Dare to Go Diaperless
by Marisa Lousier
Source: Island Parent Magazine
Original Article: Click Here
Originally Published: September 2011
This past week my partner and I began our adventures in Diaperless when we began to “potty” our 16-week-old daughter. A friend had gone diaperless with her baby and, intrigued, I read up on the idea during my pregnancy. When our baby arrived (whew!), we were overwhelmed and our intention to go diaperless faded into the background. The timing didn’t feel right and, well, I was procrastinating. I was anxious; it couldn’t possibly work. Days passed, disposable diapers piled up. Ugh. Then just recently my partner, without fanfare, held our daughter over the baby-sized potty (a biodegradable model from the UK) to see what would happen. Within moments she peed. She was happy, all smiles and relaxation, while we were stunned by instant success. Could it be this easy?
One week later: Uh, no. It isn’t easy but it is worth the effort. We readily believe babies can tell us when they are hungry or tired, but most people express total disbelief that a baby could also communicate when it needs to go. But the promised rewards of going diaperless have convinced me it is worth a shot. Two-way communication about her elimination needs, decreased reliance on diapers (disposable or cloth), and increased bonding with our child—why not?
Diaperless doesn’t mean the baby goes without anything on—although it can once you develop your communication and are confident of your “catches”—but you begin the adventure by spending time without a diaper on your baby so you can closely observe cues relating to their elimination patterns. I discovered our daughter always stiffens her legs before she pees and repeatedly pops off the breast during nursing when she needs to poop. Other cues may include increased fussiness, frowning, vocalizing, crying, spitting up, or passing gas. Thereafter, when the baby uses their particular cue(s), you remove the diaper, hold them in position over a potty (a toilet, a bowl, a sink, or even just a folded cloth), and give the baby a sound cue. This gives the baby a specific sound to associate the position being held in with the need to go—for example a “pssss,” a soft grunting, or in our case we sing “poopooopooop” in her ear. The rest of the time a diaper, training pants or even a loosely wrapped cloth serves as back-up.
We have managed to catch about three quarters of her pees and poops. When we haven’t managed, her diaper has. Have I been peed on? Pooped on? Certainly, but it seems less onerous compared to repeatedly cleaning her skin of smeared-on poop. At night-time I still have her in a disposable as I feel reluctant to get out of bed to potty her—I’ll get there, just not this week.
Bonding more closely with our baby and cutting our diapering costs to almost nil are great benefits, but for us the most compelling factor is the health benefit. Our baby is prone to urinary tract infections due to a problem with one of her kidneys. Keeping her skin clean and free of poop should lower her chances of repeat infections (and diaper rash!), thus keeping her healthier. We hope to avoid the traditional prophylaxis antibiotic treatment for her condition.
Above all, the most obvious and winsome benefit is her happiness. She is a much more content baby and I am a less stressed parent. Those cries that previously had no “meaning” now carry a whole range of meanings around elimination needs. I sense her stress level is lower, she cries less, and this lowers my stress level. What a gift this has been to my growth as a parent. She can tell me she needs to go, I just need to be paying attention.
Diaperless is a growing idea in child rearing. It is also known as Elimination Communication (EC) and Natural Infant Hygiene. There are numerous print and internet resources; the one I found most helpful is The Diaper-Free Baby, by Christine Gross-Loh (HarperCollins, 2007).
I offer the following lessons I learned:
Lesson #1. Don’t overwhelm the baby. Our first day going diaperless was quite intense. As I attempted to potty her one last time before bed she got extremely upset. She needed the old, familiar routine for night-time preparations.
Lesson #2. Don’t overwhelm yourself. After the first two days spent intently watching her for cues, I had done nothing else for myself. I was burnt out.
Lesson #3. Start small. First, aim to catch poops, which tend to be the obvious ones. Concentrate on the easy times to catch—right after nursing, right after waking, and any time you observe your baby straining or grunting for a bowel movement. Then work up to pees. I began by offering her the chance to pee every 20 minutes or so until I developed a better understanding of her more subtle pee cues.
Lesson #4. Be ready. Only remove the diaper once you are in position next to the potty. Your baby may take the cue of the diaper coming off as meaning “It’s time to pee now,” so be prepared.
Lesson #5. Relax and breathe. Your baby will pick up on this!
Marisa is a first-time mama living in Mill Bay, enjoying these days of discovery (but not the sleep deprivation!) as a new parent.
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Island Parent Magazine
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