How to Have a Diaper-Free Baby

You may remember author Christine Gross-Loh when I posted about her great new book Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us. I realized she is also the author of The Diaper-Free Baby: The Natural Toilet Training Alternative. I begged her to write about it for us. Think of all the money we can save! It turns out that Christine, who has a Ph.D. from Harvard University and is a mom of four, can get those babies going on the potty before they can even walk. Christine tells us how:

“Maybe you’ve heard about them: diaper free babies. But how can this be? Babies and diapers just go together…don’t they?

I felt the same way when I first heard about babies using the potty. Not only did I think it was a physiological impossibility, I also thought it was wrong or even harmful. After all, I’d always heard that you should never start toilet training too early, that babies aren’t aware of their elimination, and that it’s best to wait until a child is old enough to talk and walk and do it all by himself.

Twelve years later, with four EC’d kids behind me, I now know it’s not only possible–there are lots of compelling reasons every parent should at least know about this alternative to conventional diapering and toilet training. BTW, EC stands for Elimination Communication.

When you ditch the diapers (at least some of the time) during infancy or earlier toddlerhood, your child may well be out of diapers for good by the age of 2, if not earlier, saving you money and easing your impact on the environment. It’s also nice for your child; he won’t have spent years in diapers only to suddenly have to switch gears and learn how to use a toilet–a process which can be difficult for children who have become used to eliminating only in their diapers.

The Diaper-Free Baby provides detailed step-by-step guidance for families who want to try EC. Here are a few key points to get you started:

Observe your child’s cues. If you have a young baby, you might notice that you can tell when he is about to “go”–he’s very aware of this sensation and his cues are obvious. (As he gets used to eliminating in diapers, though, he’ll gradually lose his keen awareness of this sensation). Watch for these typical cues: Your child might get a certain expression on his face, purse his lips, go very still, grunt or cry. Instead of waiting for him to finish going in his diaper and then changing him, consider holding him over a potty to do his business. The more you do this, the more right it feels to him to use a potty.

Learn the universal pottying position. Infant pottying is a cultural norm in societies all around the world, and interestingly, many of these cultures potty babies the same way: usually a caretaker holds the baby in a supported squat in her arms over a potty while making a “cue” sound (a “shhh” sound or a soft hiss or whistle is most common).

It’s true that if your child is just a baby, you have to assist him. But there are lots of things we do to help our babies out–for instance, we don’t wait to start solid foods until they can do everything all by themselves; we expect that we’ll be helping them use a spoon or cut their food but that they’ll eventually be doing it by themselves. Pottying a baby is similar: once you are used to it, it doesn’t take much time, and as soon as he learns to walk, he may toddle off to the potty on his own.

Remember some EC is better than none at all. You don’t have to do it full time and you don’t have to invest in a supply of baby-sized underwear. Even occasional EC–sitting on the potty once a day–has benefits. Your child will remain aware of his body and will also learn that a diaper is not the only place to eliminate.”

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