Laureen's "Chinese Take Out" Stories - information from Annie, a native ECer...
Laureen writes: Annie is the woman who owns the best chinese restaurant in town, and handles deliveries. Totally by accident, I discovered that she is, of course, a native EC practitioner, having grown up in rural China, and raised two children of her own that way. She's my very own native guide to EC practice.
I quizzed Annie, as previously requested, on the topic of potty pauses. She looked at me like I was out of my mind. So here's the scoop, according to her.
* If you start pottying at birth, baby gets used to signalling. And that just continues, with nothing resembling pauses.
* Cueing is critical, because with pause times, you have to give them opportunities to pee every half hour or so (again, to her, this seemed really really frequent. Normal babies pee every hour or so in her mind).
* A baby's signal, usually, is some form of vocalization, or if they're doing unhappy vocalizing, like with teething, a quick pause in the vocalizing. The trick during these times is to be ultra-responsive. At this point, she went on a tirade about American parents who let their baby cry so they can watch just a few more minutes of TV. It was hysterical, complete with pantomimes of parents clicking the remote at the baby. =)
* If all is going as it should, baby gets diaper-untrained. I thought this was fascinating, considering how western children get diaper-trained. Basically, she was saying that after 9 months or so, her children couldn't go in their pants, even if they wanted to. For illustration, she asked if I could pee, right then, in my clothes. Of course not. Same with the kids. The controls against wetting onesself are strong, and should be present by then.
* She finished up with another tirade about how babies know far far more than we give them credit for. That they're picking up the cadences and tones of language in-utero, that they're picking up clues about social interaction, and that it's really not that much to assume that they are indeed born potty trained. It's just that the parents are too stupid or lazy (her words) to give adequate assistance, and let "the poor poor little baby" go in a diaper. She really feels deeply that it's a trust and respect issue.
FWIW, I found her set of assumptions really interesting. There's a passage in Meredith Small's "Our Babies, Ourselves" where she talks about how !Kung babies walk at around 4 months, because that's the expectation, but they don't talk until they're 2 or 3, because no one thinks they can. Annie was absolutely convinced that pauses don't happen, and that babies are fully capable of total continence by 7 to 9 months, that's just how it is.
I find myself wondering if pauses are a function of our deep uncertainty with the process? Some part of our enculturated brains that just don't buy it?
* Teething is one of the reasons you start EC from birth. That way, you have the time from birth until the first teeth begin to give the baby the idea. And of course newborns know what they're doing. She was *apalled and disgusted* that westerners have this concept of "readiness". Absolutely, they're aware from birth, period, she's never considered that it might be otherwise.
* The second they start showing signs of teething discomfort, get them nakeybutt. Kestrel was wearing a pair of plain terrycloth poquitos (thanks Robin), and she said that those are only marginally OK during teething...really, the baby should be totally naked, and you should revert to timing...take whatever their pattern was before, and maybe go twice as much. So a baby peeing every hour would now be offered pottytunity every half hour. She was very startled that babies would pee more frequently than that. But then again...in her village, they eat rice and some limited, seasonal veggies. So that loops us back to the "no allergens at all makes for easier EC" thread. Anyway, the nakeybutt is so that they're not bound around the tummy at all, which makes them more comfortable.
And again, she wanted to congratulate all us western moms "who are bothering to learn how to do the proper thing with your baby."
Annie took the initiative this time, to rant about disposables. Apparently her family was out and about somewhere, and ran into a disposable dipe by the roadside. Her tirade was impressive; how westerners have no respect for future generations, have no thought for anything but our own convenience, all it takes is a little bit of effort to take the baby to the potty, but NO, we have to spend all this money on these horrible environment-destroying baby-infecting (her words) plastic diapers. Yuck yuck yuck!
I had of course thought of EC as a respect issue, in terms of respect for the child. But I'd honestly never thought of it as an intergenerational respect issue. As in, disposables last in the landfill forever and that's not OK. As in, I'm not just ensuring that my child has the best and healthiest habits, I'm buying credit with my future grandchildren. =)
This line of thought (about how insulting and annoying disposables are to a native ECing mentality) has some really chilling ramifications. I mean, being American abroad has some problems just now anyway, but it had never occured to me that diapering was something that someone from an ECing culture would get annoyed at westerners over. We all know about the Ugly American stereotype; who knew that part of the picture was that the Ugly American's baby is wearing disposables?