When Margo, my older daughter, was 6 weeks old, a friend of mine came to visit. I showed her the trick of how my 6 week old baby could poop and pee and in a bucket. She was impressed, but very skeptical. She thought it was pretty cool, but she had two kids, one of them a baby, and she wondered how you could possibly bother taking a baby to the toilet if you had two kids. Well, I thought she may have a point. I only had one little munchkin to keep an eye on… so I didn’t really know what to say, other than, ‘yes, you’re probably right‘.
Fast forward three years later and I’ve got a blog post on my hands about Elimination Communication (EC) with two kids under 3.
Elimination Communication (EC) is the practice of responding to your baby’s elimination needs. In other words, taking the baby to the toilet. It’s not really ‘early toilet training’, although practicing EC can certainly lead to early toilet independence. But, to me, EC is just another way that I take care of a baby. Like feeding them when they’re hungry, holding them when they want a cuddle,,,, and taking them to the potty when they need to go. It’s not like I’m crazy or anything and constantly holding my baby over a bucket, just waiting for them to produce something. No no… I have a good idea of when they have to go, quickly take them and then continue with whatever we were just doing. I don’t catch everything, and my kids have worn diapers as babies. However, Margo was finished with diapers, day and night by 14 months and Goldie, who turns one next week, has been mostly diaper free during the day for the past few days.
To be exact, my girls are 2 years and 4 1/2 months apart. At the time of writing this, Margo is well over three and is pretty independent on the toilet, unless I help her with a #2. I actually don’t even feel justified calling it ‘EC’ for Margo, since she had been potty trained, day and night, for over a year before her baby sister was born. But, since not all 2 year and 4 1/2 month olds are potty trained, I’ll still call it EC. Also, just because she was toilet trained, didn’t mean that I wasn’t helping her do things like wipe and get onto the toilet (I still do quite a bit of that). I also had to help her if she needed me to pull up her pants, and especially in a public toilet’. So, I’ll just say that I was ECing for two, because I was still very much responding to Margo’s elimination needs well before she became independent in using the toilet.
I have done EC day and night with both of my girls as babies. We also use cloth diapers for the times when we’re not going diaper free. I put together some tips for doing EC with two young kids. Of course, my two are of different ages, but I would love to hear how a mother with twins does it!
Priority Goes to the Older One
Whether you’re doing EC or not, usually the more verbal kid gets the priority. If you think both kids have to go (and believe me, it happens ALL the time). Give the priority to the older one, at least until the older one is one day capable to take themselves. In other words, get the big kid on the toilet and get them started. If they’re all set up, then you can have to time to tend to the baby. You can even take the baby to the sink or a potty in the same room as the toilet, while the older one is going. To the older child, the emotional need to get them to the toilet first is probably more important than if the baby just makes a mess (if they’re wearing a diaper, then even better, you won’t have a mess, just a dirty diaper if you miss it). Then, have the older one wait a second on the pot while you clean off the baby. Have a bouncer or blanket or somewhere to put the baby when you have to wipe the older one. I’ve also had my little one on my back in a wrap plenty of times when wiping. Front baby wearing is tricky when taking an older one to the toilet, but I’ve done that also!
Keep Potties Easily Accessible
Margo is nearly 3 1/2 and she STILL uses the little plastic potties that I use for a baby. Sometimes it’s really hard to take yourself to another room. And, even worse, sometimes it’s impossible to move a toddler to another room. AND, sometimes you’ll have a toddler screaming because you’re going to the other room to take the baby to the potty. There are a million and one variables. So, easy solution, have a few potties laying around just in case. Especially keep one in the car! Sometimes Margo even likes to use the potty, just for the sake of using the potty. I don’t care where she pees! Toilet, potty, bushes, shower… so long as it’s not in in her undies! Poos, she will almost never do unless we’re at home, or if she’s really busting, she’ll go in a public toilet.
Have Realistic Expectations
Things get a bit more crazy with a toddler and a baby around… You’ll be tired some days, or other days you may have a headache, or maybe you’ll have a paper cut on your finger (I’m not joking, paper cuts can be the pits). Or maybe one kid or the other is extremely grumpy and you have no idea what to do with them (or yourself). You’re missing every pee and poo the baby does and yelling at the toddler.. no no no… Just relax. If it doesn’t happen today, it will happen tomorrow. EC is a beautiful way to care for your baby. But in reality, societies where EC is practiced, often have extended family or even a whole village to help out. If it’s just you in the house with two kids (or more), it’s not easy. Somedays, I’ll be trying to make lunch, while doing the dishes, while having my ear chewed off by my three year old chatter box… and I just know that I’m going to miss one of the baby’s pees, but I just have to. In those situations, I would just put a diaper on her and rather than keep worry about missing something, I could just relax and know that I have the luxury of owning cloth diapers for a reason.
Stay Focused and Tune In
Staying focused and tuning in isn’t just an EC tip, it helps with every aspect of parenting and responding to a child’s needs. But, for EC’s sake, you’ll want to carefully observe the tendencies of you child. If you’ve got two to watch, then you’ll need to pay attention even more. So, turn the TV off, check your email later, and do Facebook when they’re sleeping. Pay attention to fluids in vs. fluids out. If you spend just a couple of days really watching your kids, you will quickly figure out their patterns and their signs. They will also appreciate you being more in the present moment with them (note to self, I should be doing more of this). I’ve been doing daily meditation and breathing practices for over ten years, and I know it sounds silly, but meditation actually makes me better at doing EC!
Open Door Bathroom Policy and Normalizing an Ordinary Event
I’ve decided that I actually prefer to go to the toilet with the door open. I’m not saying that I don’t like a little privacy sometimes…. But, it’s really nice for the kids to just see it all and helps them to understand where everyone does it and how to do it.
Poo is Not Yucky!!!
Ok, poo is actually gross, it smells bad and needs to be treated as contaminated waste… BUT, don’t say that your kid’s poo is yucky, or that their baby sister’s or brother’s poo is yucky! It comes out of their body, it comes from them and everyone does it! To say it’s yucky is like saying that something that they are is yucky. Do you see what I mean? I was reading somewhere once that a child’s attitude towards feces is something that is learned through society. In society where doing a poo is no big deal and they know where to do it from birth and know where it comes from, then, it’s no big deal and there are no dramas about doing one. Of course, you have to find ways of telling them that they shouldn’t touch it, etc. But, there just needs to be a little bit of skill. You can say things like, ‘We can’t touch our poo because it can make us sick, or it’s very dirty and if it accidentally gets on our hands, we need to scrub them really really well’.
Also, the way that we react to ‘poo situations‘ indicates to our children how uncomfortable we are with poo. So, put away all of our societal garbage, keep it cool, pretend it smells like flowers or something. I know for sure there have been times when I wanted to yell out ‘Grossss!!!’. But, I bite my tongue! Kids are watching every move we make, if we make it seem like what they’re doing is disgusting, then who knows what sort of hang ups they’ll grow towards their own bowel movements (and these hang ups can continue into adult hood). Elimination is a natural process and is actually very important for proper health and longevity, so make a conscious effort to not give you kid any ‘poo hangups’.
Get the Older One Involved
Sometimes Margo hates it when I have to drop what I’m doing to take her little sister to the potty. So instead of telling her to go do something else, I get her involved. I ask her to come with me. Or, to come have a look. Or, to grab the diaper, or whatever. Especially when you have a young baby, when poos can be quite explosive, the older siblings actually get a kick out of watching. They’re like little cheer leaders!
EC is a really beautiful way to connect and communicate with a young baby or toddler who may or may not be able to communicate verbally yet. Having said that, when I think of the twenty pees and couple poos that I help my kids with per day, it can get a bit overwhelming sometimes. But, just as everything with young children is so fleeting,,, so is the toilet training or the EC. Relax and have fun and don’t worry about the possibility of a little mess and chaos 😉