Nappy Free Baby

Keeping baby's impact on the environment to a minimum

Dan with his baby girl, Dia

When my wife was pregnant we discussed the idea of trying out EC (Elimination Communication) which is just a fancy name for nappy free, or diaper free as they say in America.

Initially I felt unsure as I thought about all the extra effort it would require from us as new parents, cleaning up every five minutes, constantly being afraid that the baby would poo on the carpet or on my levi jeans. But then I managed to get past all of that and really considered it from another perspective. We bought a book whilst on holiday in the UK last year entitled ‘the Diaper Free Baby’ by Christine Gross-Loh.  It explained some reasons for going nappy free and there were two that really stood out for me. Firstly it allows you as a parent to strengthen your communication and bond with your baby. It made sense that if a baby communicates their need to sleep or eat, then why can’t they do the same to signal for toilet? If we’re able to attend to all of our baby’s needs then surely that means you’ll have a content baby, which equals happy parents. Secondly it highlighted the environmental cost of using disposable nappies. It states that 22 billion diapers are dumped into landfills annually, and that is just in the US!! Imagine what the total is if you combine the rest of the world using disposables. It’s interesting to note that there are still many parts of the world that don’t use disposable nappies, and hopefully never do.

Dia wee on mountain

‘If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change’ – Wayne Dyer

So how does nappy free work? 

Well, you can start at anytime with your baby yet it is recommended to start early, as it becomes more difficult to encourage your baby to get out of an existing routine. We started nappy free from the moment Dia was born. For the first few days we observed her, to look for the subtle signs and signals she communicates before going to the toilet. Then whenever we could, we would make a sound like ‘pss pss pss pss pss’ so that she would begin to associate the sound with the action of going to the toilet. On the forth day I lifted her above the basin and she made her first wee. From that exciting moment there was no going back. Of course there are lot’s of ‘misses’ as you refine your method of communication with your baby, but it’s actually quite fun and nowhere near as bad as you think it will be. As the season began to change we were aware that Dia couldn’t remain bottomless into the winter, so my wife sewed a handy waistband which allows us to tuck a muslin cloth in between her legs. She wears split crotch pants which a friend bought us from China and then we just untuck the cloth to take her to the toilet and tuck it in again when she is finished. We use cloth nappies at night, so that we can get a good nights sleep, some mornings she even wakes up totally dry.

Dia is now four and half months old and I can proudly say she has never worn a disposable nappy in her life. I’ve worked out we’ve saved roughly R4500, not to mention the environmental savings. Admittedly it does require you to do a lot more washing when she misses, however our water bill hasn’t increased dramatically since the beginning of the year. As she gets older and wiser and we begin to respond to her signals more, washing dirty muslin cloths will become just a memory in the not too distant future.

Many people we speak to, including my parents, think we’re crazy to be attempting nappy free. It requires a little courage to step outside of the box. Humanity so often does what is easiest or what has been tried and tested. It’s difficult to do something outside of our comfort zone, particularly when babies or children are involved because we want our lives to remain the same and endure the least hassle. In this era of environmental urgency I feel I need to apply my most important values to all aspects of my life, especially child rearing. I am well aware of my want to conform, but I’m learning to ask questions and seek new ways of doing things so that I am not just wanting what’s best for myself and my family but for my community and my planet. If nobody is willing to be or think different then how will we change the world for the better?

If you’re keen to find out more about EC or nappy free visit our personal blog:

Recommended reading:

  • The Diaper Free Baby – Christine Gross-Loh
  • Our babies, Ourselves – Meredith F. Small

Daniel Robinson – National Clubs Coordinator

What does wearing disposable nappies really cost?


  • Small – R3.02 each*
  • Medium – R2.50 each*
  • Large – R3.15 each*
  • Extra Large – R4.22 each*
  • *Cost on average – Sept ‘09 from Pick ‘n Pay –

 How many changes needed?

  • 0-3 months 10-12 times a day
  • 3-6 months 8-10 times a day
  • 6-12 months 6-8 times a day
  • 12 months+ 5-6 times a day

 How much does this cost?

  • 1-3 months = (3 x 30 days) x (R3.02 x 10 changes a day) = R2718
  • 3-6 months = (3 x 30 days) x (R2.50 x 8 changes a day) = R1800
  • 6-12 months = (6 x 30 days) x (R3.15 x 6 changes a day) =R2268
  • 1-2 years = (365 days) x (R3.15 x 5 changes a day) = R5748

Total for first two years = R12,534.00

And many children only potty train at 3 years old and wear night time nappies at age 4! 

*Thank you to Rebecca Rubin-Dixon of Bam+Boo Baby products for this eye-opening calculation.

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