on January 12, 2006
My mom alerted me to the phenomenon of raising babies without diapers, and before deciding she was crazy, I ventured on some research into the subject. After having quickly read through this book, I thought to myself, "I bought a book on this?" It's a good book, it's just very... common sense. Ingrid Bauer explains how she came to the conclusion that she didn't want her baby stuck in diapers in such a way you'd think that any mother would come to the same conclusion. Of course, they don't, because we live in a diaper culture. We just don't see it much in the US, but it is actually widely practiced throughout the world. I plan to start with diapers, practice the "Natural Infant Hygiene" Ms Bauer recommends, and see what happens. Her philosophy is that kids naturally know when they are going to eliminate, and they'd rather communicate to you that they have to go than go in their diapers and wait uncomfortably for you to get them a clean one. She also hypothesizes that babies will forget how to control their elimination if you don't start communicating with them earlier on than 2 years, when most parents potty train their kids. Thus, they have to learn it all over again and it's a big pain that can be embarrassing for both of you.
Even if you aren't home with your kid 24 hours a day, it's still possible to use the techniques when you are around. It's not an all-or-nothing solution. You can diaper part of the time, and communicate with your child about eliminating when you are around. One cool thing is that most kids who have learned to control their elimination from birth have very little trouble with bed-wetting. 10% of 10 year olds still have bed-wetting episodes! That means 10% of 10 year olds are self conscious about and not fully in control of their elimination. That alone makes me want to try this, for the sake of my kid's personal respect, trust, and independence.
The previous bit was from before I had my baby, and now that she is 19 months old, I have some perspective. We received cloth diaper service for the first year as a gift, and the first weeks we were using up to 80 diapers per week. I actually first started my girl on the potty at 3 weeks and was astounded at how quickly she caught on. The fourth time I took her to the potty, she instantly went on cue. We made the complete switch to training pants (purchased on Amazon at 15 for $25, Luvable Friends brand) at 12 months. I made this decision because we were down to 20 diapers a week, she rarely wet at night, and she could walk to the potty and sit down on it on her own. She has had her share of "misses," but to me it's worth it for the "catches." I work in a daycare and parents are constantly asking me about how I got my baby to use a potty so early! It certainly wasn't through any kind of coercion. It was a very natural process that only requires a good parent-child connection.
I was never as extreme about EC as the author or some people I've met that are very active in the diaper free yahoo group, but I usually see that we are nearly as successful. There are certain developments that happen in the brain and body around the same age regardless of parenting, such as ability to consciously communicate about something that will happen in the future, and the ability to pull one's pants down! Often, my daughter will sit on the potty and pee right through her pants. This is a good thing still because it's not a puddle on the floor, and the laundry is the same or less than with a diaper, and she gets the practice. One thing I am diligent about is always pottying her before and after sleeping for naps or night time. Also we get up once in the middle of the night to go. It is very clear when she needs to go at night because it is difficult to get her back to sleep and she whimpers. Getting to know your child's patterns and ever-changing signals is key.
The most important thing to take from this book is the simple philosophy that you should not let your baby forget the awareness of needing to eliminate. As long as you keep the awareness up by making attempts at using the potty, you are making progress. Yes, even on those days when they just will not signal and go through about 10 pairs of pants! Your baby doesn't have to be truly diaper free to maintain this awareness. The end result is a nice thing to daydream about, but Elimination Communication is really about the process of teaching your child about his or her bodily functions and how to handle them in a hygienic way from the start. It is about honoring your child's need to feel cared for, clean (yes, really), and empowered.
This book was great for educating me on Elimination Communication, providing practical tips like how to hold your baby on the potty or outdoors, and listing most common signals children give before they eliminate. That said, I haven't picked the book up in over a year, so it's not something you will probably read again and again. Unless you feel you need something to encourage you and remind you, I would recommend borrowing this book from a library.