There is a small human that has completely turned our world upside down.
She grunts and snorts, making sounds not dissimilar to a baby dinosaur. Despite her small capacity, this little one can belt louder than Bette Midler, especially during bath time. She has the suction strength of a Dyson, which – let me tell ya – has turned me into a milk-making machine. She can fill a nappy faster than Wyatt Earp could sling a gun, and then do it again as soon as a clean one is on, sometimes before!
She also has a wonderful curiosity. She sees all for the first time. Ceiling fans, lights through windows, shadows on the walls – none escape her attention. Her eyes drink in her expanding world. She is wise.
Prior to Hazel’s birth, I didn’t give much thought to the mental capacity of babies. I grew up around plenty of them (more on that in another post), but I hadn’t considered just how much a baby works to communicate its needs to its caregivers. Every waking moment is filled with her intense and innate need for connection. We are being put through our paces just to keep up with her!
Like all new parents, we’re still learning how she communicates with us – picking up on her movement patterns and the little noises she makes when she’s hungry, or sleepy, or about to go poo. We were mildly prepared for more poo and pee from already having a dog, but having a baby certainly takes it to the next level! My desire to want to be as environmentally-conscious as possible when it came to diapering led us to choose cloth diapers. Through my research on cloth diapering (including hours spent reading blog posts and Amazon reviews), I was even more delighted to read that cloth diapering can help babies learn to communicate about their need to eliminate.
Some of you are reading this and remember a time when cloth diapers were the only ones available! But for millennial mums like me, cloth diapers seem to be making a slow but steady comeback. The disposable diaper industry is expected to reach a global high of US$54.5 billion this year. There’s a reason why, too. Those disposables are very convenient at times! However, they also pack our landfills. Surely we humans must have figured out a better way by now to do the most basic of jobs: help babies eliminate with as little mess and effort as possible!
My search for cloth diapers led me to a relatively unknown movement in our Western culture: elimination communication (or EC). Now this makes sense to me. Like most mammals, humans will not want to soil themselves or their immediate surroundings, like their cot, or mum’s lap. EC builds on a baby’s natural instinct to communicate her need to go by giving parents the tools to respond to her cues. EC is not conventional potty training. It is a way to help a baby become aware of her elimination and to offer her an opportunity to go somewhere other than her diaper. Cloth diapers help in this process by allowing babies to feel the moisture on their skin, something that Hazel certainly doesn’t like!
There are many great resources out there about EC, including godiaperfree.com and The Diaper Free Baby: The Natural Toilet Training Alternative by Christine Gross-Loh. I ordered Gross-Loh’s book when Hazel was just a few days old. At the same time, I ordered a BabyBjörn Smart Potty. I figured that we might start using the potty after a few months and, initially, I put it in the nursery closet for storage.
Once I started reading Gross-Loh’s book, I was amazed by the testimonials of other parents who had started using EC with their newborns. I thought, “why not?” and Geoff and I began to use a verbal cue whenever we heard her go in her diaper. “Pssss Poop Poop” became the first words we’d share with our new baby! We said it a lot and changed a lot of diapers in those first few weeks. When Hazel not quite two weeks old, I decided to try to sit her on the potty. I said the cue, “Pssss Poop Poop”, and wouldn’t ya know? She went. I was overjoyed! Who knew that such a small thing like cueing my baby to use the potty would be so exhilarating? But it was! I rushed into our bedroom and dragged Geoff into the nursery so that he could look at the little yellow spot in the bowl.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve continued cueing her, and I feel like I’m getting to know when she is likely to need to go. Now, more often than not, I lay her on the changing pad and open her diaper only to find it a little wet. The potty now has pride of place beside the pad, where it’s easy for us to hold her over the little bowl and say our cue. Usually, within about 30 seconds of cueing, she will use the potty! I praise her with kisses, then lay her back down to put on a fresh nappy. Once she’s settled in her crib, I rise the potty using a sprayer connected to our toilet. Voilà! We’re on our way to having a diaper-free baby.
So far, EC is a natural choice for me as a mum and as a humanist. Humanism aims toward allowing all humans – even the littlest ones – to achieve full development, to have dignity, and autonomy. I love that EC is about acknowledging my child’s natural instincts and that it is helping us form a relationship built on trust and communication. In time, I know that EC will also give our daughter confidence and pride in her ability to use the potty independently, and that makes it all worthwhile!