Some families are using NO DIAPERS at all. And no, they don't just let the baby pee and poop all over the floor. They are so in tune with their baby's signals that they know when he needs to go and they take him to the toilet and there he goes. This is true. It's called Elimination Communication, or EC. In less industrialized countries where parent's can't afford diapers, it's common practice today. And EC is actually a modern adaptation of an ancient childcare practice that has been used for centuries. Mothers all over the world traditionally carried their babies next to their bodies throughout the day, usually naked, (even Inuits kept their babies naked under the mother's parka) and slept close to them at night. Because of this closeness day in and day out, mothers would easily observe the signs that baby had to "go" and take them to the appropriate place to do their business. It seems a bit primitive, but recently EC has been catching on in the U.S. and other developed countries.
How does Elimination Communication work, exactly? Here's some tips from DiaperFreeBaby:
Observation is the first step in EC. While observing, there are a few things to look for. One is timing patterns and rhythms. Many babies need to pee either immediately or a few minutes after waking up, several minutes after nursing, at frequent, regular periods in the morning, at less frequent, regular periods in the afternoon, either before, during or after nursing sessions at night.
Other things to look for are body language and signals. These could include squirming, "fussing," vocalizing, frowning or having a look of "inner concentration", becoming still and pausing in activity, stirring or waking from sleep, looking intently or reaching for you, reaching for the potty, or indicating towards the toilet place.
For an older baby, signals could also include crawling or walking to the toilet place.
When you think your baby needs to eliminate, hold her in a gentle and secure manner over your preferred receptacle. This could be the toilet, sink, potty, bucket, diaper, tree, or any other appropriate place. Generally, she will be more or less in a deep squat, cradled in your arms with her back to your tummy. The main thing is to keep her secure and to think about your aim ;).
Once your baby is comfortably in position, make a specific cueing sound to "invite" your baby to pee or poop. In most places where EC is practiced culturally, caregivers use a watery sound such as "psss". This sound, along with a particular position, is used to signal or stimulate the baby's elimination. When you are starting out, make your cueing sound every time you notice your baby peeing. Within a few days, your baby will associate the sound with the act of eliminating. By practicing EC consistently, your baby will learn to release her bladder at will upon hearing the cueing sound and/or being held in the potty position.
From this point on, a strong line of communication about elimination will establish itself between baby and caregiver. Continue to observe your baby's timing and signals and to listen to your intuition. When you think it is time, hold her in position and give your cueing sound. If it is near time to go, your baby will do so at your cue. If not, she will signal "no" by resisting being held in position, arching her back, or simply not peeing. Never try to force your baby to eliminate. Just go back to whatever you were doing and offer another pee opportunity later. If your diapered baby has wet or soiled herself, simply replace the diaper with a clean one as soon as you notice. This will help your baby learn to keep herself dry by signaling her needs to you beforehand.
Some parents choose to go diaperless full-time right from the start. Others will start gradually, offering pee opportunities just at certain times throughout the day or part of the day. Many parents practice EC full-time but use diapers as back-up, simply removing them to offer a pee if the diaper is dry, or changing it if it is wet. Remember that there are many ways to begin putting EC into practice. The way you choose will depend on your lifestyle, personality, and personal preference.
Here's what one proponent had to say:
Dr. Mark Wolraich, professor of pediatrics and director of the Child Study Center, said the practice essentially conditions young children to go to the bathroom at predictable times or show clear signs when they must go.From the article "Parents begin potty training at birth"
"To be truly toilet-trained, the child has to be able to have the sensation that they need to go, be able to interpret that sensation and be able to then tell the parent and take some action," said Wolraich, who is also editor of the American Academy of Pediatrics' book on toilet training.
"And that's different from reading the subtle signs that the child is making when they have to go to the bathroom."
Parents attempt the early training to forge closer ties with their infants, to reduce the environmental impact associated with diapers and to avoid skin irritation caused by a wet diaper, Parise said.
Well, I don't think I'm ready to go diaperless yet, but I do see many benefits from doing away with diapers! (See "75 Benefits of Elimination Communication"). Especially appealing is the intimacy and attentiveness a parent would have to have with their child. So often I find myself distracted and not even tuned in to my child's really obvious signals, much less his subtle ones. Learning to pay close attention and understanding my child's needs better is certainly a valid goal. So who knows. Maybe we'll go even further off the deep end and go daiperless with our next baby!