5 Reasons Why We went Diaper-Free and How You Can Too


Often when I’m out and about running errands or on play dates with friends, I stop what we’re doing to help my son pull down his pants and go to the bathroom. A common response that I get is, “Wait, how old is your son again? He’s already potty trained??” Most people think I’m some overachieving super-mom who always has to challenge the status quo. Well the latter is true, but let me share about why I hope this will soon become the human norm (like it used to be) and it will no longer be perceived as a practice only super-moms can do.


 
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Elimination Communication (EC) is not as foreign or complicated as it might sound. In short, EC involves observing your child's physical cues for when they need to eliminate and recognizing when to take them to relieve themselves, then responding accordingly. Just think of what people used to do before diapers existed!

Elimination Communication is a gentle, non-coercive way to respond to a baby’s natural hygiene needs, from as early as birth. Like all mammals, human babies instinctually resist soiling themselves, their sleep space, and their caregivers, and they clearly communicate about it from birth. With EC, we learn baby’s signals and natural rhythms and assist them with this process until they naturally gain independence (usually by 9-18 months of age).
— Andrea Olson, Author of "Go Diaper Free"
 
My boy enjoying some diaper-free time as a newborn

My boy enjoying some diaper-free time as a newborn

 

Why do Elimination Communication or Go Diaper Free?

  • It’s hygienic

  • It’s environmentally-friendly

  • It’s responsive to the needs of your child

  • It’s less diapers you have to change

  • It fosters age-appropriate independence

It’s Hygienic

This is an obvious one. Would you enjoy sitting in your own feces? Or would you prefer a swift and clean evacuation process ending with a warm personal bidet service (what we call the “PBS” in our house)? To be honest, I’ve never seen diaper rash and there’s a reason why. My son was never sitting in his urine or feces for long enough for it to negatively impact his skin health. This is not intended to be bragging, rather to show you that there can be another way. The development of diaper rash is a clear sign that hygiene can be improved and EC is a perfect alternative.

It’s Environmentally Friendly

Walking to the bathroom to dump his potty. Each time he goes in his potty, that’s one diaper that doesn’t need to be washed.

Walking to the bathroom to dump his potty. Each time he goes in his potty, that’s one diaper that doesn’t need to be washed.

On average, children are in diapers for about 3 years. Many are in them long enough to change their own diaper. Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t there seem to be something wrong with that picture?

From an environmental standpoint, first of all just think of how many diapers a child goes through in their 3 years of life. How many of those diapers are just piling up in a landfill?

Did you know it can take up to 500 years for a diaper to decompose? And depending on what kind you get, they may NEVER break down because of the plastic and petroleum products they contain!

Of course, today we are better off than 30 years ago with more biodegradable disposable diapering options with brands like Dyper or Eco by Naty, but fossil fuels are still consumed and waste is still produced in the manufacturing, processing and distribution of these biodegradable products.

Even if you use cloth diapers, you may still need to consider the energy and water used to wash all those diapers (and potentially toxic cleaning products you may use to clean out the stains).

Though the current potty options are made from plastic, that same potty can be used over and over again for all your children and can be gifted and reused. I would argue that using one plastic potty and using diapers for less time for the duration of potty learning ages produces a lot less waste than solely using diapers as a portable toilet for 3 years.

It’s responsive to the needs of your child

Imagine this:

Your baby is crying and squirming.

You think, “But I just fed him! He can’t possibly still be hungry!” or “Maybe it’s just gas”.

You check the diaper and it’s wet/soiled. You think, “Ohhh that’s why she was crying!”

Probably yes, but it’s even more likely that your baby was crying before he/she soiled their diaper and that cry was your baby trying to let you know, “hey mom! I really don’t want to pee or poop on myself, can you hurry up and get this thing (diaper) off of me?!”

I can’t tell you how much more I was able to understand my baby’s communications when I included pottying in the list of needs to check in on: “Tired? He just woke up! Hungry? He just nursed! Potty? Yes!…”


It’s less diapers you have to change

If you’ve ever had to give a toddler a diaper change, you’ll know what I mean when I say it’s a relief to be done with diapers as early as possible. Toddlers hardly sit still for long enough to put a diaper on! And once my son was upright and walking at 10 months, we preferred doing standing diaper changes. Even then, it became more and more of an annoyance to try and get all the snaps closed on his cloth diaper before he ran away.

If your little one is out of diapers by 18 months, that’s a whole 18 months that you don’t have to change any diapers (assuming the average age of potty training is 3 years old)!! I haven’t met one parent who enjoys cleaning up a blowout or who willingly signs up for changing twice their child’s lifetime-worth of diapers.

It fosters age-appropriate independence

He loved putting his toilet-seat-reducer on the toilet by himself, peeing (with mom’s help to pull pants down and to get up onto the toilet), putting it away then flushing the toilet.

He loved putting his toilet-seat-reducer on the toilet by himself, peeing (with mom’s help to pull pants down and to get up onto the toilet), putting it away then flushing the toilet.

Once my son was 16 months old, I was SO over it. I thought that because I was doing EC he would naturally start taking himself to the potty but realized in hindsight that I never actually taught him the action of sitting on the potty by himself as I was always placing him on it. I realized we were both ready when the thought crossed my mind: “I never want to change another diaper!” and when one morning I placed my son on the potty and he swatted my hands away. If he could speak he would’ve said “I got this! Let me do this myself, mom!”.

So I used Andrea’s Tiny Potty Training Book (based on EC principles) to quickly transition from using diapers as a backup to being diaper-free. Though there are obvious frustrations in the learning process, the only thing I regret about this whole journey was not getting rid of diapers sooner!

An important thing to know when starting this process is that “potty trained” doesn’t mean “able to potty all by themselves right away”. To me, “potty trained” means that he knows that pee and poo belong in the potty or toilet and not in his pants. Only now (at 20 months) is my son developmentally ready to take his pants off (though it takes a minute or so as he’s still learning). For a while even after babies make that connection that pee and poo go in the potty, you’ll still need to prompt a bathroom break or facilitate the undressing or mounting until they’re fully independent. But it’s the daily practice of this habit that facilitates this learning; waiting until they are “ready” to be potty-trained does nothing to promote learning.

Some common concerns:

“It will be too hard!”

The biggest barrier to entry that I hear from parents is “It will be too hard!” I understand that diapers bring a certain level of convenience in our modern-day, hectic world. But the way I think of it is this: You’re going to spend the time and energy to do potty training now or you’re going to spend it later. Why not spend the time and effort now when your child is more open to the idea of pottying than later when they’re 3 years old and resist everything you ask them to do? And just consider how many LESS diapers you are contributing to the landfill (or how many less loads of laundry you’re doing if cloth-diapering!).

“But I work full-time!”

We committed to doing EC part-time to take the stress off of needing to be perfect about it. I approached it with the mindset of aiming to catch whatever signs I could and if I missed some, no biggy. My endgame was to become more in tune with my son and to do my best to minimize waste in the long run.

If you work full-time, you can choose to do EC during the times you are with your baby (nights and weekends) and/or inform your caretaker about your child’s signs and see if they would be willing to potty them. It’s likely they might since it’s much cleaner than having to clean up a diaper mess!

 
My son using his urinal around 18 months. We suctioned it to the shower door and he loves standing up like daddy to pee.

My son using his urinal around 18 months. We suctioned it to the shower door and he loves standing up like daddy to pee.

 

Convinced? Here’s where to start…

You can learn about the details of the signals to look for and the “4 Roads to Potty Time” in the resources created by Andrea Olson.

I used her book Go Diaper Free: The comprehensive guide to pottying your child from birth through 18 months to learn all the ins-and-outs (pun intended ;) ) of EC. I read it when I was pregnant and learned along the way. Like everything in parenthood, you learn as you go! So don’t worry if you’re not catching all the poos/pees right away. I was highly responsive to my son and still had to change wet and poopy diapers (though much more infrequently than if I wasn’t responsive at all).

As I mentioned above, I used her book Tiny Potty Training book: A Simply Guide For Non-coercive Potty-Training (for 18+ months) to “wrap up” our EC practice and go completely diaper free. You can use code ANISA for $5 OFF of anything on the Tiny Undies website.

Whether you choose to embrace the EC way of parenting or not, I encourage you to do as much as you can to reduce diaper waste and attend to baby's hygiene needs.

I include my favorite EC products and resources in my upcoming ebook but you can find a full resource list on the Go Diaper Free website.

Are you doing elimination communication or have you been inspired to go diaper free? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!