Using cloth diapers on your child can be a heck of a lot of work.
Babies will go through as many clean diapers each day as you have (it seems like it, anyway), so the washing machine gets a good workout, and there’s always a load to be hung on the line to dry. But using disposable diapers costs quite a bit, and the waste involved is tremendous.
To our way of thinking, getting kids out of diapers as soon as possible is the best answer, and the fastest way to do that is to begin potty training them at a very early age – as in when they’re still infants.
Infant potty training, or elimination communication, is something so intuitive and natural in our house that it’s hard to remember that many parents don’t know about it. It’s the method that most cultures use that don’t have access to disposables or washing machines.
It takes an investment of time in the beginning to start the process of “elimination communication”, but for those of us who are practicing attachment parenting, our children are almost always with us anyway, so it’s not a stretch for us to also begin practicing elimination communication.
An infant goes to the bathroom on a pretty regular schedule (about every 15 minutes is the norm for ours), and there are times when they don’t go to the bathroom, such as when sleeping or when actively nursing. When a baby first wakes up, there’s a window of time when they’ll need to pee, so that’s a great time to start with them. Another is when they pull off of the boobie while nursing. When that happens, you can pretty much count on a pee from them.
We use a quart sized yogurt container to hold under them, and hold the baby’s legs up in a squat – the potty position – while making a noise that they will associate with going to the bathroom. Our noise was “psss psss psss”, which we made every time we held them over the container.
We also used a simple hand sign, such as wiggling our fist so they could see it. Pretty soon, the baby associates both the sound and the hand sign with going pee and pooping, and will make the hand sign to us when they need to go. People who see it for the first time don’t believe their eyes. (We are also big believers in infant sign language, as kids want to communicate even before they can speak the words.)
We started potty training our second daughter when she was an infant, and she was pretty much done with diapers by 1 and a half. When she was old enough to want to go by herself, I built her a potty chair out of scrap wood, which I scrounged from a cabinet shop. There is a removable container (a large yogurt tub) underneath, and it fits nicely in the truck and tent for traveling.
When we went on a 5 week camping trip a couple of years ago, not having to wash diapers in a bucket every day was such a blessing. As she got older, she would go into the bathroom and say “me need space”, and sit down and do her business “all by myself”.
It’s so completely awesome to be free of diaper duty, and kids who can control their bladder and bowels can learn to go in the great outdoors pretty easily. I know from experience that having kids who can and will use the bathroom outside (as opposed to only while sitting on a toilet) are much easier to take hiking, camping, and on road trips. Having to find a modern bathroom with a flush toilet and a door before your kid can go to the toilet is a major drag.
Such a simple thing, this taking care of our own “business”, yet many adults I know still have issues going to the bathroom anywhere other than while sitting on a ceramic bowl filled with water. Somehow our waste being flushed magically away is the only way we can deal with our bodily functions. “If I don’t see it, then everything’s alright.”
I personally prefer peeing outside. I don’t think I could put it into words, and it seems silly to even say it, but it’s true. Because we used a composting toilet for 5 1/2 years, I feel like I have a greater appreciation for bodily waste, and it doesn’t gross me out.
There are some who will tell you that people shouldn’t just go the bathroom any old place, but those same people will also let their dog poop just about anywhere and spray urine all over the neighborhood. I don’t see the big deal about humans voiding their bladders outside (and I’m not saying you should just leave a log lying on the lawn, so don’t even go there).