When most parents joyously bring their newborns home from the hospital, they're resigned to one stinky fact: that they're in for the long haul of changing dirty diaper after dirty diaper until it's time to start potty training. But, in reality, it's possible to raise a baby without diapers — a decision that's good for the environment and little ones' health, too. It's called elimination communication (EC), and it's all about understanding a baby's natural rhythms and literally holding them over the toilet when it seems like it's time to go. And two married doctors who went diaper-less with their third child want other moms and dads to know exactly how they did it.
The parents in question are Los Angeles doctors Rosemary She and Jeffrey Bender, and they want you to know that EC definitely isn't the right choice for everyone. For example, parents who don't get adequate leave time off work and rely on daycare or babysitters would struggle to make it work. And that's totally OK, Bender told Reuters Health — he just wants families to know it's a possibility.
"For young families interested in protecting the environment for future generations, who want to save some money and keep their kids healthy, this is a good option," the pediatric infectious-disease specialist at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles told the outlet.
That's because he and She, a pathologist and medical microbiologist at Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, experienced the upsides of the practice firsthand with their daughter, who's now 5. They detailed the journey in a perspective paper recently published in the journal Pediatrics — and it's a lot less messy than you might expect. After using disposable diapers with their first two babies, the couple would simply hold their daughter over the toilet after her meals and when she woke up from naps, according to HealthDay. As they did so, they would whistle two notes to signal to the baby that it was time to go. She learned quickly.
She and Bender kept their daughter in cloth diapers just in case at the beginning, but she was having only one or two accidents per day by the time she was a month old, Science Daily reported. At six months, she didn't need those cloth diapers at all, and was able to use the toiler on her own when she was 18 months old. Pretty amazing, right? And the method seems even more inviting when you consider that the 27 billion diapers that end up in American landfills each year take as long as 500 years to degrade, as the doctors wrote in the paper — so it's possible a more widespread use of EC could cut back on harmful environment effects in a way that even cloth diapers may not. EC can also help families save money, disposable diapers cost an average of $1,000 per year.
Perhaps the most enticing aspect of EC is the fact that it was help to curb some infant health problems that stem from wearing diapers. These include urinary tract infections and methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) skin infections, Reuters Health reported.
This may seem like a new and novel revelation, but She and Bender are quick to point out that it's really not. "Humans have been doing this for millennia and still do in most resource-limited regions," She and Bender wrote in the paper. "As little as 3 to 4 generations ago, most Americans did as well."
Of course, the convenience of disposable diapers serve an important purpose, and parents should not feel guilty if they are unable to devote the time necessary for EC. But they should know that it's a real option. Because the prospect of no more dirty diapers to change is hard to pass up.