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Using cloth diapers, and getting your infant off them early

About 6 months ago, I wrote a guest post about my experiences in being a new father, specifically around using cloth diapers.  I wanted to take a chance to follow up on that post, as we are closing in on our daughter’s first birthday.  Cloth diapers have been easier and harder than we expected, but overall are worth the effort and environmental impact.  We have also begun to potty train our daughter around 8 months, which has shocked all of our family and friends and even surprised us in many ways.

IMG_1636First, my wife and I never set out to potty train our daughter before one year.  We casually talked about it, and my wife had done some research on elimination communication.  As parents, we are generally committed to making the best choices for the environment that we can, but within reason.  We still turn the air conditioning on at night occasionally to help our daughter sleep, run the cloth diapers in the dryer at times, and use disposable diapers when we visit family.  We try not to judge others that make different decisions, and try even harder not to judge ourselves when we can’t do the ideal.

We started with our daughter sitting on a small child toilet, more out of curiosity than any master plan.  To our surprise, she peed the first time we sat her on it.  To our greater surprise, she took it one step further and eliminated/pooped/”dropped it like it’s hot” on one of the next sits.  What came next was great – we applauded and clapped the first few times that it happened, and she caught on and clapped and applauded as well.  She grew to see the time as something fun and exciting, making it easy to encourage her.

We did pay attention to her signals, as done through elimination communication, but for me it was more about just putting her on the toilet after her morning bottle and after she napped.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.  Often, when she was making the obvious sings of needing to use the toilet, by the time we got her unclothed and undiapered – we interrupted her routine and she didn’t need to go anymore.  We learned that sometimes we just would miss a chance, and that was ok.

While cloth diapers are a bit more work to use in some ways, the fact that they are not as absorbent as disposable diapers actually works in your favor in potty training.  My daughter doesn’t seem as comfortable in a wet cloth diaper, and while she certainly can’t hold it until we get her on a toilet, she does understand to try and push a bit when she is there.  It is really amazing.

One final piece of advice that you won’t find in any of the baby books – after your child does use the small toilet for the first few times, make sure to grab it off the floor pretty fast if you have a dog.  As you can see from the picture above, my dog and daughter are close and he just couldn’t resist the chance.  He got the first one, but hasn’t had the opportunity again.

The most important point of this post for me is to emphasize that while nothing is easy, it is worth the work.  Don’t get too hard on yourself to try and be 100% perfect in anything with your infant.  My wife and I are too hard on ourselves at times, especially the over last few weeks when are daughter has been rebelling against the potty time.  We are giving ourselves a reprieve for a while, and will restart again in a week or two.  However, we are proud of the example that we are setting for our daughter, and will try to continue to do so in a pragmatic way that is sustainable.

[About the author: Jamie Johnson writes about energy efficiency at Verde Sustainable Solutions, L3C, the company behind the VERDE app – a new tool to help people perform an energy audit in their own home.]

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