The Diaper-Free Movement / Elimination Communication. On

“Your friend Emma is on the radio,” my husband informed me not long ago. He turned up the volume. “She called in.” Emma’s voice, as sweet and familiar to me as a sister’s, filled my living room. “He’s much happier not wearing a diaper,” her voice was saying. “I mean, how would you like to sit in your own poop and not be able to get away from it? It makes no sense to do that to a person.” There was gurgling in the background, which I recognized as that of Thor, Emma’s toddler.At this point, I almost snapped off the radio. I knew she was talking about “EC,” short for Elimination Communication, a newly fashionable, all-natural, diaperless potty-training that Emma practices with Thor. Apparently, the radio-show guest had written a book about it. In brief, Emma and other “EC” practitioners get their babies to associate going number one and number two with a special prompt word, like sssss. When it’s time for Thor to go, Emma holds him over a toilet, a sink, or wherever happens to be convenient, makes the sssss sound, and he goes. No need for a diaper.

“You just learn to read the cues,” Emma elaborated on the air. “He squirms or makes a face, and I know it’s time to pee him.” No, no, no, I thought. Don’t say, “pee him.” I blushed deeply, as though I were somehow responsible for my friend’s ca-ca-mania.

I didn’t want to listen to crazy talk about baby poop on The Leonard Lopate Show. But I made no move to turn the dial. Emma is, after all, my oldest friend. I’ve known her since birth (our mothers were friends before us), and she has generally maintained an advantage over me on the developmental curve: being born, learning to read, getting married, adopting a shelter dog, having a kid. She was the first in my circle to embrace vegetarianism, yoga, meditation and holistic meds. All that is practically mainstream now. Emma is a forward thinker. But when she became a mother, her forward-thinking rocketed into a whole other stratosphere – the loopy-sphere. Yet, clearly she wasn’t alone. She was talking to Lenny Lopate about her baby’s crap, and he was listening.

The guest expert on the radio, a kind-sounding woman with a Midwestern accent, touted other benefits of EC: no diaper rash; no landfills crammed with toxic swaddling. She explained that babies in many other places never wore diapers, such as in parts of Africa, China and India. They had splits in their pants so they could squat by the side of the road, no big deal. My husband, who had wandered back into the living room at this point, snorted. “Those kids don’t have indoor plumbing either.”

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