Tag Archives: Elimination Communication

A Peek into the Past – Infant Pottying and Diapering

 Want to learn more about other baby-friendly practices, like elimination communication, baby-led weaning, co-sleeping, and baby-wearing? Check out our book, The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First YearThe e-version is FREE from October 9-12!!

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IMG_0049Americans live in a land of extremes. Our cultural norms can shift dramatically in a matter of years. In terms of elimination, we’ve gone from strict, regimented and arguably abusive potty training, to a permissive, wait-til-he’s-ready-even-if-it’s-five approach. To set the stage for our country’s infant toileting practices, we’ll give you a crash course in the last 100 years of American pottying.

Surprisingly, we found little evidence of early EC pioneers in the States. Rather than throwing off the shackles of diapers during the revolution, our ancestors focused on tea. The good news is they left the best part of the rebellion – the part with environmental, economic, and relationship perks – to moms like us!

Starting around 1900, parents were urged by family doctors to strictly toilet train babies before they could walk. Moms were doubly motivated to train their babies. With no electric washing machines, moms were eager to stop washing diapers by hand. Health concerns also played an important role. Moms feared constipation, which can lead to many health issues. Staying regular from an early age was an important way to keep healthy. So far, so good, but here’s the catch. Rather than serving up prunes, moms inserted sticks of soap into baby’s bottom. Dr. Herman Bundesen, author of Our Babies wrote,

“Before the mother begins the 10:00 morning nursing, she should place the pot, a roll of toilet paper, a soap stick, a towel, and a glass of hot water (to wet the soap stick) upon the table within easy reach….If after several minutes [on the pot], the bowel movement does not take place…the soap stick should be inserted and held into place until the bowels begin to move, but not longer than ten minutes….If this is kept up for three or four days, the baby usually will have learned to have regular bowel movements at the end of this time without the use of the soap stick.”

Are you getting a picture of early American infant toilet training? It wasn’t a feel-good rite of passage, complete with sticker charts and M&M’s. In the 1920s, our buddy Dr. Watson also endorsed early toilet training. He told parents to hold a chamber pot under their newborn, and to begin a serious training regimen by three months. Some parents strapped their infants to small potty chairs as soon as they had neck control.

These harsh toilet training methods made a lasting impression on our society. In the 1940s, Dr. Benjamin Spock, the most prominent babycare authority of his time, revolted against early toilet training and recommended waiting until babies sat independently, around seven to nine months, before starting. But the biggest paradigm shift came from Spock’s successor, pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton, who felt children were not ready to deal with their elimination needs until 24 to 30 months.  His theory was based on observation of one-to-two year old children whose parents used rigid toilet training methods. According to Brazelton’s 1999 book Toilet Training – The Brazelton Way, fears that children wouldn’t complete training in a timely manner spurred parents to use both rewards and punishments, which traumatized young children, and resulted in constipation from withholding bowel movements; bed-wetting; and smearing stools.

Brazelton and co-author Dr. Joshua Sparrow articulated seven clear “readiness” signs. He urged parents not to begin before all seven were present. Among the signs are the ability to say “no,” bowel regularity and bodily awareness.

Brazelton’s research launched child-initiated toilet training, which is now the dominant practice in the U.S. and much of the western world. However, his work contains several flaws. He claims that bed-wetting is caused by early toilet training. Ironically, in his own study, Brazelton found that a clear majority of bed wetters were toilet trained after age two. Also, Brazelton claims that children have no sphincter control until 18 months or older. Common sense tells us this is false – if babies had no sphincter control, they would leak urine constantly, rather than releasing when their bladders are full.

It’s worth noting that Brazelton has profited from his opinion, which has in turn fed the $25+ billion disposable diaper industry. In 1998, Brazelton starred in a Pampers commercial to launch a size 6 diaper — fitting children up to 70 lbs! Though each child is different, the average 70 pounder is 10 years old! Brazelton was also reportedly chairman of the Pampers Parenting Institute, and his book Touchpoints is recommended repeatedly on Pampers’ website.

Given the “determination” of their parents in the roaring 1920s, children were using the bathroom independently at 12 months. In the 1940s, the average shifted to 18 months. By the 1960s, the average age was two years. And now, in the 21st century, the average is over three years. One third of children are still in diapers after their third birthday.[ii] Yes, America is a very progressive nation. But as we’ve seen with many babycare trends, sometimes progress is, in fact, backwards.

In the meantime, several modern pioneers have launched a small but thriving movement to gently respond to baby’s pottying cues – a practice called Elimination Communication, or EC for short – in the U.S. and other western societies. In 1980, Laurie Boucke published the first “how-to” guide, a pamphlet which she has since expanded into a book, Infant Potty Training. In 2001, Ingrid Bauer published Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene.

In 2004, the international organization DiaperFreeBaby was launched by Melinda Rothstein and Rachel Milgroom, two Boston moms passionate about educating and building community among ECing parents worldwide. A media blitz in the mid-2000s drew thousands of new ECers, who began forming local groups around the world to support each other. In 2007, author and DFB active member Christine Gross-Loh wrote the user-friendly EC guide, Diaper Free Baby.

Interested in learning how and why our babies were using the potty from birth, and out of diapers around their first birthday? Stayed tuned for tomorrow’s post for a more practical look at EC!

Do you practice EC? If not, what holds you back?

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Want to learn more about other baby-friendly practices, like elimination communication, baby-led weaning, co-sleeping, and baby-wearing? Check out our book, The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year. The e-version is FREE from October 9-12!!

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Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year  to empower women to make the best choices for their families.

Top 3 Baby Myths, Busted.

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FrontCoverThis content was adapted from the vast archive of environmental, family and child-friendly parenting practices detailed in The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year by Megan McGrory Massaro and Miriam J. Katz. 

4 Things I’ll Do Differently – Preparing for Baby #2

img_6116I’m two weeks away from my due date, anticipating the birth of my second baby. Since becoming a mom, making my way through the first three mystifying years of parenthood, and sorting through mountains of research while co-authoring The Other Baby Book, my perspective has shifted. As a result, so have my decisions. I’ll give you a brief run down of what I plan to change this time around.

1. Birth. We’re preparing a natural home birth, a huge departure from the epidural hospital birth I planned the first time around. After sorting through the data, I found that home births were as safe or safer for healthy moms and babies, and I relish the thought of being surrounded by family and caring midwives who see birth as a empowering natural process. I also value being able to call the shots about how I labor and what happens to my baby immediately after birth.

2. Sleep. The first time around, I famously said that the baby would sleep in her crib, in her own room from day 1. I had all sorts of illegitimate fears about how bringing a baby into my bedroom might negatively impact my marriage, and misconceptions about healthy and appropriate sleep environments for newborns. This time we have a co-sleeper on hand, but we now know that the best way to optimize sleep and care for our baby will be to bring him/her safely into our bed from the start. (For a safe bed-sharing checklist, click here.)

3. Diapers. The first time around, I was afraid of the stigma and workload involved in cloth diapering. We used disposables for the first 4-5 months, though we pottied our baby beginning in her first week of life. This time around, I plan to use cloth from the beginning, and to be a bit more pro-active about pottying the baby both at night and when out on the town. With a 3 year old who’s very nurturing and attuned, I’m hoping that my little helper can help me keep our baby attuned to his/her pottying needs.

4. Baby Wearing. The first time around, I was terrified of putting my newborn in a carrier, and spent many hours holding her and sitting. With an active toddler to care for, this time around I’m planning to make a lightweight cotton wrap that I can use to tote the baby to all our activities. I’ve learned that there’s little cause for shlepping those heavy carseats everywhere, that the freer my hands are and the closer my baby is to me and to milk, the happier we all will be.

5 Tips For Traveling Light and Stress-Free with Your Infant

Photo Credit: Dan Kuster, 2009

Have you booked your Spring and Summer travel, God(dess)? Don’t be scared, especially if you are lucky enough to have a beautiful, gurgling infant. My mom, in her infinite wisdom, gave me an awesome piece of advice when our daughter was born. She said, “Travel now while all you need is a boob and a diaper!” (or in our case, some boobies,  a baby potty, and some back-up cloth diapers). I think at the time I rolled my eyes, overwhelmed with 24/7 nursing, very little sleep, and the obligatory “peak crying” at 46 weeks.

However, as the purple haze of the first few weeks of mommyhood lifted, we began to plan trips on planes and automobiles, and it was actually fun! Most likely your first trip will be to a grandparent’s house. It is a great place to get your sea legs and adventure more from there. Please enjoy these tips for traveling with your infant…and GET GOING!

Tip 1: Bring your nursing pillow.

The breast idea in the entire world! When my husband first suggested this for our first flight from Boston to Iowa with our daughter, I balked at the idea. Seriously? That was not my idea of traveling light. But once I removed the cover and stuffed it with baby’s clothing, cloth diapers, and burp cloths I realized how brilliant this was. Not only did I have everything I needed at hand, but also had a comfy place for our daughter to sleep during the flight. The result? I nursed her during take-off, she fell asleep for the entire flight, and I got to snuggle her without getting an arm cramp while reading a book. Win win win!

Tip 2: Ditch the stroller, bring the carrier.

Strollers take up a lot of space. Babies are light and love to be close to you. Bring your carrier! You can literally sashay through the airport, adventure forever through museums, go on long walks with grandma, and sooth her if you need to. A bonus? They are all-terrain!

Choose a carrier that is correct for your babe’s development. A Moby and Baby K’tan are great for very young babies (and pack down small too). For those with more head and torso control, I recommend the Boba or Ergo style carriers.

Tip 3:  Don’t forget the duct tape!

Macgyvermama approved! Duct tape can fix anything. Got a hole in your muffler during a road trip? No problem. Need a prom dress? Whip one up! However, a roll of duct tape is also a cheap (and light) way to baby-proof where you are staying away from home. If your babe isn’t mobile yet you don’t have to worry about this, but if you have a crawler/cruiser on your hands, duct tape is just the thing you need to blast out some DIY socket covers in the hotel room. You can also use it to tie up loose curtain and electrical cords, keep drawers closed, and patch sharp corners. Remember, less stress = more enjoyment. (Just make sure it doesn’t take the paint off the wall).

Tip 4: Organize baby’s clothes

Babies are small. They have small shirts, small socks, and small pants. When packing for your child (after you have packed your suitcase, God(dess)) use small, reusable drawstring bags (or gallon Ziplock bags if you prefer) to organize clothing. One outfit (shirt, pants, socks, etc) goes in each bag. This avoids overpacking and reduces the barrier to getting baby dressed (or re-dressed throughout the day). Whoever is with baby at the time of a wardrobe change can simply pick a bag without disturbing Papa from his nap or Momma from her soak in the bathtub.

Tip 5: Leave space for pottying and/or changing

I snuck this one in to see if you were following the “Travel God(dess) 75% Rule” from our last travel post. If you have followed the rule, you already have plenty of space! Traveling by car? Leave space either in the backseat or trunk to comfortably potty and/or change your little world traveler. It is less stressful than trying to dodge dirty truckstop bathrooms with your bundle of joy. Traveling by plane? Good luck. Most planes have itty bitty changing tables and most seat inserts fit on airplane toilets. Just take a deep breath (or six) and imagine yourself in a Saturday Night Live skit.

Continue practicing Elimination Communication as much as you can while you are traveling. You will gain a lot more space by not having to pack as many diapers and a little potty/bowl is an easy thing to bring with you. You may be surprised how your little babe rises to the occasion of travel!

Worth a mention: If you are planning a trip overseas with your baby, call the airlines and reserve a flying bassinet. Baby not only can sleep in it, but it makes an excellent “play space” where baby can sit and admire her surroundings.

Next up, Traveling Light with Your Toddler! Join us in two weeks. Happy travels!

Stephanie’s daughter took her first road trip to see her Grandmother in Maryland at 4 months old. It ended up being an 11 hour trip full of traffic jams, the Jersey Turnpike, and nursing escapades. She was a complete rockstar and hardly fussed. That was more than she could say for her parents.

3 Money-Saving Tools for New Parents

Growing numbers of new parents gaining access to tools that have been used across time to save money and raise thriving babies. Check out the baby registries  of these mavericks (if you can find them, because they recognize that few items marketed as “baby essentials” are necessary or even useful), and you won’t find the funtime froggy bathtub, a baby swing, and most notably a crib. Usually, that is. It’s important to recognize that every family is different and while sweeping generalities can be used to give you a sense of their typical lifestyle choices, every family makes its own decisions independently, based on its own needs and preferences.

Anyone who’s purchased baby food, including infant formula, baby cereals and purees, not to mention all those fun teething biscuits and snacks with cartoons on the boxes, will tell you—they cost a pretty penny. But they’ve been around so long—and, more importantly, marketed so successfully—you’d never know they weren’t necessary to feed your children.

If foods like baby formula are such staples, then why aren’t babies born with a bottle and can of formula? Because they are born with something even easier to access, healthier, and cheaper. We humans are called mammals because our bodies are genetically equipped to feed our babies with human milk, and we begin making milk in preparation for the baby’s birth. It’s true, not all women make enough milk for their babies. I know—I  was one of the few who didn’t, at first. But it’s far less true than we’re led to think. More than 90% of women have enough milk, or can make enough milk to feed their babies. It’s just that new moms don’t get all the support we need to do it, in the form of skilled professionals like Lactation Consultants—or better yet, a wise community of elders—who can help us through the early days and the inevitable bumps in the road.

While we’re on the topic of baby food, I’m excited to share a revelation that changed my life, and kept our bank account healthy. Babies don’t actually need baby food! Really. I know what you’re thinking—here’s one of those blender ladies who is going to tell me to puree my own baby food. Actually, no. It’s much easier than that. Our babies—beginning around age 6 months and older—can eat the vast majority of foods that we eat. Things like whole fruit, cooked veggies and whole grains such as rice, quinoa, beans and even meat.

Not only can babies eat our food, they can also feed themselves. This is where the real fun comes in. Maybe you’ve seen a parent feeding their baby, or maybe you’ve been that parent airplaning mashed bananas into his mouth. You know that it takes both of your hands and your complete attention. You’re spooning the mush out of the jar, aiming it into the baby’s mouth, possibly making sound effects while encouraging him to eat it, then cleaning up when he’s done. Picture this instead. Cook dinner as you normally would, then put some food on his tray or plate. Let him practice picking it up, aiming it towards his mouth or just playing with it. Then clean up when he’s all done. What’s the difference between these two ways of feeding babies solid foods? In the second scenario, the parent can actually eat and enjoy the show! Chances are she has many comical pictures of her baby wearing his dinner, what with her hands free and clear. The long-term outcomes are even more impressive, though. Babies who are self-fed are less likely to overeat or be obese later in life. Not bad for budget-friendly dining.

Another top money saving baby-care secret is called Elimination Communication (EC), or infant pottying. Yes, really. Infants can be taken to the bathroom, and, in fact, they really want to be. No one wants to sit in their own filth, not even babies. Most parents who potty their infants notice that babies stop pooping in their diapers within a week or two. By tuning in to our babies’ cues, we’re able to better meet their needs. ECing parents also report less incidences of unexplained crying. You know those times when you fed, clothed, napped and changed your baby, and he still wouldn’t stop crying? Millions of parents chalk it up to a mystery of babyhood. But it just might be that your baby wants you to take off his diaper so that he won’t have to soil himself. It sounds crazy at first, I know. But pottying is fun for everyone – the baby who doesn’t have to poop in his diaper, and the parent who “catches” his eliminations and doesn’t have to change her baby’s diaper—not to mention pay for all those expensive Pampers!

We’ve all heard about life in the trenches – the first three months of a baby’s life when he’s crying all the time, waking up multiple times to feed and needing to be swaddled, rocked, pacified, sung to, driven in the car, or shushed to sleep. I’ve been there, and they were the longest and most miserable three weeks of my life. But thanks to conversations with parents in-the-know, I learned that I didn’t have to keep muscling through, all three of us miserable as my baby cried her way through the nights. I learned that I could bring her into bed with me – that bed-sharing wasn’t unsafe, as my post-partum hospital nurse had told me, as long as it was done safely. Safe co-sleeping is one of the best-kept secrets in Western society, even though it’s practiced across the rest of the world. The U.S. government in particular has done an impressive job publicizing the perils of bed-sharing, citing many tragic deaths from co-sleeping, without mentioning that they are actually 46 times less than crib deaths over the same time period.

What’s so great about co-sleeping? For nursing moms, sharing a sleep surface enables a baby to feed quickly and easily, without mom’s feet once touching the ground. (Babies who aren’t nursing are safest on a separate sleep surface, close to their parents.) For babies, who have spent 10 months in utero, co-sleeping allows them the nearness to their moms, making the world less scary and helping them relax and sleep! Also, while the baby’s lungs are developing, nearness to his mom helps him to regulate his breathing, resulting in fewer instances of apnea and SIDS.

As one who has tread both worlds with the same baby, I can tell you that the tools in our parenting toolkit have fattened our bank account, built a close intuitive relationship with our daughter and increased our sleep. Taken together or separately, the experience has been priceless.

Miriam is a fun-loving mama who literally can’t stop kissing Dalia, her delicious 2 year old.  She loves reading, yoga, crafting and helping others find their paths through life coaching. She is co-author of The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year.

What about you? What are your top money-saving baby-care tools?