Not long before my first daughter was born, some friends emailed me and asked, “Are you using cloth diapers, disposable diapers or diaper free?” We had already decided on cloth diapers as the ecological and healthful choice for our baby. But what the hell is this diaper free?
For a moment, my frugal side got the best of me. Knowing that cloth diapers can cost a bit up front, though they save money over disposables in the long run, I imagined saving a bunch of money by not buying any diapers. Then I pictured a little baby peeing and pooping all over our floors and carpets. I was torn, and I still didn’t even know what diaper free meant.
After a bit of research online, my wife and I got a couple of books from the library. One of them was Ingrid Bauer’s Diaper Free! The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene. This book definitely opened our eyes. We were convinced that using elimination communication, as it is properly called, was not just doable, but the best way to go for our daughters health (both physically and psychologically) and for the environment.
Elimination communication is the use of cues, timing and intuition for facilitate your baby’s need to eliminate. Basically, you watch for your baby’s cues (facial expressions, body language, sounds, cries, etc.), you give them a potty opportunity, and you cue them. A cue might be a sound you make, like, “sssss.” It may also be using the sign for potty. The cue can be as simple as putting them on the potty. Intuition also plays a part, which is really fascinating. There are times when I just know that she has to pee or poop, and she does. Sometimes I forget to trust my intuition, and I have a miss.
So what are the benefits of elimination communication, or diaper free? Check it out:
- Environmental: If you are the least bit successful with Elimination Communication you will be doing less laundry (if you are using cloth diapers), and thus using less water and other cleaning resources. Disposable diaper users will use less diapers which means less diapers in landfills (although I would advocate against disposable altogether, but that is for another post).
- Save Money: As noted above, you will be doing less laundry with EC, thus saving on water and the energy needed to heat the water, as well as whatever detergent or cleaning solutions you use for cleaning your cloth diapers and cleaning your baby. Disposable diaper users will simply buy less diapers with EC.
- Foster Better Communication Between You and Your Child: This is at the heart of what EC is about. The key word is “communication.” I find that I am so attentive my daughters needs, not just for pottying, but in all aspects of her life. I am very communicative with her, for example by giving her cues to potty. This early communication is no doubt strengthening our bond with our daughter.
- Very Hygienic: With EC, your child will be spending very little time sitting in a soiled diaper. This leads to the next point…
- More Comfortable For Baby/Less Diaper Rash: For one, because you are so attentive to your child’s cues, they will spend very little time in a wet diaper. Either you will have caught the cues and gotten them to the potty in time, or you will have missed the cues, but you will check and change them out of a wet diaper. Furthermore, if you start early you will likely have very few poop accidents. My wife and I have only changed a poopy diaper about 5 times so far, and Anjali is 6 months old. You will have less need for diaper rash creams and treatments, again saving you money.
- Your Baby Will Likely Be “Potty-Trained” Earlier Than Non-EC-ers: Think about this: Non-EC-ers have children eliminate in their diaper for about two years, and then they tell the child to stop. Usually a struggle ensues, and some children are still not fully potty-trained until age 3! With EC, you do not need to un-train your child from eliminating in the diaper. Many babies using EC are “potty-trained” before the age of 2.
- Encourages Your Child’s Independence: We realize that even at an early age (we started successfully using EC by Anjali’s second week!), not only can infants control the muscles involved in elimination, but they can communicate about it. As they become more mobile they will be able get to the potty themselves.
- Helps Parents Tap Into Their Intuition: Many parents using EC speak of a certain intuition that kicks in. Although they are watching and listening for their child’s cues to potty, many often just have a sense that their child has to go. I for one have experienced this, as has my wife. Intuition is a fairly underplayed component of parenting in our society. But I feel it is a very important part of parenting, and I have hopes that more people will tap into it as a great resource.