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Diaper Free Baby- A father's experience

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The Story Thus Far…

After shopping at the hardware store, Lutreo, age 21 months, let me know he had to go “peepee”. In the parking lot, I whipped off his pants, said “psss psss pssss” and a stream of urine arched out and anointed the asphalt. A passerby glanced at us crouched between cars with a look of complete incomprehension before hurrying on.

 

When I first heard about the possibility of raising a child without diapers, I was immediately incredulous and excited. This was completely outside of my experience and I had never even given the matter much thought, though diaper free living fits perfectly into my goals of living a lifestyle more in line with traditional cultures. I read books and articles on the subject before we even planned to have children.

Our journey with living diaper free, or elimination communication (EC) as it is also called, has been exciting, rewarding, and altogether different than I imagined.

I want to share our experiences, so other families considering this choice can see the realities of what stumbling through this process looks like.

We planned to start EC as soon as Lutreo was born, as we prepared for a home birth in our small cozy home. Complications arose, and we found ourselves in the hospital with our baby born five weeks premature, and then spent sixteen days in the NICU. We were surrounded by the most amazing team of nurses, and have a wonderful support system of family and friends, but spending that much time in the hospital was a different universe entirely from what we had envisioned, and we struggled. EC went out the window, and we focused purely on getting Lutreo healthy enough to come home.

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Once we settled into our home with our newborn and our new roles as parents, we slowly began the process of EC. We began by making specific sounds whenever Lutreo peed (psss psss psss) or pooped (ca ca). Any sound could be chosen, these were the ones we landed on.

We lived in a passive solar-type home, and mornings could be quite chilly. We kept Lutreo bundled to keep him warm, and these extra layers of swaddling blankets presented our first challenge. Whether he was in a diaper or not, we had no idea when he went to the bathroom! This made it frustrating to try to anticipate his needs with the alacrity needed when he was so small. We realized that we needed to remove any stress or goals about this process, and just follow along and see where we ended up.

My wife and I work out of our home and farm, and live a busy life working outdoors. Additionally, we have a strange laundry arrangement. While this may seem tangential to the realities of diaper free, it is a crucial facet of this experience: we cannot afford to soil every piece of clothing in the house in the middle of a week, because we are not able to do laundry whenever needed. As to the outside component of our lifestyle, in the colder months of the year here in Colorado, Lutreo was so bundled up, and our chore list so long, that being diaper free was not feasible for long periods of time.

With all that said, our communication with Lutreo and his awareness of his need to eliminate was a constant part of our daily rhythm. At a very young age, we purchased a couple of potties used for potty training, well before Lutreo could sit on his own. After nursing, or before or after a nap, we would sit him on the potty and cue him with the sounds. Whenever we saw him pee, in or out of a diaper, we would make the sound for association.

I remember the first time I was holding Lutreo, sitting out in front of our house, and I cued him, and he peed. It was immense validation of months of intention.

At ten months of age, we traveled to Europe. I was concerned about the long flight, however as there was nothing else to take our focus, we were able to catch almost all of his pees, we needed to change his diaper only once the entire way (as we passed through security, we couldn’t jump out of line to go the bathroom). In the small bathrooms on the plane, Lutreo peed consistently. Friends and family in Italy were shocked at his seemingly magical ability to “pee on command”, though it was more a fluid dance between timing, his communication of the need to eliminate, and our cuing. The main obstacle we encountered is that disposable diapers are not designed to be re-used, so we would have to replace diapers after destroying them.

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Our goal is to be sure that Lutreo has the opportunity to not sit in his own waste to the best of our ability. Sometimes that means we use very few diapers, when we catch lots of pees, or we use more than usual, because he lets us know right after he goes. One tool that has helped our awareness of his elimination is cloth prefold diapers, worn without covers. This way there is a visual clue or immediately tactile one so we are more in tune with his rhythm.

Another useful tool has been leg warmers. Lutreo frequently wears these with or without diapers, which makes peeing and changing easy.

 When out and about, and at night, we still use disposable diapers, and do our best. In the beginning, at night it was hard to catch anything. Now he communicates his need to pee most of the night, usually just sleeping through the last pee in the early part of the morning.

There have been some interesting stages we have gone through, causing hilarity and frustration. Once Lutreo was able to walk, he went through what I think of as the “Dribbler” phase. He gained awareness of his ability to pee. We would have him running around the house without pants or diaper, playing with pots and pans or harassing the dog. Suddenly, all activity would stop for a moment, and we would look over and see a few drops of urine. Then again. Over the course of a minute he would pee six or seven times. This became so continuous (and for him engrossing) that we would need to put a diaper back on. His awareness of his own body was fascinating.

At another point, Lutreo developed a unique set of yoga postures while pooping. He would stop play, put his weight on his hands and feet while sticking his bottom up into the air.

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At this point, we are still using diapers, though as the weather moves into summer Lutreo will be wearing them less and less when we are outdoors. We hope to be fully diaper free as soon as possible, but are not pushing for this to happen. Along the way, we have found a deep way to connect to our son, and give him the awareness of his own body. Whenever expecting parents ask me what I would recommend exploring when their baby is born, this is at the top of my list. We have a long way to go, but I am grateful for all of the experiences we have had together while moving towards a life without diapers.

About the Author
Neal Ritter
Author: Neal RitterWebsite: http://laughingcoyoteproject.org
Neal Ritter is one of the co-founders of the Laughing Coyote Project, a non-profit dedicated to passing on the traditions of primitive skills and nature awareness. Even while not teaching, he continues to practice the skills of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. He lives on a farm just outside of Boulder, CO, with his wife and son.

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