The theory of the diaper-free movement believes that the main reason why potty training toddlers can be so difficult is because we have already conditioned our children to pee and poop into their diapers. When potty training a toddler, what we are really attempting to do is put a stop to a habit that we created in the first place. So rather than train your baby to pee and poop into a diaper and then have to un-train him or her again at the age of two or three, why not capitalise on the elimination instinct from birth and save money on diapers?
How Do You Learn a Baby's Elimination Cues?
There are essentially four ways you can do this, although a combination approach is usually the way to go.
1. Following your baby's timing patterns and rhythms.
This involves knowing when your baby is most likely to eliminate. Although there will be variation between babies, there are some general patterns you can look out for. For instance:
- after waking up (in the morning and after naps)
- during or after a feed
- frequent and regular periods in the morning
- less frequent and regular periods in the afternoon
As you practice keeping your baby diaper-free, you will eventually learn which pattern your baby follows.
2. Reading your baby's body language and signals.
Before the age of six months (where it is believed that a diapered baby will become conditioned to pee and poop in a diaper), babies naturally show signs of wanting to eliminate. These may be:
- squirming or fussing
- wearing a look of concentration
- ceasing all activity
- increasing in activity
- stirring or waking from sleep
If you baby has been diaper-free for a while, you will also find that your baby might reach for you so you can take him or her to the potty.
3. Using mother's (or father's) intuition.
Some parents will have a natural instinct for knowing when their babies need to eliminate. Even if you don't have the instinct naturally, you will develop it as you continue to practice natural infant hygiene with your baby. Here are some examples of intuition at work:
- a sudden thought wondering if your baby needs to go
- just knowing that your baby needs to go
- feeling an urge to pee
- feeling the sensation of warmth spreading over your lap even though your baby is dry
4. Creating mother's (or father's) cues.
To help communication with your baby regarding elimination, you can have a routine "position" and sound associated with each elimination experience. For instance, always holding your baby a certain way over the toilet and making the same cuing sound to tell your baby that it is time to eliminate.
The diaper-free movement may seem a little daunting and challenging at the start, especially when you are attempting to read the signs of a baby who hasn't quite learned to communicate with you. Toddlers who are being potty trained have usually learned words like "potty", "wet", and "dry" which is definitely a lot easier to understand. Infants also have smaller bladders and will have to go to the bathroom more regularly.
This can present a real challenge for a parent who is always on the go.
That said, the diaper-free movement doesn't necessarily have to be an all or nothing approach. Some parents have their babies diaper-free at home and diapered when they go out. If that still sounds like too much, then try having your baby diaper-free for just a few hours a day. Once you feel more confident, you can increase the duration.