We're getting into a good groove with EC now. At the beginning of this month I really wanted to focus on doing more diaper-free time, and figuring out Alek's signals (of an impending pee or poop), so I was pushing myself to have him naked at any opportunity - typically first thing in the morning or for the couple hours in the afternoon when my daughter is at school. After many hours of observation, I still have no clue what his signals might be - it all still seems pretty random to me - but I did have a key realization that has made this last week a big success.
What I realized is that I don't like naked (observation) time! I love EC, but I'm not loving having my under 2-month old diaperless for extended periods. I think that every book written on the subject will tell you to start EC with several hours of waiting and watching your baby/child to see whether he or she makes any signals before eliminating AND to start making a cue noise while your child is eliminating (in order to be able to use that noise later to prompt him to pee at the appropriate time), but spending hours waiting for your child to eliminate is BORING. I tried to make it work... I watched and waited, waited and watched.
Then my mind wandered... (what are we having for supper tonight? I wonder if the broccoli is still good. Perhaps I should thaw some... ahhhh!!! he's peeing! Make the cue noise!) "Pssssssss" (Crap. What was he doing right before he peed? I have no idea, I was thinking about supper. Argh.) Or... my baby is naked, and I am supposed to be watching him, but the kitchen is a mess/I have bills to pay/he's happy and I would like to shower now etc... There is no purpose of having your baby naked if you're not paying any attention!
Once I couldn't stand passive observation anymore, I decided to change my tactic and try diaper-free on-the-go (while at home, I haven't completely lost my mind!!!). "Diaper-free" doesn't always mean naked, your child is "diaper-free" anytime that he is not wearing a waterproof diaper as a back-up, such as wearing training pants, a diaper-belt with fabric tucked-in, a fitted cloth diaper with no cover, etc... While there are many benefits to this (the ability to see immediately when baby pees in the back-up, to cue during pee or change a diaper right away, heightening your awareness of his signals, lessening mess if you have a miss, easy access for potty-time etc...), unless you already have a good grasp on your child's signals and timing, you're just going to get peed on.
My goal was to do some diaper-free baby-wearing to see if I could get a better grasp on Alek's signals. I first had him wearing a diaper-belt with a prefold (Bummies infant-size). The prefold seemed a bit too short to fit comfortably in the belt, and too bulky. So instead I used a Flapawrap insert (a big square of cotton jersey material) folded like a long pad. This was a much more comfortable fit in the diaper belt. However, when he peed it soaked through easily and got everywhere! The first two times I tried the diaper-belt/baby-wearing combo, Alek took a nice long nap in the carrier, and didn't pee until I took him out of the carrier after the nap. The third time, however, he was fussy going into the carrier and I ended-up getting peed on twice in a row and that was the end of that. And I STILL didn't notice any signals.
Having him "diaper-free" was theoretically a good learning exercise, but I found it really stressful. Here he is, napping peacefully in the carrier and at each squirm I'm wondering, is that a signal? Does he need to pee? Can I potty him while he's sleeping? Will he cry if I try it? etc... etc... At this point in our journey, I think that his sleep and my sanity trump EC. I will give diaper-free babywearing another go, but would like to have a better grasp on his timing (and signals, if possible) before I do. I'm still doing little bits of naked time here and there when its convenient, but most of the time, Alek is diapered and clothed, and I am ok with that!
On to the good parts, and whats working for us right now. Alek doesn't like being in a wet diaper. We're using cloth, so he feels the wetness more than if he were in a disposable and he let's us know about it! On that note, we've gotten into a great routine for changing and pottying that has resulted in a lot of dry diapers! I've noticed that Alek is consistently dry when he naps. Even if his nap is 2+ hours, he is dry upon waking. Once he wakes, I can wait a good ten minutes and find his diaper dry. Sometimes there will be a little dribble of poop, so I know he needs to do that too! Nine times out of ten I'll catch both a pee and a poop if I potty him at that time. Also, each time he eliminates in a receptacle, I have a chance to teach him the cue noises ("psssss, pssss" for pee, a grunting noise for poop) without doing any sustained naked time (bonus!!!).
I also love offering the potty to him before we leave the house and before he takes a nap. I know that if he eliminates at that time, he'll be dry for awhile, and if he's tired he'll be able to sleep comfortably in a dry diaper.
When I offer a place for him to go pee or poop, be it a potty, sink, toilet or other place, it doesn't always happen right away. Sometimes it takes a few minutes before anything happens, so patience is key. However, it also gives me another chance to watch for those elusive signals, and also to teach Alek another key phrase, "All Done?". Basically, if I have been holding him over a receptacle for a couple of minutes and nothing has happened, we'll take a break by holding him in a different position. Then I will offer the receptacle again. If nothing has happened after another minute or so, I will say to him "All Done?" as a signal to him that potty time is almost over. Often he does pee or poop at that time. Other times I begin to walk away and he cries out, so we go back to the receptacle and he will pee or poop. Sometimes he just didn't need to "go", and that's fine too.
Since I have not been able to observe any signals from him yet, I am very content to continue basing our EC practice on timing and intuition, as well as using a diaper back-up (with waterproof cover) most of the time - its working well for us so far! My goal for next month is to do a better job of recording his feedings, pees and poops to get a better idea of timing and how many times he "goes" in a day.
Signal: a physical movement, noise or change in behaviour that act as a clue that your baby needs to eliminate
Cue noise: a sound that the caregiver makes while the baby eliminates, later this sound will act as a cue that its potty-time.
Back-up: a diaper or other cloth material on your baby's bottom just in case you don't get to the potty in time.
Miss: when pee or poop end up anywhere other than your intended receptacle.