Diaper-Free Babies?

Filed under: Potty Training

Many parents feel like their child should be potty trained by the age of two. Trying to make that happen can lead lead to a lot of stress when the child in question just isn't physically or cognitively ready to use the toilet. In reality, there is no right age for a child to begin potty training and experts say parents should look for signs that their child is ready rather than try to adhere to a self-imposed deadline.

However, there are some parents who feel that two years old is way too late to begin eliminating in the toilet and they begin the process much, much earlier. They practice what is called Elimination Communication, Natural Infant Hygiene or, simply, Infant Potty Training. According to DiaperFreeBaby.org, this is a modern adaptation of an ancient method of childcare in which potty training begins in infancy.

This approach involves paying close attention to your baby and learning to recognize the signals she communicates when she's ready to go. When the time is right, you hold her securely over the toilet while making a watery sound like "ssss". Over time, she will learn to associate that sound and the position in which you are holding her with elimination and go only then.

Potty training expert Dr. Pete Stavinoha says this method isn't really potty training because the child isn't learning to use the toilet independently. However, he says there is certainly no harm in it and that parents who commit to this approach will likely use far fewer diapers than other parents. And for many, reducing the number of diapers that end up in landfills each year is a good enough reason to try it.

So, what's the downside of having a diaper-free baby? For starters, there is the fact that you must be available to your baby twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It takes a lot of time and attention to become tuned in to a baby's elimination cues and chances are that the babysitter isn't going to get it. In addition, this practice requires that peeing and pooping take precedence over everything else in your baby's life. If you are playing, breastfeeding or just enjoying cuddling, you must stop at once the moment you sense she's ready to go potty.

Infant potty training is practiced widely in developing countries where diapers are unavailable and babies are traditionally kept close to their mothers at all times anyway. So why, in a culture such as our own, would a parent place such a high priority on eliminating in the toilet? It can't be all about the diapers -- reusable cloth diapers are readily available and widely used. I imagine the payoff comes in the bonding experience. Spending every waking moment completely tuned in to your baby's needs may sound exhausting to some, but for others it is infinitely rewarding and worth the personal sacrifice.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.