Diaper-free doesn't really mean diaper free
Why elimination communication isn't that simple
My baby and I have been dabbling in elimination communication for the past six weeks. I wish I could have started sooner, but multiple breastfeeding issues got very much in the way. I'm really glad now that I set my priorities down before the baby's arrival: breastfeeding, sleeping and only then everything else.
Having started with great enthusiasm, I can now say that elimination communication is not for everyone. Despite what the book told me, you do get a certain amount of pee & poop on various surfaces, including yourself. Luckily, I usually think it's funny and not too much of a hassle to clean up but I completely appreciate that some (many?) might feel otherwise. I mean, you're busy enough breastfeeding and taking care of the baby without having to worry about extra mounds of washing, right?
I've also come to the realisation that going diaper free is not really that simple or minimalist.
A large investment of time and thought
Elimination communication may be as old as time, but to us it's completely new. It's not just like going to the pharmacy and coming back with a stack of disposable nappies. You need to read up on the subject, buy a book or two, find a forum to join. Once you start, new questions keep coming up. If you enjoy that kind of stuff (like I do) fine, but it's not really the simplest approach to motherhood when you're already perhaps overwhelmed by a newborn.
EC actually requires quite a lot of stuff
Now, if you're already using cloth diapers or nappies, perhaps this part is easier. But in any case you will have to invest in some kind of miniature potty for your tiny baby, including extra cloths and protective sheets to catch any misses during nappy-free time. Unless you live in a hot country or permanently overheated house you also need to rethink the babies wardrobe: how are you going to give him naked time every day without freezing his toes off (I still haven't worked this out). I'm not saying it's a large investment but it's definitely more involved than just going with regular clothes and slipping on a disposable nappy.
It creates considerable additional work
Let's all agree that most of us are not the super-intuitive type who immediately reads her baby's cues and never needs another diaper. Even the experts agree that when you first go diaper-free, there are lots of misses, and even if you manage to catch them on the assigned towels and sheets rather than the sofa, there is more stuff that needs to be washed. And I've never seen something stain like baby poo, it's like it's an evolutionary mechanism to make sure the baby is clean. Luckily I have an extremely supportive husband who doesn't mind helping out with the extra laundry, but there definitely is a lot of extra laundry.
At the start you'll actually use more nappies
Because of my reluctance to wash sofa covers, cloths and clothes multiple times each day, my baby does spend a large part of the day in nappies. However, because I'm trying to potty him he ends up being changed much more often than usual (small babies pee around every 30 minutes, so you might be changing nappies just as often!). I'm already overwhelmed by the amount of diaper rubbish a baby produces and this additional waste really makes me nervous and is my least favourite part of the whole endeavour.
I still feel the most minimalist approach to diapering your baby is just using disposables or perhaps a cloth diapers with a diaper service (I still have to see a website that actually convinces me that starting a baby on reusable nappies is simple). I'm sure EC works a charm in hut on the savannah where you can simply scrape dirt over the misses but in our modern world it creates quite a bit of extra work and stress. Having said that, most days I'm enjoying this little crazy project of mine and I figure that even if I never learn to read his cues, he'll at least have some association with the potty and toilet when it's time to wean him off disposables.