Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Elimination Communication: 10 months in!

Our little Piggelin is 10 months old! One of the most rewarding parenting style choices we made was to do elimination communication (EC) with her from birth.

This definitely makes us weirdos. But what normal parents don't know is that this makes us very smart weirdos.

At least 75% of all of our baby's poo has gone in the toilet. That's 75% less poopy nappies we've had to change compared to parents who think it's too weird or annoying to take their baby to the toilet. 

What stops people from trying EC with their babies? Here are the most popular reasons and why they're not good reasons:

1. I don't have the time to sit around staring at my baby to see if she makes "poop" face.

That would be a legitimate concern if that is how EC works. It's not. In the beginning and maybe a couple times again at some point, some parents find it useful to take their kid's nappy off and watch for what kind of facial expressions or body language their kiddo engages in when it pees or poos. For about ONE HOUR. You have to look at your kid for an hour. While it's doing tummy time or whatever. I'm pretty sure most parents spend at least one hour a day looking at their baby anyway. But this is a thing that doesn't really need to be done, it's optional and it only needs to be done a few times. 

So how do you know if your baby needs the loo? "Unexplained" fussiness. Ever heard the expression "baby's just cry for no reason." Horseshit. Not hungry? Not wet already? Not tired? Not gassy? Kiddo needs to let loose and doesn't want to do it in it's clothes. All mammals do their business away from their sleeping space. That's the basis for litter box training cats and crate training dogs. Humans don't like to do their business in their pants either. Not even babies. 

Many babies also make a particular face right BEFORE they're going to poo. It's often even accompanied by some loud farts. You don't need to stare at your baby in order to "catch" the face. If your kid is fussing, farting and making weird faces, chances are pretty good that you're already looking at it. 

You're going to have to take the time to change that imminent poopy nappy anyway! I have changed poopy nappies and I have caught poops over the toilet or the sink and damned if I don't know exactly which is quicker. Take the nappy off and hold the infant over the sink or the toilet and let them poo there. It will happen immediately. Nappy is off and BOOM 30 seconds later you're gonna hear that plop followed by a tinkle. A little rinse under the sink if necessary and the dry nappy goes back on.

2. I don't want to clean pee and poo off my floors.

OK, I get where this misconception comes from. Elimination Communication is often called going "diaper free" and many parents who choose this parenting style also don't put nappies on their babies. With the exception of specified nappy-free time during which she was either on a water-proof cloth or towel or outside, our kiddo always has a nappy on. We take it off her when she needs to go. No pee or poo on the floors.

3. Cleaning poo out of the sink is unsanitary and gross.

Yes. Yes it is. But you know what's grosser? Cleaning poo off every surface and crevice of a baby swing or car seat when the baby's nappy fails to contain a poop explosion. This has never happened to us. 10 months old and we have only ever needed to clean poo from 3 places, not counting her bum: a cloth nappy, a sink or a potty chair. 

We found it easier to let her go over the sink as an infant because holding her over the toilet didn't feel great for our backs. We would wipe the poo out with toilet paper, spritz a bit of disinfectant in the bowl and run a bit of water. After 7 months she was big enough to sit on a cushy baby seat like the Prince Lionheart Weepod or a toddler toilet-training potty.

4. It's too cold where I live to let my baby be naked.

We live in Sweden. We understand. That's why we didn't let our baby be naked. During nappy-free observation time, we put her in a shirt, socks, leg warmers and the smallest size of toddler underwear we could find. Otherwise we kept her in cloth nappies and clothes. Some clothes are more conducive to ECing than others. For a while pants were SUPER annoying as were anything with a ton of snaps  up the legs and all around the crotch. Nightgowns were great when she was tiny. So were onesies (bodies or vests depending on your dialect) paired with leg warmers. Now that's she'd older, pants and t-shirts work just fine. Dresses are even better!

5. I'm too busy with my other children.

The time issue again. I understand. Really, I do. There are periods when EC does require a bit of extra time because sometimes you will take the wee one to the toilet and find out you were wrong, she doesn't need to pee or poo. We found these phases particularly frustrating. But in hindsight, we can comfortably say they were phases that passed within a few days or weeks at the most. But feeding your kid takes time too. So does rocking her to sleep. So does every aspect of parenting. Kids take time. Our daughter has never had a nappy rash. Nappy rashes take time and energy to treat and deal with. Our daughter will naturally learn how to use the toilet gradually and likely much much sooner than a kid who was not EC'd. Mainstream potty-training takes time. Continuing to change diapers for 1, 2 or 3 years longer than an EC'd kid also takes time. We all spend time on our kids, we just vary how and in what ways and when.

6. My baby doesn't give clear signals/ My baby always poos while breastfeeding/ My baby stopped signaling at a certain age so we gave it up/My baby is in daycare/ Enter specific issue here

There are trouble-shooting resources available! I swear we almost quit offering her the toilet at 6 months because we were down to 0 catches a day for a couple days. Turned out she was teething and learning to crawl. A few days later it was back to business as usual! There's this Andrea lady on the internet who has made it her business in life to help parent's help their babies with their business! She's written a great E-book and has a very helpful discussion forum. There are all kinds of solutions possible to all kinds of problems. Same as when you have trouble with breastfeeding or sleeping or teething or whatever. Like with all aspects of parenting, it's okay to seek out some help and advice when you need it!

7. It's just not what people do.

My knee jerk reaction is that that is a stupid reason. But NightDaddy would disagree and point out the significance of social influences and the validity of cultural cohesion blah blah people care about what other people think and that's normal. Everyone we know who thought we were "crazy" for doing this, changed their minds immediately when they witnessed for themselves our kid going pee in the sink, on command at 4 weeks old. It is that impressive. NightDaddy's mother was an instant and emphatic convert after witnessing this for herself and feeling the reward of catching a few of Piggelin's pees in the potty herself. If you can't convert your family and friends, find a pregnant friend or two who also wants to try EC with their baby! Everyone knows some weirdos, ask your local weirdos if they're going to EC their baby and hang out more with them! Encourage each other and support each other. A great way to avoid social ostracization AND enjoy an EC relationship with your baby, is to not be dogmatic about it. If you're over at your non-ECing friend's house, let your baby pee in her toilet but not on her floor. Even if you don't use nappies at home, use them there. Be relaxed about the topic. Normal people have a tendency to feel an adverse reaction to overzealous enthusiasm about activities they don't engage in themselves and don't know anyone else who does. That's partly why they're still normal. Make ECing seem like the most normal everyday whatever thing that just ain't no big thing. Because that is exactly what it is.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Flufftric System: How to Rate a Cloth Nappy

NightDaddy and I created a scale for rating cloth nappies. Because we're overly engaged fathers who do things like that.

There needs to be a decent way to compare these things. A standard metric.

The best rating is a 0 and the worst is a 30.

The 8 categories:


How well does the nappy fit your kid's bum?

0 Second skin.
1 Trim and neat
2 Bubble Butt
3 Red marks/Gaping
4 Shameful and Painful


How well does it work?

0 Bulletproof
1 No major issues, might not contain a poop explosion
2 A bit too loose/too tight/not enough absorbency
3 Leaks, leaks, leaks
4 Might as well be naked


How easy is it to use?

0 The baby could change itself
1 Sleep-deprivation poses no risk
2 A bit tricky at first
3 Fumble, fumble, fumble
4 Can't even tell which way is front


How fast does it dry?

0 Dry before it hits the line
1 Line dries in <5 hours
2 Reasonable
3 Hmmm this one's still damp
4 Lapped by faster drying nappies


How does it feel?

0 Made of angel feathers
1 Oh, that's niiiice
2 Meh, cloth is cloth
3 Scratchy/stiff/weird/pick your somewhat unpleasant adjective
4 Not on my baby's bottom!


How does the price match up with the quality of the product, manufacturing conditions and material costs?

0 The price is right
1 Acceptable
2 A bit too high, but decent on clearance/seconds
3 Too high / Too low
4 Either sewn with gold or by very tiny hands


How much do you fancy the way it looks?

1 Super cute
2 Nothing special
3 Unfortunate
4 Fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down


0 I have nothing more to add
1 There is some other minor flaw worth mentioning
2 The is some other major flaw worth mentioning

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Week of Fear

One of the privileges of being a native-only couple, is never needing to fear that your family will ever be torn apart and thrown across an ocean because a paper was mailed two days late.

On November 26th I sent the following e-mail to the Swedish Immigration Bureau (I've translated some of the words to English and put them in brackets):


I'm writing with questions in regard to beteckning [case] ########.

I gave birth to my daughter September 7th and was thus extremely sleep-deprived around the time that my uppehållstillstånd [residence permit] expired at the end of October. In that state, it was difficult to gather the necessary papers and I thought that as long as I mailed the application on the 29th (day of expiration) it was on time. I have a PhD position and my uppehållstillstånd [residence permit] was based on that. But since I now live with my partner and we have a child together, I chose to change the permission to be based on this relationship. I thought it would be possible to do this application online but it wasn't. The 29th was the very soonest I was able to mail the application after I realized I couldn't do it online.

I received a "mottagningskvitto" [receipt] and the beteckning [case] number. Also a request for more documents. I paid the fee and sent the extra documents. The mottagningskvitto [receipt] says that the application was received on October 31st.

Today I had a very unpleasant conversation with an angry woman at Försäkringskassan [the Social Security Administration]. She said that my child does not have the right to barnbidrag [monetary child benefits] because I do not have the right to live in Sweden because I filed my application late. 

I was in complete shock. I have lived in Sweden for 4 years. My entire life is here. My job. My partner. My child. My apartment. We depend on my förälderpenning [parental leave benefits] from my job while I am on parental leave. Now I am terrified that Försäkringskassan [the Social Security Administration]  is going to cut me off and that I won't be able to return to my job and that I'm going to be forced out of the country.  We were able to sort out the problem of the barnbidrag [monetary child benefits] because the child's second parent (my partner) is a Swedish citizen and is now finally registered as her second parent. But is it true that I don't have the right to stay here? I can send the new papers that show that my child is a Swedish citizen! 

I'm so full of fear and anxiety right now that my family is going to be torn apart and lose our income because I accidentally filed an application two days late. Please tell me that my family is safe and that everything is going to be okay.  

You can e-mail me or call me at ##########.


On December 6th, I received the following reply:

Dear [Name]
Thank you for your email.

An application for extension or a new permit should be handed in before the old one expires. The fact that you applied two days late will, however, not affect your application or your status in Sweden, since it’s only a very short delay from your part. As long as you have an open application you are allowed to live, work and study in Sweden.

Yours sincerly
[Case Worker Name]
The Customer Service
The Swedish Migration Board

I have to be honest, when chain gets yanked like this, it's hard not to feel like a dog. And not a well-loved dog, either. 12 days of terror. All because some angry woman at the social security administration shot off her ignorant mouth. We're still reeling. 


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christmas for 1st, 2nd and 3rd Generation Immigrant Family

"Babes, we're soon going to be the only flat on our block without stars in our windows. This is getting embarrassing." -DD

"Okay, I'll go get the stuff out of storage." -ND

While I was pregnant, I read Manju Kampur's "The Immigrant." The story of two immigrants from India in Canada struck a chord deep inside. My favorite passage described the immigrant experience of seeing double. She walks into an indoor Canadian market and looks around, but the memories of the open air Indian markets are imposed over scene as if she were seeing both at once. Not a week goes by that I do not share in this immigrant experience.

Walking through our neighborhood after dark, I take in the yellow paper stars and electric candles illuminating the windows and the single strands of white LEDs twined around balcony railings. As I walk, the American memories float up onto the street. Low flats, communal green spaces and neighborhood paths are laid over with a memory of brick bungalows with scrappy front yards and cracked sidewalks. Glowing plastic Santas, wooden nativity scenes and ropes upon ropes of bright rainbow lights dance in my mind, not tied to any place or time other than my hometown and my childhood.

All immigrants have a similar choice to make. Do I prop up a glowing Santa in our window? Frame it with rainbow lights, specially ordered from America? Add a nativity scene on the terrace?

"Do we have one of those candelabra thingies to put in the kitchen window? Or do we need to pick one up at ICA?" -DD

"A Luciastake?" -ND

"Is that what it's called? How do you spell that?" -DD

Night Daddy sits down to Google. Despite having grown up in Stockholm, he went to English school. Polish at home and English at school leads to moments just like this.

"No, it's called an adventsljusstake. All one word. And yes, we have one." -ND

Day Daddy sits down to Google.

"According to this the advent one has only four. That sounds right with the advent candle wreaths that I grew up with. What's the pyramidy 7 candle one called that everybody puts in their windows here? Oh. wait. Here's the Wiki entry. Apparently, it's 'julottestakar.' But I've never heard that." -DD

"No. Nobody calls it that. They're just called advent lights. Nobody cares about the number." -ND

"I saw some windows with these round ornament bobbles hanging on fish line. They looked really nice. I could hang some of those too." -DD

"Here's a package of gold ones and blue ones." -ND

"These aren't blue. They're black." -DD

"They're blue." -ND

"No. Look." -DD

"Huh." -ND

"You have black Christmas ornaments? I'm not hanging black ornaments in our window. I don't care how pretty they are. But the gold ones are nice." -DD

"Whatever, Babes. Here's the fishing line. I'm going to figure out the star lampshade thingies. I've never used them before." -ND

We might be Polish and American, but our little Piggelin is Swedish. Her home should reflect that. I hope one day, she will know that we tried.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Alvehamn Cloth Nappy Review (Tygblöja Recension)

A few weeks ago we went to a "Tygblöjemingel." In the UK I hear they're called "Nappuchinos." There's coffee, cake and parents with their cloth bum clad babies. At this particular meet-up, the hosts were hawking Alvehamn nappies (click here for English), a fabulous, relatively new Swedish brand. Night Daddy indulged in ordering a Christmas-y laminated minky cover and two super soft bamboo prefolds, one for daytime and a thicker one for nighttime use. 

The cover is one-size and our little Piggelin has just hit the starting size of 6 kilos. We snapped down the rise and tried it out. 

The nappy is super soft and easy to put on and take off. It fits her snugly and she seems comfortable. It is however quite bulky on a little 3 month old. The Alvehamn prefolds were plenty absorbent and worked great. However, after we had changed them out, the cover was still clean so we threw in one of our Sloomb prefolds. This unfortunately did not work out so great. It was a middle of the night change so it could have just not been fastened properly, but we woke up to soaked sheets. The pee had collected in the hole of the cover and spilled out one of the leg openings. This would not have happened with the Alvehamn prefolds as they are much bigger and thicker. But it means we can only use those or a fitted nappy underneath.

We ordered directly from a seller and the total for the cover plus the two prefolds and shipping was 303kr. This is... expensive. Prefolds are generally known for being on the cheaper end of the cloth nappy system spectrum, but not these. They're high quality materials and they work great, but an entire stash of Alvehamns bought new would carry a fairly hefty price tag. 

Not a fan of the bulk or the price, but we do like the materials and that it will fit her until she learns to use the potty on her own. And it is very pretty-- almost as pretty as our Piggelin! ;)


Friday, November 29, 2013

Expat during Thanksgiving

This is the 7th Thanksgiving I've spent out of the U.S. Would have been 8 if I hadn't gone to visit my dad in one year. My mom had kicked him out of the house, decided she didn't want it any more and left it trashed. I went back to help him pick up the pieces. No one should be left to do that alone. Not after 30 years of marriage.

I thought it would be really hard to go back and see my childhood home in that state. The light patch of wallpaper in the stairwell where the clock my grandfather made hung. My parent's closet that had always been off limits, wide open, old shoes spilling out. The unmarked boxes in the attic full of toys, clothes and books, some tied to a particular memory or two. Others completely forgotten. They'd been opened recently and rummaged through. She took what mattered to her. The rest we sent over to the Salvation Army.

That was before I knew that the Salvation Army promoted the killing of gay people. Although my dad would still probably have sent the stuff over there. Just small town folks helping small town folks in need, he'd say. Yeah, unless they're gay, I'd shoot back. No one cares about your sexual orientation when you walk into a second hand store, he'd reason. It's about the power structure! I'd argue and go on a rant about where the money goes and Uganda and so on. But this was before Uganda. Before I got myself involved with helping gay and transgender asylum seekers in Sweden. Back when I'd been out of the closet less than two years and my biggest worry was whether or not my dad would remember to use my new name.

It wasn't hard to be back in that small town. In that old house. It was a relief. The opportunity to revisit an old place as a new person. To sit quietly in old rooms and reminisce. To stroll calmly through the dragon's old lair and check out the bones left behind.

Today, I'm thankful that my mother told me to never contact her again. That as a result we need not face any hate today. No anxiety. No lies. No anger. No screaming. No violence. That my baby girl is in the other room sleeping quietly in the safety and comfort of her Polish Babcia's arms.

I'm thankful for my parents' divorce. Thankful that my dad and sister are having a peaceful Turkey Day with my brother's family. That my dad has a girlfriend who treats him right. That I can call him and chat as long as we want without him having to hide the phone call. Or pretend that he's okay.

I'm thankful for the beautiful Swedish winter. The way the pale sun shines through the soft grey cloud cover, just above the horizon. All the windows in the neighborhood are lit up with Lucia candles and balconies twinkle with strands of white LEDs.  The smell of saffron, gingerbread and mulled wine warms up the crisp cold air. The promise of Babcia's beet root barszcz soup and savory mushroom uszki pastry bites makes my mouth water. And one day soon, our little Piggelin will see her first snowflake.