Heard of Elimination Communication? It's a practice Mayim Bialik used on her two sons so she could scratch diapers off her eco-friendly shopping list.
She starred in the hit 1990s sitcom, Blossom, and then went on to earn a Ph.D. in neuroscience. But mom of two Mayim Bialik may have a new career as … the potty whisperer. In a blog post written for the Today Show, Bialik makes the case for skipping diapers in favor of something called Elimination Communication (EC), or natural infant hygiene, an age-old practice that involves getting to know a baby's innate signals for pottying and responding to these cues by taking a baby to appropriate potty place, rather than using a diaper, when it's time to go.
As Bialik writes, "Elimination Communication is the term for learning a baby's ... inborn cues for pottying, responding to those cues, reinforcing them, and ultimately, helping a child not pee or poop in a diaper. Some people practice EC only at home, some practice it all the time; some start when their babies are newborns, others wait several months. Some people think that people who practice EC are crazy, and some people think that crazy is too harsh a word; preferring instead 'totally out of their heads loco bonkers insane in the membrane."
Because Bialik's husband was one of the people who shares this last view, the self-admitted "crunchy mom" moved slowly to introduce the practice after her first son was born. "I read Diaper Free Baby by Ingrid Bauer, I talked to my friend every day to report on our progress, and remarkably, a pattern emerged!" By the age of 10 months, before their son could crawl, walk, or talk, Bialik found that he signed reliably when he had to use the potty. By 12 months of age, "he stopped peeing in his cloth diaper. By 17 months he was wearing tiny underwear and, now almost 6, he has no conscious memory of ever pooping in a diaper or of wearing diapers at all," she proudly recounts.
After this success, her reluctant husband got on board with EC and the couple successfully used the practice with their second son, starting EC shortly after he was born. "He showed the same learning curve as his older brother and was wearing underwear by 15 months, signing for potty before he could crawl, walk, or talk." As for her husband, Bialik reports that he's now a firm believer. "I overhear him talking to other dads, describing how happy he is that he has never scraped solid poop off of our sons' bottoms."
Can you really ditch diapers? According to "diaper free" advocates, babies communicate about their elimination needs with certain signals and cues that any observant parent can detect. For instance, some babies will fuss, squirm, stiffen their legs, pull away from the breast if they're nursing, etc. Older babies can be taught to use the American Sign Language (ASL) sign "potty," or they will crawl or walk to the potty.
EC is widely practiced around the globe, but is it for everyone? Bialik admits that she was a full-time, stay-at-home mom during her sons' earliest years, "and since I was the 24/7 at-home caregiver for the formative years, it worked for us. EC is not impossible if you are not an at-home parent; however, the 'best' results generally speaking come from being in close consistent physical contact and communication with your child."
As for Bialik's sons? "When we see children being changed in public restrooms, I have to drag my boys away. They stare in amazement; they have no recollection of being laid on a changing table at all and they are fascinated at the sight of children 2, 3, and 4 years older than them laying on their backs having a diaper put on them."