Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Getting Ready To EC

Typically the best time to start getting ready is during pregnancy. Read a few good books on EC, and join a local support group. Watch a video or two as well. Like with breastfeeding, it really helps to see the mechanics of EC before you try it yourself. Notice how the caregivers respond to the baby and the different ways they may hold the baby at different stages. Ask lots of questions.

Before the baby comes, when you are feeling like nesting, get your supplies in order. You will need something to catch pee in, and something to keep you and the baby dry when there are "misses". Many people pee the baby into a potty or other plastic receptacle. Some babies are peed in the sink, bath or toilet. Many enjoy using the great outdoors. Get a squirt bottle and fill it with vinegar and water or other gentle cleanser to rinse out the pee place after use. When you and your baby are starting out you will need something to keep baby(and you) warm and dry while you are both learning about elimination. Many people use a coverless cloth diaper or prefold when starting out so they can feel immediately when the baby is wet. There are many to choose from. The benefit of having at least a few prefolds is that you can lay the baby on the diaper as you carry him around, making it really easy to notice and respond to a pee. You might also want some thing to put wet and soiled diapers in as well. It is very handy to have some kind of absorbent pad to lay the baby on when he is diaperless, and under him at night.

Rather than setting up all of the diapering supplies in one place, think of having several toileting areas in your house wherever you and baby might be. A potty, a small change mat, a few clean diapers, and some small wipes in several areas of your home works well to avoid always having to rush off to the toilet as infants pee very often! You will likely do this with nursing areas too so you could set up both at the same time. Babies seem to nurse and pee in tandem and in clusters.

When the baby comes, you can choose to start right away, or you can wait while you rest and recover from the birth and get breastfeeding established. You will be learning a lot of new things very quickly and it is up to you when and how to start EC. Do consider that you will have to deal with your babies elimination needs no matter what you choose and it helps to have some of the EC basics in your mind even if you don't plan to start for a few days or weeks.

Communication is the most essential part of EC so start by talking to your baby about what has happened, or is happening. "Oh look, you peed. Now your diaper is wet let's get you warm and dry. It feels so nice to be dry." Always try to keep your communication neutral. The baby will hear how pleased and excited you are in your tone, there is no need to overtly praise the baby for doing a normal bodily function. Conversely, avoid negatives around toileting. Don't make the baby feel stinky, smelly or gross. No one wants to associate their most intimate body parts with something smelly, dirty or shameful. Elimination happens, and we parents have to deal with it. No one place to go is bad or good, it just is and in time all children master peeing in the toilet. Explain the toileting process to your baby. "I think you need to poop. Let's go to the potty. I'm going to hold you so you can poop here. You will feel better after you poop."

Observation is also key to learning about your babies' timing and signals. Try to have some diaper free time in the early days so that you can notice what your baby does just before he pees, and also when he pees. You might notice a certain facial grimace, or a small sound that your baby makes.Popping on and of the breast or being restless or fussy during a feed can be a signal that baby needs to go. Just as you are learning about how your baby tells you that he is tired or hungry, he will let you know when he needs to go. This is where seeing other babies EC can be helpful, babies seem to have a range of signals they use but the themes seem to be common.

Timing is another useful tool for EC. Think about the times of day when you need to go. First thing in the morning, before and after naps, after play and after nursing. These are very likely times to catch a pee. Infants pee as much as 20 times a day in the first few months. Just as some babies cluster feed, they may also cluster pee. Don't be alarmed if you find that your baby does nothing but pee and eat at certain times each day. This tends to slow down as your baby learns that you are responding to his needs, often around the third month. Pooping also tends to become more regular as you and your baby get the hang of EC, so if you offer regular pooping times, and hang out on the potty long enough for him to finish, you might have established a regular pooping habit by about six weeks.

When you and baby are very connected to each other, you may notice some of the intuitive EC cues. The feeling of a warm wet spot when you are hold the baby indicates the need to pee. Random thoughts of pee, or of your baby needing the toilet are common as well. Try not to ignore these intuitive feelings, or you may end up with a wet spot!

Holding on to a wiggly baby over the toilet can seem a bit daunting at first, but with practise you will find ways to hold your little one safely and comfortably. The EC books have good pictures, as do the videos. If you have a local Diaper Free baby group you will likely be able to observe mothers holding their babies to pee. Newborns might like to use a reclining cradle hold, and most babies are very comfortable being held with their back to your chest while your arms support their thighs holding the legs slightly apart. Both boys and girls can spray while they pee. You might have to experiment with your daughter to get the angle right to aim the stream right into the pot. Boys might need a finger to guide their penis down into the pot. Some parents find it is easiest to potty a child who sprays into the tub or shower.

It is important to remember that you don't have to do EC full time, it is more important to establish a harmonious relationship that works for you and your baby. The communication is the most essential part, and you can do that whether your baby is in diaper full time or not. Don't get stressed out about the results, EC is not a contest and there isn't really a finish line, so take it easy and enjoy this precious time with your new little one.

Good Luck and Happy Pottying!

Lee-Ann Grenier

Monday, July 12, 2010

Encouraging Proper Use of Carseats

At Tadpoles & Butterflies, we believe that safe use of infant car seats is essential & to be encouraged. This means that they are only for use in cars.

One of the reasons that parents believe that it is safe to use their bucket style seats as "carriers" outside the vehicle is because there are countless aftermarket products that are designed to be used with the seat when it is out of the vehicle. We regularly receive sales pitches for products that encourage unsafe use of the seats. Here is a response to one of those products, a shower cap style topper that doubles as a diaper bag to store items.

"Thank you for your interest in our company. I am very concerned about
the safety implications of your product, which is why we do not carry
any products of the sort.
Infant carseats are intended only for use in vehicles. They carry many
risks when used outside the vehicle, including injuries & death from
hypoxia, positional asphyxia & from falls. Products such as the
_______________ encourage inappropriate use of the carseat as a storage
container for infants. In Canada, where we are located, winters can
last 6 months of the year & are extremely cold, while summers can be
especially hot. It is essential that the baby be carried close to the
parent's body where he can be protected from weather extremes.
I would encourage you to find a product to manufacture that facilitates
the biological norm of being carried on the mother's body, as opposed
to in a plastic shell."

Companies make these products because they believe parents will buy them- if consumers let them know why they will not purchase products that encourage unsafe behaviour, fewer will be made & the cycle will be stopped.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Joint Press Release

Tadpoles & Butterflies and The Edmonton Babywearers’ joint statement on the safety of baby slings.

On March 12, the American government released a statement warning against unsafe positioning in baby slings. The warning was in response to 3 deaths that took place in 2009. We have been saddened to hear of each of these deaths and wish to share our sympathies with the parents of these babies.

The North American babywearing community is closely united; this is an issue that impacts Canadian parents as well. Poor positioning and flawed product design place all babies at risk. It is imperative that parents recognise the difference between the unsafe positioning being warned against and the safe methods that knowledgeable educators promote. We have long been warning of the dangers to babies when they are positioned chin to chest in any infant product.

As babywearing educators, our primary goal is to advocate for carrying babies in the safest way possible. Babywearing (ie, carrying a baby close to the body in a soft baby carrier) is the way in which infants and toddlers were meant to be cared for. Babywearing is an essential parenting practice that increases the success of breastfeeding, minimises infant crying as well as the effect of Post Partum Depression and makes caring for a baby as simple as possible for new parents.

Carrying safely is a teachable skill. We offer many avenues for Edmonton area parents to learn to wear their babies, including monthly meetings, private consults, telephone help and online resources including an instructional blog. We also train health care professionals and those working with new parents on how to use babywearing as an appropriate public health tool.

For more information, please contact


Arie Brentnall-Compton, Certified Babywearing Educator, Edmonton Babywearers’ group leader & partner with Tadpoles & Butterflies.
Lee-Ann Grenier, Lactation Consultant and Edmonton Babywearers’ group leader.
Samantha Johnson, CRST and Edmonton Babywearers'group leader
Kelly Laffin, Edmonton Babywearers'group leader

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Our Efforts to be Ethical

You might notice that there are quite a few products typically found in a baby boutique that we don't carry. This is deliberate on our part, so I would like to take a few minutes to explain why. As consumers, we often vote with our feet, choosing products & companies that we believe to be ethically minded whenever we can. We want to encourage you to do the same by making you aware of the reasoning behind some of our choices.

First & foremost, Tadpoles & Butterflies follows the WHO Code on the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. This means we do not advertise (or, in our case, sell) products that are known to undermine breastfeeding when they are marketed. For us, this means we do not sell bottles or pacifiers. If you are interested in learning more about the Code, check out Infact Canada

We also do not carry:

-Pacifier clips: soother use is known to interfere with breastfeeding & even to shorten the duration of breastfeeding. When babies are not breastfed to recommendation (exclusively for 6 months, then continuing with complementary foods to 2 years & beyond), we all pay. This is a serious public health issue that affects everyone in our health care system. So, we choose to not carry products, like soother clips, that normalise the use of a product that can cause harm.

-Nursing covers: breastfeeding anywhere, anytime, is a woman's legally protected right in Canada. We do not want to reinforce the concept that public nursing is only acceptable if the mother is "covered up" by selling products designed solely for that purpose.

-Crib sheets, toys, etc: It is clear to us that babies are born expecting to sleep in proximity with their mothers, so we steer clear of products that add to the uniquely Western idea that babies ought to sleep by themselves. If you would like to learn more about safe cosleeping & proximity sleep, please check out Dr James McKenna's work.

-Swaddle Blankets: Babies are born expecting to be carried! The practice of swaddling, especially to attempt to have babies sleep longer periods (which can lead to apnic sleep & increased risk of SIDS) is one that worries us. Some babies certainly do like to be cuddled tightly in- we believe that a good baby carrier can meet that need!

Babies are born expecting only a couple of things- to be carried close to their mother and nursed at her breast, to have their cries answered & their elimination needs met. We want to help you meet those needs for your baby while caring for yourself & the rest of your family. We choose to offer the products & education that help you do that- high quality baby carriers & accessories, cloth diapers & EC products, along with evidence based educational opportunities & parenting groups.

We do know that there is a time & place for every product, & that many people do choose to use the items we have mentioned. When products such as those are ubiquitous, new parents often believe that they are needed for raising children. By choosing to not carry them, we hope to counter that concept!

Thank you for supporting www.tadpoles.ca
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why Babywearing is Essential to Breastfeeding

Babies are born expecting to be carried. They expect to be on, or very near to, their mothers body nearly constantly for the first year of life & to continue to be carried until they can walk independently.

Research into the impact of skin to skin care over the past 30-40 years has shown us how much of an effect the baby & mother’s bodies have on each other. The mother’s body develops a hot zone between her breasts immediately following birth, to warm the baby. As the baby reflexively pushes upwards, towards the breasts, his feet massage the uterus, causing it to contract back to the usual size.

Babies orient vertically- this means that when they are placed vertically, between the mothers’ breasts, the baby instinctively understands where he is & is able to move himself down to nurse well.

Dr Nils Bergman, a physician & researcher who has extensively studied the immensely beneficial practice of keeping babies in their habitat- vertically, between the mothers breasts, says: "The baby is in the right place and therefore has the right behaviour."

In addition, we are just beginning to understand the constant exchange of hormonal information mothers & babies engage in when they are together. Babies need to be able to smell & touch their mother most of the times in order for this to happen. This is easily done with babywearing.

For these reasons, it is obvious that carried babies are better able to breastfeed. By simply giving the baby what he expects, he is able to maximise his ability to nurse.

Carrying a baby constantly is impractical without something safe & comfortable with which to do it with. Mothers who use long-term babywearing (carrying a baby in a soft carrier) as a method of meeting the baby’s need to be in proximity will need a high quality baby carrier. Quality is determined by the carriers features, which must include the ability to correctly position the baby & to distribute weight in an ergonomic way. This is most closely met by woven wraps, whose double twill weave, carefully tied, supports both the baby & wearers bodies.

*This information is not intended to be medical diagnoses or advice & in no way replaces the need to see a health care professional.

The information in these posts will be basic information; if specific help is needed a consult can be booked with myself or another lactation consultant by calling 780-777-9525. We are non-medical professionals with a non-medical approach to resolving complex breastfeeding problems that works! You will be referred to seek medical care if you or your baby's needs are beyond our scope of practice.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Normalised Breastfeeding

I have supported breastfeeding families in a variety of capacities for the past 7 years. During that time, I have observed how disrupted the breastfeeding relationship often seems to be. Despite their desire to nurse their babies (in our province, Alberta, more than 95% of mothers initiate breastfeeding at birth), only a small fraction of women nurse their babies to recommendation.

What is happening in those first few months that causes so many mothers to not meet their nursing goals? Why does desire to feed her baby normally not seem to be enough to succeed?

I have found that the answers to those seemingly complex questions are actually quite simple- we are not often working within the baby's expectations. Interventions during labour & birth, inferior information from health care professionals & certain parenting choices are disrupting a baby's ability to successfully nurse. In some cases, the disruptions are minor & can be easily overcome, but in others, the baby simply has too many barriers & cannot nurse effectively.

This sounds disastrous, but there are some very simple solutions to the problems. By normalising breastfeeding (ie, providing the baby what he physiologically expects) most issues can be mimimised or overcome.

Over the next month, we will have a series of posts on how Normalised Breastfeeding can help you & your baby! We will cover:

-Babywearing & Breastfeeding
-Baby Led Breastfeeding
-Impact of Language
-Over & Undersupply

*I will be covering somewhat technical information on breastfeeding. It is not intended to be medical diagnoses or advice & in no way replaces the need to see a health care professional.

The information in these posts will be basic information; if specific help is needed a consult can be booked with myself or another lactation consultant by calling 780-777-9525. We are non-medical professionals with a non-medical approach to resolving complex breastfeeding problems that works! You will be referred to seek medical care if you or your baby's needs are beyond our scope of practice.

Friday, November 27, 2009

ECing in a Northern Climate

Where I live we spend more time in winter than any other season, so one of the things I’m frequently asked about is how to practise Elimination Communication (EC) when it gets chilly out. Many parents wonder if it makes sense to practise EC in this climate. Historically, infant pottying has been practised in climates more harsh and severe than where I currently live. Inuit mothers of northern Canada carried (still do!) their babies around a special babywearing jacket called an amauti, and early Europeans were surprised to find the mothers and babies quite dry. Children in Tibet and northern China are EC’d; mothers there have adapted methods and clothing to practise EC quite comfortably in the cold.

So how do we practise infant pottying when the weather gets chilly? A major concern is clothing, and how to make it practical and warm. If your baby is still in the “in arms” phase you can carry her skin to skin, and use your carrier and a cardigan or loose sweater to keep you both warm. Tibetan children and infants wear a type of split crotch pants that work wonderfully. Many mothers modify existing pants, or sew their own from patterns found online. Another option is to leave the bum bare when indoors and keep the baby warm by using a long warm sweater or dress on top and baby legwarmers, or even long socks on the bottom. There are a vast array of patterns to buy for your babe. This style of dress will allow for easy removal of a diaper, if you are using one. Loose waisted pants that are easy to pull up and down work well too. Most of the moms I know have found that as long as the torso and feet are warm, the rest of the baby is too.

Now that the baby is dressed, we can go out and EC while traveling in the winter. Both of my children have spent a lot of time traveling by car in the winter and we are used to making potty stops on the road. We often have a potty with us in the car, so that baby can pee in the warm and I can dump it out afterwards. (I keep a jar of scented baking soda handy to freshen the pot between washes.) A baby can also be pottied onto an already wet diaper from your wet bag. As a last resort in really cold weather we just pee outside. Sometimes I sit us in the car and just point the “peeing parts” out the door. If we are walking or hiking in the winter we usually use a pocket diaper as back up, unless I am carrying the baby and using a good babywearing jacket.

Public pottying in the winter can be a bit more of a hassle, as there is often so much more clothing (and possibly a diaper) to remove. This makes it especially important to pay attention to early signals and intuition when you are out and about. Not wanting my baby to be cold and wet in winter forced me to pay really close attention to her when we were away from home. This is how I discovered the feeling of Danica’s stomach muscles tightening against my back that signalled a need to pee. I also really noticed the squirmy on your lap/try to jump out of your arms signal too. I would often remove all of the clothing and leave it on the change table, while I peed my daughter, then return to the change table to replace everything. Even if I had missed the pee, I would still offer a peeing opportunity; just in case. This has been the start of quite a few EC conversations with curious strangers.

In the fall, I often hear from moms who tell me their baby who pottied fine all summer is suddenly refusing the potty. It can be hard to make the connection between a potty strike and the change of seasons when you are in the middle of it. So the first thing I ask moms with an October potty problem is about the temperature of their potty, or the house in general. Babe might just need some coaxing and patience to “warm up” to the idea of peeing when it’s not as warm as he’s grown used to. Or sometimes all the extra clothing and undressing, need to be adjusted to. Even my big kids need some time to adjust to seasonal clothing changes. A warm potty cover often works wonders to solve the problem of a warm tush on cold plastic. This is especially true if the baby is doing things like standing or back arching when placed on a cold pot. Many moms also find that they can keep their potty warm by resting it on the heat register when not in use.

The biggest tip I can think of for diaper free success in cool weather is to try and expose as little of your baby to the cold, but to also be slow calm and gentle about it. No one appreciates a sudden burst of cold on their body, especially upon waking. At night time we try to keep the potty as close to the sleeping area as possible. Our youngest liked to sleep nude in our bed on a sheepskin mat, so when she woke at night to pee, I would wrap her in a small blanket I had stashed nearby and pee her on the fleece covered potty which I placed on the bed. She would often fall asleep while peeing, and I would just tuck her back in, dump the pee into the diaper pail next to the bed, and go back to sleep myself.

Winter EC can be easily managed by making a few adjustments t your babies’ clothing and routine, but it is important to remember that having a diaper free baby shouldn’t fill your house with extra stress. So if you and you little one are having trouble finding your potty stride in the cold, relax, take a break, change a few diapers, and try again later. The most important thing is the relationship you build with your child.

Lee-Ann Grenier is an at home mom who also works as a lactation and parenting educator. She really enjoys talking to expecting and new parents about birth, breastfeeding, gentle parenting, babywearing and Elimination Communication.