I’ve been reading this fascinating book lately entitled Diaper Free, by Ingrid Bauer. She’s a proponent of the practice often called “elimatination communication,” which is also referred to as “natural hygiene”.
Meredith Small’s book Our Babies, Ourselves, addresses this topic in a cross-cultural context some–in many, many cultures around the world parents never use diapers, but I’d never really considered the possibility that it could work in a Western culture that obsesses with cleanliness and hygiene, views elimination as something dirty and shameful, and in which most mothers do not carry their babies in arms all the time.
In China, many young children wear “crotchless” pants like these, allowing for immediate elimination and (relatively) messy free clothing.
In many of the cultures mentioned in Small’s book, however, it’s important to note the entire culture supports this method of toilet training: from mothers who constantly hold their children and young girls who stay home to help their mothers, to the fact that many of these cultures live in rural areas in which much of their daily activity takes place outside.
Nevertheless, the concept that infants actually are cognizant of their bodily functions and can respond to signals, or “cues” to eliminate waste is a fascinating one to me, and in my mind has many implications for the Montessori approach to “toilet training”.
If the goal is to foster independence, doesn’t it seem reasonable to follow the child’s natural body rhythms from the beginning, and to empower them to recognize those rhythms? Instead, we put them in diapers (admittedly, somewhat convenient for parents, as they don’t have to be aware of when their babies need to eliminate), which send the message that it’s okay to wet your clothes and stay wet…but then we have to reteach babies when they’re two or three that it’s actually not okay to be wet or dirty all the time.
Reading this book has opened up a whole new perspective for me on the possibilities for fostering independence and better communication with one’s own child. I’d be curious to hear what others think, especially if you’ve tried it yourself!