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jolanawebAugust 29, 2007


SUTTON, Mass. (AP) -- Thirteen-month-old Dominic Klatt stopped banging the furniture in the verandah, looked at his mother and clasped his right hand around his left wrist to signal that he needed to go to the bathroom.

His mother took the diaper-less tot to a tree in the yard, held him in a squatting position and made a gentle hissing sound -- prompting the infant to relieve himself on cue before he rushed back to play.

Dominic is a product of a growing "diaper-free" movement founded on the belief that babies are born with an instinctive ability to signal when they have to answer nature's call. Parents who practice the so-called "elimination communication" learn to read their children's body language to help them recognize the need, and they mimic the sounds that a child associates with the bathroom.

Erinn Klatt began toilet training her son at birth and said he has not wet his bed at night since he was six months old.

"The nice part is ... really getting the majority of poops in the toilet versus having to clean that," Klatt said. "I don't have to wake up at night and change diapers or have wet sheets anywhere. That's really nice.

"And being able to travel without a big, bloated diaper bag is terrific," she said.

Some parents and toilet training experts are skeptical.

"They teach them from birth? Oh, my God!" said 40-year-old Lisa Bolcato, as she held her 5-month-old daughter, Rose, at a park on Boston Common. "When you're getting two hours of sleeps between feedings, I don't think that you have the time to do it. You just make sure that your child's healthy and happy and well-fed."

Still, the practice is common in many parts of rural Africa and Asia where parents cannot afford diapers.

In the United States, many of the parents are stay-at-home-moms, but there are also working mothers. Some meet in online groups, at homes and in public parks to share experiences and cheer each others' efforts.

Experts at the Child Study Center at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center say children younger than 12 months have no control over bladder or bowel movements and little control for 6 months after that.

But some parents begin going diaper-free at birth, and the infants can initiate bowel movements on cue as young as 3 to 4 months, said Elizabeth Parise, spokeswoman of DiaperFreeBaby.org, a network of free support groups promoting the practice.

And unlike some methods of toilet training, there are no rewards or punishment associated with it.

Dr. Mark Wolraich, professor of pediatrics and director of the Child Study Center, said the practice essentially conditions young children to go to the bathroom at predictable times or show clear signs when they must go.

"To be truly toilet-trained, the child has to be able to have the sensation that they need to go, be able to interpret that sensation and be able to then tell the parent and take some action," said Wolraich, who is also editor of the American Academy of Pediatrics' book on toilet training.

"And that's different from reading the subtle signs that the child is making when they have to go to the bathroom."

Parents attempt the early training to forge closer ties with their infants, to reduce the environmental impact associated with diapers and to avoid skin irritation caused by a wet diaper, Parise said.

Others were inspired by observing the practice while traveling abroad.

The practice also enables parents to get insight into an infant's development since more accidents occur if a child falls sick or enters a new phase such as learning to crawl, walk or talk.

This is because an infant may be too distracted by illness or efforts to master a new skill to communicate the need to go to the bathroom, said Melinda Rothstein, an MIT business school graduate who co-founded DiaperFreeBaby.org.

She says finding a supportive daycare center is the biggest challenge for parents who choose not to use diapers. Other problems include finding tiny underwear for diaper-free infants.

Isis Arnesen, 33, of Boston, has a 14-week-old daughter, Lucia, who is diaper-free. She said it can be awkward to explain the process to people, such as when she helped Lucia relieve herself in a sink at a public restroom.

"Sometimes I don't know what's gonna happen and it doesn't work, and sometimes I feel a little embarrassed," Arnesen said. "It makes her happy though, right? She smiles, she's happy."

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rick_mcdaniel(Lewisville, TX)

Well....I think that requires a mommy who is always there, and always attentive to the child, which only describes less than 1% of the children, I suspect.

That also requires a child who is never totally concentrating on other activities, which is really not the norm for small children.

I think if it works for a few people, that is fine, but it probably won't work for very many.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2007 at 11:31AM
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denisew(z8 TX)

My MIL used to brag that she had my husband toilet trained by the time he was 11 months old. I told this to my pediatrician when I was toilet training my boys starting at about 2 1/2 to 3 year old and he said it was her that was trained, not her son. I think this is the same thing. A mother becomes attuned to a child's toilet needs and takes them when they think their child needs to go. I think this works for very few people - not the majority and probably will not be recommended by pediatricians. I don't think I would want to use a public restroom sink if I knew people were letting their kids pee in them.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2007 at 11:39AM
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Well my grandson turns 3 next month, and we are still a work in progress. I can usually catch him while inside playing, but once we go outside, I and he looses all track of time....
I would be exhausted if I had to pay such close attention as to notice hand movements, and can you imagine the amount of time and energy it takes running back and forth to the bathroom when you could just be enjoying the 'baby' while they are still a 'baby'.
But if it works for some...I say congratulations!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2007 at 12:19PM
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pjtexgirl(7b DFW)

Homeschooling is good enough! If we were in a "free to go where you want" society like the rural areas this would make sense. Public urination/elimination is highly frowned upon in our society so I personally don't think it's a good fit in the suburbs or the city. If a person lives out on the farm/backcountry/homestead I could see how this could possibly work with a baby that spends MOST of it's time stapped on mom(snugglie kind of thing)otherwise I don't think it's sanitary(sink in public restroom is inappropriate to me.) or very practical. PJ

    Bookmark   August 29, 2007 at 3:06PM
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Uh, I don't want to step in baby crap or use that sink to wash my hands!

Tally HO!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2007 at 7:07PM
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ltcollins1949(9a TX)

Like P.J. says, if you are in living in a rural area with no neighbors, but just livestock, then that might be OK. When my son was 22 months, I had him potty trained, but we lived in a heavily wooded area in north Florida with lots of snakes. And most of you know I HATE SNAKES! It doesn't matter whether they are good or bad. I read that snakes don't like to cross a line that has human urine on it. So I always had my son just go to the bathroom outside. Well after we moved into town, I had to explain to him that it was no longer OK to urinate outside. LOL

And I read recently that Native American woman had the papoose set up to where they could hang the papoose holding the baby in a tree while they were gathering food. They babies wore no diapers, but the construction of the papoose allowed for disposal of the waste and making it nicer for the babies not to have to be uncomfortable.

All in all, I say diapers is my preference. And when my kids were little, I only used cloth diapers. Maybe a little more work, but less harmful to the environment.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2007 at 9:50AM
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Yes, I agree with y'all. We used cloth diapers except on trips or visiting some relatives.
I would not want to see a woman holding a baby over a sink where I will have to wash my hands.
I believe it is true that it will not catch on because of the obvious reasons, number one not being the sanitary part but the time.
Even if they did make the time it would not be appropriate in most situations.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2007 at 10:30AM
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Bev__(z7/8 TX)

I like the no diaper idea, but can't imagine it working on an infant. If I was a new stay at home mom I think I'd give it a try. My kids were potty trained quite young. I started on them around 1 year when the bottle went. I put them in big kids undies and on the real toilet seat sitting backward so they could hold on & see themselves eliminating. I did this anytime they ate or drank anything and every 45-60 minutes or if I noticed they stopped playing for a moment or or were "holding" their privates. We made a big deal about not going in the big kids undies.
I can't imagine holding them over a sink to go, unless all toilets were in use, then maybe I would.
I never encouraged them to go potty outside.
I was babysittng my sons kids for 2 weeks and had my then 14 month old grandson going potty in the toilet during the day and waking up dry a couple nights. His parents came home, but didn't keep reminding him or encouraging him and put him back in diapers. Now he is 27 months and still in diapers. A couple weeks ago I was babysitting again for 4 days and had him going in the toilet and he was excited about it. I haven't asked if they've kept it up....don't think I'll like the answer.

I have 2 fur babies that are 18 months & 20 months & they're still having accidents. Other dogs I've had thru out my life were potty trained in a few weeks. These 2 know better, but still go in the house sometimes in the same 3 places. Frustrates me to no end!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2007 at 6:59PM
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mikeandbarb(z8 D/FW)

I agree with PJ. If going to the restroom outside was normal we'd been raised that way.
Before there was in door restrooms there were out houses. Now if you want to go back to this way of living go for it. Just remember that when you have to go late at night or in the cold of winter running outside is not fun. Plus once the hole was full you have to dig another hole and move the out house.
Isn't this why we're having trouble with our FOOD, their finding out that the workers are relieving themselves in the fields?
If I seen someone in a public restroom with a baby / small child hanging their tush over the sink to pee or poo in I'd be very disgusted at this. I would not want to ever go to this place again or any other place knowing this was how public rest rooms where being used.

Hang their tush over the toilet for goodness sakes.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2007 at 10:26PM
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