Are you new to elimination communication? This introduction to elimination communication lingo will help you become familiar with commonly used terms. These definitions come from authors and those of us practicing elimination communication. If you have a different interpretation, please comment below!
EC = elimination communication. Also known as natural infant hygiene; infant potty training; or diaper-free.
EC is an acronym for "elimination communication," a gentle method of allowing babies to use the potty or toilet.
Yes, babies can start using the toilet from birth! Just as babies are born communicating their needs for milk and comfort, babies also attempt to communication their elimination needs.
A pottytunity refers to offering a baby an opportunity to use the potty.
We don't force the baby to remain on the potty if they indicate they don't need to eliminate (often by straightening their legs or arching back). We simply offer the chance to use the potty, toilet, or other appropriate receptacle. If the baby doesn't need to go at that time, we can offer again later.
A common time to offer a pottytunity is during a diaper change. You may be surprised that although the diaper is already wet, the baby often still has more pee in his bladder. When my son was less than a year old, one pee in the potty was equivalent to 2-3 wet diapers. Once he would start to pee in his diaper he would feel wet and stop; only to wet another diaper soon after.
In EC terms, a "signal" is body language, sign language, or a vocalization that your baby makes to indicate that he needs to eliminate.
Many newcomers to the concept of EC think, "My baby doesn't signal." That may be true during certain phases of development, but it could also be that you haven't become aware yet of your baby's signals. Diaper-free observation time is a good way to watch for signals.
Have you ever seen a baby or toddler make a "poop face"? That's probably one of the easiest signals to notice.
When we talk about a "cue" in EC, we are often referring to a sound that the parent or caregiver makes to cue the baby to eliminate.
Common cue sounds are "psss" for pee and a grunt for poop.
Another type of cue is the position in which the baby is held. For example, when my son was about two-months-old and had been practicing EC for about a month, he knew that when I would: (1) remove his diaper, (2) hold him over the little potty, and (3) say "psss," that meant it was time to pee. I remember how excited I felt when I realized, "hey, he has started peeing on cue!".
There is a golden age for EC, around 5 to 6-months-old, when babies happily respond to cues. Once you hit the strong-willed toddler phase, so many other factors come into play.
A "catch" is when the pee or poop is caught in the potty, toilet, or another appropriate receptacle.
I always considered it a catch as long as the diaper didn't get wet or dirty. In the early days of practicing EC, my main goal was to nurture my son's instinct not to soil himself. So as long as he didn't wet his diaper, I was cool with that. Even if it meant he was sitting diaper-less on the potty, while his pee shot across the bathroom. (That's why some parents of boys prefer catching pee in the bathtub).
Try not to get hung up on your catch-rate. Elimination communication is not about keeping a score card of who gets more catches, or who is out of diapers sooner. It is about communicating with your child and responding to their needs.
When the pee or poop ends up in the diaper or other back-up instead of in the potty, that is a "miss".
A "miss" is the flip side of a "catch."
I tend to think the term diaper-free got associated with EC to sell more books about elimination communication. Yes, babies in many parts of the world spend their days diaperless, but in Western cultures, most people who practice EC use diapers or cloth training pants as back-up. The diaper is there for peace of mind in case there in a miss.
The time in which the term "diaper-free" comes into play is during "diaper-free observation time". This observation time is done at the start of EC and periodically throughout, when signals change or we just need to re-connect with our child. During diaper-free observation time, the baby or toddler can be naked, or they can wear training pants or a prefold cloth diaper with a diaper belt.
During diaper-free observation time, the caregiver watches closely to see what body language, behaviors, or noises happen right before the child eliminates.
Some families also practice a designated daily diaper-free time. When my son was nearing one-year-old, I would put him in cloth training pants for an hour or two per day, during a time that I could pay close attention.
Diaper-free time is also great for allowing diaper rashes to air out, which by the way, are not too common when practicing EC. The lack of a diaper also allows for better freedom of movement and development of skills such as walking.
Natural timing refers to Baby's elimination pattern in relation to how long it has been since Baby woke or ate, and the interval thereafter.
For example, "it's been 15-20 minutes since my two-month-old used the potty, so he probably needs to pee". Or "it's been two hours since my two-year-old used the bathroom, so he probably needs to pee".
Natural timing also relates to how long it has been since the child ate or drank. "My baby usually needs to poop right after nursing" or "hmm, it's been 10 minutes since my toddler drank a lot of water, so he probably needs to pee."
I like to meld timing with intuition and get a feel for when it's probably time my little one needs to go. But you can also take a more formal route of recording feeds and pees to detect patterns.
Transitions are changes from one activity to another or one location to another. Transitions are convenient times to offer the toilet.
Common transitions when it is likely that a baby will need to eliminate or that make sense in the daily flow include: upon waking in the morning or from a nap; before being put into a chair or car seat; as soon as Baby is taken out of a chair or car seat; before or after a bath; before leaving the house; upon arriving at a destination; and before heading home. Even many elementary school aged children are still prompted by their parents, "make sure to use the bathroom before we leave the house."
Intuition is a feeling you get that your baby probably needs to eliminate.
It can be a thought that "he can't possibly need to pee again so soon!". Many parents also experience a phantom pee, which is a warm sensation that feels like you are being peed on, but the baby hasn't gone yet!
We tend not to listen much to intuition in Western cultures, but you can become more in tune over time.
The term "potty independence", or "toilet independence" in Montessori teaching, refers to the child initiating by asking to be taken to the toilet or using the toilet independently.
Even once a child is potty independent, he will still need to be prompted to use the toilet at times. For example, many children are reminded to use the bathroom before leaving the house.
An "EC graduate" is a child who practiced EC and is now consistently asking to go to the bathroom or taking himself and things are smooth sailing.
The main distinguishing feature between practicing elimination communication and EC graduation is that during EC the caregiver is often initiating and doing most of the work. After graduation, the child is often initiating and can do most steps himself, although he may require help with certain things like manipulating clothing. I think within the EC circles, there are many different interpretations of what counts as becoming an "EC graduate".
Now hopefully we are all on the same page as we use this elimination communication lingo to dive into more details about how to practice EC.
Next up are tips on Starting Elimination Communication: When to Potty.
Learn more about Cloth Diapering
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Did I leave any helpful elimination communication terms off the list? Do you have a different explanation of the meanings?