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Diapers and Potty

Bambo diapers (disposable)    Medium organic cotton prefold with long woolen pant cover    in-arms ec with 3.5mo old



  • Convenient one-time use

  • Very trim fit



  • Super absorbent so baby can’t tell when they go, making it harder to associate wetness + elimination, also harder for care provider to tell when baby peed lowering the frequency of diaper changes (a pro for long car rides and trips where laundry facilities are limited)

  • Filled with chemicals that cause skin irritation, rashes, and allergic reactions

  • Non breathable

  • Expensive

  • Designed to absorb pee, not optimal for containing poop

  • Harmful to the environment


Cloth diapers:


  • Low or no chemicals

  • Low cost

  • Environmentally friendly

  • Proven to make potty training easier

  • Contain explosive newborn poop very well



  • Need to be washed, making them difficult to travel with if there is no laundry facility nearby

  • Bulkier than disposables


Elimination communication:


  • No need to potty train or diaper baby

  • Increases communication between baby + care provider

  • No rashes

  • No chemicals

  • Free

  • Very environmentally friendly



  • Very time consuming if done exclusively



Widely available, these diapers can be very useful when you do not have laundry facilities nearby as you can just throw them in the trash and not worry about toting them along to later wash them. They can also be good for very wet-sensitive babies on long trips. You should still change your baby often but sometimes in an airplane or car that’s not possible right away so your baby will *hopefully* stay quiet longer until you can change them. Some babies are not bothered by wetness and others don’t care how absorbent the diaper is – they will cry and fuss after they go until you change them. That’s a good thing! It makes potty training much easier when the baby is aware of their elimination and lets you know.

The absorbency and convenience that is a pro for these diapers is also very much a con. If the monetary cost is not an issue for you, the environmental cost may be. These diapers end up in landfills by the billions each year and take centuries to decompose while leaching out chemicals from the day they are manufactured. The two main chemicals are dioxin and sodium polyacrylate. Dioxin is a byproduct of the chlorine bleaching process and sodium polyacrylate is the super absorbent gel found in wet diapers. Dioxin exposure has been linked to cancers, infertility and reproductive problems, asthma, respiratory distress, hormonal imbalances, developmental and cognitive problems, suppressed immune systems, diabetes, endometriosis, allergic reactions, and chemical burns. Sodium polyacrylate is added to diapers in the form of a powder that gels when wet. It is a known skin irritant and drying agent. It can also cause eye irritation and difficulty breathing when inhaled. Dioxin is found in trace amounts in diapers so its effects are cumulative over a long period of time but sodium polyacrylate is the direct culprit of diaper rashes. It is so effective at drawing out moisture that it dries out sensitive baby bottoms and irritates sensitive skin. There are numerous other chemicals that also go into the manufacturing of disposable diapers, each with its own adverse health effects.


Finally, the fact that these diapers are designed for absorbency means they do not handle poop well. Especially runny newborn poop. Diaper “blow outs” are specifically a disposable diaper phenomenon. The one size fits most model does not take into account different thigh and waist ratios so there is usually a gap somewhere in the fit of the diaper. Also its trim design does not leave any room for the poop to go but out.


A good source for more information:

Note that all disposable diapers contain SAP (super absorbent polymer) therefore for those concerned about chemicals the most you can do is buy dye and chlorine free diapers and use a good diaper cream.




Diaper creams:

If you use disposable diapers you’ll need diaper cream both to treat the inevitable rashes and as a moisture barrier. Unfortunately even many of the most natural sounding ones have at least one moderately to highly toxic ingredient. The best healing cream though is breast milk! Just express some on baby’s bottom and watch it miraculously heal by the next diaper change or two (depending how bad it is). If you can, leaving baby bare bottomed for a few minutes every day allow air flow around their bottom and helps with healing.

For safe commercial cream options you can check One that’s 100% non toxic and good for irritation in baby’s fat folds: earth angel baby bottom balm.


Cloth diapers:

Found mostly online and in specialty boutiques, these are not the mainstream choice. You can vary the chemical exposure by choosing between bleached cotton (no super absorbent polymers), unbleached cotton (only potential cotton manufacturing pesticides present), and organic cotton (no chemicals at all including pesticides). The cost can also vary according to your preferences and budget but since these are reusable it is still cheaper in the long run than exclusively disposable diapering a baby. Absorbency is also adjustable to your preference and diaper rashes are less common. The usual cause of rash in these diapers, if there one, is an irritant in the mother’s breast milk, irritation from a new food, or teething. Usually, there is little need for diaper creams aside from these cases. Cloth diapers retain wetness so your baby is always aware of their elimination, making transition to the potty easier. Fit is also very adjustable so while they are still bulkier than disposables, the amount of bulk can vary by type of cloth diaper and all types contain poop fairly well. The main con is washing these diapers, but that can be done with no more effort than your usual laundry. For those without a washing machine at home one option is a small portable washing machine. They can be found on amazon starting at $50 for a hand-operated one and starting at $100 for electrical ones. Typically stored in a “wet bag,” the diapers and bag are inverted into a washing machine every 2-3 days and washed normally. Water temperature and care can vary based on the type of cloth diaper; but in general, no fabric softeners (aside from vinegar) can be used on them as that lowers absorbency. The various types of cloth diapers are: flats, prefolds, fitteds, all in ones, and all in twos.


Flats: A flat diaper is the cheapest and most versatile option. These come in just one size and are folded to fit a baby of any age. The folds in the cloth hold poops in very well and can be wrapped to snugly fit all around. They are not waterproof so they require a cover.

Prefolds: These are smaller than a flat diaper and require less folding as they are already sized. They can be used as liners for other types of diapers or on their own. As with flats, they contain poops very well and can be snugly fit to the baby. Also require a cover.

Fitteds: These are shaped like a disposable diaper – no folding required- but they are not waterproof either so you also need a cover for them. Leg gussets on these hold in poops fairly well though for spindly newborn legs you would want to get them newborn sized vs one size.

All in ones: This is like a reusable version of a typical disposable diaper. These diapers have some kind of fabric for absorbency in the middle and an outer waterproof shell. The ones with double leg gussets are best for holding in infant poops though for small newborns you might want to get them sized vs one size for a better fit.

All in twos: similar to an all in one, this hybrid is better suited for older children. The inside absorbent layer is removable for easy washing like a pocket diaper but it does not extend outside the crotch area. It is good for pees but newborn and infant poops will most likely not be contained to the liner (though they will be contained in the diaper)


Covers: These are required for flats, prefolds, and fitteds and come in two different options: a pants-like cover and a diaper only cover

                Pant –like covers: These covers are woolen adding absorbency and breathability to the diaper. Natural lanolin in wool combines with urea in pee and makes soap! So aside from poop soiling, these covers only need to be aired out in between diaper changes – no washing required. You may choose to wash them once in a while to replenish the lanolin and enhance absorbency but that is a personal preference. Woolen pants can be worn with flats, prefolds, or fitteds though flats and prefolds need pins or snappis to hold the diaper closed. The bulk of cloth diapering is a non-issue with these since the whole diaper is also baby’s outside clothing on the bottom. A drawback is onesies cannot be worn – the bottom snap will either be wet with every elimination and need to be changed, or you’ll have a onesie buttoned up over the baby’s pants – doable but an odd fashion statement. Shirts in infant and newborn sizes can be difficult to find in stores though amazon and boutiques such as Wild Was Mama have a variety.

Diaper only covers: These cover only the diaper so your baby will need pants, leg warmers, or something else

to cover their legs, especially in the colder months. This is the bulkiest option as you have two parts that need to fit under clothes but depending on your choice of flat, prefold, fitted, and the size of prefold or fitted it can be also somewhat adjustable in trimness. You can use onesies with this option but you may need to size up due to the bulk. The cover’s diaper shape also allows you to omit snappies and pins when using flats and prefolds. The leg gussets also provide extra protection from poop explosions if you did not put the diaper on correctly.

Covers come in wool or, more commonly, PUL (polyurethane laminate) or nylon. Wool is the most breathable of the three. PUL lined covers usually have a soft fabric layer on the outside and are semi-breathable but babies can be sensitive to the products used in the manufacturing process. Nylon is just one layer of fabric with no breathability and sensitive babies can also react to this material.


Doublers: These can be their own piece of small cloth you use to layer in a diaper for extra absorbency or you can fold up a small prefold to do the job. Doublers can be added to any of the cloth diaper types but because they also increase bulk these are best reserved for nighttime diapering or those necessary long times between diaper changes (such as on trips).


Diaper wipes: For pees in cloth diapers, you can just wipe with a dry part of the diaper itself but for anything else – you’d need wipes. Check for safe wipes as these can range from 21 ingredients (certain types from huggies where 15 of the 21 ingredients are mildly to highly toxic), to perfectly safe natural ones. A good rule of thumb is less is better. The fewer ingredients you see on the wipe package, especially if they are all recognizable as safe, the better. As with diapers, using cloth wipes is more economical and environmentally friendly as well. There are many homemade wipe solutions but that is a personal preference; just water on a piece of cloth is fine.




Elimination Communication: Also known as infant potty training or mother training, elimination communication is just as it sounds – communicating about eliminating. Just as a baby signals their need to eat they also signal their need to pee or poop with a squirm, a grunt, a look. Every baby is different and by observing yours and responding to their needs promptly you both learn to communicate better with each other. One of the key benefits of elimination communication is baby is always listened to and mother (as well as other caregivers) understand baby’s needs better which reduces fussiness and crying. Some signs baby needs to eliminate are popping on and off the breast while eating, refusing to nurse even though he is hungry, fighting sleep, fussing or crying in an urgent voice with nothing else apparently wrong, waking up and crying at night – not from gas or hunger. It varies from baby to baby and not all babies show all signs all the time. Some tips to get started would be to diaper baby in cloth without a cover for a few hours and observe when he eliminates to get a sense of pattern or cues. Many babies need to go right after naps so that would also be a good place to start. Soon as baby wakes up, remove his diaper and hold him over a small potty, bowl, sink, toilet, etc – wherever you’d like him to eliminate. Babies who cannot yet sit can be cradled in arms over the vessel or held however feels best for the two of you as long as baby feels secure and supported. Offer the potty soon after every nap and baby will quickly catch on to the routine. Babies can hold it for a short time even very young but even if they wake up with a wet diaper, still offer the potty as they may have more.


Exclusively doing “ec” can be a very time consuming task as newborns pee approximately every 15min for the first few months and not until about 6mo of age can a baby hold it for more than 30minutes. Many families will find that some combination of all three types of diapering/pottying suits their needs best. For example: you may offer the potty after naps, cloth diaper at home, and use disposables on trips. With ec, the most important thing to remember is this is about communication. Baby’s needs are responded to promptly and his caregiver is always nearby, tending to him. There are many times such as during growth spurts when you will have no catches that day but simply offering the potty and responding to cues will keep communication open between you and you will avoid traditional western “potty training” since the potty will not be a foreign concept when you have a strong willed toddler. Many families who practice ec find that their baby is out of diapers by age 2. Done exclusively it is the most economical and hygienic option as there are no diapers to change but even done part time – though consistently- it lowers the amount of time in diapers.



Additional information:

Infant Potty Training by Laurie Boucke

Diaper Free Baby by Christine Gross-Loh

Cloth Diapers
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