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Infant Potty Training Diaper Free Baby

Infant Potty Training Diaper Free Baby — How to practice elimination communication with an infant and potty train them before they begin to rely on diapers. Is is considered disgusting in China for a person to piss or shit in their pants. By “person” they also include babies. Children in China do not need to [...]

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Infant Potty Training Diaper Free Baby —

How to practice elimination communication with an infant and potty train them before they begin to rely on diapers.

Is is considered disgusting in China for a person to piss or shit in their pants.

By “person” they also include babies.

Children in China do not need to go through the rigors of potty training, because they never grow accustom to crapping themselves: they never wear diapers.

Infants in China come potty trained.

All infants do.

Chinese baby with pants that are open in the back to eliminate the need for diapers

Chinese baby with pants that are open in the back to eliminate the need for diapers

Photo from Chinese style points

The Diaper Free Baby

Diapers are expensive. It is a good thing that they are are, essentially, a luxury. And like most luxuries, I do my best to subvert them — even if that means taking the long way around.

In China, babies — even newborns — wear little clothes that have little slits cut out of butt parts. You can see babies all over the country being held by parents and grandparents over bushes, ditches, and sewer grates revealing themselves to their heart’s delight. They seldom go to the bathroom in their clothes because they don’t need to — they have attentive care givers who pay attention to their schedules and they learn quickly that when they are held with their bottoms hanging out over something it means that they are suppose to expel their waste.

Chinese baby peeing in the street

Chinese baby peeing in the street

Photo from Zhongguo photos

Babies come potty trained. In the West, it is convention to train babies to crap themselves and then retrain them to not crap themselves only a handful of months later. I did not want to send Petra through this round.

So Chaya and I sought an alternative, we sought the route of the diaper free baby.

I made my mother cringe when I told her that I was going to just cut a slit in Petra’s pants and let her crap out it diaper free.

“Like they do in China,” I said proudly.

Though thoughts of being perpetually pooped and peed upon roved through my mind.

“She is going to poop all over you!” my mother replied with a laugh.

Yes, I have seen potty trained babies in China pooping on demand, but I had very little clue how the parents were able to get them to do so.


“Have you ever thought about doing elimination communication?” the midwife asked us at one of Petra’s post-natal visits.

“What is elimination?” I asked.

“Pooping and peeing.”

She then explained how babies in China are potty trained by . . .

Yes, I know, I have nearly gotten pissed on by them in the streets on numerous occasions — yes, one of the main things a traveler needs to watch out for in China are pooping and peeing babies shooting overzealous streams of noxious baby waste all over the streets.

Such events need to be sidestepped. (It is not ok in China to poop your pants, but it seems to be perfectly fine to poop in the streets.)

The midwife then explained how her daughter got her child to “eliminate” out of his diapers from the time he was three weeks of age. Apparently, when the time seemed right for the kid to poop or pee — like when waking up in the morning or right after a feeding — his parents would rush him over to a sink, a toilet, a pale, a rock — to anything that could be pooped on without much regret — and made pee and pooping sounds until he would “eliminate” on his own.

The midwife then demonstrated what her daughter’s pooping and peeing sounds were:

She made a fart noise with her lips and then a pee noise that sounded like “psssssttttt.”

Apparently, you are suppose to alternate these noises until the baby does one, the other, or both.

This “elimination communication” seems to work: the midwife’s grandson has been completely potty trained for over a year. He is now 22 months old.

Infant potty training seems works on the premise that babies are inherently programed with the ability to hold and release their own bowels at times of their choosing. This is evident as changing time very often becomes peeing all over times for babies that wear diapers. Infants know how to use their equipment.

But the midwife’s daughter did not go about diaper freeing her son cold turkey — to do so would have been messy. Rather, she kept him in diapers when he was an infant and took the diaper off when it was time to eliminate. Eventually, he ceased eliminating in his diaper all together and would only go when prompted by one of his parents as he was held over the sink or toilet.

The kid now runs all over the house without a diaper — I have seen him go naked butt all over the midwife’s home without any accidents — and he makes a poop or pee sound to indicate to his parents when he needs to go. His parents still watch for signs that their son needs to eliminate and they still take an active roll in his bowel movements.

The midwife’s daughter told me that she still keeps her kid in diapers at night — for who wants to get up during the night and make poop noises? — but they are very rarely ever used. They also put their child in diapers for long car rides or any other time when they may not be able to readily find something for him to eliminate all over.

I asked when the last time was that he soiled a diaper, and the answer was, “three weeks ago in a car.”

The 22 month old kid soiled only a single diaper in three weeks. Not bad.

So my wife Chaya and I sought to do the same with our child, Petra, who was only three weeks old. We plan on traveling with our baby and we do not want to have to buy diapers at every turn — the less often we lay waste to a diaper the better. The less often our daughter craps herself, the better off we figure she will be as well.

Neither Chaya nor I like soiling our own pants, and we assume that Petra would also enjoy this activity with an equivalent amount of dissatisfaction. In fact, when Petra poops her diaper, she gets really pissed off and angry: this reaction is perhaps instinctual.

So we began diaper freeing Petra.

Petra becoming a diaper free baby

Petra becoming a diaper free baby

I must admit that I now write this piece with a good deal of pomp, but the first time I held my three week old daughter over our bathroom sink, I harbored many doubts — deep down, I did not think it would work. But as I made those first tentative fart noises as my wife picked up the chorus with pee sounds something odd began happening: Petra seemed to be concentrating, she put on her pre-poop face that looks sort of like a body builder who is about lift a heavy set of weights. I watched Petra concentrate in the mirror as her bare butt hung over the sink.

We waited. Nothing.

We waited some more. Nothing.

I ceased my song of fart sounds and nearly called it quits — perhaps our daughter was not cut out to be a diaper free . . .

“She’s going!” Chaya exclaimed.

I looked down at the bundle I was holding and it was true: she was leaking a big stream of pee into the sink. She followed this up with an explosive cluster splatter of turds.

Chaya and I rejoiced. We were surprised: it really worked.

We now take Petra to the sink at regular intervals throughout the day as well as each time we suspect she may need to go. We try to implant the association that the fart and pssssstttt sounds mean “it is time to eliminate.” The associations works. One week into the training, Petra seems to know that when she is slung up with her naked butt hanging over the sink and the two big people who are always messing with her start making funny noises, it is time to squeeze out whatever she has to “eliminate.”

Elimination communication is much like house breaking a new puppy. You rely on place associations — newspapers laid out in a corner of a room/ a bathroom sink — as indicators of where it is ok to go, as well as sound associations — “go potty, go potty, good dog!”/ fart sounds pee sounds — to signal the appropriate time. You also need to concentrate and pay attention to your baby as though it was a puppy. When you see a puppy walking around in circles sniffing the ground it means that it is going to go, just the same as when a baby puts on a smushed up, squirmy sort of face when it is about ready to crap.

Parents seem to know when their baby is about ready to go to the bathroom. It is not drastically difficult to discern. So parents in China (and other places) learn to read these signs and take action, and their babies respond by never needing diapers. This seems to be a matter of communication between the baby and its parents, and all incidences of successful communication between the two has the potential for making lifelong bonds.

. . . or at least this is what I am told.

Walk Slow,

Wade, a four week father

Raising a traveling baby series
[seriesposts orderby=date]
Books on how to diaper free an infant

The diaper free baby
We consulted this book on how to initiate elimination communication with our baby, Petra
Infant Potty Training
Another book on how to free a baby from diapers


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Filed under: Petra Hendele Adara Shepard, Travel With Family

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3716 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

23 comments… add one

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  • fruugal September 11, 2009, 5:18 pm

    That is very interesting and pretty fantastic. I hope it works out!

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 11, 2009, 7:01 pm

      Yes, we do too.

      When in travel, I do not think that we will be able to completely ween Petra off of diapers, but letting her go outside of diapers when the situations are good would be a great help for all of us. I figure that we could probably cut our diaper usage down by 75% using this method.


      Link Reply
  • Bob L September 12, 2009, 1:09 am

    I can see it now. Uncle Albert comes over the house, and, when you are not looking starts playing with Baby Petra and making goofy sounds to amuse her. You know, little Brappp Brappp fart like sounds. Then Uncle Albert has to change his cloths.

    This is really a fascinating thing. I had often wondered how humans dealt with this before cloth diapers or, god forbid, Pampers. I imagine that this works better in some areas where a baby pooping on the street will not induce a call from the Child Welfare Office. Sounds like a hybrid method like your midwifes daughter does will work pretty good in this squeamish US we live in. I imagine there will be much less crying in the Shepard household as no one is forced to sit around in crappy underwear, except maybe Uncle Albert.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 14, 2009, 11:06 pm


      I suppose you are going to be prepared for meeting Petra now Bob!

      You have been warned haha.


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  • Amanda K September 12, 2009, 1:39 am

    I’ve never heard of this but I’ve always felt it was a little odd for babies to pee and poop on themselves and that be considered the norm.
    By the way, in about thirteen years, she is not going to be very happy with you for putting that photo on the internet for all the world to see. haha

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 14, 2009, 11:05 pm

      Haha, yeah, Amanda,

      I think Petra is going to have a lot of bones to pick with her old dad as soon as she is able to understand what I do haha.


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  • The Longest Way Home September 12, 2009, 1:47 pm

    I think from an environmental point of view this is great.

    Also very interesting about the noise association.

    You will be on a boat, I think you won’t have to use a bathroom sink soon!

    I also think that in about 16 years should Petra discover this article and that last photo she might kick you butt pretty hard! ha ha

    All the best


    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 14, 2009, 11:04 pm


      This should be really interesting and pretty convenient on a boat haha. Though the side of my ship may have a suspicious looking “paint job” on the sides haha.

      Link Reply
  • Scott McArthur September 17, 2009, 11:55 am

    My wife and I have talked about doing this for our kids (when we have some). I call it having a “Free Range” baby. 🙂 I am curious to see how this plays out for you guys. Good luck!

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 20, 2009, 6:19 pm

      This is good haha “Free Range Baby.” I will keep you posted on how this goes.


      Link Reply
  • Baby Gates December 31, 2010, 2:26 am


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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com December 31, 2010, 10:01 am

      To the contrary, the kids in China are often completely potty trained by a year to a year and a half. How many Americans can brag about this for their kids? I think it is disgusting for a three year old to go around pooping his pants. I don’t want to change diapers, and kids can start potty training themselves almost from the start.

      Link Reply
      • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com December 31, 2010, 10:10 am

        To answer your question: they take the kid to the toilet when it has to go to the bathroom in a restaurant. There are signs that diaper free kids learn very quickly to give to their parent’s indicating when they have to go. It has now been over a year since this entry was published, and I can report that the diaper free method works.

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  • Cindy January 9, 2011, 12:34 pm

    @ Baby Gates
    Despite what Mr. Wade might’ve seen, bare-assed babies are only common in the poorer parts of China. It would be horrendous to see babies shitting or pissing all over the place in the major cities. Don’t worry about seing babies like that when you go to China, because I serious doubt that you would go sight seeing in the ugly parts of China.

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 10, 2011, 1:27 pm

      Are you calling Hangzhou or Kunming poor parts of China?

      Perhaps you won’t see babies using plants or the gutter as a toilet in the tourist areas of China, but elsewhere you will.

      Link Reply
  • cristele February 9, 2011, 1:13 pm

    hey i’m glad I found your post. I had heard about this but couldn’t figure out *the method* to teach it. I have a 4 months old and i’m going to try it on him now. kids are in their learning curve so i’m hopeful it’s never too late. I dont find the method any grosser than cleaning a butt full of poo and letting the diaper in the landfill!

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com February 11, 2011, 2:00 pm

      Very true. We generally do the diaper free training when convenient for both us and the kid, we don’t strong arm it. When we are at home, she goes in a little toilet; when out or traveling, she uses a diaper. It is my impression that the goal is to just keep the kid in control of their own bowels and with the knowledge that they should use a toilet if they can. It works.

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  • Em July 28, 2011, 9:17 pm

    As the mother of 6 children who tried EC with 2 of them I can assure you that the success of this method is down to the child, not the parent or the method!

    One happily pooed and peed when the appropriate noises were made. One didnt! one was potty trained early, one was very late.

    I was very smug that I EC’d one child and thought I had found the parenthood Holy Grail, but no. In the same way that some take to weaning when their siblings dont, that some children will eat everything put in front of them when their siblings dont, some babies poo on cue and some dont!

    If it works for you then great, but dont beat yourself up if it doesnt. Just use washable nappies for the child that doesnt like EC!

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  • Sil August 16, 2011, 2:16 am

    You are very wrong about that Cindy as I live in China and in a Major city too btw (Shenzhen), I also live in a nice area and I see this everyday. Have you even travelled to China before? lol

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  • Mrs. Rodriguez March 28, 2012, 12:26 am

    Wade, this was not only a fasciniating article about a form of potty training but FUNNY!! omg, i was laughing my head off as i read it aloud to my husband, “as I made those first tentative fart noises as my wife picked up the chorus with pee sounds…” you painted an excellent picture. i thank you so much for our experiment and the story of your results…. maybe i can give it a try too. 🙂

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  • Gordae Gorgonzola November 16, 2017, 8:01 pm

    Housebreaking your baby!
    Can’t imagine whats positive about this new-age-crap!

    First of all:
    The baby isn’t toilet-trained, YOU are.
    You will deliberatley shit on the achievements that diapers represent
    and spent more time interpreting the facial expressions of a baby
    that CAN’T hold its feces.

    Second of all, its unhealthy for the young bladder and can lead to infections!

    Maybe it’ll become more clear when friends don’t invite you anymore because they don’t want to clean shit-stained carpets
    or see how all your attention goes to the little-poop-face
    instead of any meaningful conversation.

    Link Reply
    • VagabondJourney November 16, 2017, 9:02 pm

      The baby that this is about is now a fully potty trained eight year old. We didn’t experience anything like what you outlined above.

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  • Pannolini Tortilla November 16, 2017, 8:14 pm

    Did anyone mention yet that shitting
    and pissing in the street is not eco-friendly?

    I thought we
    figured that out when we stopped dumping our night pots out the

    I’m guessing these are people who
    wonder why their childless friends stopped coming by.

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