EPISODE 068: Duped.
Welcome to the Go Diaper Free Podcast where we're all about helping you stop depending on diapers as early as birth. I'm your host, Andrea Olson, author, and mom of five ECed babies. This is episode 68, Duped: How disposable diapers have changed the way we parent.
So hi, welcome back this week. I just want to tell you right now that I'm going to get on a soapbox on this episode. If you're just here for straight up facts and tips on how to do EC, you can go ahead and skip this episode. But I am warning you, I'm going to get a little bit passionate about this particular topic because I feel like we parents have been duped. I don't want anybody to get the wrong idea with this. In this whole episode, I want you to remember that I do not place the blame on parents for delayed toilet training, et cetera, using diapers, ruining the environment, because we have been told to do certain things by certain exquisite marketing campaigns over many generations that have really changed the way we've parented.
So parents, I'm talking to you. I don't blame you. We're all in this together, but I do want to have my say about how it feels to have been duped by these companies. That's what we're going to talk about today. If you'd rather not, you can go now, come back next week we're going to talk about Montessori-inspired EC. We're going to do four episodes on that. It's super informative, very practical how-tos, but today I'm going to get up on a soapbox because I feel like it's important. Feel free to share this with any parents you know who are not happy with having to change endless diapers and deal with waste for so many years because maybe this can help them understand why they're doing something that feels so unnatural to them.
There are a lot of parents who don't feel like it's unnatural to use disposables and throw away so many of them for four years. A lot of people honestly just say they care about the environment but don't. So this episode probably wouldn't be for sharing with them. But if you know somebody who's honestly just not feeling good about it, you can definitely send them this way. Those show notes and listening transcript, all that stuff for this episode are at godiaperfree.com/68.
And now let's begin with a little bit of story about one of my mentors here at Go Diaper Free. I will call him GG. He lives here in town. This guy worked for Pampers for 35 years. He remembered back, I met with him, because I thought, wow, you're the enemy, I need to know you, I need to understand what happened. How did we get where we've gotten? He said that back when disposables came out and Procter & Gamble put out their first disposable product, nobody bought it, nobody wanted it, nobody wanted to put their sweet little baby and their soft little skin into paper and plastic.
So they hired a pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton to do a study. I've read this study, I'll link to the study in the show notes over on my website, and you can read it too and see just about how unscientific it really is. They used this, and this pediatrician is currently the president of the Pampers Institute. They used this study to convince parents and pediatricians for the last several generations to wait for signs of readiness from their children before beginning to toilet train, and saying that you would psychologically damage your child if you did not do this. He told me straight from the mouth of somebody who worked for P&G for 35 years, that this is exactly what they did to sell more diapers. But they did have what he thought was an innocent goal - to delight moms. They really wanted to delight moms, so they showed the moms how disposables were better for baby's skin, disposables would help them do less laundry, be out in the world, et cetera.
Honestly, he thought that they were doing a good thing until I told him about EC, until I told him about the environmental facts I'd gathered, everything. Honestly after we talked, GG told me I blew his mind and he had to leave and couldn't talk to me for several days. About five days later, we met up again once he caught his breath, and he's like, "Wow, you totally changed me. I see now that we went too far." They wanted to delight moms and they actually took it a little bit too far and it ended up being all about the money, which makes sense, doesn't it?
So I see three year olds and four year olds and five year olds at gymnastics when I bring my kids and I feel mixed emotions. I've mentioned this before, and I feel honestly just really sad and really upset that people have been given this wrong information since 1961. Kids are essentially running around carrying bags of pee. Maybe you have one who is as well. When you think about it like that, and I do want people to feel disgust and feel like I'm being judgy, because it'll make you start to hopefully think, does it make sense for my kid to be running around carrying a bag of pee and poop?
The other day we were at the museum in downtown Asheville and I smelled the poop right when the kid did it. This mother did not realize her child was sitting in poop for 45 minutes and then when I was like, "God, honey, who is, is that one of ours?" She heard me and she checked hers and she's like, "Oh, it's mine." And she didn't get up immediately to change it. I was beside myself.
In the 1950s, this mother and every mother probably would be accused of neglect. 95% of kids today approximately, that's the most recent stat that I found, have diaper rash. Back then, if your child had diaper rash, you'd be accused of neglect. Things have drastically changed. Now it's normal to have heavy bags of pee, to have 45 minutes in a bag of poop hanging off your child's butt. Yeah, I'm being graphic because I just want... Like really think about it, would we do this to a dog or a cat or a horse? It just isn't natural as a mammal to feel good about that when you really peel back the layers of judgment and just go, "Hold on a second, this doesn't really seem right." Especially knowing what my mentor GG said, that this was just a lot of propaganda meant to change the way we parent.
But it's not the parent's fault, like I said. We've been duped. You've been duped by a multi-billion dollar industry who is changing everything. If the toilet training age would reduce from the average of three to two, they would lose billions of dollars every year in sales. This industry is making it: one, stressful for kids and parents to potty train after two or three years old. Most of the stories I hear are that it is very stressful.
Number two, dangerous for kids. Yes I said dangerous. Hygiene-wise, disease in daycares, all the studies of after two year old potty training, older than two year old, show that it can medically damage a kid. Not to mention psychology, we don't even have any studies on that yet. All of the studies show that potty training before two or using EC is not dangerous for kids. This is something that's been inspired by this.
Number three, they make it harder. This industry makes it harder for kids to learn. Potty training frees them up for learning other things. It is a core building block. It is something that we miss the sensitive period per Montessori of, which is a developmental task meant for ages 12 to 18 months. We miss this core building block and it is harder for our kids to learn. Especially socially, because they're sitting there in the corner in pre-school and they’re pooping, when they don't feel right about that, but they don't know any other way because the parent doesn't know any other way, because the parent has been duped.
It is also, number four, devastating for the environment. Will our kids even have an earth to live on, seriously? Will all of the disposable diapers we've ever thrown away, none of which have ever biodegraded, all of a sudden off gas and kill us all? It's possible. These companies have literally altered our parenting habits in just two generations. Toilet training age went from 92% were done by 18 months in 1957 in the US to the average age is now 36 to 38 months in the US and that's average, that's only the middle point, or not the middle point, that'd be the median, but it's the average. So there are outliers up in five years old.
We have been taught by this exquisite marketing to be permissive, child-led, have less clear boundaries, and to be fearful of damaging our kids, and thus fearful of our children. We've also been taught to be negligent. To leave a child in their waste for that long, even if it is supposedly wicked away from their skin, is teaching them to not care about their hygiene. The companies that have created all of this marketing have actually bullied us into doing this. It's not our fault, but they have created a diapering culture where we are taught to neglect our children and leave them in diapers all day long.
If you think that I'm being harsh about it, I'm sorry, but I'm also not sorry. We need to hear this message and we need to know as a culture that we are actually teaching our kids to ignore their most basic sense of dignity and hygiene. For me, that's something that's serious and that we need to start talking about. This has inadvertently caused us to create children, some children, you know the ones where you're in a restaurant and you're like, "Gosh, I don't really enjoy being in this room right now, because this child is so wild and doesn't seem safe or secure or happy." If you've been around a kid like that and if you take a look, they might have been kept in diapers too long.
This is definitely a theory of mine and I'm definitely biased, but I really know from what I've seen with helping hundreds of thousands of people get out of diapers with EC and potty training or use them in a different way, that finishing up this whole process by 18-20 months, normalizes their behavior and creates kids that people want to be around. Ones that have their full self esteem intact and are really feeling like they fit into the situation, to the culture.
These companies, this industry has taught us to be all of these things. More permissive and child-led that is healthy for our children. When our duty is actually to teach our children, to guide our children, to model responsible self care, to challenge them and to expect more from our kids. Not things that are developmentally inappropriate, but things that are developmentally in line with where they are at the age and stage they are at right now. To expect more, if you read The Continuum Concept. If you haven't, please read it. It's a great resource for an example of how our expectations really dictate how strong and self secure our kids become and are.
Our duty is to build self esteem and to empower our kids and to teach good healthy boundaries. We want to create independent children who feel secure in meeting new people and being in new environments, because that will serve them long into their adulthood. We have inadvertently become lazy. We've caused our kids to become overdependent on adults. If you have a really clingy child who is not out of diapers yet, one thing that could help them be very independent in a way that will provide relief for the parent who is spent, is to potty train them. We've inadvertently caused a lack of self esteem and security.
Our kids actually don't want to be in charge, they feel insecure when they are. But we have been taught by this whole cultural shift that everything should be child-led. You put them into diapers, you decide when to take them out of diapers. That is your first opportunity to be that role model and that guide and that teacher. That they actually are looking to you to be for them. Check out The Continuum Concept if you have any questions about that.
We also have been infantilizing our children instead of empowering them. I'm not saying to rush them or push them or pressure them into something they're not, but I am saying that even just 50 years ago, 70 years ago, our kids were way more able to take care of themselves. We used to run in packs through our neighborhood when I was a kid. We trusted ourselves, and it seems like everybody's just bought into this idea that we need to be so child-led and coddle our kids so much, that it actually keeps them from failing, falling and learning for themselves. Hopefully that makes sense.
Again, some of this is my opinion, some of this is stuff that I've read, but I just have to say it. I believe, you guys, that it's time to take a stand. It's time to take parenting back into our own hands. To create strong independent, caring kiddos who are respectful, kind and accepting of themselves and others by teaching them to have self-respect, by not forcing them with no other decision to sit in their waste. Again, we're not forcing them because we think we want to be mean, we're forcing them because we're in a diapering culture and that's what we've been told is the right thing to do. But we don't give them another choice.
We have the opportunity to create capable, competent kids who are equipped for the world, who can be caretakers of the world, not participating in destroying the world through all of this waste. We want to develop children who have an internal locus of control, and that's a phrase from Carl Rogers, that dictates that they're going to have a healthy mental state in their life. Internally motivated to do things as opposed to people pleasing for everybody else.
We want to embed a clear sense of self care, self love and belonging in our children. We do what the grownups do. We look up to them. We are not babies. We're big. You know if you've ever talked to a toddler, they want to be all of those things. They want the tools and we can give them those as a gift. Waiting for a child to be ready to toilet train is BS and we have been duped. Our pediatricians have been duped. We are all circulating the wrong information. Like I said, in the '50s, almost everybody was trained by 18 months and these are our parents basically.
If it were psychologically damaging to do this by that age, all of our parents would be messed up today, and maybe some people's parents are a little bit kooky, but you know what I mean? Everybody and everybody before them for hundreds of thousands of years should be psychologically damaged permanently from being out of diapers or never dependent on diapers at an early age per the diaper company's messages. Does that make sense?
That is the end of my rant. Please share this episode, godiaperfree.com/68 to anybody who you feel it'd be appropriate for, and comment over there on the show notes on the blog with your thoughts and I would love to also answer any questions that you have.
I want to share one tip from one of our readers. This is from Claire, and she started EC five months old and her baby was 16 months when she wrote this.
“My best tip I have for anyone wanting to try EC, worried about EC or intrigued by EC is just to go for it. It doesn't have to be a big deal. Even one catch is one less diaper. It's not meant to pressure anyone. It's meant for you to grow closer to your baby and be sensitive to his or her elimination needs.”
That is something, you guys, what Claire just said is so beautiful, this is something that we have unknowingly, unconsciously by no will of our own allowed the diaper industry to change in us this sensitivity to our baby's needs. All of you listening are amazing parents. If this has resonated at all, please comment over on the blog. Again, I'm not trying to be judgy, but I am definitely calling out something that we have been duped, and it is time to un-dupe. It's time to take parenting back and to figure out how we really want to parent without the influence of these multi-billion dollar companies.
If you were sent here by a friend, please visit godiaperfree.com and learn how to easily and kindly and swiftly get your kiddo out of diapers, any age birth to toddler without harm, because they deserve this and you deserve to parent in a way that aligns with your heart and what you know deep down is the truth.
That's all I have for you today. I hope you enjoyed my rant. If not, that's okay. We can still be friends. Next week we're going to start a four-part series on Montessori-inspired EC based on this article I was given, it's amazing. Please join me then. Meanwhile, subscribe on iTunes, leave a review there so that people can find out how fantastic EC is. And until next week, happy pottying you guys, I'll see you then.
Thanks Andrea! Can you link to the studies that show medical damage? In reference to the potty training at 2/2+.
Hi Meredith! Look above under the “Links and other resources mentioned today” section to find the links. xx Andrea
Hard to hear for a lot of parents, but it needs to be said and shared! Thanks again Andrea for being unafraid to stand up for what you believe in. Know better, do better.
Thank you for your kind words! xx Andrea
Loved the rant! It never ceases to amaze me how normalized we have been to the idea of leaving our kiddos in a diaper for 2+ hours. After a great start with EC my 8 month old is struggling with feeling safe on the potty, but I know they will benefit from whatever gentle encouragement we offer.
Thank you! You’ll work through the resistance, changing up the receptacle may help. If you’re still feeling stuck after a few weeks I do have a potty pause resolution course to help you get through it. xx Andrea
That’s exactly what we did! We are using the babybjorn insert in our bathroom sink and are back to 75% catch rate. We even EC’d while traveling this weekend!
That’s fantastic Tony! I’m so glad you kept up with EC while traveling. I find that babies actually do better when traveling. xx Andrea
I know I have heard you tell the story or your Pampers friend before because recently I was at the store and saw that Pampers has come out with 360 diapers. (Essentially a pull up but they start in smaller sizes) and I thought right away of your conversation and had to wonder if this wasn’t pampers back handed way of supporting mothers who choose to potty train early.
I think they market them as easier to get on mobile babies. I do know some EC families use them once baby moves to standing changes. xx Andrea
I love your rants! Thank you for all that you do, and your awesome heart 😄
Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it. xx Andrea
It is so easy to start to feel like I am crazy when I hang out with other parents who don’t think this way (yet!), so I definitely needed this encouragement that what I’m doing is right for my baby! Thank you so much!
It’s my pleasure Rebekah! You are doing the right thing, don’t let others change your mind. xx Andrea
You said you would link the study in the show notes, but I don’t see it anywhere. Can you please link the studies so I can share with my daycare provider? Thanks
Hi Nikola! If you look above you’ll see the studies linked under the “Links and other resources mentioned today” section. It’s a great idea to share them with your daycare provider, I hope it helps! xx Andrea
Amaaaaaaaaaaaazing!!! Thank you, Andrea!!
Lets translate this episode to portuguese for the love of God!
I’m glad you liked it Luisa! We definitely need to spread the word!! xx Andrea
Hi Andrea! Can you please share the research on how using diapers later affects children’s behavior please? Thank you!
Hi Amanda! There are several links to research are in this article. The Pampers/Brazelton study is linked above. xx Andrea
Thanks for this! We started EC at four months, mostly on my aunt’s advice (she used to potty me, my sister and my cousins whenever she changed a nappy), but I only discovered you (and anything contrary to “waiting for readyness”) when my LO was a month and a half shy of two. We started potty training that weekend, me hoping very hard that we hadn’t left it too late to be straightforward. Now people often remark to me that my LO is “very young to be in pants” and I say “No, not really!” before explaining that we did EC and that the earlier that using the toilet is normal for them, the easier it is – and that then you aren’t trying to impose a big change on a two year old.
I try to remember that a child might be wearing a nappy as “backup” in the situation I’m seeing them, and that most two and three year olds use the potty sometimes even if not consistently. (There are times when dealing with wet pants would be a big pain, for example on a long bus ride.)
Congratulations on a successful EC journey! That is wonderful!! It is so great your aunt introduced you to EC, how lucky to have that family support. xx Andrea
Me and my husband are going to try to get pregnant this spring. I’ve worked in childcare pretty much all of my adult life and am currently a nanny (of 2 year old triplets that are not potty trained! I’m trying lol) but anyways my real question is when I have kids of my own, I know that when they wake up they will have to pee. Does this mean that I never teach my child to self soothe? Does it mean I have to get them up immediately for a pee as soon as they wake? I just don’t want to spoil my kiddo. I’ve seen plenty spoiled kids in my line of work. I really want to do EC and plan to do so from birth!
Hi Carrie! I’m so happy to hear you are planning on EC in the future! Don’t worry, responding to a biological need isn’t “spoiling” them. When babies wake they usually need to potty, feed, or both. Responding to their needs will just help create a stronger connection. I found this baby care cycle to really work for me. xx Andrea