Have you heard that some parents almost completely stop using diapers with their babies as early as 3 months of age? The idea is not new, and I’ve heard the theory explained as “early potty training” or “a gentle, natural, non-coercive process by which a baby, learns with the loving assistance of parents and caregivers to communicate about and address his or her elimination needs.”
The thought of not needing diapers is certainly appealing, considering the cost involved and the fact that cleaning diapers is still considered a rather “messy” process. There are those that believe that with the advent of larger and disposable diapers, parents have become less “tuned into” their babies’ sometimes subtle signs that they are ready for help with elimination. I became interested in doing a bit of research in the topic as my brother and sister-in-law just had their second baby (Nathan) and they are back in the word of diaper changing again after a 2+ year break from their first child (Jacob).
So what do the experts think about elimination communication or the “Diaper Free Baby?”
Potty-training success hinges on physical and emotional readiness, not a specific age. Many kids show interest in potty training by age 2, but others might not be ready until age 2 1/2 or even older — and there’s no rush. If you start potty training too early, it might take longer to train your child.
Some of the potential benefits of being diaper free or at least wearing diapers less often may include:
1) Reduces the risk of diaper rash
2) Is less messy than conventional diapering. Eliminations are in a toilet or potty rather than on the baby.
3) Reduces the use of disposable diapers, a major contributor to landfill.
4) Reduces the use of disposable wipes used to clean baby’s bottom.
5) Has been practiced for centuries around the world.
6) Is more enjoyable than changing diapers.
7) Encourages the development of a trusting relationship with children through communication about a basic human need.
8) Increases comfort of carrying a baby: there is less bulk than a diaper and it feels better for both caregiver and baby.
A discussion about toilet training from the Mayo Clinic Website:
Is your child ready? Ask yourself these questions:
Does your child seem interested in the potty chair or toilet, or in wearing underwear?
Can your child understand and follow basic directions?
Does your child tell you through words, facial expressions or posture when he or she needs to go?
Does your child stay dry for periods of two hours or longer during the day?
Does your child complain about wet or dirty diapers?
Can your child pull down his or her pants and pull them up again?
Can your child sit on and rise from a potty chair?
A quote about toilet training from the American Academy of Pediatrics Website:
“There is no set age at which toilet training should begin. Before children are 12 months of age, they have no control over bladder or bowel movements. While many children start to show signs of being ready between 18 and 24 months of age, some children may not be ready until 30 months or older. This is normal. Most children achieve bowel control and daytime urine control by 3 to 4 years of age.”
A quote from the Seattle Times article “Early Potty Training, a New Experiment” October 9, 2005
“Even if you’re getting them to go in a pot as a young infant, I don’t know if it will have any long-term impact for all the effort you have to go through,” said Dr. Mark Wolraich, author of the academy’s “Guide to Toilet Training” (Bantam Books, 2003). “The risk is, if it’s not working and the parents are frustrated, they’re creating more negative interactions with their child.”
A parent using “Elimination Communication” says the following on the topic:
“By the time Simon was three and a half months old he had proven to us that EC is more than just ‘parent training.’ He started signaling his need to pee by making his own imitation of our ‘sss’ cue! We were delighted to be in such two way communication with him.”
– Rachel, mom to Simon, began EC at birth
Some parents might be curious about my opinion on the topic. The subject is certainly controversial here in the U.S. but I like the potential advantages, especially the fact that it’s more environmentally friendly, less messy and encourages the parents to be more in tune to their babies. In my patients who come here from other countries, it seems more intuitive. In the end, I think it might be reasonable to try and I support parents who wish to get their children out of diapers sooner rather than later.
This document is for informational purposes only, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual patient. If you have questions please contact your medical provider.
I hope that you have found this information useful. Wishing you the best of health,
Scott Rennie, DO