We're proud to introduce our first-ever LV Moms Money Mic, in which we hand the podium to someone with a strong opinion on a money topic. In the LearnVest Daily, past editions have included conversations about whether living together wrecks your finances, why staying home to make jam could be the new feminist career and why the CARD Act may actually hurt women.
For our first Money Mic on a parenting topic, we spoke with Ingrid Bauer, author of "Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene." She's an advocate of a parenting style that’s sweeping the nation—and could save you thousands.
The views expressed here are those of the essayist and not the LearnVest staff, but we look forward to opening the floor to debate and discussion. Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Disposable diaper or reusable cloth? Organic or conventional?
My choice: None of the above.
Going diaper-free—also known as Elimination Communication—is an effective, more comfortable routine for both you and your child, and can work no matter what your schedule is. Plus, it could save you thousands of dollars.
When I had my first son, now in his 20s, I spent about $3,000 a year on diapers and accessories. But for my other three kids, I went diaper-free and only needed six to ten cloth diapers and a potty or two.
I spent $50 to $100 for all three of them. Total.
What Is Diaper-Free?
As infants, our natural instinct is to not want to sit around in our own waste. But as parents, we train this instinct out of babies when we put them in diapers. Then, two years later, we reverse that message again when it's time for potty training.
That would be confusing to almost anyone.
We don't actually need diapers, as seen by the fact that they were only introduced recently into Western culture. Much of the rest of the world still doesn't use them ... which makes me think they just aren't necessary.
How does it work? As a parent, you naturally become attuned to your child’s signals. If you pay close enough attention, you’ll know when your baby needs to go. You can also take cues from him by recognizing regular timing. For example, if you know that your baby always has to go 20 minutes after feeding, you could just bring him to the toilet exactly at that point.
Would You Go Diaper Free?
What do you think of the diaper-free movement? Does the idea of not using diapers for your baby interest you?
I called my book "Diaper Free" to get people’s attention—but you’ll still use a few diapers, just not as many. For example, you might feel more comfortable having your child in a diaper when you’re out and about, but you might let your kid go mostly bare-bottomed around the house once you have your routine down. While there are a lot of different methods and nuances to this, it basically comes down to communicating non-verbally with your baby. Some parents get so good at it that they can give their kids cues that it is time to go. For example, I could do this with my kids by making a simple ‘shhhh’ sound.
You don't have to go completely diaper-free, either. Some parents use this method solely to keep their children from pooping in a diaper, which still saves on diapers and mess. Also, you don't necessarily have to start right at birth; your kid will catch on whenever you start the process.
My Journey to Going Diaper-Free
I used reusable cloth diapers for my first child, and washing them and schlepping them around was obviously inconvenient. Then, when I traveled to Africa and India, I saw mothers carrying their children around with no diapers—and nary an accident.
I brought the idea back with me, testing out diaper-free with my three younger children, and after four or five months, my three youngest never messed their pants.
The idea caught on. My book is now published in seven languages, and there are dozens of organizations and websites about the process.
Why You Should Do It
Here are my main reasons for going diaper-free:
- It helps you develop a deeper bond with your kids. You develop a sort of communication beyond just the usual “I cry, you pick me up” pattern
- Your kid will not have to sit in his own waste (would you want to do that?)
- You’re not contributing to landfills, or wasting water on washing too many cloth diapers
- As I learned with my first child, potty training can be really challenging; here, you put in the work and time earlier (it’s much easier to deal with a one-year-old having an accident than a four-year-old)
Should You Try It?
While Elimination Communication may seem a little strange at first, it’s a natural process that could lower your carbon footprint and your costs, while strengthening your bond with your child.
From where I’m standing, there really are no drawbacks … unless you like giving money to the diaper companies!
Ingrid Bauer is a passionate parenting advocate and pioneer of the diaper-free movement in the Western world.
Photo credit: Juergen Raeuber