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Disposal communication: no diapers

“Oh my… he’s so small- is he potty trained yet?” People are fascinated that my son has never used diapers. It is a great conversation starter. Disposal communication, also known as diaper free, is a recent trend in America, especially in my hometown of Boulder, Colorado. It is even possible to attend meetings with a group of other like-minded mothers or wanting to learn how to carry babies without additional padding. This very gentle, environmentally friendly and natural way of treating your baby’s waste is based on the theory that babies are aware of their elimination processes – yes, even from birth – and are able to communicate it to you.

The day my son was born I caught urine in a bowl next to my nightstand. I immediately said “pee” to him. That was going to be the keyword. Then it started going again and I placed it over the bowl and said my association word “pee” again. I had just given birth and I was tired, and I figured I’d give myself a nice three-month break before trying all this “no diapers” stuff. I thought I would be so exhausted that I wouldn’t feel like spending more time and effort observing and noticing the kind of grimaces or grunts my son made before he was eliminated. This was supposed to be the most precious moment to really bond and connect with my baby. Too much work at the beginning. Well, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it required practically no effort. Because instead, with this new association word, I didn’t have to catch him halfway and frantically reach for the bowl, I held him over the bowl from time to time in the same position (your baby can also make an association with the position you are holding him) and you simply asked him to “pee.” Kind of like a Bell of Pavlov association. If it didn’t have to go, it would turn or squirm in seconds. If I did, I would try. Bless her little face as she concentrated and relaxed the small sphincter muscles. The first day after my son was born I asked him to go to the bathroom and he got into the bowl four times! Not a word of a lie. He was born with an awareness of where the muscles were, what they were for, and how to control them. Pretty incredible.

Talk about a confidence boost for mom. We were already communicating! I knew we could try not wearing diapers and using disposal communication. It was so close to my heart because it seemed so intuitive. He reaffirmed to me that we are complete in possessing everything we really need to raise our children. When you practice elimination communication, the process is natural and responsive rather than reactive. It requires cooperation. The great thing about this is that there is no abrupt transition to “potty training” when everything your child knows about potty turns upside down when he turns over, say three, and needs to be “potty trained” or coerced (or manipulated with m & m’s) to start pooping on the potty like a big kid. It takes away the comfort of running to a corner and squatting and pooping in his diaper, as he has done every day for three years. With elimination communication, a child never learns that his diaper is his toilet. And you never need to completely unlearn what you already know. If he pees in his pants there are no shouts of “Stop !!! Wait!” from across the room. It is not reactive. It is a smooth process.

You don’t have to be a barefoot hippie in “peace and love” or get excited about showing your skin to have a baby without diapers. I’m not suggesting that babies need to run around town naked. You also don’t have to rip the carpet or sell all your pretty furniture. People from all walks of life are doing it. I always put my son on small cotton or fleece pants with a soft elastic around the ankles to avoid large puddles. Also, if I miss a pee, I can see when it’s wet right away.

Some days we stayed dry all day. Other days when I was in the thick of the conversation I would think to myself: hmm, he hasn’t been gone in a while, let me finish what he was saying and then I’ll take him to the bathroom. And then he would see the look and know it was too late. I should have acted on intuition. It’s time to “retune”. It wasn’t a big deal though, I would take a clean pair of pants out of my bag and change it right away. He never had a volume to impede his walk or my ability to feel his cute dimpled butt while carrying him. He never sat in a wet diaper or a poopy diaper. He didn’t “use his bathroom.”

However, practicing elimination communication doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. Some close friends of mine in Slovenia always had their child without a diaper at home, but when they went out they put a diaper on him. Another friend here in town first tried elimination communication by removing her daughter’s diapers only at night because it was easier for her to discover her elimination signs while they were sleeping together.

When you become aware of the patterns that arise around your baby’s evacuation needs and communications, you can start placing them on a bucket, potty, toilet, or even a bush when you suspect they should go away. My friend, who was curious to see if it would work for her older baby, we tried it when most babies seem to urinate, after waking up from a nap. Asking your baby to relieve himself upon waking is really a good time to introduce that association word. And before you know it, you may end up getting all the assurance you need to see that it can actually work. Your baby is aware of his elimination process.

Elimination Communication is not only more comfortable for your baby, it also helps you to be a more mindful and aware mother. Like breastfeeding and carrying, practicing elimination communication keeps you uniquely close to your baby and aware of his needs. As you raise your child, trust and love flourish, and the joy of being a mother is multiplied tenfold. Take it from a mother who has never changed her son’s poop diapers!

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