Greener than cloth diapers?

Before our son was born I knew I wanted to use cloth diapers. I had learned how to use them in the 90s when two of my cousins were in diapers and I didn’t think they were very hard to use. Since then, they’ve become even easier with Snappis and a huge array of diaper covers). The only hurdle was laundering. I didn’t want to wash diapers myself since we have to go to a laundromat.

I found a great diaper service that delivers clean diapers to your door weekly. We were started with a batch of organic cotton prefolds and each week we get back the diapers we turned in the previous week. The service uses environmentally friendly coconut-oil based detergent and our diapers are washed with a couple of other families’ diapers, so it uses less water than if we were washing our own.

This sounds perfect for a family striving for a sustainable lifestyle, right? Well, when our brand new baby got a diaper rash within a few weeks of being born we once again ended up on a completely different path than we started on. I asked a friend how she dealt with diaper rash when her now three year old was a baby. She said her son never had diaper rash because he didn’t wear diapers. Huh?

Yep, it’s called elimination communication (EC) and it involves figuring out when to help your baby eliminate in an appropriate place instead of a diaper. At first it seemed impossible. I thought our son peed all the time with no warning. However, I was amazed when after only a couple of times of making a cue sound (“psss”) when he peed that he already got the association! By the second day we went through a whole night without a wet diaper. His first open-mouth, gums-showing smile was after he peed outside of a diaper.

Since he seemed really happy and his diaper rash was fading, I decided it was time to really give this a go. We got a potty and started dressing him in t-shirts, diapers and socks while at home (or just diapers on really hot days). No pants because they take too long to get off and no onsies because they hang into the potty too easily (and trust me, pulling off a onesie drenched in pee is no fun for anyone!). The friend that told us about EC has a business selling cloth diapers and EC-friendly baby clothes ( We’ll probably get some leg warmers and other items when the weather gets colder.

We got the sound associations down, but were still going through a lot of diapers, so I decided to check out the book The Diaper Free Baby to learn more about EC. Instead of thinking of it as potty training, the idea is communication. Just like learning to understand your baby’s sounds, body language and routines to figure out when he is hungry or tired, you can also learn when he is communicating his need to eliminate. The book also stresses that EC can be done only part-time or occasionally and still has benefits; it’s not an all or nothing endeavor! Part-time or occasional EC helps babies maintain awareness of their elimination and makes potty training easier when the time comes.

We’ve been ECing for about 2 months now and are so happy with it (and using a lot less diapers). Check back soon for more details about our EC journey! Read more about our EC “journey” so far.