Friday, November 20, 2009

deconstructing conventional wisdom

I was recently visiting my Dad who had been reading a book by his favourite biologist, Desmond Morris - Illustrated Babywatching. I read it while I was there for the weekend. It's absolutely fascinating, full of baby-related trivia such as why babies are called babies, why they cry, and how quickly they learn to recognise the smell of their own mother's breastmilk.

But one section I thought could be amended. The section on toilet training averred that, among other things, baby chimpanzees start to hold themselves away from their mothers when weeing only once they are about two years old. Until then they urinated on their mothers. This was the sole piece of biological evidence Morris gave for saying that human babies had no control of their elimination processes (or sphincters).

However, Umi is now nine weeks old, and I have held her over a pot to do wees and poos from her first day of life. At the beginning I would undo her nappy, which would often be dry, and straight away she would wee, stimulated by the cool air. But from about six weeks on, she had enough control to wait until I held her over the pot. At night she would keep her nappy dry between feeds. At other times, she'd make a special noise so that I would give her a 'potty opportunity'.

I think human babies are born having the awareness of when they eliminate. EC is about recognising small signs of this awareness and acting on them. It's not the same as toilet training.
Morris says you can't 'teach' an infant how to toilet. Of course - neither can you teach a baby to cook and use a knife and fork. However, you can help a baby to eliminate hygienically and comfortably, just as you can help a baby to access milk.

Seems a no-brainer, really.


  1. Glad to hear the EC-ing is going so well.

  2. I'm still in the observing phase of EC. The Diaper Free Baby book (on my blog sidebar) is really quite good and worth a read.

  3. Observation is so important in EC! That's great.
    If you're using nappies, it's great to aim to change after every wee. So that you know straightaway when your baby does a wee, try using muslin or terry nappies without a cover or clothes on the lower half of the body (hard in winter, but you can use legwarmers instead).

    Pretty soon, your baby will become very intolerant of being wet, and will let you know vocally!