My Diaper Free Challenge

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Today, I tried an experiment. Inspired by my application for a mentor position with the international organization Diaper Free Baby, I embarked upon a diaper free challenge for the day with my 4.5 month old baby.

I’ve been avoiding doing much diaper free time, although I’m a huge believer in the benefits – and practice – of Elimination Communication (EC). We’ve been pottying little D since she was 5 days old, holding her over the sink at first, then graduating to plastic potties once she reached 11 pounds and our arms began to ache.

Still, while a major reason I gravitated toward EC was its environmental benefits, I’ve been going through 5+ disposable diapers on an average day. And just because they say Seventh Generation on the package doesn’t mean I’m doing right by my descendants by using them (the principle upon which seventh generation was founded).

In fact, the primary benefit of EC we’ve experienced to date is the lack of poopy diapers, with their associated clean ups, requiring multiple wipes and a guaranteed trashed diaper.  As is apparently common with ECed babies, poopy diapers were one of our first casualties, mostly exiting the picture within a couple weeks of beginning EC.

So today I embarked on what felt like a radical experiment. With only one appointment on today’s calendar, I figured I’d camp out in our family room with our trusty top-hat shaped potty and its fleece cozy from the EC store, some waterproof mattress pads, various clothes and cloth prefolds to clean up the mess, and get down to business.

Let’s skip to the results. For the seven-hour period from 10am to 5pm, we had one miss (accident in EC terms). I actually learned more from it than from most of the catches.

I learned that my daughter gets a bit agitated before she has to pee, flailing her legs a bit or getting jumpy as she stands, supported by my arms. She doesn’t summon up and release whatever pee is available in any given pottytunity (a phrase which, I believe, was coined by Christine Gross-Loh, author of Diaper Free Baby), rather choosing to release in bigger segments. And she never actually peed in her sleep, despite her three naps, one of which I summoned up my courage to execute in a ring sling with several prefolds stuffed under her seat, and two on my lap with a prefold tucked under her rear.

Most importantly, because I was tuned in, I had greater access to my intuition. While she was sleeping, I experienced my second “phantom pee,” a common occurrence among ECing caretakers in which you get a warm sensation on your lap as if you’ve been peed on – but you haven’t.  Needless to say, I had my potty at the ready and wasn’t surprised when she woke up a minute afterwards, looking to empty her bladder.

At the end of the day, I feel a bit more confident as a mom. I feel like I got to know my daughter better, that I’ll have more of a sense of when she needs to go and when she’s interested in other developmental pursuits. I feel comfortable knowing that her pee schedule is a bit more predictable than I’d previously assumed. And I’m not as nervous to plan another diaper free day. It won’t be this week, but maybe not so far off in the future. And I’m actually looking forward to it.

Any other ECers out there? I’d love to hear your stories and lessons!

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Author: Miriam Katz

A Boston-based WAHM who sees parenting as the most challenging career path she's ever chosen. In her spare time, Miriam is co-author of The Other Baby Book and works as a career and life coach to GenX women and moms.

5 thoughts on “My Diaper Free Challenge”

  1. I loved diaper free days with my daughter. At ten months now, though, she doesn’t seem to signal to me anymore when she has to go, so we are back to diapers temporarily. I think it has to do with her being so close to walking and after we get past this milestone I imagine she will easily go back to diaper free again.

    Thank you for posting this 🙂 I love to hear about the experiences of other EC practicing mamas!

  2. I didn’t do EC, but with my second child I would put him on the potty when he woke up dry (which was surprisingly often) or when it seemed like he had been dry for a few hours. He would pee consistently on the potty during those times, but I never tried to take the next step to diaper-free.

    Our problem was that shortly after he turned a year old, he refused to let me put him on the potty. He would crawl away or try to stand up immediately. I should have figured out a way to help him pee standing up (like standing on the toilet seat), but I didn’t. I figured it was just a phrase. I am not kidding when I say he refused to use a potty again until he was over three. Even then he wouldn’t sit on a potty, ever. We eventually got one of those stand-up potties.

    I’ve always wondered how people doing EC get through that phase when they just want to squirm and crawl away.

  3. I did EC with my first from the time he was 5 mts and with my 2nd from birth. However, I was never really able to do the full diaper free thing. For me, cloth diapers and all the caught poos were well worth it. It’s funny, I just wrote about this topic the other day…

    1. Hey there! I’ve been parttime ECing my little once since she was 5 days old (now 10 mo) We still use cloth diapers, and I keep meaning to do more diaper free time, but our main goal was to not have to change poopy diapers and I’m thrilled to say that we;ve essentially reached that goal. I have changed 1 poopy diaper in the past 3 months and i was HORRIFIED and can’t imagine you Mamas who have to encounter this every day!!!

      Pee seems to be a bit harder, and I still change wet diapers, though my little one pees at almost every potty-tunity, so I guess I’d be changing MORE diapers if I wasn’t offering…anyway, we couldn’t be happier with our choice so far, even if our relatives think we’re nuts

  4. Hi Miriam! Great post! I have ECed my youngest 3 kids from birth through graduation. It is so true that you can often learn more from misses than with catches. I think many beginning ECers focus on the catches. Have you been to DiaperFreeBaby’s DiaperFreeChallenge website? It is

    Oh, also, Monica Wagonner, a former DiaperFreeBaby Mentor and an active participant on “the big EC” list coined the phrase “pottytunity” around 2004.

    Happy ECing!

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