I Caught a Pee!

My mind is not frequently blown, but with this new baby I have been introduced to a concept that I had never ever considered for myself before.

That is, the possibility of raising a diaper-free baby.

That’s right. NO DIAPERS.

Granted, giving up diapers entirely is still a remote goal, but even working towards that goal is something I had never encountered, much less considered for myself and my baby. What will these crazy kids think of next? (Co-sleeping, long-term breastfeeding, baby carrying – these are all in fashion now!)

I mean, there are support groups for diaper-free parenting! And I’d never heard of such a thing until just a couple months ago.

The theory goes like this: millions of mothers in hundreds of cultures around the world do not use diapers for their infants and babies. When their baby needs relieve himself they simply hold the baby away from themselves or over a “potty place.” And if they can do it, why couldn’t I? Or any other Western mother?

Evidently, the bladder, even in an infant, does not simply fill up to the brim and then release, but rather, the baby, like a child or adult, feels pressure when the bladder is about half full and must actively release the pee. A baby may not be intellectually conscious of when he is releasing, but his body knows – typically babies squirm and are slightly uncomfortable before releasing. This, in other cultures, gives the mother or caregiver, time to hold the baby away from her body or over a potty.

In Western culture, where this age-old concept is gaining popularity, raising a diaper-free baby is also called “Elimination Communication” or “Natural Infant Hygiene.” The latter term comes from a book on the subject (endorsed by La Leche League) called Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene by Igrid Bauer. Bauer is a Canadian mother who, after observing diaper-free babies in other countries, began experimenting for herself, and then was bombarded with so many questions from her friends and relatives that she made a full-fledged study of the entire situation – this book is the result. And while the book is good, it it not just a how-to book as much as a history of diapering and a treatise about the benefits of Natural Infant Hygiene. I really just wanted the how-to part, so I skimmed through most of the book. I’ll have to say this though; in this book there are some of the most adorable pictures of babies (peeing) that I have ever seen -  such looks of concentration! Such happy grins!

And understandably so, because a mother practicing elimination communication with her baby is nearly always a mother who is also practicing attachment parenting: the baby is always in-arms.

I decided to give it a tentative go.

But despite my friend Nathen’s kind words (Jeannie! If anybody can do it, you can do it!), I just could not, could not catch a pee.

I would leave Christian diaper-less, propped up by pillows, sitting on a incontinence pad right next to me while I unpacked boxes on the bed. I was watching for any signal that he needed to pee so I could rush him to the sink or to his potty. Invariably I would look up and find the incontinence pad wet – but I would never catch him before he had to pee; I couldn’t even catch him while he was peeing. I swear it was like he was peeing in secret on purpose. After several days without catching a single pee I started to get discouraged.

Then I got to the part in Bauer’s book where she finally explained a few simple commonsense techniques, which, not surprisingly, are pretty similar to puppy training:

  • Timing patterns and rhythms
  • Baby’s signals and body language
  • Intuition
  • Cueing the baby

Bingo! I had been missing the very obvious: the easiest pee to predict and catch is the first pee of the day – the morning pee! Then also, it made sense to “pee the baby” after every nap, during every diaper and clothing change, and about 15 minutes after nursing. I began to catch pees like crazy. It was all very exciting. I even started “catching” poos.

I would simply hold him under his thighs in a squatting position with his back against my abdomen above the sink and make a hissing sound – that’s our cuing sound – and like magic, pee would appear in a teeny little fountain.

I have so much more to say on the topic, but I hear the baby waking. I’m sure he needs to pee. I am still using diapers as a safety measure because I miss LOTS of pees – but amazingly Christian has control enough for me to unbutton his onesie, take off his diaper, and bring him to the bathroom, before he pees. What a patient sweetie he is.

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