Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Book Review: Diaper Free Before Three

I've heard a bit about the book "Diaper Free Before Three" but, of course, didn't really have a reason to read it until now. It was shocking how late people in this country keep their kids in diapers. Are there really normal, functioning children who need to wear diapers until they're ready for kindergarten?! I thought about it and realized that one of my neighbors has a son with autism and he's still in diapers, even though he's at least four. (And from what I've seen and heard, he's fairly high functioning.) It's staggering. Even worse, the cost to people and the environment. All those diapers.
So, I'm behind the general concept of the book. Yes, it's perfectly reasonable to expect most kids to have very few accidents by the time they're 2. And I liked that the author constantly recommended a gentle style of training. Don't scold your kid for accidents, they happen and that will only make them feel ashamed. And I will, indeed, implement a lot (if not all) of the suggestions, including starting Baby Girl on the potty when she's about six months old. I seem to have an amazing knowledge of when she's going to pee, since I regularly open up her diaper only to have her start peeing before I get the next one on her.
I thought that this book was really well researched, involving the history of how we got to this point of potty training so late, the problems caused by diapering so long (especially the emotional ones for both parent and child, and the physical ones), and the emphasis on health throughout. (The author is a pediatrician.)
However, there were plenty of things about this book I didn't like and I'll talk about those more in-depth than the positives because they get less attention. The pluses you can get from any review on Amazon.
First, there's the author's insistence that cloth diapers are such a hassle. "My friend tried to do cloth diapers but gave it up after about a week because it was such a pain to deal with." I've heard this from so many people who basically expect you to fail at using cloth diapers because they're somehow inconvenient. SO ARE DISPOSABLES! Especially considering how much they cost. (Shane has estimated that we're saving, at a minimum, $1.25 per diaper, including the cost to wash the cloth ones. And that's not calculating the savings from using the cloth wipes I made, either.) How many times have people bemoaned the midnight trip to the store because they ran out of disposable diapers? And yet, somehow, they never think that perhaps that makes them inconvenient. But washing diapers? Ooh boy, that's a lot of work! ?? I don't get it. Even when I don't have family staying with us and helping, the cloth diapers have never been a pain to wash.
The author also gets into the environmental factor of diapers for a second. Rightly, she points out that the only truly good option is to get kids out of diapers as fast as possible, since either cloth or disposable use a lot of resources. However, she cites a very old report about the environmental cost of diapers which uses absolutely the WORST kind of cloth diaper use and says that it could go either way, in terms of which is better for the environment. Yes, cloth diapers take a lot to manufacture. So do disposables. However, cloth can be used for multiple children, especially if you wait until an older sibling is out of diapers to have another, or if you have graduated sizes so no two children need to be in the same diapers at the same time. Our diapers have all been used for AT LEAST one other child besides ours, and will go through at least one more before I sell them or pass them along to someone else. In fact, we'll most likely have friends having babies before we're ready for a second, so I'll let them borrow the newborn size until they can collect more diapers or find a style they really like. That makes at least four children for those diapers, cutting down the environmental toll considerably. And, none of us is using a diaper service, the emissions from which (driving to and from picking up diapers, etc.) were counted in the cited report.
Cloth diapers for the environmental win, yo.
My other complaint about the book is about one of the asides. There was a special section talking about girl-specific issues that can come up, and one about boys. This might seem like such a small thing to get upset about, but it's part of a much larger issue. The section for girls mentioned that, at this age, many little girls like to touch their private areas and said that "modesty" should be emphasized for them. There was no such corresponding platitude about modesty among boys who, to be frank, touch their genitals just as much as that age, if not more. It's a thing kids do. A lot. They're exploring themselves. I can understand not wanting them to do that in public, but telling little girls to be "modest" without the same message to boys just makes me see red. All of this message was delivered within a section talking about the fact that little girls are more prone to urinary tract infections. A little girl with dirty hands, touching herself, could easily create the circumstances for a UTI to occur. However, modesty has nothing to do with it! Emphasizing bodily cleanliness is fine, but "modesty" has moral and sexual implications that really, really don't need to be there.
For the record, what I intend to tell Baby Girl (and any future children we might have) is that private parts are for private time. I think this sets the right tone, letting a child know that it's ok to explore their body but that it's not ok to do so in public. I don't want Baby Girl to ever, ever feel ashamed of her own body. I know she will at times, because there's no way I can insulate her against the messages of the rest of the world, but if I can get her off to a good start with regard to body image then I can at least mitigate some of the negativity she will inevitably hear.
I'm done rambling. In conclusion, I would recommend this book, but with a heavy grain of salt. The reasons for starting diapering earlier than most people in the US even think of doing so are excellent and well-researched. The timeline seems reasonable and while starting a kid on the potty before they can walk and talk will mean a bit more work on my (and Shane's) part, I think it will be worth it. At the very least, I won't have a toddler with a profound sense of "bait and switch" as far as expectations regarding peeing and pooping to contend with, and hopefully potty training will be a much more pleasant, uplifting experience overall.

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