleeping longer stretches and I am not as aware since I’m also sleeping. Also, I want to keep her legs warm since we aren’t holding her during the night. My husband takes her to potty or change during the night. She is usually wet every time, but we can see that she’s pooping less at night.
WHEN DO WE POTTY HER
We take her to the potty every time she wakes up (immediately). She usually has a good pee and poop then. She doesn’t poop during or after nursing like many babies do (yay!) which is very convenient for me. Other times we take her are:
When she farts
After she’s wet her diaper
After she’s just started pooping (we take her quickly and she finishes her poop in the sink)
When she seems fussy for no reason
When she squirms funny or seems uncomfortable
When she has been nursed many times and is tired, but can’t seem to fall asleep
These have worked out well. Yesterday, we only had one diaper with a half-poop in it! Her poops are mostly caught in the potty. It’s so obvious that she already realizes that when we take her to the sink and hold her in the newborn EC hold, she can poop.
HOW SUCCESSFUL IS IT GOING
A thing to note about “success” in EC is that it’s not linear. As a brand new baby, Anna didn’t know what “pssss” means, so telling her expecting her to pee in response is futile. At this stage, it’s about teaching her and showing her little by little what’s going on and helping her make associations. So instead of giving the sound “pssss” as a cue, I am saying “pssss” every time she pees while she is peeing. This is so she can learn to associate the sound with the act that she’s doing. Then, when I feel like she’s made the association, I’ll make the sound when I want her to pee and she how she responds.
In terms of catches, she’s been doing great with poops. We’ve probably caught about 60-70% of all poops from her birth. We missed the first couple days. By now, we’re catching almost all of them except when we’re really feeling lazy. Like last night, she farted and I told hubby to potty her. He said he was too tired and she just farted. Then she pooped and we had to change her. Yeah… That’s when I reminded him that this was why we are ECing in the first place and not just cloth diapering. It’s OK. We all get tired and lazy or need reminders. I’m not husband-bashing by the way. My husband is an awesome partner, in crime and in EC.
Pees are being caught too, but with a lower success rate. She just goes so frequently although she does sometimes hold it for 3 hours at a time during a good sleep. We are catching at least 4-7 pees a day I’d estimate. And it should get better, but I’m focussing more on poops now!
Have you done EC with a newborn? What did you do differently? If you chose to start EC later, what was the reason why?