A Devout EC Mom Tells Mommyish What The Press Is Getting Wrong

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elimination communicationPostpartum doula and lactation counselor Sarah Longwell-Stevens is a stay-at-home mother of two. Among many other parenting accolades, including being an early childhood education specialist and a certified babywearing educator, Sarah is an advocate of elimination communication (EC) — a childrearing practice in which parents learn to read baby’s cues that it’s time for potty without relying solely on diapers.

She has been recently quoted in the now highly clickable piece, espousing the virtues of this “au natural parenting trend” that is allegedly sweeping through Brooklyn. But Sarah tells Mommyish that the press’s depiction of her as a deranged helicopter mom is all wrong — as is the sensationalizism of EC. Turns out EC parents do use diapers, claim that there is less cleanup, and overall less potty training struggle. Sarah admits that she too initially thought the tactic was “batshit” and nearly gave up herself. Oh, and she also doesn’t let her kids poop and pee all over Brooklyn.

How did you first come to hear about EC? What were your initial reactions?

A friend told me her sister didn’t believe in diapers.  I said “well, you can not believe in them all you want but they are a necessary fact of life.”  When she explained I thought it was interesting but also batshit crazy.  I get that it sounds insane.  I also get that it is really hard to wrap your head around.  I decided to try it just to see if it would really work.  But when my 6-week-old started telling me he needed to pee and then holding it long enough for me to take off his diaper and take him into the bathroom I was amazed and we kept going.

How long have you been practicing EC? 

I started EC when my first was six weeks old.  I have EC’d both children since they were newborns. My son has been potty trained since about 20 months  My daughter is now 20 months and out of diapers at home, though we still use them out of the house as she is less predictable (or I am more distracted) and I don’t want to be covered in pee.  She usually only poops at home in the potty.

Have you always been a SAHM?

I have been a stay-at-home mom and worked part time outside of the home since my son was born.  My husband works full time.  We sent my son to daycare and have had sitters for both children.  I did mention to his daycare that he was potty trained but they never believed us (he was 14 months) and we never pressed the issue — he was in diapers full time there and they came off when we picked him up.  When he started preschool a little before age two the director of the school was Indian and thrilled that he was potty trained.  She was familiar with EC from her upbringing in India.

Did you have any initial struggles with EC?

Anything with kids has its struggles.  But especially when you are doing something different than the norm because there is no one to ask for help when things are confusing.  I was sort of going blind with my son, just doing what worked and dropping what didn’t.  With my daughter it has been so easy because I don’t make it an elaborate deal.  Mostly I made it hard the first time trying to be perfect at it instead of just letting it fit into my daily life in a way that was comfortable.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about EC?  

That everything will be covered in urine and feces and that it is going to overwhelm your life.  In reality I think because of EC I have dealt with a lot less pee and poop than I would otherwise.  I’ve never had a kid go during a diaper change. I’ve had exactly two poopy blowouts and both were before I was EC’ing.  I’ve had months where I haven’t changed a single poopy diaper.   And from 12-18 months on, the majority of my kids’ waste has gone down the potty–that’s a lot of diapers I haven’t had to change!  It doesn’t overwhelm my life because it just fits in.

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