EC is about connecting with our children on a deeper level, being truly in-tune with our babies. This communion between parent and child is an instinct once necessary for survival, submerged over the last century with the advent of industrialised living. Our reliance on material aids means we no longer have to rely on our senses to alert us to our baby’s actions; just as we have lost the art of reading our baby’s signals of elimination, we have also passed night-time communication over to a baby monitor sleep.
I haven’t yet reached the stage where I feel in complete unison with my son. However, being aware of and practising part-time EC has deepened my responsiveness and communication with him. It has also reduced the number of nappies we use, a bonus as reusable nappies still use up valuable resources and energy and take time to care for.
A year into our cloth nappy wearing journey I discovered elimination communication (EC), also known as natural infant hygiene and infant potty training. This concept was a revelation to me, causing me to re-think how I approached my child’s elimination needs. After extensive reading online, as well as reading Christine Gross-Loh and Laurie Boucke’s books, I decided to try this theory out.
The theory goes that newborn babies communicate their wish to eliminate, but in the West we are blind to and ignore their signals, training them to eliminate in nappies instead of potties or toilets. EC involves learning and responding to these signals, lifting our baby to squat on a potty or toilet bowl in order to eliminate. The process takes a lot of time, patience and attention to our babies, which many parents in the West find conflicts with our busy modern lifestyles. It may appear radical, but it is how parents have managed their children’s elimination needs for millennia, and how many societies still function today.
EC is widely practised worldwide, and was how we toileted our infants in the West before the advent of disposable nappies. When travelling in Vietnam and China I often saw children bare-bottomed or with slit trousers, their parents as responsive and aware of their elimination needs as they are their own. Joseph Chilton Pearce clearly demonstrates this in his anecdote;
There are so many positives to using real nappies, here are just a few; Ewan looks cute in real nappies, he is wearing more natural fibres in a sensitive area of his body resulting in reduced exposure to toxins and chemicals, it makes long-term economic sense and reduces our contribution to landfill and our consumption. Ewan is also more aware of when he eliminates because he can feel the wetness in cloth nappies, which disposables cleverly disguise. Lastly, through my actions I am ever so slightly reducing the environmental impact having a child has on our planet.
Facing our first hurdle
We use Motherease Air Flow Wraps and TotsBots shaped nappies on Ewan at night-time; they are so effective that I have rarely had to change Ewan’s nappy at night time since he was very young. In the daytime we use Fuzzibunz and BumGenuis pocket nappies. After a year of use the microfiber inserts in these nappies were beginning to lose their absorbency. I pondered what to do, until I stumbled across a natural baby shop whilst in Montreal, Canada; Bummies. If only the UK had more natural baby shops! Here, for the first time, I received much needed face-to-face support about reusables.
Unbeknown to us, microfiber material does not perform as well when washed in front-loading washing machines, primarily used in the UK, as it does in top-loading machines, popular in North America. This is because there isn’t as much water in front-loading washing machines as top-loaders, so residue builds up. We were advised to buy natural fibre inserts which don’t have the same issue with residue, although they do take longer to dry. we were also advised to reduce the amount of washing powder we use when washing them. Before this revelation we were unaware of this design flaw, feeling somewhat cheated that because of our style of washing machine we were having problems.
Using ‘real’ nappies on my son was not a conscious choice; it was simply the way I planned to protect my son before he was toilet trained. The thought of using disposables depressed me for a variety of reasons, chiefly the environmental impact, but also the effect their use would have on Ewan. It was not a road I would freely go down. I was aware of how misleading the word disposable actually is; products may be ‘thrown away’, but their impact on the earth is still felt. Instead, I was faced with a decision about which kind of cloth nappy to buy. On researching this topic, I was impressed with the huge variety of choices available, finding every kind of reusable nappy you could wish for, in every colour, size and pattern imaginable.
Luckily my sister-in-law had used cloth nappies on her daughter; she kindly gave me all her Mother-ease Air Flow Wrap andTotsBots shaped nappies and accessories when she’d finished with them, as well as a good deal of advice. The National Child Birth Trust also lent me their cloth nappy testing kit whilst at one of their antenatal classes, and I also found a lot of resources online, such as the Go Real – Real Nappy Information Service Without this support I wouldn’t have known where to start. Confronted with rows of disposables in leading stores, we were frustrated we couldn’t examine products we were investing hundreds of pounds in. However, this mirrors a similar lack of choice in most natural baby care products on the high-street, although luckily there is a far wider variety available online. After much deliberating, my husband and I decided to purchase a range of all-in-one Fuzzibunz andBumGenius nappies. Continue reading →