Ask Amma

Why Diaper Free?

In Why on 3 April 2013 at 2:17 pm

Can you share your experience with diaper-free hygiene? I remember you mentioned a potty seat… what type of seat was it? And how easy is it to go through EC methods? Does one have to be constantly monitoring the child throughout the day?

– expectant mother in Bangalore

Babies!  from the cover of The Baby Book by William and Martha Sears.One can approach diaper-free hygiene from many angles.  One is the basic right of the baby to be heard.  Another is the baby’s wish to have a clean dry bottom and an appropriate place to pass urine or stool – that is, not into something wrapped around his/her bottom.   Then there is also environment, public health, social integrity and so on.  But at a basic level, going diaper-free helps us understand babies’ expectations once out in the world.Think back to the times before diapers.  Or just go to a rural area where diaper free is still the norm.  See what babies do there.   See what non-babies do there.  You will notice that they don’t get bent out of shape if a baby wets them.  More often than not they will just laugh.  Unlike shame and disgust, laughter gives communication a lift.

Infancy is a time of gradual adjustment out of the womb, and baby’s place is in the arms of her parents and other allies.  One need not constantly monitor the baby, in fact, what baby expects is for the person carrying him or her to be busy with things that serve as examples of what people do, and that create the sounds, smells, and jostling movements that s/he was accustomed to in the womb.   Unlike earlier, when her needs were met even before being needed much less communicated, now, outside the womb, baby must latch on to the breast in order to feed and must be near the mother and gradually others who will respond (or not) to other needs, including the need to eliminate.  To get these needs met, baby must communicate.

Once you know your baby can communicate and respond to cues to eliminate then you will ask not why diaper-free? but why not?  In other words, if diapers do not help the baby (though they may protect the furniture), then is it really worth the trouble to keep on using them?

Regarding potty seats, you can just go to the market and get any potty seat.  You can also use an old bowl or basin or even hold the baby on your legs while you sit on the toilet seat (see picture).  We used the Baby Bjorn Little Potty which is small enough for an infant and also easily portable.  This was important because we carried it wherever we went.  The way someone might carry a diaper bag.   The BBLP, as it is fondly known especially among ec-ers on the net, was discontinued but there are others including the Smart Potty that appear similarly functional and portable.

In 2004 I wrote in India Together about how we went diaper-free:  Decommissioning the Diaper.   Readers Sunita Amma and Chetana Amma have shared their experiences here:  Tinkle Time on the Little Pink Potty  and Potty Time Creativity.

When you go diaper free, part-time, full-time, gradually or all at once, you use fewer diapers, which conserves natural resources.   You also avoid diaper rash which is good for baby’s health.   You generate less waste which is good for the environment.  Baby also retains association with his or her bodily functions which is a plus.  And in the long run, it is less work to take baby to potty than to change a diaper, though the workflow of diaper changing is easier to schedule.

Environment, health and time management aside, the key benefit of elimination communication is communication, and it extends to much more than elimination.
  1. […] Diaper-free hygiene takes more work in the short-term but is less work on the whole.  In addition to good hygiene, it has benefits that make the work worthwhile.   (Why?) […]


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