• Sat, Apr 20 - 12:30 pm ET

Going Diaperless Is All The Rage Among Hip, Urban Babies

shutterstock_113930686__1366466986_142.196.167.223Sometimes I really miss Brooklyn. Then I read something like this article that was in The New York Times this week and I really don’t. It seems going diaperless in public is all the rage amongst the hipster mommy circles in New York. What the hell?

It starts with an anecdote about Jada Shapiro, a mom who decided to raise her daughter without diapers from birth: “Ms. Shapiro scattered little bowls around the house to catch her daughter’s offerings, and her sister insisted that she use a big, dark marker to mark the bowls so that they could never find their way back to the kitchen.” Nooo. Just, no. Her sister is very understanding.

Ms. Shapiro is a birth and child-rearing coach and claims that “it is practically now a job qualification to at least be able to offer diaper-free training as an option to clients.” In trendier parts of Brooklyn, like Williamsburg and Greenpoint, parents have diaper-free meet-ups and exchange tips like, “how to get a baby to urinate on the street between parked cars.” You get a public urination pass if you’re a baby! Who knew?

The motivations for going diaper-free range from eliminating the waste generated by disposable diapers, to taking a cue from ancient cultures to becoming more “in tune” with your baby’s needs. I’m pretty sure if ancient cultures had invented disposable diapers, they would have held them up next to the wheel as one of their greatest achievements.

I’ve often thought about how much it must suck to be sitting in a dirty diaper – so I can understand where these parents are coming from. I’m not knocking “elimination communication” as a practice. I just think it’s totally gross to have your child urinating in the street. Is that wrong of me? Also, is rushing your infant to a toilet or bowl when you recognize an impending bowel movement considered potty training? I have a hard time wrapping my brain around that. Infants will go when they have to go, right? Or do they actually learn from infancy to hold their movements until a bowl or city street is present?

“Asked whether the practice was a health hazard, Jean Weinberg, a spokeswoman for the New York City health department, said: ‘Really, the only infectious disease problem at hand has to do with hand washing. Otherwise, it’s just a general sanitation issue.’” I already had a problem navigating all of the dog pee in the streets of Brooklyn. I can’t even imagine what the streets would look like if this really became a trend amongst the growing hip-parent population. It also seems like it may be kind of hard to find a babysitter who was willing to go through this.

Well, to each his or her own. If you want to spend the day examining your infant for cues that he or she needs to be rushed to a bowl – more power to you. I’ll just have to be extra-vigilant about recycling to make-up for the carbon footprint of my diapered babies.

(photo: Ermolaev Alexander/ Shutterstock.com)

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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  • Blueathena623

    I try my best to be green, I’m all about conservation and recycling, but you can pry the disposable diapers from my cold dead hands.

    • http://www.facebook.com/iwill.findu.90 Iwill Findu

      I like the idea of cloth diapers, as a green alternative to disposable. They even make flushable liners for poo these days. And it seems like a better alternative to rushing your baby to a bucket around your house.

    • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

      Oh the flushable liners are a godsend!!! I love those things :) they make cleanup a hell of a lot easier. People would actually be surprised at how easy it is to clean the diapers – no bleaching, no fabric softener, only a teaspoon of the special soap that costs less than regular laundry detergent, and straight into the dryer or clothes line. I do my laundry every three days and it’s never a hassle! I’m saving SOOOO much money by using them, and that, in and of itself, is worth it. I hated the thought of having to spend 2000$+ on poop removal over the course of my daughter’s time in diapers… :S 4000+ when you think that the diapers are good for 2 kids before you have to replace the elastics.

    • Ordinaryperson

      I use cloth too, I don’t mind the extra wash every few days because I feel like using cloth saves us money, and that’s an important thing for my family since we’re living on only one income. Now, if I wasn’t concerned for $, or also didn’t feel strongly that cloth was the right choice for my family, that extra wash time would be a real pain, and doing cloth would not be worth the effort. I just wanted to point that out because I sometimes hear sales people (when I’m out getting my awesome flushable liners) telling potential cloth diaper buyers how easy it is, trying to make a sale, when in reality it’s not easy, it is a lot of work, but you don’t mind the work if it’s something you care about. Which is probably also the reason these parents are putting all that effort into their EC training too come to think of it…

  • http://Mommyish.com/ Amanda Low

    Oh my god, that’s awesome. I had heard of this, but didn’t know a thing about the whole peeing in the streets situation. I wonder how this even works? Like, are these babies naked (isn’t it cold much of the time in NYC?) Or do the parents quickly strip off their offspring’s pants before they eliminate in the street?

    • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

      LOL I have this image in my head of a mommy holding her child in her moby wrap and seeing her baby’s squishy – gotta poo – face, hands full with groceries, scrambling to 1-put grocery bags in slushy grey snow bank 2-undo winter moby jacket 3-pull baby out of said moby 4- try, while standing up and with one hand to pull pants and undies off baby 5- throw pants and undies on top of slush-soaked grocery bags 6- hold baby up to po… oh too late he went all over that 500$ moby-jacket that you spent a fortune on because strollers are a pain in the ass in a city. and then have to deal with wiping ass, jacket, put cloths on crying baby because his ass cheeks are now freezing, running home in shame cause you have mustard yellow poo smeared all over yourself and finally put diaper on baby because you’re tired of smelling like poo.

    • http://Mommyish.com/ Amanda Low

      You most definitely win the internet today.

    • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

      why, thank you :D

    • http://www.facebook.com/valerisexton.jones Valeri Jones

      I know, right? Wouldn’t it just be easier to put a diaper on the kid? And they’re doing all of this to make potty training easier, huh?

    • Makabit

      Yeah. this. I can’t imagine moving fast enough.

      I also just feel the stress level is too high. I mean, as it stands, the baby can pee or poop whenever she feels like it, anywhere, whether I notice or not, and it’s no big whoop. I just get her a new diaper. OK. She has peeing autonomy, and I don’t need to watch her continuously for signs of wanting to go.

    • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

      LOL peeing autonomy

  • Tea

    I have a lot of trouble believing this is not a health/biohazard risk. Maybe it’s hearing enough retail hell, but I have a hard time believing they would bleach wipe the floor/ground and clean up the mess if there was an accident. My husband says most diaper mishaps lead to someone fleeing in shame, and him getting the janitor/a bucket.

    My parents just used cloth diapers out of, well, poverty.

  • Jussame

    The whole ‘Elimination Communication’ thing is not my bag at all, but just to say there are lots of countries where kids don’t wear diapers (just google ‘China split pants’).

    • Tea

      Oh, totally, but I would imagine china also has cultural norms and expected behavior for this kind of thing as well. I’m not sure anyone is saying that diapers are the only way to go, but that this may be a hard and not perceived as sanitary (and probably not sanitary) thing to do in most situations in the US, especially in public.

  • Ordinaryperson

    I could see doing elimination communication at home, to try to reduce how many diapers I had to change, but in public it just seems like these people are being a little bit selfish… I mean, let your kid pee wherever you want to in the privacy of your own home, but when you go out in public, I think it’s reasonable to expect all bodily waste is contained.
    Also, I do think that repeatedly bringing them to the toilet or whatever would help with training down the road. I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence, but my kids after a certain age would stop going poo when we were out and about. I mean I’d only change them if I noticed a smell, and if I didn’t they’d end up in a poo bum until we got home, probably not pleasant, my theory is they learned to hold it while we were out, so maybe kids can be “trained” even a little at young ages.

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.white.3532507 Paul White

    Gross. I don’t like dealing with my own kids excrement, let alone having to sidestep through through another kids.

  • CW

    This is not a new phenomenon. My oldest is 10 1/2 and I know folks who were doing EC even back then. They would carry a fold-up mini-potty around with them. Not my style, but I don’t see it as a huge sanitation issue as the moms would always clean up in a restroom afterwards.

  • Victoria

    I saw what was probably an EC mom in my city holding her kid over a city trashcan so he could poo into the small hole. Her purse/diaper bag (which seems funny for a mom who doesn’t use diapers, oh irony) was on the ground with her foot through the handles to keep them from being stolen. So she was standing there making grunting noises at the kid while he thrashed all over the can. Yes….nice and natural, but I kept thinking MY GOD THE HEPATITIS. Plus, you know, the public fecal matter laying around. I try not to be judgmental about other parenting trends, but yeesh. We are people not pigeons, and if I catch some mom holding her kid to wee on my car, there’s gonna be ructions.

  • Once upon a time

    Ermahgerd, this is like, totes different to anything I do so let’s all stand around and make fun of it on a fucking FEMINIST PARENTING BLOG.

    • Cee

      Ermahgerd is a very horrible trendy word. It makes fun of people with speech impediments. I wish people would stop using it.
      Also. EC, at least to me, seems hardly feminist as it ties a woman to her baby 24 hours a day. It tells her that her job is to be with her baby and not set it down for a second (remember they do pee in their sleep) to have any time herself. Not to mention all the extra cleaning keeps her in the domestic department longer as she will probably be cleaning when not looking at her child’s face.

      Urban mothers citing older civilizations is pretty silly considering plagues raged through territories due to feces running around the streets. Ever heard of the saying that you could smell your way to the nearest city back in the day?
      Their wanting to conserve is commendable, but the images of children being dangled over basins and the idea of possibly (and hopefully accidentally) eating on a plate a child shitted on the night before is pretty laughable..and slightly scary

    • once upon a time

      You know, I honestly didn’t know that about emrahgerd, I thought it was Valley girl speak. I learned something today, thank you.

    • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Guerrilla Mom

      Being a feminist doesn’t mean you have to agree with every choice a woman makes, ever.

    • Tea

      I think we’re all lightheartedly joking at best, but I can start being catty if you really want me to.

      We’re not calling anyone stupid or saying the method is straight up wrong, the general consensus just seems to be it’s not our cup of tea and we REALLY hope it’s being handled in a sanitary manner, because exposing the world to your child’s bodily functions is pretty frowned upon in western society.

    • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

      My scenario was in regards to having your child poo in the street in a city where there is snow in the winter and how comical that would look ;). Not that EC is a bad thing. BIIIIIG distinction! The great thing about most people who come onto this site is that they’re able to nuance things and have a sense of humour about them ;). If it’s not your cup of tea, you’re more than welcome to go see the ladies at the stir for some REAL cattiness lol

    • Cee

      Haha oh dog, The Stir. Those mums are something else.

    • http://www.facebook.com/valerisexton.jones Valeri Jones

      Ugh. I DO NOT miss The Stir. I hate those people!!! And yes, my thoughts are the same when I see someone’s overly catty remark on these comments. We don’t play like that. You belong in The Stir’s comment section!!!!!!!!

    • meteor_echo

      The Stir is a cesspool that I try to avoid, because, if sanctimony could kill, everyone reading their comments would already be dead and decomposing. And I’m okay with Reddit and 4chan.

    • meteor_echo

      Yeah, because letting your kid shit on the street like a wild animal is a VERY feminist choice. How about fucking no.

    • once upon a time

      ‘What a load of rubbish.’ ‘I think it’s beyond silly at best.’ ‘I just think [EC is] gross… AP is something I can NOT get behind AT ALL!!!’ ‘…oh too late he went all over that 500$ moby-jacket that you spent a fortune on because strollers are a pain in the ass in a city.’

      But I’m the one being catty.

      No, you don’t have to agree with every choice a woman makes. But there’s a way of voicing your dissenting opinion without resorting to expressions of disgust or unfair and unflattering stereotypes.

    • faifai

      Why not? Aren’t we allowed to say “ew gross”? I mean, I’ve been saying “ew gross” ever since I was in elementary school and other kids were saying “ew gross” and I thought it was a pretty fun way to express myself. Just because you like to clap your hands and sprinkle glitter all over everything you ever see doesn’t mean that the rest of us do. DON’T STIFLE OUR EXPRESSION, MAN!

    • Simone

      Ermahgerd, feminists.


  • http://twitter.com/JennaKe Jenna Keen

    Wasn’t the infant mortality rate much higher in ancient times? Not to mention the fact that disease was widespread when we started cramming into cities before indoor plumbing. Life expectancy was in the 30′s!
    I think it’s beyond silly at best.

    • Catherine

      I always find it funny how nostalgic people are for “the good old days”. There is a reason we have moved on.

  • Sara

    I really hope people having their babies pee and poop in the street, or in public sinks, is just a fringe element of EC parents. I’m all for whatever works best for parents to a point. I once saw an EC parent on a city bus, and it was all neat and taken care of quickly, and the baby used a tupperware container. However, its selfish, gross, and hazardous to have your baby peeing and pooping in a public sink, a public trash can, or on the street. So gross.

    • http://www.facebook.com/RetiredSceneQueen Emmali Lucia

      …. I have to ask, how is it supposed to be more environmentally friendly to shit in a plastic bowl (That, please oh God oh God please tell me gets thrown away instantly) vs. a mostly paper (Or hell, cloth) diaper?

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephanie.blakelastra Stephanie Blake-Lastra

    I wouldn’t do it personally but it doesn’t bother me, I think EC is intetesting

  • http://www.facebook.com/courtney.wooten Courtney Lynn

    EC is NOT for me! I have enough to worry about as a mom. My kid can shit in his diaper, thank you.

  • Rollergirl09

    My thing with elimination communication is that the baby isn’t being trained to do anything extraordinary. It is the parent who is being conditioned to react to the queues. It is not something I could have done as no daycare would go for such a thing.

    • SDA

      That’s what I was thinking?! And I’m sorry, a child is not potty trained until they can make the conscious decision to walk to the “potty” themselves.

  • ButteryMuffyn

    This cracks me up. Each generation comes up with something that is “better” than the last, thinking they are so much better than anyone else. EC, attached parenting etc. As much as I think each to their own, I can’t help but think what a load of rubbish. Letting your baby take a dump in a rubbish bin or peeing between cars doesn’t make you a better parent, it makes you a pretty disgusting citizen with not too much consideration for anyone else, least of all the people that empty your bins!!!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/valerisexton.jones Valeri Jones

      And I wonder how many of these parents are gonna think it was a mistake later on down the road? Not so much with the EC…. I just think that’s gross…. But AP is something I can NOT get behind AT ALL!!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

      Meh, AP is pretty harmless IF you don’t blow it out of proportion and try to make ALL parents apply ALL of it’s “rules” ;) I used to think it was pretty bad until i applied some of its concepts without realizing it was AP. EC either isn’t that bad, but like everyone says, it’s making your kid go wherever you are that is problematic.

    • http://www.facebook.com/valerisexton.jones Valeri Jones

      With AP, I would just be afraid it would destroy my child’s sense of independence and self-reliance. My son is a momma’s boy, that’s for sure. But he’s also able to play on his own, go exploring and figure problems out for himself. He’s 17 months old and I have encouraged his independence from the day he started rolling over and crawling. It’s refreshing to see him work on something until he figures it out, but still come to snuggle with momma when he’s tired or hurt or just feels like snuggling.

    • ButteryMuffyn

      You know what, I am such a hipster I was practicing AP before it became as trendy thing. My baby (now 21) was attached to be all the time, only then we called it being a mother :)

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Sorry, no, but that shit is just unacceptable.

    We deposit our waste in the toilet for a reason, and I’m not too keen on seeing epidemics of cholera or outbreaks of hepatitis. (Or, for that matter, dodging people’s waste as they empty their plastic chamberpots into the street.)

    • k_milt

      Come on, kitty. You can’t tell me you don’t want at least a *little* bit of cholera. You know. For fun.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      No thanks, I’ve already got a lovely Hep C.

  • Sean Phillips

    i have tons of respect for, and even kind of want to try, EC, but you’re right, no peeing or pooping in the street. that’s just one step too far in the “my baby’s rights trump yours” direction — public health and sanitation is in fact more important than the right to not wear a diaper.

    i was always under the impression diapers in public was the rule for EC anyway. you only go diaper-free when it is realistic, such as at home.

  • Ann B.

    I’m a little baffled at how holding your baby over a trash can is any more disgusting than throwing a disposable diaper with poop still in it. In fact, at least the poop going straight into the can has a chance to biodegrade. Meh. Really though, I researched this concept when I was pregnant with my second and it does seem silly to me. Potty training, IMO, is about the child learning to use the toilet….this sounds to me like the PARENT is being potty trained. To each their own – I mean I’m kind of offended by some of the comments made here bashing attachment parenting like it means that the kids are still going to sleep in their parents’ beds when they come home from college – but I will say that I think this fad is a little too much work IMO.

    • Tea

      It’s not a big deal at home (aside from the smell) But it’s a health hazard for janitorial staff, especially with trash cans non-bathroom areas where that sort of thing is really not expected. That, and you need to be sure your child didn’t miss, no one wants to stick their arm in crap.

    • k_milt

      My husband is a custodian at a university where I live. He sees all kinds of gross over the years (alllll kinds of it), because emptying garbage cans is part of his job, and students seem to make it their mission to remain on the absolutely disgusting side of the spectrum. I can tell you 100% that he is not expecting surprise loose feces lurking in those garbage receptacles. He is also not expecting the garbage bag to be dripping in urine simply because some baby can’t aim. Gross gross gross.

  • TaiDollWave

    You know how we ticket drunk people for pissing in the street?

    This is different because….?

    If you want to do EC, that’s awesome. More power to you. I don’t think I have enough patience to try that. If it works for you, I’m thrilled. I don’t want people pissing in the street, baby or adult. I don’t want people shitting in trash cans, baby or adult.

    Now, if you’re in a huge park and the nearest public restroom is miles and miles away, go ahead and walk your kid into the bushes. If you’re bringing a portable potty around for your kid, go nuts.

    I think the difference between pooping in the trash and a diaper in the trash is that the poop is at least theoretically contained in a diaper. I see it as the difference between putting a baggie on my hand to pick up dog poop and just picking up dog shit.

  • http://godiaperfree.com/ Andrea Olson

    Hey Maria – thanks for the humorous reply to all the media attention EC is receiving lately.

    I am an EC author and mentor and I can safely say that it’s not cool to potty your baby in the city streets! Not cool at all. I am with ya on that one.

    As for waiting all day for a baby to pee – not at all what EC is about (if you do that, your baby will hate you). And, it’s not “potty training” (my friend is a potty trainer…it’s vastly different). EC is about helping your baby tend to his innate instinct to not soil himself, you, or his bed…and the baby actually communicates this if you pay attention on that level, as we do with feeding and sleeping. AFTER learning this info in observation mode, parents then decide when and how to do EC. MOST do it part-time (only at diaper changes, or only for those obvious poops) and MOST do it with a diaper back-up (diaper-free is NOT diaper-less…it is freedom from full-time dependence upon diapers).

    Anywho…some factual food for thought. I am glad you’re not knocking the practice…but I am def with you on knocking the peepee in the streets thing. Yuck!

    xx Andrea
    GoDiaperFree.com – home of the first annual Go Diaper Free! Week

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