Nappy Free Without the Mess

Every parent who practices baby pottying (elimination communication) has heard of the dreaded “nappy free time”. And almost every parent I have ever met avoids it like the plague. Learn why its important, and how to do it without a messy accident ruining your outfit (and your day). 

Why is nappy free time important?

In the beginning, and as your baby grows and develops, there will be times when you loose touch with when your baby will eliminate.  At every developmental stage, nappy free time will help you connect to your baby and increase your chances of pottying success.

If the very idea of nappy free time terrifies you, consider this:

Do you really know when your baby needs to eliminate? Is it: All the time? Usually? Sometimes? Guesswork? Sheer luck? A combination of these answers?

Unless you answered “All the time”, the chances are both you and your baby have some learning to do (and that’s OK!). Remember, learning is life-long and not a single incident. Successful (and sustained) baby pottying is not guesswork, or luck. It relies on a dedicated strategy of keeping up with your baby’s ever-changing habits. And knowing your baby’s habits requires observation and attentiveness.

If you don’t do nappy free time at all, you are missing out a vital step in the journey towards nappy freedom.

If you are finding that your baby’s signals have changed, or stopped even (the famous potty pause), nappy free time will help you reconnect.

You don’t need to do nappy free time for long – even an hour or two will tell you something. But 1-2 days is best, if you can. Or, until you have enough information to predict your baby’s eliminations. Be careful, because sitting them on a potty when they don’t need to go will be likely to make them resist and you will get frustrated.

Before your start

Rule no. 1: Try not to accomplish other things at the same time.

Successful nappy free time depends on you being able to give your baby your full attention. A single hour of dedicated, focussed nappy free time will provide a valuable insight into your baby’s unique elimination patterns. That means no smart-phones or other distractions!

Rule no.2: Reduce the potential for mess

Nappy free time does not have to equal mess and catastrophe. Nor does it have to mean naked.  Letting your baby or toddler pee on the floor is irresponsible and teaches your baby nothing good.

Young babies (pre-crawling/rolling):

nappy free babyUndress them baby from the waist down. Consider using split crotch trousers or even some DIY split crotch baby tights (takes about 2 minutes to make) for warmth. Use an absorbent cloth (e.g. a muslin, flannel, prefold) to catch the liquid and the wool pad underneath as a waterproof layer. A nappy belt can be used to hold a cloth in place if  you are still worried about spray or mess. Try using the belt with the cloth open.


For older babies (crawling, walking):

elimination communication nappy belt
tucked into front and back

Same as above, but with the cloth tucked into the front and back of the belt. Just remember that if you do use a cloth as back up, remember that you won’t necessarily “see” the elimination, so you will need to pay extra attention to when it gets wet. Just check it by touch, periodically, or to confirm that your baby might have eliminated.  Replace with a clean cloth after each elimination. You do not need to worry about actually catching it if your main goal is to learn their cues and signals. However, if you feel confident you can of course put them on the potty when they need to go. As you transition to formal teaching (when baby is around 12 months and older) you can physically lift the onto the potty as they start to eliminate. You can simply untuck the front or back of the cloth to offer the potty, making this is a really simple yet effective system.

For all babies, have a place to put wet or soiled cloths into nearly. 

Rule no.3: Choose your timing wisely.

If you choose a time to go nappy free that co-incides with a time they are likely to go, you will increase your learning.

Your baby is most likely to go after a feed, on waking, when changing their nappy, or when you take the nappy off.  Use this infographic to help you pick when might be good for you:Nappy free time diaper free baby

As you can see, there are many potential opportunities for nappy free time!

When your baby eliminates

When your baby starts to pee or poo, this is your learning opportunity.  Use it to see what signal or “cue” they showed you right before this happened. If you see no signal, you will learn their frequency and this will lay the foundations for using timing to offer pottytunities. Gold stars if you actually manage to catch anything in the potty at this stage – don’t worry if you don’t.

Moving forward

elimination communication clothing

split crotch suit with flaparap

Once you have got to know your baby’s signals and/or timing, you can use nappy’s as a back up rather than a portable toilet. For this,  Born Ready’s Flaparaps are a good option. But, to use nappies and successfully potty, be conscious of how you are using them. As soon as you feel your are getting out of touch with your baby’s patterns, come back to nappy free time to re-connect.

In summary

By practising nappy free time as outlined, you will start to learn your baby’s signals, and/or how often they go. You can use this learning to be ready with a potty for the next catch, as you will now have some expectation of when this might happen. This will make it easier to use nappies as your “back-up” without reducing your awareness of when your baby is likely to eliminate.

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