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Elimination Communication: What's the bottom line?

Elimination Communication (EC) is the practice of using an infant’s natural timing/cues to recognise when they need to pee/poop. Caregivers then coordinate this to take place in the toilet rather than a nappy. EC is not a new concept - humans have been doing this for millennia.

🔅What changed?

In many places around the world, nothing has changed! EC is still common practice in Kenya, China & Vietnam. In the West, we traditionally have a less comfortable relationship with bodily fluids. Moreover,

in 1962, paediatrician Dr T. Berry Brazelton published a paper calling for parents to avoid early toilet-training, suggesting instead that it should be a child-led practice. He demonstrated that most children are ready by the age of 2-years to self-initiate toilet-training.

🔅So how does EC work?

Similar to hunger & tiredness, parents must attune to a child’s need to eliminate. Infants usually 'go' at predictable times, such as after waking or feeding. Recognising these cues requires focused attention & connection to make sure they aren’t missed. Caregivers might also incorporate vocal cues (e.g., soft whistle or hum) to teach bub to associate with needing to go – with practice, children learn to eliminate when they hear this cue.

🔅What are the benefits?

To date, EC has not been adequately researched & thus many of its supposed benefits lack evidence-based support. However, researchers have observed that toddlers who don’t wear nappies learn to walk more naturally, as they are not restricted by a layer of padding between their legs. EC-trained children are also thought to have better awareness & control of the bladder, with more complete emptying. Anecdotally, they are also less likely to experience night time bed-wetting.

🔅What’s the bottom line?

EC is not for everyone, it’s not for me & my family - we choose to use Modern Cloth Nappies instead. However, as people become aware of this technique & the financial + environmental effects of ditching the nappy, more caregivers might be interested in giving it a go!

References: Brazelton (1962); Théveniau et al. (2014); Sonna (2005)

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