Does EC Really Save You Laundry?
Yes… and no! In a nutshell, it all depends on what stage you are at, how well EC is going, and to what extent you use cloth diapers or have diaper-free time.
Most parents who choose to practice elimination communication (EC), a gentle method of potty training a baby from as early as birth without waiting for conventional signs of readiness, use cloth diapers or trainers to some extent. One of the things that can lure in a cloth diapering parent into trying EC is saving on laundry! Especially poopy cloth diapers! They imagine that baby will immediately recognize that the potty is for pees/poops and they will be washing less cloth diapers than they were already doing. Or a parent to a newly born baby may think that they need LESS cloth diapers in their stash than a normal cloth diapering parent. Sometimes, maybe most of the time, they can be greatly disappointed initailly!
My baby arrived around 8 weeks ago. I’ve always practiced EC with my babies (my first and now this one) and I have no experience with cloth diapering without any EC. However, a couple of friends have visited me who cloth diaper their babies without practicing EC. I noticed something that I never realized with my first baby since I had no friends nearby that cloth diapered then. I made some mental calculations and found that I do WAY more laundry then them with my newborn! Even though my baby poops in the potty very well and pees there quite well also. Then I thought, hey! EC is supposed to save on laundry! That’s when I really got thinking and realized something.
Let me share my thoughts on this by making some points.
How Does Cloth Diapering Compare With Cloth Diapering With EC?
When my friends who cloth diaper without EC visit with their baby who is not potty trained, they don’t change them constantly, but just once usually. Sometimes an earlier diaper change is required when baby has pooped. But usually, it’ll just be right before they leave or is the cloth diaper has leaked. This means that baby stays several hours in the same diaper. Cloth diapering parents often diaper the same way as disposable diapering parents: they wait for the diaper to get sufficiently soiled (either wet or poopy) to change it. If it’s not soiled enough, it can stay on longer because their diaper’s purpose is to catch all eliminations. So if they change their baby very frequently, it just means more laundry for them. Every cloth diapering parent has their own threshold of how much they want the diaper to be soiled before they change it. Sometimes a baby’s skin is more prone to diaper rash, so they are changed more often. Parents adjust to these.
A cloth diapering parent who practices EC, has a different purpose for their diapers: to catch any eliminations that they didn’t manage to get into the potty. Don’t think there’s a difference? Let me explain. An ECing parent’s goal is to get poop and pee into the potty and will try to potty the baby before baby soils the diaper. A non-ECing parent’s goal is to get poop and pee into the diaper and dispose of it via laundry (or the toilet for after-solids poop).
So ECing parents check their babies more often (as often as they expect them to eliminate or whatever they can manage in whatever situation they’re in). If the cloth diaper is dry, they will replace it. If it’s wet, they will change it for a new one, even if it only has one pee in it! Over the course of several hours, a non-ECed baby will have peed many times in their diaper, so that cloth diaper would have served the baby for that many pees! But the ECed baby will pee once, or a few times in their diaper depending on how diligently the parent is checking or pottying her. ECing parents can check their awake babies’ diaper several times in an hour during active ECing time whereas a non-ECing parent may leave the diaper on for hours.
ECed Babies Learn That Peeing Means Wetness
One strong idea in the EC community is that babies must feel the wetness when they pee into a diaper. Babies are encouraged to learn that if they pee, they will get wet and thus understand what is happening with their bodily functions. This is why cloth diapers and cloth trainers are preferred over disposables which absorb the wetness and give a dry feeling to the baby. Cloth will absorb the pee, but still feel wet to the baby.
EC: Wetness Is Not Normal
Whatever conditions baby is left in for a prolonged period of time repeatedly, that is what they will come to embrace as normal. Although ECed babies learn that peeing will result in wet clothes or cloth diapers and thus discomfort, they are also encouraged to learn that this wet feeling is not normal. So they are changed frequently and not left in a wet or soiled diaper for long lest they learn that a wet diaper is a perfectly normal condition to frolic around in and lose the desire to be dry by peeing in the potty rather than the diaper. Note that this is not some stern process to teach this, but a gentle encouraging that results in learning over time.
The Laundry: When EC Can Mean MORE Laundry
With those thoughts in mind, you can see why the EC-ing family can have way more cloth diaper laundry to do than a non-ECing, cloth diapering family! If I’m have a very distracted day and loads of misses, I can literally go through 5 or 6 cloth diapers in just the few hours of the morning whereas a cloth diapering mom will have probably used just 1! Since my baby is still small, I don’t even use a cover on her at home so I can notice the wetness earlier and change her quickly. So after a day of many many misses, I will have a PILE of prefolds, flats, and Komfi Baby soaker pads. Literally. It can be discouraging. I’m so glad that washing machines were invented.
So, in my current situation, I know that I use more cloth diapers on my 8-week-old than a non-ECing cloth diapering family. This is because:
I change her as soon as she’s wet
I check her very often
Baby is still young so pees very frequently
Baby and I are still in the early learning stage of EC
For now I have lots of laundry, thankfully mostly peed-on cloth diapers rather than poopy ones!
The Laundry: When EC Can Mean LESS Laundry
I don’t abandon EC just because I’m currently doing loads of laundry. I know it’s gonna get better. WAYYYYY better. My first baby was regularly getting 80% of poops into the potty at 2 months of age. Then around 90% by 5 months. By 7 months, it was 100% except for one or two misses after that. So we stopped using diapers during the day altogether and switched to underwear, which is smaller and easier to wash! A non-ECing parent will continue to wash poopy and wet diapers for years until they start potty training. Once baby and parent get better at EC, the pile of diapers will get smaller and smaller over time.
Once my baby stopped pooping in his diaper, the laundry got much easier. Not only was there no poop, but each diaper was only lightly soiled with pee. Eventually, my laundry changed from large prefolds to just small soaker pads and underwear or pants. I still had many pee misses, but the soaker pads and undies are much easier to wash and dry than the cloth diapers. When my pile got small enough, I just threw them in with our normal laundry. This saved a LOT of effort! instead of doing a separate load for cloth diapers and pee-soaked undies, I just did my laundry as normal! It was wonderful. I’m waiting for that day since currently I’m doing separate loads for my second baby’s diapers now.
Factors That Impact Laundry Load
Here are some factors that keep in mind that affect how much laundry you will have to do!
How often you check baby
How often you potty baby
How successful EC is going
How much diaper free time you incorporate
How much of the day/night is spent in EC-mode (full-time vs part-time EC)
How many cloth diapers you use vs disposables
How often baby pees/poops
If baby fights diaper changes or not
There are other factors that affect the factors above such as:
How committed you are to EC
How busy your life is
How stressed you are
How fearful you may be for a missed
Whether you have company or not
How confident you feel as a parent
Sickness in the family
Big changes, such as moves or divorce
In conclusion, the answer to whether EC really saves on laundry is yes and no. Probably “no” at the beginning when you’re just figuring things out. But it should gradually become a “yes” then turn into a super big “yes” when baby transitions to undies and graduates into a fully potty trained human being!
How about you? Did you find EC made your laundry load heavier or lighter? Did it get better as EC progressed?