Baby and the Beast
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Serious Question: Should I Housebreak My Newborn Like a Dog?

The ways to handle baby poop far outnumber those for dog poop. But I found an alternative to diapers -- though it sort of freaks me out.

 |  Sep 19th 2013  |   7 Contributions


I had no idea how many decisions there are to make when becoming a parent (as if that’s not a big enough decision unto itself). My baby isn’t even born yet, and it seems like a new controversy presents itself every day. First there is the decision of where to have your baby and with whom, hospital or home birth, natural or medicated, which vitamins and supplements to take while pregnant, which vaccines to get, which genetic and chromosomal testing to do … the list goes on and on.

I didn’t have nearly as many dilemmas when I adopted a dog. My husband and I went to the shelter, picked out our favorite little guy, and took him home. He had already been neutered and microchipped by the rescue organization. All we had to do was get him a leash and a license and we were happy new doggie parents.

As far as which leash to get, which dog bowl to choose, and which dog bed we wanted, none of that really mattered. And we didn’t give a second thought to poop bags. Yes, there are a few options -- there are the compostable versions (though it’s illegal to throw waste into the compost, at least in the Bay Area) and the plain old plastic bags. I have to admit that we use the latter option, even though I wish we could be more eco-friendly about the whole thing. I hate taking nature’s most biodegradable material (poop) and wrapping it in the most un-biodegradable material (plastic). But, what’s the alternative? Leaving it on my neighbor’s lawn?

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Rusty's disposable bags

I am in the same debate when it comes to which diapers to use on my baby. The variety of ways to handle baby poop far outnumbers the options for dog poop. Gone are the days when parents chose between plastic and cloth. Now there are a myriad of diaper choices: pre-folds, hybrids, compostables, covers, inserts, and liners.  

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Example of the new cloth diapers - cover & insert

According to the Tiny Tots website, parents should plan for about 10 diapers per day! Figure the kid gets potty trained around two and a half (which might be wishful thinking?) that’s close to 10,000 diapers! No wonder disposable diapers are said to be the biggest contributor to landfill. So, that option is out for me, as simple as it may be. 

There are the cloth diaper services that don’t produce any landfill waste, but use lots of water and gas to deliver and wash the diapers. There are the compostable diaper services that also use gas and energy to deliver and compost the diapers at their special facilities. There are the diapers that parents launder themselves, but what does that cost in water, time and energy? Frankly, just thinking about it makes me exhausted. Or maybe that exhaustion is from carrying around a seven-pound-or-so human life in my womb. Probably a combo of the two.

But this whole debate got me thinking: I wonder if kids can be housebroken like pets. Can I train my baby to poop in the yard or a litter box? Though plastic bags aren’t ideal, they’re better than a big fat plastic diaper. The closest thing I’ve seen to a housebroken kid is my nephew, whom my sister has trained to pee in a little potty (or on the toilet) since the day he was born.

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Little Jeremy on the potty

This system is known as Elimination Communication (EC) and, according to the New York Times, is becoming more and more hip. However, it takes extreme time and devotion as a parent; you have to watch your kid’s every facial expression to be able to catch each “evacuation.” While it seems like a noble cause, I’m not sure I have it in me to be that observant. 

I think perhaps I’ll just treat my kid like I treat my dog. Put her on a leash and walk her around the block to “mark her territory.” I suppose she’ll have to be naked, or at least bottomless, so this will only work in warm weather. And perhaps the leash isn’t necessary. When she poops, I’ll just scoop it up in a little baggie and call it a day.

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Rusty tries out the new changing table.

Do you have young children or babies? What diaper option did you choose and why? I’d love to get some recommendations! And no I'm not going to put my baby on a leash!

Read more by Audrey Khuner:

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