Bye-Bye Diapers

Whether you’re concerned about the environment or just curious about toilet training possibilities, the idea of a diaper free baby is intriguing. The truth is that babies in most developing nations will never wear a diaper and will likely never have an accident either.

How it Works
Also known as Natural Infant Hygiene or Elimination Communication (EC), keeping your baby diaper free requires communication between babies and their parents. Parents must learn the signs that their baby gives when he needs to go; this can be a facial expression, or a certain squirming or other movement. As the child becomes older, he might begin to make a certain vocalization to signal his needs, or even a hand gesture. Many babies will need to go at certain times; for instance, within a few minutes of waking up, or every hour.

Once the baby signals his need, the parent takes him to the washroom, remove his clothing, or diaper – if one is being used "just in case" – and holds the baby over the toilet, sink, or special potty. There are a few techniques, but most involve holding the infant in a sitting position, by the legs, with his back towards your front. The parent can sit on the back of the toilet and hold the baby facing forward, or kneel in front of the toilet and hold the baby facing back. Once your baby is sitting up on his own, a toilet seat insert or baby potty can be used, and he can simply be placed on it. Once the baby is in place, parents will make a noise, usually "ssshhh" like the sound of water, to signal to him that it’s time to go.

All of this might sound strange in North America – where an estimated 95% to 99% of parents use disposable diapers, but it really does work and in many countries no one diapers their babies. Parents who practice Elimination Communication say that it helps them better understand what their baby is communicating, and can reduce fussiness, since baby isn’t sitting in wet or soiled diapers.

When to get Started
The best time to get started with EC is before your baby reaches five or six months. However, parents have successfully begun practicing EC with babies as old as 18 months. The theory is that there are windows of opportunity when your baby will be most receptive to toilet learning. Usually these windows occur prior to five months and then again from 8 -12 months, then 18 months and finally at 24 months – the age at which most children will self-train if they have not been already.

If you’re looking to get started with Natural Infant Hygiene, there are parents groups in most major North American cities that can be easily found on the internet.

Most parents who practice EC report a very high success rate – especially if they began prior to their baby reaching six months of age. However, babies will sometimes go on a potty "strike" at times of great discovery – for example, when baby first learns to crawl or walk. It is rare, but some parents have reported that they ended up putting their 18 month old in diapers more than they had when the same baby was 8 months old.

As we all know, babies can be unpredictable. If you do attempt EC with your baby, and he does not want to use the toilet, do not try to force the issue. Put him back in his diaper and try again later when you begin to see bathroom cues.

Pros of Going Diaper Free

  • Could ease/eliminate the transition from diapers to potty training.
  • Greatly reduces the number of diapers used, adding up to a savings of between $2000 and $3600 for two years of disposable diapers and around $1500 for two years of cloth diapers.
  • Greatly reduces your child’s impact on the environment – diapering an infant with disposable diapers for two years will use up five tree and create up to two tons of bio-hazardous waste
  • Less mess – believe it or not, it’s easier to clean your baby up after he uses the toilet than after he uses a diaper.
  • Eliminates diaper rash.
  • Encourages communication between parents and babies.

Cons of Going Diaper Free

  • If your baby is in daycare, or homecare, they will still be in diapers part time. This could be confusing to him.
  • May be more difficult if you’re not practicing co-sleeping, or attachment parenting.