Guest post by Lisa from My World Edenwild
I am rare in the fact that when I first heard of the term "diaper-free baby," I knew I wanted to do it. Most parents are fazed by the idea. Many won't even consider it, while some are intrigued but intimidated. But not me. I was more like, Well, of course a baby can do that — babies are amazing! But like I said, I am the exception. So if you are daunted by the idea, know that you are in good company. Also, believe me when I say that it is very doable, and you can do as much or as little of it as you like, and still reap tremendous benefits.
If you haven't heard of it yet, elimination communication (EC) is a form of communication between a baby and its caregiver about the baby's elimination needs. The basic idea is that a baby needs to pee or poo, and would rather not do it on itself (in a diaper), so the baby gives a signal to the caregiver, who then takes the baby to eliminate over an appropriate receptacle and cues the baby to go. It works, it really does.
But this post isn't on how to do EC, but why to do it. There are so, so many reasons. Most parents often start with just one or two reasons and then learn that there are many other benefits. I can't even remember my initial reason, other than knowing babies are amazing and that I should at least try it. But I found out I had many reasons for wanting to do it.
Good hygiene. This reason is very important to me. Many babies suffer from diaper rash quite regularly, and it doesn't have to be this way. Some cultures think we are pretty disgusting for letting our babies pee and poop in their pants. I'm with them. It's gross! I totally understand the use of diapers (we do use them as backup), and I think they are fine if you change the baby as soon as it pees or poops. But if you can get the baby to go in a potty, even better! It seems some sensitive tooshies react to wet diapers and will develop rash even if the diapers are changed right away. Our son has a sensitive toosh, but has only had very, very mild diaper rash (more like an irritation) about five times, and he is 16 months old. We barely put a dent in the small tube of diaper ointment we bought.
Communication. This may be the best reason for doing EC. When he was just a tiny thing, my son would tell me he had to go, and was obviously grateful when I took him to potty. The two-way communication of I need to go! and You can go right here is priceless. Most parents in our culture don't get to experience this. But trust me when I say you will develop a deeper bond with your little one by doing this. Learning when you baby has to go potty is like learning when she is tired, hungry, or wants to be held. If you listen for it, you can pick up on it. It does require greater listening.
A natural transition to potty learning. For an exclusively diapered baby, potty training in toddlerhood can be a difficult process. But babies who have been pottied since birth or even later in their first year will keep the elimination awareness that they are born with. They will also already be familiar with what to do on a potty, so when they are ready to "graduate" (become fully potty-trained), the process is very natural for them. When I learned that babies are born with the awareness of having to eliminate and the ability to hold it (to a certain extent) and eliminate purposely, I thought it would be such a waste to allow them to lose all that through conventional diapering.
Not being dependent on diapers. Doing EC will probably save you some diapers. ECing parents generally change diapers as soon as they are wet, instead of waiting for them to "fill up," so you may actually go through a lot of diapers if you have a lot of misses. But if both you are your baby are really good at communicating and do it full time, you will save on diapers. You won't need to use them all of the time. You can save money on disposables or do less laundry if you use cloth. When we were using disposables, I loved the fact that we could be down to just two diapers, and not run out to the store to buy more. And now that we use cloth, I'm not stressed if we are out of clean ones. I just let him run around bare bottomed until I can get the laundry done.
Diaper-free time/Comfort. Again, why would a baby want to hang out in a wet or dirty diaper? We wanted our baby to be as comfortable as possible, so we tried to reduce his exposure to wetness by taking him to the potty or changing him right away if he had a miss. When babies have just used the potty, it's usually pretty safe to let them air out for a bit. This is really good for their skin, and most babies love it. Not having a diaper between the legs is much more comfortable, and may even help the baby with mobility. It's also fun to see the expressions on other people's faces when you carry your baby around without a diaper on. They are certain the baby will pee on you, but you know better. I love allowing my son be in a natural, diaper-free state.
It makes you feel good. In the early weeks of my son's life, pottying him was a life-saver for me. I was overwhelmed by other aspects of being a new parent, but to be doing this one thing for my baby that seemed to be above and beyond the normal call of duty (at least in our culture) made me feel really good. Every "catch" felt like a success, and I would just get a high off of it. Now, almost a year and a half later, I can't imagine letting my baby eliminate in a diaper when I know he has to go. I most certainly couldn't imagine letting my baby sit around in his waste for hours. It's all been worth it, and I am happy to keep doing it until he becomes potty independent.
It makes you a better parent. At least, it's made me a better parent. Having to be so in tune with my child to pick up on his cues, and respecting him when he says "no" means that I really have to pay attention to him. This was especially so when he was very young. I held him constantly and I knew that every little grunt or sound he made meant something. If you are doing full-time EC, you have to be paying attention to your child. (No this doesn't mean sit around and stare at him all day, as some people think, but it does mean that you can't just ignore him when he is making his signals.) If you just listen to your child, and not worry about how many "catches" or "misses" you are getting, it can strengthen your bond with your child, deepen your respect for her, and help you feel really good about meeting your child's needs.
I know elimination communication isn't for everyone, but I would love it if more people would just consider it. Give it a try. You don't have to do it full-time. Maybe just after naps, or only during diaper changes. Or just in the mornings or on weekends. Whatever seems doable to you. It's fun, trust me. You may even find yourself loving it so much that you do it full-time. Who knows? Maybe you'll have the wonder child who is potty-trained by age one! (Don't count on that, though!)
What is your top reason for trying or wanting to try elimination communication?
For more information on elimination communication, please visit diaperfreebaby.org.
Lisa lives in Oregon with her husband, Phillip, and 16-month-old son, Michael. She spends her days with her child, and her free time writing and reading and doing practical crafts (making things her family needs or wants in order to save money). She dreams of being a successful photographer one day, and would love to have both her photography and her writing published in books. Things that are important to Lisa are her faith, her family, raising children in love, enjoying our beautiful planet and being mindful of it, sharing and making connections with others, trying to be healthy, and being true to oneself. She has a passion for learning and can be a little obsessive about it sometimes, and she is perhaps a little too aesthetically driven for her own good. Hiking, Celtic music, traveling, Tuscan-style decoration, getting lost in a good book, really good food and really good hot chocolate are some of the things she truly enjoys. Lisa blogs at My World Edenwild.