Babies need diapers. Right? The choice is simple: disposable or cloth. Or is there a third option?
What if parenthood doesn't have to mean years of changing dirty diapers? What if babies and toddler don't have to sit in their own waste? What if you could avoid the battle of potty training a rambunctious toddler?
The possibility exists. It's called Elimination Communication. We tried it. And it works.
No diaper rash. No urinary tract infections. No poo-plosions.
It is unconventional. You've probably been told it's best to wait until toddlers are ready to potty train. You may have been told babies need to develop control. As a new parent I wondered if these statements were true. Were they opinion or fact? So I delved into the science and psychology of EC. Want to know what I found out?
WHAT IS ELIMINATION COMMUNICATION?
According to Andrea Olson, of Go Diaper Free, Elimination Communication (EC) is "A gentle, non-coercive way to respond to a baby's natural pottying needs, from birth, which enables her to follow her instincts to not soil herself, her caretaker, or her sleep space."
EC goes by many names including, natural infant hygiene, infant pottying, diaper-free babies, or early potty training. In some societies, EC is so integral to the cultural fabric that it has no name. It's considered natural. And instinctive.
EC doesn't need to be all or nothing. You can practice it full time, part time or occasionally. You can start at any age. And diapers can be used as a backup, at nighttime or any time you need a break.
ISN'T IT UNNATURAL FOR BABIES TO USE THE POTTY?
Young babies are famous for spraying their parents with pee or poop at a diaper change. Why? Because their instincts tell them to avoid soiling themselves. As time goes on this behaviour lessens. Babies become diaper trained.
By forcing babies to wear diapers they learn to use diapers as a toilet. Over time their natural elimination instincts are eroded.
And while half the world's babies are potty independent by 12 months, babies in Western cultures wear diapers for an average of three years...and counting. In the 1950s before the widespread use of disposable diapers, 95 per cent of Western children were potty independent by 18 months. That statistic has now flipped with only 10 per cent potty independent by 18 months.
JEDI MIND TRICKS
When I mention my little man used the potty from nine weeks old, the response I get is shock, followed by awe and curiosity. I swear people think I must be using Jedi mind tricks. But it's easier than it sounds. And it's cleaner than diapers.
Like all mammals, human babies, are born with the instinct to not soil themselves. Young babies notice when their bladders are full. They squirm, grimace or cry out to let mum know they need to pee. Mothers who practice EC notice young babies' cry less than those who don't.
Babies are born ready to take care of their elimination needs with the help of their parents. The muscles needed for elimination are fully developed despite what some doctors may say.
EC is all about communication. Most accurately, babies are training their parents.
Babies know when they need to go to the potty. They communicate it with us from day one. So, in a sense, we need to use our Jedi powers, tap into our intuition and be open to our baby's cues.
IT'S THE JOURNEY, NOT THE DESTINATION
When I read EC was about communication, not potty training, the meaning was lost on me. Having practiced EC for two and a half years now, I agree it is all about communication, connection and respect.
Sure, peeing on the potty is the aim. But the saying "it's about the journey, not the destination" is spot-on when it comes to EC. Just like babies express they're hungry or cold, they also convey they need to pee or poop.
We wouldn't dream of ignoring their requests for food or warmth so why is pottying any different?
Committing to EC is one of the best parenting decisions you can make. And it's a lot of fun.
When our little man was six months old he'd use the potty in the middle of the night. I'd stagger into the bathroom at 2 a.m. and hold him on the potty. He'd pee and then I'd feel his forehead fall onto my shoulder while he'd drift back to sleep. It softened my heart every time.
Now he's a toddler and takes himself to the potty along with his books, his dinosaur collection and his digger. Sometimes he spends half an hour on the potty contemplating the world and playing with his toys. I can't help but think it's setting up good habits and associations for the future.
EC has enriched our connection with our little boy. It has strengthened his trust in us and it has shown him we respect his needs no matter how little he is.
BENEFITS BEYOND THE DIAPER
By trying EC, even part time, you're giving your baby a priceless gift. Mother earth will also thank you for using less disposable diapers. Even "green" diapers take 250-500 years to biodegrade.
Your baby's health will improve. They won't get diaper rash. No more urinary tract infections. Your baby will thrive emotionally knowing you hear their needs and care enough to take care of them.
Nothing is easy when it comes to babies. EC takes a little more effort up front but in the long run it's the easier option -- the kinder option. In this case, the juice is most certainly worth the squeeze.
This post originally appeared on Raised Good.
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