Diaper Free:  Facts and FAQs
Sat, 6/06/09 – 22:05 | 47 Comments

Going diaper free with your baby is not as hard or bizarre as you might think.  In the Western world, we have been programmed to believe that babies need diapers, but in many parts of …

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Diaper Free: Facts and FAQs

Submitted by on Saturday, 6 June 200947 Comments

Going diaper free with your baby is not as hard or bizarre as you might think.  In the Western world, we have been programmed to believe that babies need diapers, but in many parts of the world, going diaper free is the norm.

The belief that babies need diapers is more of a product of our Western “on the go” lifestyle and some clever diaper company marketing strategies that will have you thinking that you need to keep your kid in diapers until the age of four.

diaperfreebabyWe decided (or rather, my wife decided and I followed along), to go diaper free with our daughter, Sweet Cheeks, when she was about six months old.  We had been using cloth diapers with her, but we noticed that we could quite easily tell when she had to go number 2.  We also noticed that she went number 2 most often when we took her diaper off.  It was as if she was holding it in, waiting for the diaper to come off, because she didn’t want to be in a soiled diaper.

So, “screw that” we said, and decided to go without diapers.  Sweet Cheeks is 10 and a half months old now, and we can proudly say that we haven’t used a single diaper since those fateful days four months ago.  We sold all our cloth diapers too – so rather than spending money on diapers, we have made some money by selling ours!

As you can imagine, we get tonnes of questions from people who know we have a diaper free baby, and when we are in public and pull out the potty, it also raises people’s curiosity (as well as some eyebrows).  So, I thought it would be best to have a Jam here to publicly answer some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about going diaper free, and also to share some facts about going diaper free that we have learned on our journey.

FAQ:  Does going diaper free mean lots of messy sheets, wet clothes and a sh**load (literally) of laundry?

It can at first, but it decreases with time as you get better at it.  You will have accidents, but keep in mind, even when you start potty training a toddler, you will have a few months of accidents.  So, you can have the accidents when your child is a baby and deal with the wet clothes and laundry then, or you can wait until you potty train him at the age of two and deal with it then.  It is almost easier to deal with it when they are babies, in my opinion, because the “amounts” are smaller.  Also, I believe you can train a baby faster than a toddler, because toddlers have already gotten into the habit of not going to the toilet when they have to “eliminate,” but babies haven’t “learned” that habit yet – they are more of a blank slate in this regard – you don’t have to “unlearn” or “undo” the diaper habits with a baby who is diaper free.  If that makes sense.

FAQ:  If you have to do extra laundry by going diaper free, doesn’t that cancel-out the effect of not using diapers, because you are using so much water and energy to do the laundry?

No. No. No.  Think about how much water, energy and chemicals go into the diaper production process.  This is far greater than the amount of water and detergent you would ever use to do any extra laundry that *may be* required as a result of going diaper free.  Add that to the transportation of diapers in trucks to get to your local store, and then the garbage truck that has to dump your diapers in a landfill, plus the waste that diapers leave on the earth, times the square root of 49, and the little bit of extra laundry that going diaper free might cause really pales in comparison.  Also, if you use a high efficiency washing machine, your laundry will use a lot less water, soap, and energy than a conventional washing machine, so you score two extra bonus points right there.

FAQ:  How the heck do you have the time to go diaper free?

Probably one of the biggest factors stopping people from going diaper free is lack of time and commitment.  Like I said earlier, in our “on the go” Western lifestyle, we want a quick fix for everything.  Give me a pill to stop my pain, give me a pill to ease my stress and anxiety, give me a diaper for my kid to poop in, etc.  Using diapers is easier than going diaper free.  There is no argument there.  You still have to change the diaper, but you don’t have to be alert to your child’s need to poop or peep.  You let your nose alert you to it after the fact.

Going diaper free means you need to pay attention to your child’s signals that they have to “eliminate,” and responding quickly to those signals.  This grows to be a beautiful thing, where you really get in tune with your babies needs on a whole new level.  Just like your baby tells you when they are hungry or they are in pain, they can and do tell you when nature is calling.  And you can learn with them, and teach them, to strengthen this communication.  You can instinctively know when your child has to go, and when you do, you put them on the potty and it works.  It takes some work to get there, and many parents in the Western world don’t think they have the time or energy to put in the effort.

If both parents are working, you would need to have a care giver that is committed to going diaper free in the same way that you are, and that is probably difficult to find.  Luckily for us, my wife stays home with our kids and has been very committed to going diaper free.  It can take some motivation at first.  It did for me.  It is like going to the gym to exercise.  At first you don’t necessarily want to make the effort, and you might question yourself and be tempted to take the easy way out and go back to using diapers.  But then, once you start to see results, and you get in the routine, you get more motivated.  So you stick with it.  Then you get to a point where you just do it and it is business as usual.  Like Johnny B. Goode playing the guitar.

FACT:  The diaper industry doesn’t want you to go diaper free.  Actually, they want you to use diapers as long as possible.

Well, this should go without saying.  The more you use diapers, the more the diaper industry stands to profit.  And the longer you use diapers, the longer the diaper companies can milk you for your cash.  Pampers introduced its largest sized diaper to date in 1998 – Pampers Baby Dry Size 6.  Apparently there was a sudden need for kids to wear diapers even longer than ever before.  Or at least, Pampers created the need.  And they had a clever advertising campaign to do so.  They recruited pediatrician Dr. T. Berry Brazelton – who is a proponent of the “child-centred” approach to potty training – to do commercials for them.

In the commercial for Pampers size 6 diapers, Brazelton pleaded, “Don’t rush your toddler into toilet training or let anyone else tell you it’s time. It’s got to be his choice.”  Needless to say, a pediatrician in a commercial for the largest sized Pampers to date stirred up some controversy.  Another pediatrician, Dr. John Rosemond, who advocates that the potty training process is simple and straight-forward, summed up his view when he retorted that, it is a “slap to the intelligence of a human being that one would allow a baby to continue soiling and wetting himself past age 2.”  I’m with the guy that wasn’t in the Pampers commercial.  And, by the way, Brazelton’s research is funded by Pampers.  Coincidence?  I think not.

FACT:  Kids are in diapers now longer than they ever have been. Ever.

Over the past few decades, the age at which toddlers stop needing diapers has been moving upward. In 1957, studies found that 92 percent of children were toilet trained by 18 months. Today, that figure has dropped to less than 25 percent, according to a large-scale Philadelphia study.  A separate study performed by Kimberly-Clark, maker of Huggies, found that only 12 percent of 18 month olds are potty trained these days.

The Philadelphia study also found that only 60 percent of children today have achieved mastery of the toilet by 36 months, and 2 percent remain untrained at 4 years of age.

Think about that – 60 years ago, almost all kids were potty trained by the age of 18 months, and now, only 60 percent are potty trained by the age of 36 months.  Why is this happening?  I believe it is due to changes in lifestyle over the years, and those clever diaper companies that fund pediatricians.

FACT:  Your baby can communicate her need to go to the potty to you.

How do you know when your baby is hungry, or tired?  Babies have ways of telling you these things, and you have your parental instincts to guide you.  It is the same with going to the bathroom.  As hard as it may be to believe, just like your baby knows she is hungry, she knows that she has to go poo or pee.  And just like she tells you that she is hungry, whether by crying, or looking at you in a certain way; she tells you that she has to go poo or pee.

The trick is to pick up on the signs, and to reinforce them.  Every child communicates it in a different way – so you have to figure out how your child is telling you that he has to take a dump.

You can teach your baby sign language as well, so that eventually your baby will be able to sign to you when she has to go potty.  You can do this by making a certain sign as she is going potty.  Together, you will reinforce the communication and it will get easier.  Sometimes, you just get the feeling that your baby has to go potty, like an instinct.

Sometimes, you get to know the timing of your baby’s potty times.  For example, when waking up in the morning, after a nap, and 20 minutes after drinking.  So you put your baby on the potty at these times, and it reinforces the idea of doing nature’s business on the potty.

FAQ:  How do I protect my mattress, in case there are accidents in the bed?

We use a waterproof mattress pad that is really great and that I would recommend to anyone, even if you are not going diaper free.  You can read about it here.

FAQ:  Will I ruin a lot of clothes by going diaper free?

Not really.  If you have an accident, you can rinse the clothes down before they stain.  You can also find underwear for two year olds that will fit your baby when she is a bit bigger (see photo for example).  Also, if you have some clothes that get stained it is not a big deal – your baby will grow out of them really fast anyways.  We haven’t had a problem with this personally.

FAQ:  What about when the baby is so small that it can’t support his own head?  How do you sit him on the potty?

You don’t.  There are different ways to hold the baby above a sink, toilet or potty before they are big enough to sit on a potty themselves or support their own head weight.  Because we started going diaper free at the age of six months, we didn’t have to use these holds.  If you plan on going diaper free straight from birth you will want to learn these holds.  See the book I recommend below for more information.

FAQ:  Would you recommend that I try to go diaper free?

Based on my experience with going diaper free, and knowing what I now know about the diaper industry, I recommend it 200%.  Having said that, every family, family situation, and baby, is different.  For us, it works.  We can make the necessary commitments, and our daughter is a great communicator who does really well diaper-free.  If you can make the commitment to do it, then I definitely recommend that you go for it.  As with us, you may hit bumps along the way and want to give up, but try sticking with it, like we did, and you will have some smooth sailing down the road.

FAQ:  Where can I find more information about going diaper free?

The book that we read about going diaper free, that I highly recommend is called, appropriately, Diaper Free, by Ingrid Bauer.

FAQ:  Where can I find out more information about the Brazelton-Rosemond potty training debate?

There is a great New York Times article on the net about this, where I found some of the information given in this article.  In the above mentioned book, Diaper Free, the author, Ingrid Bauer, also gives further insight into this debate, which is where I first learned about it.

Any other questions?  Leave a comment and let me know!  I hope you found this article interesting and insightful, and I wish you the best of luck!

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