Elimination Communication Update


We have been actively practicing elimination communication for two weeks. It has been easier and more successful than I hoped. In two weeks we have had a total of two soiled diapers– one that we missed while at home, one that happened while we were out and did not have the potty. We still have wet diapers because we are not actively trying to catch urine. Baby D sits calmly on his potty when he needs it, and fusses if I put him on when he does not need it. this is an aspect of the communication that I did not anticipate, but I am pleased that he can communicate so clearly what he needs and doesn’t need. As soon as he is able to sit unsupported we will use a potty chair instead of the potty bowl. In my opinion EC is totally do-able and perhaps the best parenting decision we have made. If you are considering EC but feeling apprehensive, my advice would be try it– it is easier than it looks.

Baby D in a serious mood wearing a hat his father wore as a baby.

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Engaging the Sensitive Period for Language


According to Montessori, there are “sensitive periods” in which the child is intensely interested in and ideally suited to learn different skills. The earliest and longest lasting of these is the sensitive period for language, lasting from birth to age six. Doman also speaks of the incredible ease of learning language in this period, although he caps the range at age five. Others say that native-level fluency is most easily attained between birth and age three, with the window of ease closing around six or seven years of age. There is a general agreement, however, that earlier is easier when it comes to learning language.

We are fully utilizing this sensitive period with baby D. In addition to the reading cards, we make sure that he hears several languages spoken every day. His dad reads to him in Russian. One of the Russian language books we have is  Voyage of the Dawn Treader from the Chronicles of Narnia series.

I read French language children’s books aloud– this gives me a chance to work on correct pronunciation, also. Our public library has a small but well stocked foreign language section in the children’s department. Here is what we have currently:

It is important to us that he hear language spoken correctly. While his dad has near native level fluency in Russian and Arabic, and very respectable Mandarin, I have what I learned in high school french class. So I am listening to as much spoken French as I can, exposing baby D to recorded spoken French, and pronouncing what I read to him as carefully as I can. We are very happy to be able to open up the world of language for baby D. It will be fascinating to see how his understanding of multiple languages develops.

Next Step In Reading… and Russian!


The next step in using the Doman method to teach baby D to read is to add in two more sets of words, so that he will be seeing a total of twenty-five words every day. Now we are focusing on parts of the body. These are our first two sets of body words:

 

He will see these words several times, as well as the three sets of words we have been using. Starting tomorrow I will remove one word from all of the old sets and replace it with a new word. Each day thereafter one old word from each set will be replaced. I make sure to change the order of the words each time they are shown so that there is no association of the words based on pattern. This may seem like quite an ambitious program for so young a child, but Doman says that the child at this age assimilates information as fast as we can provide it, and that it is far more likely for a child to lose interest because of boredom from moving too slowly rather than to become overwhelmed with too much. Each session only lasts a few seconds– long enough to briefly show each card and say the words. We spend a total of a few minutes per day “playing the word game”. I figure if it works, great, and if not then no harm has been done and we’ve spent some time interacting. Before beginning each session I make sure I choose a time when baby D is alert and in a good mood. I then say either “I have some words to show you!” in an excited tone, or “would you like to play the word game?”. He often smiles and makes vocalizations when I offer the words. I think he enjoys it.

Baby D is lucky enough to have a multi-lingual father. He has been hearing several languages since birth, and will be given the opportunity to learn to read them as well. Today my husband will begin showing him Russian words. Here are his word cards:

Just like with the English words, my husband will begin by showing baby D one set of words, adding another the next day, and another the third day. He will show all of them for five days before beginning to drop an old word and add a new word every day.

One of the attractive things about this method is that there is no pressure to do everything perfectly. Doman stresses that the parent should always present words with a positive attitude, and take care to make sure that the child is in a good mood and wants to see the words. He also says that even a reading program implemented imperfectly can not help but benefit the child– no need to be obsessive about doing everything precisely the right way. There is no pressure on the child. Reading is a delightful gift, a key that unlocks the treasures of learning. Any attitude of compulsion or drudgery is anathema to this method. If this works, this will be a very pleasant way to learn to read.

Cloth Diapers Easier Than Expected


I love FuzziBunz! I put off using our cloth diapers for weeks because I feared the clean-up. It really isn’t all that much work, though. We’ve only had two soiled diapers since beginning EC, and the mess rinsed almost completely out of the fabric with plain water berfore I washed them in the washing machine. Very easy and no diapers in our trash! Here is baby D having some tummy time in his FuzziBunz.

This is baby D, King of the Striped Chair.

Handling an EC Miss


Today we had our first soiled diaper since last Saturday. Misses are of course to be expected, and we tried to use it to reenforce the potty-elimination connection just like catches. My husband noticed that baby D was eliminating. We said “You are having a bowel movement. Let’s use the potty.” We then opened up his diaper and held him over the potty bowl, where he finished his elimination. After he finished we said “Let’s get you cleaned up, that will feel much better”, then cleaned him up and went on with the day. It was our first miss, but I think it ended up being helpful in associating eliminating with the potty.

Also– does anyone have  a better word than “potty”? I do not like it, but “toilet” is not accurate.

Adventures in Learning to Read


We began today to use the Doman method to teach baby D to read. Glenn Doman, through his work with brain injured children starting in the 1950’s, found that it was possible and natural for very young children to learn to read, and that some parents had been doing just that for a long time. Just as the child learns to speak his or her native language effortlessly by exposure to the sound of the spoken language, so the child  learns to read by exposure to written language. His method was popularized in the 1970’s with the publication of How to teach Your Baby to Read. The method is simple: show the child large, clearly written words and tell the child what the words are. He suggests beginning with fifteen “first words” that are familiar to the child– mommy, daddy, the child’s name, names of relatives, familiar items in the child’s environment, favorite activities– written on 6″ by 24″ cards. They are very large so that the child can see them easily and clearly. Over time the vocabulary progresses to body parts, household items, verbs, and other words needed to make complete sentences. The cards the words are written on get progressively smaller over time, so that eventually the child is reading standard sized print in a book.

The book How to teach Your Baby to Read is brief but informative. The first part of the book addresses that it is possible to teach a very young child to read and why one would want to begin that early. The second part of the book covers making materials and the progression of vocabulary. It is highly unusual to begin teaching reading this early, I know, so I will let Mr. Doman speak for himself:

“When we began to study the literature on the subject intensively we were impressed by four facts:

1. The history of teaching little children to read was not new and indeed stretches back for centuries.

2. Often people generations apart do the same things although for different reasons and philosophies.

3. Those who had decided to teach young children to read had all used systems which, although they varied somewhat in technique, had many common factors.

4. Most importantly, in all of the cases we were able to find where small children were taught to read in the home, everyone who tried succeeded, no matter what the method.”  How to teach Your Baby to Read, pp.55-56

“The question as to when to begin to teach a child to read is a fascinating one. When is the child ready to learn anything?… Beyond two years of age, reading gets harder every year. If your child is five, it will be easier than it would be if he were six. Four is easier still, and three is even easier. One year of age is the best time to begin if you want to expend the least amount of time and energy in teaching your child to read. (Should you be willing to go to a little trouble you can begin at eight months or if you are very clever at three months of age.” How to teach Your Baby to Read, pp. 104-105                     

“If you start your child at one year old or before, he may not yet talk, or say only ‘mommy’ and one or two other words. It is quite possible to be able to read before one is able to speak. We have seen thousands of children who can read thousands of words who can not yet talk.Among adults it is almost always true that an adult can read a great deal more of a new language than he can understand of that language through his ear. Remember that a baby is learning a new language.Let us suppose that you have decided to teach your six-month-old child to read. Absolutely fine, go right ahead. Do it exactly in the same manner in which you would teach a child who talks. It will be easier for the six-month-old but more difficult for you… Remember reading is not talking. We adults are apt to think the two are the same thing. This is both unfortunate and unwise. Tiny children are capable of reading before they can talk. A six-month-old can not say his name yet but he can most definitely recognize the reading card with his name on it if he has been shown it frequently… The fact that your child may be too young to speak or may not wish to say his reading words does not negate the fact that you are increasing and enriching his language by teaching him to read. Indeed such investments in teaching the baby to read will speed his talking and broaden his vocabulary. Remember that language is language, whether transmitted to the brain via the eye or via the ear.” How to Teach Your Baby to Read, pp.123-124        

                                 

We want learning to always be natural and pleasurable for baby D. While it is certainly possible to learn to read at the traditional “school age”, it is not as easy at that age and often proves a frustration to children and colors the perception of learning and reading throughout childhood and maybe even into adulthood. The aim of early reading is not to make the child more “advanced”, but to ensure that learning is a delight rather than drudgery.

Here are our first sets of cards:

The first set of words. Baby D's name is also in this set to make five words.

The second set of words also includes the names of two family members, again to total five words.

 

The third set of five words.

Baby D, just because.

Mommy in Training


 

The most difficult thing about distance running while being the mom of an infant is leaving the house alone for a long enough time to complete long runs. For shorter runs baby D can come along in the jogging stroller– if he is in the mood for it– but taking two to three hours to run alone, plus the time it takes to shower after finishing, is hard to do. I am lucky in that my husband is very supportive and always tries to make sure I have enough time to train, and there are two sets of grandparents always eager to spend time with baby D. So the time for training is there… I just have to feel comfortable taking it. I still plan to run the marathon in October, but right now my workouts consist of short runs and bike rides. Of course one cannot expect to complete a marathon without having built up sufficiently long runs, so here is the real challenge: do the weekly long run, no matter what. I didn’t expect getting out the door to be more challenging than the actual workouts, but perhaps overcoming this mental hurdle– and gaining more effective time management skills– will be the greater benefit of marathon training. I expected physical challenges and growth. The mental side is a bonus. To say “I have no time for training” would be the same as saying “Training is not a priority”. It is a priority, and I want to be an example of good use of the body and the mind for baby D as he grows. I will complete the long runs, I will complete the marathon, and above all I will be the best mom I can be.

Third Day Without a Soiled Diaper


Today is our third day practicing elimination communication. We focus on catching bowel movements, and count any caught urine as a bonus. We have caught every bowel movement for three days! We keep the potty bowl with us, and when baby D appears to be on the verge of eliminating we open up his diaper and hold him over the potty bowl. While he is having a bowel movement I make a “shh-shh-shh” sound that, if all goes according to plan, he will eventually associate with the act of eliminating. I also tell him what he is doing. “You are having a bowel movement”, or “You are urinating”. I don’t have any illusions that there will never be another soiled diaper, but three days without one at two months old, having only just begun to practice EC, makes me very hopeful for success. I think using cloth diapers adds an extra incentive to catch the bowel movements. Our FuzziBunz wash up beautifully and there has never been any problem with staining, but it is easier to wipe out and disinfect the potty bowl than to wash soiled diapers. I still wash diapers every day, but just wet, no mess. I was nervous about being able to do EC, but these first few days have made me excited about continuing!

First Diaper Free Time!


We had our first diaper free time today. For a little while this morning baby D was on a blanket with a waterproof pad, adorable little bummie taking the air. He seemed pleasantly surprised– at first a little upset, then vocally happy. He did not eliminate during this time, but I did hold him over the potty bowl. He doesn’t mind the potty bowl, which surprises me. We are definitely taking ‘baby steps’ in elimination communication, but so far, so good.

First Steps in Elimination Communication


I began, gently, to use elimination communication with baby D today. My original intention was to begin from birth, but plans changed and we are just beginning now. We were able to catch a bowel movement, which feels like a big accomplishment. I held him once over his infant potty bowl, and once over the toilet. Both times he had a perplexed expression, as if he were wondering what in the world was being done to him. My plan from here is to offer the potty or toilet at predictable times– upon waking, after eating, and during diaper changes. I will also offer it if he appears on the verge or in the process of eliminating. We will have some daily diaper free time with the aid of waterproof pads. I will give periodic updates on progress.