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Cover Story: Diaper Free-dom: How Diapers Aid EC

By Christine Gross-Loh

Does your baby have to be "diaper-free" to do EC? No! This is a misconception many people have that prevents thi from even getting started on EC in the first place. It is not always possible or practical to avoid all misses (See "Language of EC," in this issue), so backup diapering is part of the picture. The fact is, not only do most EC'ers use diapers, they use a wide variety, both disposables and cloth.

Whether using cloth diapers or disposables, practicing EC involves changing the diaper as soon as it is wet, checking the diaper often to take note of the baby's elimination patterns, and offering pottytunities (an opportunity to use the potty). There are people who feel that cloth is better for EC'ing than disposables are, but quite a few parents have used disposables the whole way through and are still successfully EC'ing their children. Rossana J. writes,

We started practicing EC with our third daughter a few weeks after she was born. Although I read it was best to use cloth diapers, I decided to use disposables since I already had thi. I was confident elimination communication would work with disposable diapers.

Here is what we did. In the beginning, we would keep a disposable diaper on my daughter except when she was being pottied. After successful days with the diaper fastened on my daughter, I decided to be more daring by just sitting her on the diaper in the sling (where she was most of the day), without attaching the straps on the sides. This made it easier to offer her a quick pottytunity and I found I could use the disposable diaper longer since it riained intact. This method worked great with my newborn because she wasn't moving around too much and the diaper did stay in place.

I learned, by touching the bottom of the sling often, that there is a certain feel to a dry diaper.When my daughter had just peed, I could feel the warmth. If it had been longer I could feel a cool dampness on the diaper that wasn't there when the diaper was completely dry.

Another way to recognize whether a disposable diaper has been wet is by the change in bulk and weight. Depending on the baby's weight and size, it may be possible to use training-style disposable diapers, which have the advantage of showing you with "disappearing stars" whether the diaper is wet. This is particularly useful in very mobile babies or with young toddlers who are competent pottiers but get distracted by developmental milestones.

Others find that cloth diapering suits their EC'ing needs better. Some parents even come to EC through their love of cloth diapers. Lamelle Ryman writes,

I love cloth diapers! If you were to accuse me of being obsessed with cloth diapers, I wouldn't argue. The reasons to use cloth instead of disposables sei so obvious to me now that it seis hard to believe that there was ever a time when I wasn't infatuated. But it's true—before the birth of my daughter, I told myself that I would be fine using eco-friendly disposable diapers; I had enough on my plate without having to wash diapers.

By the time my baby was four months old, I had changed my tune. Like I did with many other parenting choices, I learned from my baby and followed her lead. I wouldn't like wearing paper underwear, I reasoned, so why should I expect that she would? I wanted soft organic cotton next to the sensitive, irritated skin on her little bottom. I also didn't like the fact that I couldn't really tell whether or not my baby had peed, since the disposable diapers were so absorbent.

Not long after beginning my exploration of cloth diapering, I came across information on EC and we began the journey toward becoming diaper-free.

Some parents like using cloth diapers because of their environmental advantages, like not contributing to landfill waste, and because, in the long run, cloth diapering is less expensive. However, the burden of diaper laundry can sei overwhelming. Practicing EC helps by reducing the amount of diaper laundry. As you and your baby get in sync, and as your baby gets older, you will need fewer diapers each day.Meanwhile, cloth diapers facilitate EC by allowing babies and caregivers to know when the diaper is wet. Caregivers can change the diaper right away, and babies get used to the feeling of being dry. In addition, a dry cloth diaper can be used all day without getting bunched up or lumpy, as sometimes happens with disposable diapers which are taken on and off repeatedly.

Both disposables and cloth diapers can also be used for various other EC purposes. A disposable or a cloth diaper inside a potty or Potty Bowl prevents spills if you are EC'ing at an awkward time. For instance, if you are on the go or traveling and can't immediately get to a bathroom to ipty out the potty, a disposable diaper in the bottom of the potty can last through several pees, with the advantage that it's not going to be held directly against your baby's skin. Some parents put a cloth or disposable diaper in a potty to soak up pee at nighttime, so they don't have to get up after pottying to ipty the bowl.

In the end, what you choose to do depends on what works best for your family. Disposables have their place as a convenient, readily-available choice, while cloth can often make it easier to get in sync with your child and to allow her to retain her bodily awareness. A combination of the two is often useful. Some parents use disposables a majority of the time but will use cloth as a kind of "bridge" to going diaper-free, or will use cloth for a limited time each day. Others use cloth diapers primarily but have a few disposables on hand for more challenging environments.

As you and your child get more in sync you will find yourself using fewer diapers of any sort anyway. The beauty of these choices is that it is up to you.


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