Look ma, no diaper

LONDON • Do you really need diapers for your newborn?

The answer is no from two Los Angeles doctors who instead make a case for potty training - right from the time the baby is born - in an article submitted to the American Academy Of Paediatrics Journal.

Their method may be called elimination communication, but its backers said there is nothing fancy or complicated about it.

The idea is that all babies seem to be born with a reflex that helps them avoid soiling themselves.

If parents learn when to do it - by looking out for signals that their baby is uncomfortable - they can hold them in a squat position to trigger the relief process.

It just relies on "the infant's natural timing and cues to recognise when they need to defecate or urinate", wrote pathologist Rosemary She and her husband Jeffrey Bender, a paediatric infectious disease specialist.

Some parenting experts suggest that right from the time a baby is born, he can be trained to use the potty, avoiding the need for diapers.
Some parenting experts suggest that right from the time a baby is born, he can be trained to use the potty, avoiding the need for diapers. PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

"By identifying these cues, caregivers can coordinate elimination in the toilet rather than in a diaper."

According to a report in The Guardian, parents should also whistle softly or hum to hasten the process to create an associative link to the habit of going to the toilet.

The couple are not alone in campaigning for nappy avoidance.

Ms Amber Hatch, for one, has gone on to write Nappy Free Baby, a guide to potty training from birth.

She walks the talk, given that she has run elimination communication workshops for nine years.

"The baby will soon learn to associate the hold and the place - the potty or lavatory - with his bodily functions. And so, what starts as a reflex and some lucky timing moves into a more conscious act on the part of the baby," the Manchester Evening News quoted her as saying.

"Babies can pass waste without our help, but holding them out helps their body work more effectively, so it's very comfortable for them.

"It's a bit like helping them burp."

The elimination communication practitioners also point to other benefits like not having to stock up on nappies, avoiding nappy rash, cutting back on the risk of urinary tract infections and protecting the environment.

In Britain, a staggering three billion nappies are estimated to be thrown away every year.

Ms Mel Bridge, who blogs about family life, has another perspective.

Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, she said: "It isn't the child who is training really, it's the parent putting effort into communicating with the child and enabling the child to be able to communicate his needs and feelings."

Still, even as Ms Hatch said that there is nothing to lose in trying the no-nappy route, some paediatricians believe that a newborn is not developmentally ready for toilet training and that maturation of the bladder and brain normally occurs between the ages of 24 and 36 months.

And even if parents are keen to try out the method, how practical is it when they are away at work for most of the day, as most dads and mums are in this age?

Ms Hatch has it all worked out.

"You don't have to do it all the time. I know mothers who do a bit over evenings and weekends and others who have got into it and made arrangements with carers when they go back to work.

"There are no rules: Do whatever is right for you and your baby."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 09, 2017, with the headline 'Look ma, no diaper'. Print Edition | Subscribe