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I was not a good correspondent from the diaper-free trenches with Sprout, and I doubt I'll be any better with Junebug; but I thought I would reminisce about Sprout's diaper-free timeline before Junebug arrives and we gear up to do it all over again. I need the refresher. A couple of weeks ago, we bought some secondhand clothes for Junebug at a garage sale and I was explaining to the seller that certain items did not interest me because we plan to raise our baby diaper free, which, naturally led to some questions. I explained, very briefly, but as I was walking away, I realized I had left out some key things, like the signaling one does with the baby, teaching them to communicate their needs well before they can use words to do so. Yep, definitely need to go over the basics for myself. :P

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.

However, she did not have the dexterity to undress herself, and it was too cold to go the pants-less route. She had accidents during her waking hours at that time but none in bed. Still, we kept a diaper on her just in case.

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.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 12th, 2013 08:31 pm (UTC)
This is really wonderful--thank you so much for sharing! Your experience sound exactly like what I imagined would be the case, with ups and downs, but an ultimately rewarding and happy experience for all concerned.

I think the thing that many parents--not necessarily of their own volition--feel that gets in the way of this sort of approach is rush. They feel so hurried and so stressed that they don't feel capable of taking the time that an approach like this requires. As you say, it's hard to talk on the topic without coming off as judgmental (I feel the same way about breastfeeding and family bed--things I deeply enjoyed and want all people to be able to enjoy, but that I realize are made complicated by all sorts of factors beyond people's control), but to the degree possible, I think that if people are able to focus on parenting as being a central part of their lives, then they're able to have a richer experience.

… Part of that comes off as being a very privileged statement, at least in the United States, because in someplace like the US, the way the evil pressures of poverty get at you are by not letting you spend time with your children. You're required to sell yourself to some low-wage job to keep food on the table. In other parts of the world, you can be so poor that that food thing is a real issue--but at least you can spend time with your children. Ehh, I'm writing it up too either-or. It's never an either-or. What I mean is, spending time with children isn't necessarily a luxury of only the privileged--at all--but it often is in the United States. And, in the United States, some of these more intensive ways of parenting therefore are off limits (or, at least, feel off limits) to a lot of parents. I was lucky: for most of my time parenting babies, although we had not much money, we had flexible time, which meant we could do some of the intensive parenting. I didn't know about diaperless parenting at the time, and I'm not sure I would have had the dedication to try it, but I might have! It's got a lot of appeal.
Dec. 14th, 2013 12:53 pm (UTC)
Yes, we had highs and lows with it, but a) I never regretted it, b) I'm (obviously) more than willing to do it again, c) I can't describe the liberating sensation it is to know you do not have to "potty train" your kid at some date.

to the degree possible, I think that if people are able to focus on parenting as being a central part of their lives, then they're able to have a richer experience.

Yes! If it is an addendum or something you do because "that is what people do" then you are in for a rough experience.

As to what you say to luxury and privilege: Dealing with the French mentality has really been rough on me in a lot of ways. My MIL frequently insinuates that I'm ruining S in some way because she doesn't have a secondary care-provider or go to nursery. I'm warping her and making her only want to be with her mother, when I should be exposing her to different people and making sure she can "be left alone with others without issues." *sigh*
Dec. 14th, 2013 02:47 pm (UTC)
Yeah it's *very* hard when there's a dominant cultural belief or value (e.g., "You must leave your child with other people frequently because this will make them more easy with such situations, which is a good thing") that you're going against. There's that same attitude to a degree here, though not as strong (probably because the US is such a bara-bara [Japanese: scattered, bits and pieces] country.
Dec. 14th, 2013 12:55 pm (UTC)
I didn't know about diaperless parenting at the time, and I'm not sure I would have had the dedication to try it, but I might have! It's got a lot of appeal.

And yes to this as well. We can't beat ourselves up for what we didn't know, but I still try sometimes with S. Like, have I ruined her completely because I didn't know about X, Y, or Z and now she is 3!!!! Is it too late!!!! *cue crazy muppet-like histronics) :P
Dec. 14th, 2013 02:42 pm (UTC)
LOL, I can just see the muppet flinging itself about :D

Yeah, and I think it's good to have missed out on some things that we would have liked to do because it would be *insane* if we were somehow able to think we'd been able to do everything for our children<--which statement sounds as if it's saying a little guilt and regret is good for us, which isn't what I mean--I guess it's more, I think I'd be insufferable if I was able to have the illusion of having done all the right things.

I suppose one could say that *not* having done all the right things gives us a handy excuse ("If only I'd done a gluten-free diet, she'd be concentrating better in Chemistry right now"), but really I think that's the wrong way to look at it too. I mean, maybe with some things, where there's a very direct and straightforward correlation ("If only I'd vaccinated her against measles, she wouldn't have measles right now"**), but I think it's not good to try to pin the vagaries of personality or personal history on particular specifics of childhood--it's too hard to tangle out all the influences, and then too there are hidden strengths and things that can also develop out of stuff, so.

**And that's a bad example, because I immunized all my kids against whooping cough, and two of them got it anyway, because apparently the immunization wears off--who knew? Answer: now, everyone, but at the time, no one.
Dec. 13th, 2013 03:36 pm (UTC)
I doubt that I would have had what it takes to go diaper free with my children, even though it's clearly such a good decision for the environment; but they were bottle and binky free.
Dec. 14th, 2013 12:45 pm (UTC)
It mostly takes time and a sense of humor, I think. I know the "time" part is what not all parents can give. Soëlie never had a binky either and is stumped when we are looking at children's books featuring "pacifier" or "dummy." She also has a problem with "bottle" or "milk" (pictured in a bottle) :P
Dec. 14th, 2013 03:36 am (UTC)
when is your due date. I know you have said but I don't remember things well these days. (haha) Adam's wife, Cerise is due in June.
Dec. 14th, 2013 12:42 pm (UTC)
We're due around 23 Feb. :D Not much longer to go now...
Dec. 15th, 2013 11:30 am (UTC)
Unrelated to the post, but I hope you're keeping warm! I hear it snowed in Cairo too! (We got stuck without power for 36 hours in the freezing cold. It was... an experience.)

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


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