I love free stuff, both finding it and passing the treasure on. Today, courtesy of 8 years of diapering and pottying mishaps and milestones (and on the eve of #4's arrival on scene), I'm offering “free experience” to fellow EC-ing parents. Basically, you get the benefit of our family's adventures without having to bribe your two-year-old to sit on the toilet, set a timer for 30-minute intervals to catch pee, or wrestle a poopy diaper off a toddler! You're welcome. 🙂
Let's get going before the baby wakes from nap, shall we?
1. If I could do EC all over again, I would not listen to the “expert” who said EC was only for stay-at-home, baby-wearing mamas who could devote their entire attention 24/7 to their babe. This person was clearly misinformed, as evidenced by the fantastic success of countless part-time/pregnant/just-for-poops/triplet-raising/weekends-only EC-ing mamas (and daddies!). Instead of feeling like I had to be 100% “on” all day, every day, and crumbling under the pressure before I even started, I would begin with the Potty Time Master Mini-Course (since my babe the first time I heard of EC was 9 months and walking). I would also download the Go Diaper Free audio book (because, nursing sessions) and frequent the unmatched book-owners' support group for further trouble-shooting. If I could have started from the VERY beginning, then...
2. I would start before baby's birth with Baby Meets Potty and watch it over. And over. Until it became part of my brain. Seriously, where was this course when I first became a parent?! If you are a high-awareness-type parent, you need this course. If you are a high-pleasing/high-compromise type parent, you need this course. If you want to sleep (and have Baby sleep), YOU NEED THIS COURSE! With all the practicable material on thriving the first stage of parenting and helpful how-to videos (hello, sleep dep and inability to read), the EC portion is a decadent layer of chocolate ganache on a generously-thick slice of chocolate cake. Mmm...chocolate.....ahem, moving on!
3. I would buy that $4 used copy of Twelve Hours Sleep by Twelve Weeks (Giordano/Abidin) and follow it (mostly) to a T (the “mostly” part being: adding in what I know about EC and allowing for one night-feed, since I breastfeed my babes). I know, I know, this is an EC post, right? Before you put me in time-out for introducing a contentious subject like children's sleep guidance (gasp!!) give me two minutes. I learned of this book and The Baby Sleep Site (which Andrea uses and loves) in Baby Meets Potty. My husband, being an entrepreneurial soul, and myself pleased with the easy, short read that is Twelve Hours..., we opted to DIY this sleep thing with the book as guidance. We didn't find it til 8 months in with baby #2. We wondered where it was the 18 months we didn't sleep with #1!! So this is why I loan my copy to new mama friends: because, if you're not sleeping, you're not going to have enough energy to heal, nurture other kiddos, or shower, let alone respond to your babe's signals that she'd really rather not soil herself. P.S. I found both parents' and babe's needs were balanced nicely in this method, which was comforting for one who eschewed the cry-it-out camp but felt utterly exhausted after attempting the “attachment” sleep approach with a high-needs baby. (As with all parenting recommendations, please do what fits best with YOUR family's unique needs!)
4. I would not worry so much about catching pee. (I did eventually come to this point with my non-verbal #2.) I would utilize pottytunities like the magic they are, and only take my child to the potty at additional times when it was super-unmistakably-clear he had to go. If he got around 12-18 months and comfortably walking and still needed a little guidance to take ownership, I would take him through the Tiny Potty Training process. If he “owned” it well (like Mr. Take-Charge #3), we'd just transition into Trainers, teach clothing mechanics, and keep a few well-placed pottytunities until things were mostly independent and mostly dry...again, not stressing about the pee.
5. I would definitely stay with my beloved cloth diapers until the time for undies came, and find the “cloth mentor” who explained her whole set-up much more succinctly than the ebook I purchased (did I mention I am slightly OCD about doing things the “right way”?). Not only has cloth saved us so much money over the years, but cloth diapers really do help with the “diaper as tool, not toilet” mindset! Seriously, if you're attracted to, but afraid of cloth, we should talk. In case we can't, let me just say, it doesn't have to be complicated. There is no “perfect” way to do cloth, though some things might work better for an EC-ing parent. I will also add, a Potty Pail makes non-solid bowel movements so much less icky to deal with (I may also have a low “gross” threshold).
6. I would not let others' comments move me off track. I would tell myself, “Sweetheart, you know in your gut what path you should follow. If you avoid it from fear of being labeled “crazy”, you might feel, initially, like the path is easier because of less negative feedback. But in the long run, you'll spend more time and emotional energy undoing the effects of what you didn't do, than the time you'd spend intentionally following this course. And P.S. You're still going to be labeled the “crazy” one, so just get used to it.”
Sure, there are things I wish I'd known or just relaxed about earlier in my EC journey, but:
I wouldn't go back.
Not because I enjoy poopy cloth diapers (said no parent, ever). But, because I goofed, because I stressed, because things didn't turn out like I expected and really really really tried hard to make them turn out, I grew. I learned new things and found an incredible community at Go Diaper Free that taught me even more.
I became who I am now not because things worked out great and we sailed through, but because we persevered through wet pants and tantrums and all the other (mis)guesses and learned what worked for US.
If you've got knee-deep (or eye-ball deep) into EC and its not what you expected (or what your friend said it was, for her), you are not alone. Despite what you might be feeling, you are doing an awesome job. And before you know it, you'll be standing on the other side, proud of what you and your babe have accomplished, together. And you know what? You won't be the same mama who started this journey, either. 🙂 Breathe. You've got this.
Is your EC journey what you thought it would be when you first started? What lessons would YOU pass on to a mama considering EC?