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Elimination Communication – Diaper Free
“Oh my… she’s so little- is she potty trained yet?” People are fascinated that my son never wears diapers. It’s a good conversation starter. Disposable diapers, also known as Diaper Free, are a recent trend in America – especially in my hometown of Boulder, Colorado. It is even possible to participate in meetings with a group of other like-minded mothers or those who want to learn to carry babies without additional padding. This very gentle, environmentally friendly and natural way to deal with your baby’s waste is based on the theory that babies are really aware of their elimination process – yes, even from birth – and can communicate this to you.
The day my son was born, I took his urine in a small bowl next to the table. I immediately told him “pee-pee”. That was the key word. Then he started to go again and I put him on the bowl and he said my association word “pee-pee” again. I had just given birth and I was tired, and I thought to myself that I would just give myself a nice three-month break before trying this whole “diaper-free thing”. I thought I would be so tired that I wouldn’t feel like putting in the extra time and effort to observe and note what kind of grimace or grunt my son made before he was eliminated. This was supposed to be my cherished time to connect and really connect with my baby. Just too much work in the beginning. Well, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it took practically no effort. Because instead of that with this new word association, I didn’t have to catch him in the middle of the stream and frantically reach for the bowl, I keep him on the bowl every time and a little while in the same position (your baby can also make an association with the position that you hold him in) and simply ask him to go “pee-pee”. Kind of like a Bell Pavlov association. If he didn’t have to go he would turn or squirm in a matter of seconds. If he did, he would try. Bless her little face as she concentrated and relaxed her small sphincter muscles. The first day after my son was born I asked him to go to the bathroom and he went to the bowl four times! No word lies. It was made with awareness of where the muscles were, what they were for, and how to control them. Pretty incredible.
Talk about a confidence boost for moms. We have already communicated with each other! I knew that we could try not to diaper and use elimination communication. It was so close to my heart because it seemed so intuitive. It reaffirmed to me that we are complete in having everything we actually need to feed our children. When you practice elimination communication, the process is natural and responsive rather than reactive. It requires cooperation. What is nice about it is that there is no abrupt transition on “potty training” when everything that your child knows about going to the bathroom turns on its head when it turns – say three – and it needs to be “trained” or forced (or manipulated with m&m’s) to start pooping on the potty like a big boy. His comfort in running to a corner and squatting and pooping in his diaper as he did every day for three years is taken away from him. With elimination communication a child never learns that his diaper is his toilet. And he never needs to completely unlearn what he already knows. If he pees his pants there is no crying “stop!!! wait!” from the other room. It is not reactive. It is a gentle process.
You don’t have to be a barefoot hippie in “peace and love” or be enthusiastic about showing off your skin to have a diaper-free child. I’m not suggesting that babies need to run around town. You don’t have to rip up your carpet or sell all your beautiful furniture either. People from all walks of life are doing it. I always wear cotton or fleece pants on my son with soft elastic around the ankles to prevent large puddles. Also, if I miss a pee, I can see when it’s wet right away.
Some days we would stay dry all day. Other days, when I was in the heat of conversation I would think to myself- hmm, he hasn’t been gone in a while, let me just finish what I was saying and then I’ll take him to the bathroom . And I would see the look, and know that it was too late. Should act on the intuition. Time to “get back in”. No big deal though, I’d grab a pair of clean pants out of my bag and change them right away. He never had a large amount that hindered his walking or my ability to actually feel nice under his dimples while I carried him. He never sits in a wet diaper or a poopy diaper. He did not “wear his toilet”.
But practicing elimination communication doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. Some of my close friends in Slovenia always had their son without a diaper at home but when they went out they put a diaper on him. Another friend here in the city first tried elimination communication by removing her daughter’s diapers only at night because she found it easier to know her elimination cues while co-sleeping.
When you become aware of patterns that appear around your baby’s elimination needs and communication you can start keeping them out on a bucket, potty, toilet or even a bush when you suspect they need to go. My friend was curious to see if it would work with her older baby so we tried when most babies seem to pee-after waking up from a nap. Asking your baby to eliminate when you wake up is really a good time to get that word association. And before you know it, you may end up getting all the reassurance that you need to see that it really can work. Your baby is aware of his elimination process.
Elimination communication is not only more comfortable for your baby, but it also helps you to be a more conscious and aware mother. As with breastfeeding and babies, practicing elimination communication keeps you uniquely close to your baby and aware of his needs. In nurturing your child, trust and love blossom – and the joy of the mother multiplies twice. Take it from a mom who never changes her son’s poopy diaper!
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