Elimination Communication

When you’re a first time parent, one of the popular games to play seems to be calculating how many nappies you’re going to be changing during your baby’s early years. For most parents the pain point seems to come in the form of either bodily fluid or money that is basically getting flushed down the toilet. According to the folks over at lovetoknow – who clearly spent far too much time playing with the diaper planner – a baby will go through 2,500 disposable nappies in their first year and 1,500 – 1,800 disposable nappies every year after that until potty training is finished.

As if the pain of spending so much money and the pain of what on earth have you eaten?!? isn’t bad enough, there is an environmental impact to nappy usage. Reusable nappies take 0.3-0.5GJ of energy per year per infant, and disposables bump that up to 1.2-2.5GJ per year, according to the Australian Nappy Association. Add in all of the other environmental costs to nappies, and keeping baby clean and dry can feel like an enormous ask.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to using this many nappies that doesn’t involve leaving your child in their own filth or sending them outside to run around naked all day. This is where elimination communication comes in. Popping your baby straight onto the toilet or a potty is quick, easy, and requires considerably less cleaning and waste than waiting until the mess is already there.

Toddler pottyWhen most people hear about elimination communication for the first time, they immediately think of early toilet training. It isn’t that at all, unless you think of early toilet training as training yourself instead of training baby. The general idea is that you become attuned to your baby’s needs and learn to read their signals when they need to go and make sure they have a chance to get there before it’s too late. If you don’t read them correctly then it’s no harm, no foul. You aren’t trying to be perfect, you’re just trying for a success rate higher than zero.

Our household can be chaotic and hectic on a good day, and we stand little to no chance of picking up on the signals from our baby all of the time. However, every kid has predictable times, and ours is no exception. Babies always need to go when they wake up from a nap. Some of them like to go right after a big feed, when you’re half way through putting a clean nappy on them, and about 20 seconds into the climactic fight seen at the end of your movie.

By giving our baby a chance to potty at the times when she is most likely to need it, we can typically reduce our nappy usage by several nappies every day. If you can cut back by just one nappy a day, that’s 365 nappies each year. For cloth that is quite a few loads of washing. For disposables, that’s a fair whack of cash. For the environment, it’s a priceless gift.

If you’re playing along at home…

… how much can you cut down on nappies by gently helping your baby to use a potty before you start toilet training? Please share in the comments below if you’ve tried this with your baby and how it went.

The Toy Library

If you have young children, then you know that certain areas of a shopping centre are guaranteed to cause financial disaster and ruin for your family. Retailers aren’t stupid, and they know how to arrange a wall of monster trucks and Frozen merchandise for maximum pester power. Kids aren’t stupid, and they know how to say “Mum, Mum, Mum, Mum, Mum” until Mum snaps and buys yet another God forsaken My Little Pony figurine.

According to an article on Kidspot, you don’t need to feel alone if this happens to you, because some Australian families can apparently “save $1,000 a month if they stop buying unnecessary toys for their children”. I copied and pasted that because I was having a bit of trouble typing in that number. The article goes on to say that some families are spending as much as $5,000 a month on toys. To help you with the maths, that is a cool $60,000* per year.

I don’t personally know any families who have $60,000 to spend on toys – mostly because I don’t know that many families who have $60,000 available for anything after tax, rent and food – but, regardless of the dollars, there are two main environmental problems with this rampant spending:

  1. How much damage is caused creating these toys?
  2. What happens with these toys when the kids have stopped playing with them?

Manufacturing toys doesn’t come cheaply for the environment. The materials used to create the toy need to be grown or mined, and energy is used in those processes. Then the raw materials are transported to the factory, which uses more energy, before the manufacturing and packaging process begins. Waste products need to be disposed of somehow and then the toys need to be transported to the shop where you buy them. Your kid plays with the toy for a few hours, possibly a week or two if you’re lucky, and then the toy sits around the house before you eventually get rid of it.

We’ve almost completely stopped buying toys for our children during the year and instead we’ve bought a membership to the local toy library. It costs $70 for an annual membership – that’s less than the price of a Cook ‘N’ Grow BBQ Grill by Little Tikes, which you can borrow for up to two weeks. Our girls borrow that particular toy two or three times a year, play with it for three days, and then we take it back for another child to play with. They have over 12,000 toys available, and for an additional fee (I think it was $15) you can borrow a party pack.

I no longer dread going past a display of toys in a shopping centre now. If my oldest daughter sees something that she would like to play with, I suggest that she sees if one is available from the toy library. She’s very happy with that answer because I’m not telling her that she can’t play with the toy, and I’m very happy because I haven’t been stung $20 for something that will probably sit on our shelf at home. We aren’t adding packaging to landfill, the girls play with a much broader range of toys than I could ever afford to buy, and we don’t have nearly as much stuff that we have to find somewhere to store.

If you’re playing along at home…

…is there a toy library in your local area that you could join? The people who run our library were happy to let us look at the toys on offer before we made the decision to sign up. If you live in a different area, please share a link in the comments to your local toy library for others who live near you.


*If you happen to have a spare $60,000 lying around that you’re blowing on toys, feel free to give it to me and I’ll happily spend that money on something useful. There’s a set of solar panels that I’ve got my eye on, and I’m even happy to use that money to install them on your roof.