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Diaper Free Baby

Holistic Parenting Magazine


One of my absolute favorite things is holding my baby’s naked bum in my hands—it is so tiny, soft and perfect! Maybe this motivates me to go diaper-free—to keep that special skin fresh, clean, and clear of rashes and odors all the time.  But that is only on the surface. There’s much more to it!

An even greater joy is communication with my tiny newborn child. Yes, it happens when baby roots and I offer the breast. But when baby squirms and I hold him with his legs in a squat and he gives me a look of knowing and releases his wastes—this is a thrill I can’t get enough of!  Experience it once, and you will be hooked. The miracle of a two-week-old newborn understanding and participating in this connection takes my breath away! How can this be? But it is real and gradually the communication grows stronger. Soon, much of the time, you will just know when your baby needs to pee, and your baby will hold it until you take him to the bathroom.  The opportunity for bonding in this way is such a gift. Baby feels this connection strongly. His needs are met in a way that keeps him comfortable and dry. His efforts to communicate his need to pee or poo are not ignored or misunderstood, but are responded to immediately. Yet it goes beyond the honor of providing service at a deep level to your child. It lays a foundation of connection and trust for your relationship with your child that continues well past the year or two that he will need your help going to the bathroom. 


This is certainly not a new idea... 

Going without diapers has been the way for ages, and is still the way for many babies all over the world. Diapers are a modern invention. Non-industrialized cultures continue responding to babies’ needs immediately and gently. This includes breastfeeding into toddlerhood, carrying infants close as mom moves about her day, and taking care of elimination without using diapers. Sadly, most of these natural instincts have been suppressed over the last century in westernized nations. Mothers in western cultures often depend on attachment parenting magazines, books, and websites to relearn what is buried deep in our ancestral knowledge. And it seems the hardest instinct to reclaim is communicating with our babies about elimination.

The reasons to give it a try are many:

Increased communication and bond between parents and child, better hygiene, financial savings due to not buying disposable or cloth diapers, and less environmental impact due to not adding to landfills or washing cloth diapers. However, even as a new mother who was not already accustomed to diapering or any particular method, I was completely baffled about how to accomplish this. Without a community of other mothers taking care of their babies this way, it took until my second son was born for the process to feel natural and instinctive from the start. I bobbled through the first months struggling to read my first son’s elimination cues and attempting to respond to his needs with a gentle touch and humor, often feeling completely out of sync. We did eventually get the hang of it, and you can too! 

Here are some suggestions for getting started:

First, relax! Keep in a gentle, loving mindset. Try not to get swept into a focus on catching or missing pees. Baby will pick up on it if you are feeling tension, and this is certainly not a goal for going diaper-free. Remember that you are beginning the process of deepening your communication with your baby in a way that is new to you, so be gentle and patient with yourself, too.

If you have a newborn baby, keep a flat diaper folded in thirds, wrapped between the legs. You can cut the elastic off a pair of baby pants and use that to keep the diaper in place. Whenever you are sitting down to nurse the baby, keep a small bowl handy to catch the wastes. Newborns usually pee and or poo directly after a big meal, and some may start to squirm in the middle of a meal to signal a need to pee or poo. As you begin to pay attention to it, you will learn your baby’s cues. If your baby falls sound asleep, be certain that upon waking he will be ready to go potty. Sometimes a baby will get restless during a nap, and this is often a cue that he needs to pee or poo. This is the same at night. Our bodies naturally slow down and therefore hold urine longer at night, but if your baby is nursing a lot at night, he will follow a similar pattern and need to pee either directly after a big feeding, or will start to squirm around in his sleep when he needs to be taken to pee.

Hold your baby so that he feels fully supported and safe. It often works best to use one hand under each leg, holding the legs in a squat position and keeping the baby’s back nestled on your chest or in the crook of one arm. It can sometimes help to nurse the baby while he is eliminating, especially if it is during a nap, or at night. Some moms make a cue sound whenever the baby eliminates (“ssssss” for pee and a low “hmmmmm” for poo). Some moms find that just assuming the position is cue enough. It can also be helpful to use the ASL sign for bathroom, which looks like a waving fist but with your thumb poking between your index and middle fingers.

As your baby begins to sit or crawl on her own, many moms find it helpful to have a variety of comfortable pants to use in place of the flat diaper. Some moms use leg warmers and no diapers at all, others use padded training underpants to protect the bum. Some moms back up the practice by diapering the baby when out of the home, or when other people are holding the baby. You will find what works for you and your child.

Since your child will be maintaining elimination awareness, he can begin to take charge of his own pottying as soon as he is ready. The beginnings of this tend to show around the time he starts to pull up to standing. When he needs to pee or poo, he may start to use the ASL sign to let you know. He may also be so focused on his work and exploration that he won’t always want to be lifted and taken to a bathroom. He may want to stand next to the coffee table and pee right there! I learned to make it through these phases calmly pointing out “pee pee” and wiping it right up. Without introducing a power struggle or frustration over messes to clean up, these phases pass quickly and before you know it, baby is back to signaling and using the bathroom again.


Holistic Parenting Magazine

About the Author
Kathryn Los
Author: Kathryn LosWebsite:
Kathryn Los is Owner, Editor, and Publisher of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Kathryn is married to her soulmate and together they parent six delightfully vibrant children in the Colorado Rockies. She has a background in sociology and philosophy, and has enjoyed working as a birth doula and breastfeeding counselor for over a decade. She has founded and led several women's groups, on a spectrum of communities and interests. Kathryn is an advocate for authentic, intuitive parenting. She considers herself a cheerleader of her six life learners. She is passionate about holistic parenting, and loves sharing inspiration with like minded people across the globe.

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