I’m gonna go ahead and assume that it’s just the parents reading, and the ‘ewww, poooop’ folks are avoiding this particular post. So I’ll tell you Cozy woke me up this morning with a fart and a smile. And that nothing gets me out of bed faster than the promise of avoiding a poopy diaper. I caught one! But then, the morning poops are the easiest to catch.
Let me explain.
A few months ago, I was asked to speak to a new moms group about attachment parenting (not as an expert, just as a Real Life Example). In preparation, I made a list of Weird Things We Do so I could sort out which ones were related to attachment principles and which ones were just weird. Then, just for fun, I tried to rank them in order of their weirdness. It was a strange exercise, and didn’t accomplish much. And it was kind of hard to determine what would stand out in comparison with a “mainstream” or “normal” perspective, because a) that is, of course, impossible to define and b) I don’t seem to have a good frame of reference to even guess at it anymore. I hang out with a wide variety of weirdos.
Sometimes I temporarily lose the ability to see that the things I do could seem odd to others. You know how if you say a word over and over and over and over, it starts to lose its meaning, and finally becomes just a random sound you’re making with your mouth? It feels like that, in reverse. I happen to glance sideways at The Way Things Are, detect a glitch, change myself and my patterns to reflect the new idea, and eventually wonder how it ever felt normal to just go along with that particular thing. It feels like remembering something long-forgotten. Some days, though, I can also kind of remember what I was like before I asked these questions.
Yeah, I guess we do some weird stuff around here. But I promise we’re not doing it just to be weird. We really truly are following our guts and our research, making the choices that are best for our family, and living our lives in the most joyful way we can. I imagine, though, that some of it may look positively insane to a casual bystander.
For example, we help our 7-month-old baby pee and poop without her diaper. We’ve done it since she was born, and we did it with her brother too. It’s a practice with a couple equally-odd-sounding names: Natural Infant Hygiene, Elimination Communication. We call it EC, “peeing the baby,” or “catching one.” We are not alone in this practice – there’s an international organization! It’s called Diaper-Free Baby.
No, really. I inherited the local EC email list, and currently host the metro area’s Diaper-Free Baby meetings. People gather at our house once a month for support in this idea, and to share tips for things like determining when a baby is about to go, sources for waterproof pads, and the best way to clean upholstery. We have a good setup for this type of gathering; our floors are tile and concrete, and there’s a deck out back to pee off of. We have two little potties and a small seat for the toilet. Several guest babies have peed in our sink. See, it’s starting to sound a little weird now even to me.
It’s not all that weird, though, is it? Most babies around the world do this. Their mothers don’t have the luxury of choosing between buying magic chemical pellet diapers or continually washing cloth ones. But those mothers also don’t want to be pooped upon, so they figure out how to tell when the baby is going to go, and how to help the baby get it in the right place, until the baby can do so herself. Here, glance sideways at this plan for just a second: help a baby pee and poop in her pants exclusively from birth through age 2 (or 3?), just when she has developed Very Strong Opinions and a desire for control over her environment, then announce that pee and poop no longer belong in pants and should be deposited elsewhere (and please note that the depositing of pee and poop is one of the few things in a toddler’s life over which she actually has complete control). That plan actually sounds kind of insane.
Wait, am I judging you for putting diapers on your baby? Oh, no I am not. Most definitely not. It’s what people do around here, and we do it too. Our diaper-free baby wears diapers.
Because, you see, we are half-assed ECers. Not only do we do this weird thing, we also don’t do it the Right Way. There are EC books and training programs and online support forums and, like, professional EC coaches, and everything. You’re supposed to be consistent about it, even when only doing it part-time. You’re supposed to really pay attention, and always follow your system of signals, develop your sixth sense of pee intuition, or it won’t “work.”
That poop doesn’t fly at If And When HQ. The only really consistent thing about our household (other than LOVELOVELOVE) is inconsistency. We like to keep each other on our toes, that way we are reminded to expect the unexpected. Now that Sylvan’s older, there are snack trays to assemble, forts to build, dance parties to join, bus ride adventures to take, and the baby is strapped to me for a good part of all that. If I’m not constantly wondering whether I’m about to be pooped upon, I find I can roll with the flow of our days much better. So Cozy usually wears diapers. And when we are out and about, or when we’re too distracted to recognize her particular “gotta pee” squawk (quite a lot of the time), she usually goes in them. When we catch one we say yay! I caught one! When we miss one, well, we miss one, and wash one more diaper.
I could also mention that we usually use disposable diapers at night, exposing Cozy’s little sleeping butt to those magical chemical pellets and making a regular stinky contribution to the landfill, but allowing mom and baby both to sleep mostly uninterrupted. Then I could be wrong from three distinct directions, on the single issue of baby pee and poop. Isn’t that exciting?
Wait, am I accusing you of judging me now? Nah, you wouldn’t do that. People don’t, usually. What you might do instead is feel defensive about your own baby poop choices, which are of course different, and then feel compelled to justify them in detail, like I just did. If we were talking about nutrition, or sleeping, or education, or childbirth, or whatever other thousand situations we have to sort out as parents, you’d have a story for all of those too. Maybe you and I are a little bit unsure about how this is all going to turn out. Because nobody knows. You could try to do it all the Normal Way, whatever that is, and your kid could still turn out to be super weird. Or you could make the fringiest decisions possible, just for kicks, and your kid could turn into Alex P. Keaton.
All this is to say that I’m pretty sure all that matters is the LOVELOVELOVE anyway, and that whatever works for now to keep the family connected and happy is the best way.
So we focus on that, and let the poop fall where it may.