I read Arwa Mahdawi’s recent Guardian column ‘Is buying a ‘smart nappy’ really such a clever idea?‘ with interest. It is hard to believe that the best efforts to improve disposable nappies have resulted in the direction taken by the Pampers Lumi. Here’s why baby pottying is a better idea.
As an active advocate of greener parenting, we should be developing and exploiting technology to increase the bio-compostability of disposable nappies. But there are deeper problems with the Pampers Lumi, this so-called “smart” nappy that go way beyond the environmentally problematic ones or even the multitude of reasons we might not want big corporations accessing our personal data: rather than increasing our connection to our babies, adding in this technology only serves to separate and undermine parents ability to respond to basic human needs.
For parents with differently-abled children that cannot communicate their needs, we can, of course, understand how such a tool could be of benefit in challenging circumstances. But this isn’t a product that is being marketed as a solution for this purpose, it is presented as a mass-market solution.
Humans are innately programmed to want to be clean and dry, and like many of their other basic needs, they expect their parents to respond to this. It may surprise readers to learn that many parents around the world do not use nappies to meet this basic need. In fact, not using a nappy, at least some of the time, is a perfectly sensible response to the basic human need for cleanliness and is something that parents have done for centuries.
Not using nappies may at first sound like an extreme idea, but suspend judgement for just a few minutes and the overwhelming common sense logic of this is undeniable.
The reason so many parents struggle with potty training later down the line is that they have, until that point, taught their child to use a nappy. To give up nappies in toddlerhood expects them to change the habit of a lifetime at a time when they are at their most sensitive and resistant to life change. Compare this to a child who from birth has used nappies and also used a potty, at least some of the time, and the learning curve looks very different.
But parents who choose to potty their baby are not only teaching their child that they are meeting their basic needs, they are teaching them the skills necessary for later independence from nappies in a child-led, gradual way. Within this process, there is space for the parent-baby relationship to blossom as babies learn that the whole range of their non-verbal communication is understood and responded to. We learn as parents to recognise other cues such as hunger, tiredness, complaints about the temperature, it’s no different to recognise when our babies need to go potty and use this knowledge to save nappies.
Considering that within the first two years of life, the average UK baby will use over 5,000 nappies choosing the potty instead is not only better for babies but better for our planet. The only downside of baby pottying is to the nappy companies who profit from parents dependence on their products.