Before I get started let me mention the number one reason why I never shared much about our diaper-free life the first time around, aside from, I mean, the fatigue and lack of energy that go hand in hand with baby raising. In a nutshell: I did not feel very comfortable talking about the whole process because I never wanted (nor want) to come across as espousing that the way we do things is the *right* way and that we look down on parents who have different ideas/methods. Discussing divergent opinions/methods in any realm is a good way to get up people's danders, and holding differing parenting views has got to be one of the most surefire ways of making another parent feel like they are under attack. Even if said discussions are not about finger-pointing and one-upmanship and all those other comparison-heavy things, they can sure feel like it. No one likes to be judged, especially not parents. We get enough questioning, skepticism, advice, and criticism from family members and friends without hearing it from online strangers, too.
Anyhow, rest assured: Your parenting choices are safe around me. I'm not preaching; I'm just sharing to appease curiosity and give one family's experience with an unorthodox tool that is out there if parents want to give it a whirl.
If you are unaware of what going diaper-free entails, you can google it along with terms like "elimination communication" and "natural infant hygiene." I came across the idea quite by accident, many years before I got pregnant, and it made so much sense to me on a gut-level that I knew I would have to try it if ever I became a mother.* Enter Sprout and our foray into communicating with a newborn about basic bodily functions. :) This is my most complete entry on the subject, written when Sprout was six months old. As I said, I kind of fell off the wagon about blogging about it after that, so the following timeline is going to be full of ballpark numbers rather than actual, precise dates.
After our successes with Sprout vocalizing her need to go, we had less misses. For awhile. Then she got more mobile and able to explore her world at will. Lots of distractions and experiments with her surroundings led to a distinct decline in her interest in letting her parents know she needed to go. :P Thankfully we had hardwood (read: easy-to-clean) floors.
We continued to hold her over a bowl, the sink, the toilet, etc. to help her void, buying a potty just before she learned to walk. We still have that potty, so the issue is moot with Junebug, but if I were starting over again, I would still have a bowl (smaller and very portable) but I would get a potty much earlier to help hold the baby. Another thing of note is that Sprout never had a problem going to the bathroom outside. I did not give this much thought until we were traveling one day with another couple who had a small child who absolutely refused to be held and void in a ditch. We never encountered any resistance concerning going to the bathroom, unless you count when she stopped wanting to be held and insisted on sitting on the big toilet herself, like in a public restroom, where I would have preferred to hold her. If the place was dirty, I could usually get her to fall in line with no worries.
She was 14-16 months old while we were in Albania, old enough and stable enough to run around unassisted and she would often go to the potty by herself.
At 17 months--17 months of not once getting a solid night's sleep--I decided I could no longer get up in the night and take Sprout to potty. I was exhausted and felt close to cracking. So, I started ignoring the sleep whimpers that signaled she had to relieve herself and allowed her to go in the diaper at night. Sometimes she woke with a dry diaper, sometimes no. I did not want to be OK with that, but I HAD to be OK with that. During the day, accidents were virtually unheard of, but she was still incapable of pulling down her own pants to go. It was not until about 24 months of age that she was able to do that with some success.
We never potty "trained" her. She just went to the bathroom when needed. There was no undoing of "bad" habits. She had accidents, especially when excited and distracted, but there was never any shame about poo or pee or the act of going--or in missing, even though I admit that sometimes I would exasperatedly ask, "Why!?" Why did she not go since she has pretty much known from birth about how the whole potty thing works. :P
At 26 months, I felt our landlady's bedding was safe enough that we didn't have to worry any more about nighttime nappies, and she only had maybe 2 accidents in the space of 10 months. Then, when we went back to France in September (and she was 35 months), she had a spate of accidents, some awake and 3 or 4 at night. It was embarrassing in the sense that I felt my MIL was judging me and our methods, but I knew it was because of all the changes and the sense of being in "new" surroundings (for several days, she would ask to go to "her home" to have "her things" and "her bed.") No accidents after she got acclimated and none since then.
She is now 37.5 months old and in control of going to the bathroom, even getting up and going in the middle of the night by herself. Of course, she still needs help cleaning her bottom after a bowel movement, but she tries to do that (and empty her potty) by herself. :-/ I'd rather be the one doing that for a wee bit longer. :P
As I said, this is more of a timeline than anything and not at all about process. If you want to ask any questions, though, about any part of going diaper-free, fire away. :)
* I don't know if Ignorance is Bliss, but in my case, I think it might often amount to the same thing. Once I learn something new that really speaks to me and asks me to change a way of thinking or doing for a better (but often harder) way, I just can't turn my back and conscience on that new knowledge.