Recently I got into a discussion (if you can call it that) on Instagram with a friend about diapering and I was inspired to write down my thoughts on diapering and natural infant hygiene. Be warned, as with most things in my life, I have very strong opinions on diapering, and if you think you'll be offended by my words, then by all means, you have the power to closer your browser window. You've been warned.
When we were expecting our first child and exploring the cloth diapering options (as one does as a homebirthing Crunchy in San Francisco) I was both overwhelmed by the choices and also grossed out. I couldn't believe my unborn child would be one day wearing giant, absorbent underpants and shitting in them. And then one day we would take the giant underpants off (of the now toddler) and say, "Just kidding! Use this bowl instead."
That sounded highly disrespectful in so many ways. (Both the letting them shit their pants and also changing the rules after three years of allowing them to shit their pants.)
But I honestly didn't know what other option I had, so I did the only thing I could do and just avoided the whole decision. Because she wasn't born yet, remember?
Randomly, a co-worker mentioned off-handedly that some people don't use diapers at all and have babies use the potty. She sorta, kinda said it as if it was crazy? But it stuck. And then I put two and two together. Don't like the idea of diapers + random comment = solution!
Just before Paloma was born I checked out and read Diaper Free Baby
from our local library. It was the only book I read on the topic, but I bought her Kool-Aid hook, line and sinker and was on board to do EC (Elimination Communication) with the baby. I wish I'd had time and foresight to read more on the subject, but I didn't, and that's that.
I've done EC with both my children since birth, and I tell you, it's MAGIC. Neither was ever "diaper-free" - both wore (and one is still wearing!) diapers for when we "missed" a pee or poop. But the majority of their waking hours are spent diaper-free (or in undies) so that they can use the potty at will.
Paloma and I worked on EC together for a long time, but she was 100% diaper-free by 22 months of age. LESS THAN TWO YEARS.
Arden basically took over my EC efforts and won't allow me near her when she's getting near the potty, or onto the potty, or thinking about the potty, but she will book it from the other side of the house (often with a book in hand) and make it onto the potty (unassisted, mind you!) and pee or poop or both. (She does have an occasional accident.) She is currently 16 months old. LESS THAN ONE AND A HALF!
While this isn't that sort of blog (a mommy blog?), I do feel strongly about this enough to write this post and share our experience. But I really wanted to clarify what was perhaps being misunderstood on Instagram: I do EC for the Earth. I really do.
You basically have two options with diapers: cloth or disposable. Many people debate the two options thinking that cloth will save the Earth. It doesn't. All diapers are dirty. When you do the math and factor in manufacturing, water, soap, (soap into our water), energy, shipping, packaging, disintegration, etc. they all come out just as dirty as the next diaper. The truly green option is to use less
diapers. Less at a time, and less over time. That's the beauty of EC. You save diapers and you get out of them quicker.
Diapers weren't even a thing
until recently. Everyone did EC. In most parts of the world they still do EC. Sadly, we've lost that knowledge, although it's not more than a few generations behind us, and we're having to relearn it (not unlike breastfeeding), but it can be relearned and retaught. We can do away with diapers.
But on Instagram it was pointed out that there's a "third option" in the Bay Area: compostable. Ok, true? I consider this a disposable as well, for my argument's sake, but I see how with a bit of greenwashing it can be viewed as a third option. It's not. You still have to factor in all those factors I listed above...plus an intense amount of heat/energy to compost them safely. Yes, they're now dirt! But no, you did not just save the Earth.
I'm sorry. You didn't.
Yes, it sucks to think about all the waste your baby's waste is creating, but this is why I feel so strongly about EC. It isn't "potty training" by any means. I've heard it called "potty learning" which is more accurate.
I feel it is this:
You are creating an opportunity and knowledge about toileting that is respectful to both the parent and child and the Earth. You are not forcing or coercing or bribing with stickers (because I'd like to see a 2 week old care about getting a sticker!). You are watching your baby closely for cues. You are meeting their need to eliminate with a solution that keeps everyone clean. You end up knowing your baby better than anyone else. You can read their face, as they grow, better than anyone else. And you won't have to ever potty-train. Ever. Never. (And once they start solids? You'll be SO grateful you didn't change all those poopy diapers.)