Want to know an easy solution to Nappy poverty in New Zealand?
Updated: Jun 25
Nappy poverty in New Zealand is a real issue but is this a 20th-century problem?
"Please help, we are short this week and really need nappies for our 2 and 4-year-olds"
"How do you treat nappy rash? It's a constant... "
Mum's use Facebook groups every day to seek help and advice from one another - and two common questions that come up frequently concern nappy poverty, toilet training and nappy rash concerns.
How come my little ones were toilet independent by 18 months, but many children are still nappy reliant at age 4? Ask this question in any Mum's group, generally, their reply will be that children will be ready to learn in their own time. I don't believe this has to be the case - all babies are born ready to start learning. (Unless there are medical concerns with either the baby or the parent). Our society has been led to relax and not assist babies with toileting matters and this ties into the problems outlined above. • Prolonged use of nappies (expensive, time-intensive and consumerism)
• Nappies used to function as a toilet (habit-forming, nappy rash issues)
Our group of New Zealand Mum's are passionate about other parents learning that they have options when it comes to toileting matters for their baby. It's a great concern to us that parents are not informed by care providers while they are expecting. By default, many will fall into nappy reliance and we believe that they deserve to know there are options.
The two options for potty learning:
1) The readiness approach - The parent is reactive to the childs needs, changing nappies after they are soiled. Toileting is not assisted until it is considered the right time for the child. Some issues can arise when a child resists this transition to the toilet usually with stool retention (holding on) or push back from the child. A child can take anywhere up to age 5 to become fully toilet independent. This is the current western mainstream method used. It is widely supported, yet often reported to be a test for parents and toddlers and in bad cases a trigger for punishment and abuse.
2) Elimination communication - A gentle proactive approach where a parent assists the baby with toileting usually from a very young age (can start from birth). Stool is generally very easy to manage (no poopy nappies). There is no big transition to using a toilet and therefore it is not considered toilet training. A child will reach toilet independence 14-18 months approx (Once bladder control is fully established). It is said to help avoid issues such as nappy rash and UTI. It can avoid most toddlers push-back given that toddlers will be well established before this age.
Whichever approach you choose, you will get a child to wear underwear one way or the other. But it is important to us, that you know you have options.
We also want to help with some practical solutions to nappy poverty in New Zealand - and we have a plan. It starts with sharing, education and a safe place in Facebook to connect. We call it @EliminationCommunicationBabies • An affordable book on infant potty learning • Affordable Facebook education series
Nappy poverty is real – our simple solution may surprise you!
How did Western culture end up with such nappy dependency? Let's look back over the past Century for clues.
Post-1900s Before the 1900's, our foremother's would have held a baby out to eliminate after a meal. One of my great grandmother's raised 14 children in a time when cloth was hard to come by and all washing was done by hand – her generation of Mother's would have held baby out to eliminate generally after feeding. This process follows natural and instinctual elimination patterns and would have been done until the baby could sit and started solid foods, at which point the baby would have used a pot (potty). The process is gradual, natural and gentle and the baby is easier to clean up. Stool is managed very quickly – usually in the first week of starting.
During the fourth trimester 0-3 months and up to the first six months, establishing a routine around natural elimination is easily achieved.
Image: Holding out as recommended by New Zealand Plunket (approx 1920-1940) Plunket baby book inside cover.
Parents in these times had no washing machines, no mass-produced cloth nappies or disposables. Do you think it's possible children were toilet independent before 24 months?
A number of factors came into play, which would ultimately completely change the way nature intended we assist our babies with elimination. Here are some of my findings. If you have additional information, please share it with us.
In New Zealand, theTohunga Suppression Act 1907 came into effect. The New Zealand Parliament aimed at replacing tohunga as traditional Māori healers with "modern" medicine. I am researching this further, to identify if baby toileting methods were influenced in New Zealand by this act. Do you think Māori parents traditionally used nappies and delayed potty training?
During and after the War, when women entered the workforce, cloth (prefold) nappies started to become mass-produced and bottle-feeding were promoted.
Psychoanalysis frightened parents into thinking we could harm our babies by offering toilet training 'too early' according to both Freud and later on Gorer.
Sigmund Freud (now broadly discredited) said that early infant training shapes adult personality in predictable and immutable ways. So, if infant toilet training caused trauma, Freud warned, that the baby would become frozen in the 'anal stage' and become up-tight or 'anal retentive'. Freaking you out? There is more...
Western society become influenced by a book written in the 1940's by Geoffrey Gorer. This work was undertaken for the U.S. Office of War to profile Japanese soldiers. Based on racial profiling with no scientific backing, Gorer suggested Japanese brutality and sadism was a result of early and severe toilet training. Yes – completely racist, and nonsensical, but scary enough that parents delayed toilet training (and still do without really knowing why). Would you base your toilet training decision on a racial profiling exercise established by the US government after WWII?
These ideas presented at a vulnerable time in history by men have had a major impact on the way Western parents approach teaching toileting however, over time, researchers started to challenge these ideas. Can you imagine the social outrage if this idea was presented today?
After the war and during the baby boom, Doctors were a reliable source of information. In New Zealand, Doctors published articles in a magazine that was a trusted source. This article from June 1959 explains to parents why they need to wait until their toddler is ready for toilet training.
The Doctor writes about two families with two-year-old's, who have developed chronic constipation as a result of 'holding on' instead of passing stool into a potty. It's important to note that this issue still happens today despite delayed toilet training. The child struggles with the transition to the toilet for bowel movements and holds on. Constipation can also cause wetting accidents. Do you think children become so used to using their nappy that switching to use a toilet might cause fear, shame and issues that lead to constipation and wetting accidents?
This still popular approach 'wait for readiness' that Doctors advised, was also popularised by celebrity paediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock who said parents should “leave bowel training almost entirely up to your baby…. [who] will probably take himself to the toilet before he is two years old.” Do you agree with his statement, or will children wait until some direction is given in many cases? I have heard of many three and four-year-olds still struggling to grasp bowel training.
Enter the Baby Boomer's Babies
Around the 1970s in New Zealand there was a movement encouraging breastfeeding, as after the war bottle was popularised and common. It was also the time when disposables came to the market for the first time in New Zealand. Mother's of the day could finally have a day or two off washing dirty nappies and treat themselves to disposables for the weekend. They were considered a treat at this time, as they were also an expensive item.
Pampers (A nappy company) began promoting a further delay of potty training into toddlerhood. In 2007, Pampers introduced a nappy for children who weigh more than 18 kilograms (a typical weight for a 5-year-old child). Do you think disposable companies have a reason to promote delaying toilet training?
Parents today are still only exposed to the 'readiness' method of toilet learning. But a new wave of parents is now advocating for the practice of 'holding a baby out' under a new term called 'elimination communication'.
Elimination Communication (or offering toilet assistance) plus cloth nappies is the easy solution to Nappy Poverty in New Zealand.
It's easy and fun and can be established with a newborn within a week or two. Poop is super easy to manage – imagine no blow-outs! Once it's part of your daily routine, any caregiver can take over toilet assistance and it is no more time consuming than a nappy change. Potty training is such a hot topic. Whichever way you decide will be the right choice for you - but it is important to understand that babies can potty if given the chance and to be open-minded about this alternative. It is also important to recognise that if a baby is wearing a nappy for the first year to 18 months of their life - you may find it easier to wait, however, toilet exposure is important.
Statements such as 'children toilet train when they are ready' or 'boys are more difficult than girls' are founded in the 'wait for readiness' approach.
Offering the opportunity to eliminate is not forcing a child to eliminate, as they won't eliminate unless they need to. Offering the opportunity to eliminate is not forcing them to grow up faster.
Simply put, it is a respectful approach that will:
• save a lot of money on nappies (disposables) or keep cloth nappies cleaner
• avoid nappy rash with air-drying time
• strengthen communication and bond with baby
• is cleaner and healthier for baby
• the process is gradual and natural
• is easy and fun
Let's help other parents learn they have options - and this natural alternative can help parents struggling with the cost of nappies.
Here are our practical solutions to nappy poverty in New Zealand Follow us on Facebook or Instagram @EliminationCommunicationBabies • An affordable book on infant potty learning • Affordable Facebook education series
All healthy children and parents are capable of this. It's not about the child being 'ready' - it's about you being ready. Are you ready to assist your baby?
'Be the unicorn in the field of horses' and join us @eliminationcommunicationbabies