Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene by Ingrid Bauer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What a sensitively written, supportive, and informative book! Ingrid Bauer is considered to be, I understand, one of the pioneers of Natural Infant Hygiene (aka Elimination Communication (EC), Infant Potty Training). Though initially skeptical of the entire idea of early potty training, I explored the idea of listening to my son's bowel and bladder cues through chatting with another mom about her journey with EC. Still not convinced, the gentle push to try EC came from a recent article in Mothering magazine (June 2010). The article had me running out to get a potty just shy of my son's 6 month birthday with excited curiosity. The basic premises of EC --that infants are born with an awareness of their elimination, that infants (if given the means) will avoid soiling their immediate environment, and that parents and infants can develop an awareness and relationship that enables early elimination habits that don't involve diapers-- make a lot of sense to me from an evolutionary and animal-based approach. Non-human animals demonstrate all of these abilities, and many non-western cultures practice EC as a matter of natural course (though there is no name for it in cultures where it just 'is the way it is done').
Although much of how I got started came from 'sitting in' on on-line chats, Bauer's book clears away any of the confusion that arises as on-line parents apply, adapt, and analyze the various successes and challenges that come along with this relatively fringe (in North America, anyway) idea of offering a potty to a newborn, and not using diapers. Bauer is sensitive to the realities of living in a culture that does not make it easy to apply EC in the same way as non-western cultures. These barriers include maternity leaves that may limit one-on-one time for developing the skills of communicating with an infant about elimination, parents working outside the home, and a culture in which we are not only unaware that infants and parents can develop such a relationship, but also where we have not seen it practiced or modeled for us.
It is important to point out that EC is an approach that is about communication and respect, and is very different from 'potty training' where a child is taught and rewarded at a later age for developing toilet skills. Bauer uses the analogy that breastfeeding mothers gradually develop a breastfeeding relationship with their infants that allows them to 'know' intuitively when their infant is hungry, and that eventually infants develop ways to indicate this need. It is not 'taught' and is not forced or coerced. The same is said of EC.
This book helped ground me in some of the ideas about EC early enough in my own EC journey to feel that I can move forward with more confidence and enjoyment in a process that has already proven to be a fun and rewarding experience.
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