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Make a paradigm shift: Diapers are a back-up, not full-time toilets

diaper toilet to back-up

Primitive "diapering" methods often involved placing soft, absorbent materials under baby's bottom inside the sling or papoose. Their purpose was to add extra protection during times of cold weather, travel, and busy-ness. Their purpose was NOT to serve as a full-time toilet.

Those early humans who did not need a "back-up" for their babies (ie: lived in a settlement, not as nomadic, and in warmer climates) simply carried baby around naked inside the sling when pre-mobile, and when they received a signal from baby that they were uncomfortable, they pottied baby through a "point and shoot" method - aiming them into the bush to relieve themselves hygienically. (The preference for hygiene is a deep survival instinct that all of us humans possess.) Then baby returned happily to the sling.

When babies were of crawling age, they simply were "toilet independent" in that they would crawl to the space that all the other humans relieved themselves, pee or poo, and then return to what they were doing.

(More than half the world's babies in current times are still toilet independent by 12 months old by the very same methods above, which we humans have used for all of human history.)

Cloth diapers became commercially available about 200 years ago. Their purpose was to add extra protection until the baby was able to crawl to the chamber pot or outdoors to relieve herself, and at the most, until the baby was able to walk (which is when all babies were completely trained to use the toilet). Their purpose, in the beginning (prior to the 1960s), was NOT to serve as a full-time toilet...but rather to protect the home environment until mobility allowed the child to be trained.

(One manual in the 1950's noted that any poop catch before the child was walking was bonus points! Here's a pic of how it was to catch such a pre-walking "pottytunity.")

Disposable diapers hit the market in 1961. Mothers *hated* them. There was no way they were going to put paper on their baby's precious bottoms.

The diaper companies then began shifting cultural and social belief systems around delaying potty training to protect your child from harm...something we'll discuss in tomorrow's paradigm-shifting tip.

After doing so successfully, the diaper, from 1961 onward, morphed into a full-time wearable toilet.

Parents were taught by pediatricians to ignore their children's interest in the toilet, cast aside the developmentally-appropriate tradition of training before or upon walking, and to train their children INTO diapers, NOT the toilet, as had been done for ALL OF HUMAN HISTORY.


You see, diapers were always meant to be "back-ups"....a TOOL to be used until mobility and/or the mother was tired of hanging diapers to dry. Toilet trained by 9 months old? Extremely common in the 1950s...and also common in current-day countries where there aren't disposable diapers (or their companies' exquisite marketing).

Delayed toilet training is a social trend...not a medical necessity, and certainly not in the best interest of baby's health or hygiene.


And now I'd love to hear from you:

In the comments below, please respond to this question: What do you believe about diapers, and have you ever truly questioned that belief, where it originated, and why you stuck with it?

Resource Recommendation

Getting EC Back on Track: a minicourse that walks you through observation, logging, and getting back on the EC wagon

Potty Time Mastery: a minicourse that helps you get extremely good at detecting the 4 ways to know the baby has to pee

Go Diaper Free: my popular EC book that simplifies EC, beginning to end

Andrea Olson

About Andrea Olson

I'm Andrea and I spend most of my time with my 6 children (all under 12 yo) and the rest of my time teaching other new parents how to do Elimination Communication with their 0-18 month babies. I love what I do and try to make a difference in one baby or parent's life every single day. (And I love, love, love, mango gelato.)


  1. Avatar Elaine Mandeville on April 22, 2018 at 6:17 pm

    Mind=Blown!!! This just absolutely, irrevocably changed my perception about absorbancy… like the goal was to find something to contain more for my heavy wetter… but that definitely means I was relying on the diaper WAY more than his signals for EC… now I see when it leaked, it was an opportunity for me to adjust timing, not spend money on more stuff… but fluff is so cute!

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on April 22, 2018 at 8:47 pm

      Yes! It’s a toilet disguised as a cute outfit! :O)
      Thanks for your honest share about this, Elaine – and I am thrilled that this has helped blow your mind into “how DO I use the diaper – as a back-up/tool, or as a toilet?” Congrats!!! xx Andrea

  2. Avatar SW on April 23, 2018 at 12:53 am

    I love the photo of the baby on the chamber pot! I had no idea that people used to train babies to crawl to them and use them as soon as they were mobile! There’s no reason I can’t do the same with my baby. Thanks for the incredibly helpful resources that give me confidence to try EC!

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on April 30, 2018 at 12:33 pm

      Thanks SW!!!! I’m so happy that you feel inspired and supported. Yes! If they could do it and t was the norm, you can too :) Andrea

  3. Avatar Stephanie on April 23, 2018 at 10:10 am

    I heard from a coworker that she knew someone else that had a diaper free baby and it just stuck with me when I was pregnant. After we started with our newborn, my mom told me my grandma used to catch our poops when I was a baby so it all makes sense to me now!

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on April 30, 2018 at 12:34 pm

      No way! That is awesome. Both parts! So happy for you! xx Andrea

  4. Avatar Jacqueline on April 23, 2018 at 11:33 pm

    I first heard about Go Diaper Free when I heard you speak during the Raising Toddlers Courageously Conference. Before then I had not really questioned the use of diapers, but have periodically thought about switching to cloth diapers. What you say makes sense, and is disappointing at the same time. I dislike when we are taught to do things to benefit large companies. I am excited to continue to learn about GDF with your free courses this week. It would be nice to try it with my 14 month old. Because I sometimes have a hard time staying focused in the present, I am curious how allowing kids to use the toilet at this age is affected when traveling by car or plane. Thanks again!

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on April 30, 2018 at 12:39 pm

      Jacqueline – I am so happy you found me via Devon and the RTCC! I hope you enjoyed this week’s classes and are well on your way to diaper independence! I agree that it is disappointing to hear where we got this cultural guidance, but you are considering other options and that is fantastic. For travel I have a wonderful blog post on EC with travel here – – and a minicourse on EC while out and about here – – enjoy!!

  5. Avatar Juanita on April 24, 2018 at 7:36 pm

    Yes yes yes! I’m so excited about being on board with this! Thank you so much for your work!

  6. Avatar Afaaf on September 20, 2018 at 9:11 pm

    I am curious where you got your information for this post. I lived in one of these countries where diapers are not the norm when my first was a baby and what you describe is not at all how it is done there. Even toddlers need extra help when pooping, and the caregiver is expected to take care of it.

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on April 24, 2019 at 9:30 pm

      Sure thing! Laurie Boucke’s book, Infant Potty Training :)

  7. Avatar Genesis Burns on January 7, 2024 at 6:16 am

    I had never heard or known any of this before. I am annoyed with our society, but it makes me even more excited to start this process with my 1 and 2 year olds!

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on January 10, 2024 at 5:51 pm

      Yay!!! So happy to have you be apart of our community!

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