Footloose and Diaper-Free

  • Diaper-free parents say that their baby shows them signs when a bathroom break is needed. They call the dialogue "elimination communication." (Photo by Jessi Ziegler)

When most Americans have a baby,
the parents decide whether to use
disposable or cloth diapers. But
Julie Grant reports that there’s
another trend: no diapers at all:


When most Americans have a baby,
the parents decide whether to use
disposable or cloth diapers. But
Julie Grant reports that there’s
another trend: no diapers at all:

Having kids without diapers might seem kind of far out. So,
who better to tell us about this then Willow Lune, of
Berkeley, California.

She remembers when her son was 3-months old. They
were at her mother-in-law’s house. Her husband took the
baby to the bathroom – and accidentally left the door open.

“And his mother came in and saw him holding our son over
the toilet. And she said, ‘what are you doing?’ And my
husband said, ‘well, he’s going to the bathroom, just like you
do.’ And it took her about a minute, and she said, ‘that’s so

Lune and her husband said it was normal to see babies
without diapers when they were traveling in Tibet and
Thailand. So, when their son was born, they decided to try
it. He’s was going to the toilet on his own by age 1 and a

Now Lune teaches classes in Berkeley and other areas
around San Francisco.

She says diaper-free little ones can wear crotch-less pants –
or might not wear anything from the waist down.

And it’s up to the parents to pay close attention – or risk
having to reach for the cleaning supplies.

“There might be a little wiggle, or sometimes just the staring
at you. There’s just little subtle clues that they actually give
you from the time they’re born. So it’s our job to look at that,
listen for that, pick up on that. And then respond to it.”

Turns out, there’s a name for this little dialogue between
babies and parents. They call it elimination communication,
or E.C. Instead of using diapers – and then training them to
go in the toilet a few years later – Lune says parents can just
pay attention. They can show babies from the start what to
do when the need arises.

Lune says one of the reasons she and her husband do this
is because they are concerned for the environment.

Pampers and Huggies clog up the landfills. The other major
option – washing cloth diapers – takes more attention from
parents. But doing that can use a lot of water and electricity.

Jennifer Williams lives in the San Francisco area. She has
three children – all under age four.

Williams is also concerned for the environment. And she
wants to pay close attention when her 6-month old daughter
goes to the bathroom. She even uses cloth diapers.

“Even just with cloth diapers, you have to be way more in
tune to what’s going on with someone’s body. Where –
she’s in disposable right now – I’ll just forget about it for five
hours. You don’t have that option with cloth. Unless you
want to give her a horrible a rash. So, the whole EC thing is
really interesting, because you really have to be in touch with
what’s going on physiologically.”

But Williams works full time. Elimination communication just
is not practical for her family.

“Yeah, I mean, because you really do have to be available to
whenever the baby has to go to the bathroom. With one
baby, when I was home on maternity leave, I probably could
have done it. Once you have more than one running
around, it just doesn’t fit. Maybe I’m lazy. So be it.”

Supporters of the diaper-free lifestyle say it’s actually easier
then potty training kids when they’re older. And they say
parents don’t have to do it all the time. They can try it when
they do have time to pay close attention.

For The Environment Report, I’m Julie Grant.

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