Sometime before the year 2000, a woman by the name of Ingrid Bauer was touring India and noticed that the new mothers over there were not using diapers like new mothers do in the West.
But there was no detriment to either the babies or the mothers.
She spoke to these mothers and they told her that they never used diapers unless their babies were sick.
Then they showed her a practice that amazed Ms. Bauer. In 2000, she put these ideas into a book, Diaper Free – The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene.
In this book, she coined the term elimination communication. She uses it interchangeably with the other term found in the title, natural infant hygiene.
She found that there were some other western authors who had similar ideas, but they have not gained the popularity of Ms. Bauer’s work. Basically, what we are talking about is the practice of the parent learning the signs that a baby is ready to use the bathroom and then holding the infant over a toilet or other appropriate receptacle.
And after a few weeks, or even days, the baby will begin to “key” off the behavior, so much so that the parent can gently prompt the baby to go in the appropriate place.
The radical thing for the western mind is that all this occurs in a matter of weeks after birth, not months. A central part to this discipline is keeping the baby with the caregiver almost constantly.
“Wearing the baby” is a common term for this practice. If a western family is practicing attachment parenting, this is not an alien concept and elimination communication is a simple adjunct.
But the greater question is, does it work? The answer is a resounding yes. A team forms between the parent and child, helping the child to complete the natural process of bodily elimination.
The parent learns the signs or cues from their child, and with practice, the child learns the signs that that parent is “prompting” the elimination behavior. In a relatively short time, the parent/child team makes the elimination process a simple natural thing.
Some detractors wonder if elimination communication isn’t actually a process of “potty training” the parent; in other words, the parent learns more and does more of the work than the child.
However, if you ask any potty training parent, you will soon find out that in the beginning they do more of the work than the child. The big difference is that the work the parent does during elimination communication follows organically into accomplished use of the potty of the child on their own.
And the savings on diapers is not to be ignored. Elimination communication becomes a tool that any parent, especially those practicing attachment parenting should consider.