Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Diaper Free: Potty Training Indian Style

Last October, the New York Times published an article called “Dare to Bare” about the growing number of American and European families raising babies without diapers. It was written by an anthropologist named Meredith F. Small. She wrote, “I am ashamed to admit that, even though I've studied how babies are cared for all over the world, it never occurred to me to focus on how children in other cultures use the potty, or not.” Though she’d adopted parenting techniques from Kenya and India like co-sleeping, she kept using diapers and chides herself for it.

When MaGreen read the piece she became interested. If you have been a regular reader of this blog you know that when MaGreen becomes interested in something, she researches it exhaustively. She bought a book by Laurie Boucke called Infant Potty Training. It explains elimination communication (EC) in great detail. The main message is that potty training can be a continuum of communicating and working with the child as she gets older. Infants can communicate the need to eliminate by squirming, grunting, straining, or making sounds. Initially, parents hold the child over a bowl, sink, or toilet. Eventually kids can get to the receptacle but need help disrobing. Ultimately, the child can walk to the potty, disrobe, and eliminate, often much earlier than kids raised on diapers.

I was hesitant. But, you know, my older brother was raised without diapers. And for that matter, I was potty trained in India during a family vacation.

Like Meridith Small, it hadn’t occurred to me that a child could be raised without diapers in America. Despite having Indian parents, living in India, and seeing my own cousins’ kids raised without diapers, I never considered going without diapers for our expected baby girl. When I read the book, I was pleased to find out that Laurie Boucke learned the diaper-free method from an Indian woman. A strange form of pride welled up inside me.

When MaGreen and I started to talk to acquantances about our diaper-free plans, we got lots of comments. “You could hurt the child,” one mother told us at a party. “You know you have to support their heads.” There were rants against the diaper-free method on the feminist listserv I subscribe to on the grounds that it keeps women out of the workforce.

When my parents visited last weekend, I thought they would get upset when we explained our plans, but they were excited. I gave my mom a copy of Laurie Boucke’s book. After a few minutes she laughed and said that she didn’t need to read it. “This is just how it is done in India,” she said.


Charu said...

Nothing beats Indian Solutions. They call it 'jugad'. I also run a parenting blog called iLovemybaby ( and a career woman blog called Womenlifestyle. Looking forward to read more India-focused stories.

Laura said...

Well, that sure gets rid of the disposables vs. cloth diapers dilemma! Awesome.

Momma Michelle said...

"There were rants against the diaper-free method on the feminist listserv I subscribe to on the grounds that it keeps women out of the workforce."

What??? That is ridiculous! So what was that site saying… feminist can be SAHM’s???? We use cloth diapers but I do secretly wish we would have done EC from birth. Max is 13 months now and I just broke out the potty.

Oh, hi! by the way, i'm michelle and i found your blog while late night parenting blog searching. good stuff!

Carine said...

I'm writing a french book about EC and I'm searching testimonials about EC in India : could you contact me at ?
Thank you for your interest.
Best regards,

adeserres said...

I am practicing this with my son, now 5 mos. He has been pottying since 6wks. during the day. I am wondering what is the method to use for night time. Right now he sleeps in diapers, but I would like to leave him diaper free 24hours a day if possible. What are your suggestions?