Cloth Diapering and Elimination Communication

cloth diaper

You’re reading this post because you’re considering the option of using cloth diapers rather than disposables. I’m here to encourage you and support you to use cloth diapers, at least most of the time! (Cloth diapering doesn’t mean that you never using disposables ever, i.e. airports, traveling, hard days, etc…)

A simple google search can enumerate the environmental and economic benefits of cloth diapering. In addition to these compelling reasons, cloth diapering can help your child develop early hygienic habits, enable early potty learning, and teach valuable body awareness.

Cloth Diapering

There are many types of cloth diapers (I like the descriptions offered here) and most families use a combination of types. My personal interest in cloth diapering revolves around the physical and cognitive development of the baby, and how something as simple as helping them potty with dignity can be quite powerful as they gain their independence.

Learning for babies (and I’d argue for adults as well) begins with the body.

Babies root and smack their lips as their first impulse. This leads to breastfeeding which leads to the physical and emotional connections of touch. This emotional and cognitive bonding began with a physical impulse. I’d suggest the same is true with potty learning.

Mammals naturally do not want to soil themselves. Young mammals learn how to eliminate from observing adult mammals. A week-old puppy, with little ability to hear or see, will crawl away from her mother and littermates to eliminate. This instinct is also present in our babies, but is often ignored. One way to honor this instinct is through a simple combination of cloth diapering and elimination communication.

Elimination Communication

Elimination Communication, or EC, is a term coined by Ingrid Bauer, who is an excellent resource in the world of natural infant hygiene. EC is a practice where caregivers help their babes eliminate waste outside of a diaper, usually in a sink, child potty, or adult toilet. The caregivers help the child by paying attention – to cues, timing, body signals, and their intuition about when their child needs to eliminate.

Cloth diapers aid in this process by allowing children to feel when they are ‘wet’. Contrary to the rhetoric of many American pediatricians, the vast majority of babies possess bladder and sphincter control long before twelve months of age, as demonstrated by earlier potty training in most of the world.

“Half the world’s babies NEVER wear diapers and are potty trained by 12 months of age,” explains Andrea Olson of Go Diaper Free fame.

Sears, J

When children feel a wet diaper, they instinctually will start to connect wet with elimination. When we can practice timing and learn our babes’ cues, we can give them opportunities to go outside their diapers. When using disposable “ever-dry” diapers, babies are denied this key sensory experience that helps them learn the skill of self-regulation.

Our babies are so smart and so are their bodies.

They are aware of their surroundings and they learn through modeled behavior. By assisting our babies in having the opportunity to learn early hygiene, we are honoring them and their bodies, and letting their bodies lead the way in their development towards independence.

A few resources!

Go Diaper Free – Andrea Olson is an exceptional resource in all things EC! Check our her books, blog, and podcast.

Kind by Nature Living – A cloth diaper home delivery service! Serving most of Massachusetts.

Petite Bottoms – A cloth diaper home delivery service! Serving southern New Hampshire.

Diaper Lab – A boutique and hub for new parents, teaching courses on babywearing, cloth diapering, offering lactation assistance and much more. The store is located in Cambridge, MA.

About Adelaide Gross

Adelaide Meadow, the founder of Small Magic Birth, is a traditional midwife, women's functional medicine practitioner, and sought-after educator - serving women and their families, outside of the medical model. She teaches workshops about pelvic and vaginal health around the world. Her midwifery and well-woman care practice are based in Ipswich MA, USA.

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