Elimination communication (EC) is a toilet training practice in which a caregiver uses timing, signals, cues, and intuition to address an infant's need to eliminate waste. Caregivers try to recognize and respond to babies' bodily needs and enable them to urinate and defecate in an appropriate place (e.g. a toilet). Caregivers either use diapers as a back-up in case of misses, avoid the use of them altogether, or do a mixture of the two. EC emphasizes communication between the caregiver and child, helping them both become more attuned to the child's innate rhythms and control of urination and defecation. The practice can be done full time, part time, or just occasionally. The term "elimination communication" was inspired by traditional practices of diaper-less baby care in less industrialized countries and hunter-gatherer cultures. Some practitioners of EC begin soon after birth, although it can be started with babies of any age.
The terms elimination communication and natural infant hygiene were coined by Ingrid Bauer and are used interchangeably in her book, Diaper Free! The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene (2001). Bauer had traveled to India and Africa, where she noticed that most mothers would carry their diaperless babies constantly, yet she saw no elimination "accidents" as would be expected in industrialized countries where babies wear diapers almost continuously from birth. Subsequently, she raised her own children with minimal use of diapers, and eventually began to share her approach with other mothers and caregivers — initially through Internet-based parenting support groups and eventually through her book and website.
Prior publications introducing Western parents to this ancient practice include the booklet Conscious Toilet Training, by Laurie Boucke (1979), book Trickle Treat: Diaperless Infant Toilet Training Method, by Laurie Boucke (1991), a pamphlet entitled Elimination Timing, by Natec (1994), and the more extensive Infant Potty Training: A Gentle and Primeval Method Adapted to Modern Living, by Laurie Boucke (2000). Boucke was influenced by an Indian friend who taught her how mothers in India care for babies without diapers, and she adapted it to fit her Western lifestyle. Boucke later co-produced an in-depth DVD entitled Potty Whispering: The Gentle Practice of Infant Potty Training (2006) and co-authored articles for medical journals.
While the terms elimination communication and infant potty training have become synonymous, many caregivers who practice EC do not consider it to be a form of "training," per se. EC is viewed primarily as a way to meet the baby's present needs and to enhance attachment and communication in general. In that sense, EC is often likened to breastfeeding. "Toilet mastery is, of course, an inevitable consequence," writes Bauer, "Yet it's no more the goal of Natural Infant Hygiene than weaning is the goal of breastfeeding." (2001, p. 217)
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