Diaper Free in the 21st Century
by Kimaya Metcalfe
Kimaya is the Director of Education at the Institute for Therapeutic Massage, where she has been working for 20 years. She and her husband raised their daughter diaper-free, an experience that was enlightening on many levels. Behavior patterns that she observed during this time gave her valuable insight in helping her friends and clients during potty training years.
When I tell people that we raised our daughter diaper free, they react with a mixture of confusion, disbelief, and curiosity. Most people have never heard of such a thing and can’t believe that babies do not need diapers.
It’s true, babies can be raised without diapers. Diaper free, aka Natural Infant Hygiene, aka Elimination Communication, is a system of watching your baby for clues that they need to use the toilet and offering it, instead of eliminating in diapers. Though it is not commonly known in the United States, it is used in countries around the world.
I'll admit, when I first read about it, 7 years before my daughter was born, I wasn’t sure I “bought” into it. While pregnant, I was still skeptical. After her birth, I wrapped her in a cloth diaper and was certain I would use cloth until she was potty trained. Diaper free was in the back of my mind, but I was not convinced it really worked, and it seemed like it would be a lot of work for me.
Then when she was three weeks old, I went to change her diaper. On a whim I sat on the toilet, held her in the position I had seen in books and made the “pssss” sound. To my surprise, she immediately peed in the potty. From that moment on we committed to raising her without diapers. I am not lying when I say that after that day, I never again had to clean a poopy diaper.
People always ask if it was a lot of work; honestly, it was not. In fact, I contend that it was less work than changing diapers. Some people wondered if it was stressful to my daughter; it was not at all. I explain that the child is not the one that is potty trained, the parents are trained to read the signals. A few people acted as though I was harming her or robbing her of a childhood right; to these people I would reply, “I think it is more harmful to let babies sit in urine and feces.” A bit blunt, I know, but I never understood why these people believed diapers were desirable.
When people ask if it really worked, I share this story:
When Ecko was 11 months old we flew to Canada on a wilderness camping trip. I realized this was going to be an ultimate test as I was not going to bring in and carry out cloth or disposable diapers. Nor would I be able to bring many changes of clothes as we were hiking in all our supplies. I would not be able to miss any signals. We hiked 7 miles into the mountain and camped for 4 days, the last day in the snow. We did not have an “accident” the whole time. She was 11 months old!
Yes, it really works!