Thursday, 16 February 2012

Nappy free

Living under the Karri trees is magical in summer. Waking to birdsong and listening to the wind tossed canopy sussurating like the sea. Walking through dappled sunshine with dry leaves crackling underfoot and the air scented with salt-tinged eucalyptus - the smell of holiday. But come winter the sun forsakes our hillside home and the forest is dark and dripping.

Last winter was long and wet and cold. It was our first winter living back on the south coast since having children and life suddenly seemed to centre around laundry - the washing and more importantly the drying of it. Bamboo and hemp nappies which had snap-dried in Perth's endless sunshine needed constant tending and turning in front of the fire to coax dry before our baby's bottom needed them once more.

So it was with open arms and bare bottoms that we welcomed summer back to the forest. Summer means long days on the beach running free with a hat and a smile. It means golden afternoons playing in the garden; water fights; running through sprinklers and pulling on the same pair of boardies day after day. I was determined to ditch those nappies before the rains started again.

With school back in and not quite so many boys tearing around our house I have been able to find the rhythm Quinn and I had lost when we moved here from the little cottage where he was born. That gentle communication without words between mother and child that had seemed impossible to hold onto with so many competing needs clamouring for my attention. The synchronicity that had dried up with so much space, and a toilet door which kept swinging shut on my five-month-old baby's tender head.

The ease, convenience and comfort of disposables have helped modern babies remain happily in nappies until well into toddlerhood, and everyone says to take your cues from the child when it comes to toilet training. But if a baby is never allowed to experience the sun on their naked skin nor given the opportunity to toilet freely, then they are not going to start asking for anything different until they have some pretty stellar language skills. And often the older they are the more tightly they cling to the nappy as their last bastion of babyhood.

None of my boys have worn nappies beyond 20-months, and it has been gentle communication and praise combined with overwhelming delight at their own cleverness that got them there. I read Ingrid Bauer's inspiring book on natural infant hygiene when I was pregnant with my second son, and have used elimination communication to some extent with all my boys.

We went camping along the coast on the weekend and for the first time were able to take along a potty instead of a nappy-bag. He sits on it so proudly, and carries it to the toilet to empty it himself. We all stop to clap and cheer every time.

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