Why my babies don’t wear diapers full-time

I have two daughters. My older daughter, I’ll call her “Nayna”, doesn’t wear diapers because she’s 2 years old and uses the toilet. That’s pretty normal and she certainly doesn’t remember ever doing it differently. I never bribed her or rewarded her, yet she has not had an accident since she was about 21 months old, right after her little sister was born.

Nayna’s sister, whom I’ll refer to as “Lolo”, is just 8 months old this month. She wears diapers sometimes. Whenever we leave the house I’ll pop a prefold and cover on her so that other people can hold her comfortably and to minimize how many outfits I feel obliged to bring. I hate to run out of anything I need and always bring too much stuff whenever we go anywhere. While we’re at home though… Lolo can be seen wearing a shirt and nothing else.

Before Nayna was born, I read about this crazy pottying method called “Elimination Communication” or “Infant Pottying” or “Natural Infant Hygiene.” I, naturally, thought it was totally insane, but since people were apparently doing it, I decided to learn more about it. Well, I was sold after reading the first two or three articles about it. Apparently it’s the normal human way of dealing with infant elimination. Diapers the way we know them today haven’t been around for long at all.

When both of my girls were born I observed them as they lay in my lap on top of a cloth prefold diaper and waterproof pad. I observed when they peed and when they pooped. I kept track, both on paper and in my mind, of how often they needed to eliminate. When I would notice them eliminating I would give a pssss sound or a low grunting sound depending on what they were doing. I watched their facial expressions to see how they communicated what they needed to do with body language. I paid attention and learned their elimination rhythm. I learned that they would become squirmy or get a “look” in their eyes when they needed to go – called signaling.

Eventually, after the first month or so, they were reliably pottying when I made the psss or grunting noises. I tried holding them over a little potty and they immediately went! How wonderful!

At six months, both started crawling. Now they had something else to pay attention to and sometimes they didn’t give clear signals at all. I started relying a bit more on timing and working with them on making the sign language sign for “toilet” so they could communicate with other people as well.

At 13 months old, Nayna started signing. All at once she knew three signs, one of which was “toilet.” I left her in diapers for one week after she started signing, but she didn’t use any of them. So she graduated. No bribes. No fuss. No power struggles. No punishments. I used a matter-of-fact way of telling her, “You just went pee in the potty.” when I felt like praising. Praising implies that someone has done something unusual or noteworthy, but eliminating on the toilet is just what is expected. Simple as that.

Just pottying an infant or young toddler once a day when he or she wakes up in the morning can get a child used to using a potty. Then when you’re ready to introduce a potty full-time it won’t be a completely foreign concept to your child. Just cutting back on your diaper dependence a little bit can help your child acclimate to a regular potty more easily. It also saves money, is great for the environment, eliminates quite a bit of diaper rash, and is a lot of fun to do! Much more fun, in my experience, than changing diapers for several years is.

On the rare occasions Nayna has had accidents, she gets to help me wipe up the floor – an activity she *loves* to participate in – and we say, “uh oh! Pee goes in the potty, not on the floor.” Nayna even offers to help wipe the floor on the rare occasions her sister, Lolo, pees on the floor. We have some cut-up t-shirts for rags and use some special spray (marketed to pet owners) that gets rid of the germs and smell.

This method, even when done full-time as we do, doesn’t always result in a fully pottying 13-month old who loves to “help” clean up and potty her sister and dollies, but in our case it did. I’m so glad and thankful that I learned that diapers are a tool to be used when needed, not necessary or even desirable to be used all of the time.

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