When moms first tell friends and family they plan to start potty
training before their babies have outgrown their first onesie,
people usually say the scheme is crazy.
Not so with Winnie Cheung, an instructor at the Music Institute
of Chicago, who lives in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood. She is
among a growing community of Chicago moms who are dissing diapers
in favor of "pssss"ing infants, cuing them to go in the sink or
potty at just a few weeks old.
It's called elimination communication-the natural practice of
tuning in to baby's elimination needs and holding them over a
receptacle-and it's still protocol in Asia, Africa and parts of
South America. A covey of about 80 Illinois EC believers congregate
at an online group dedicated to elimination
To get started
The group reflects the resurgence of diaper-free parenting among
North American and European families. It appeals to parents not
only because they can bank the $2,000 they'd otherwise spend on
disposable didies. There's also an environmental component. Earth
lovers feel good about not piling on to the 3.4 million tons of
used diapers and raw feces dumped in U.S. landfills every year.
Going diaper free is better for baby because it bypasses diaper
rash and relieves digestive problems, believers say. It's more
comfortable to go in an upright position than prone. Diaperless
parenting fosters the baby's body awareness, developing bladder and
bowel control. At the same time, it spurs early independence and
eliminates later toilet training battles, say local parents who
Elimination experimentation has yielded outcomes that astound
parents and nay-sayers.
Arielle and Rob Bywater's daughter Willa, now 4, first used the
potty at 4 weeks old and never messed her pants past 18 months,
says this Evanston couple. They've already started EC with
Many families begin at birth or shortly after, and many more
between 1 and 6 months. EC is not coercive or punitive like potty
training, advocates at Diaper Free Baby say. The focus is more on
communicating with babies than getting them to go in a specific
It doesn't take long to learn to read baby's body language to
know when it's time to go. They have a certain facial expression.
They wiggle and grow agitated. Maybe they pass gas.
The traditional cycle of diapering followed by toilet training
is a bag of mixed messages, says Bywater, 36, a poetry professor at
Columbia College. Parents spend the first two years conditioning
their kids to go in their pants with diapers that keep them in the
dark about being dirty. Then, suddenly, the memo comes down that
going in your pants is a big deal and it's bad news.
"Diapers train babies just to sit around in it a long time and
not to notice," she says. "Then, at 2 or 3, you reverse yourself
and want them to control something you've taught them for years to
Elimination communication does take a lot of extra effort at the
outset but becomes easier than diapering over the long run, say
those who use it.
Robyn Monaghan is a mom and long-time freelance
Robyn Monaghan is a mother and long-time journalist.
See more of Robyn's stories here.
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