Parenting: Ditching Diapers

Christine Gross-Loh started toilet training her son, Daniel, when he was 3 weeks old. (She'd hold him over a potty when she thought he needed to go.) By the time he was 9 months, he could indicate that he needed to be taken to the bathroom, she says. When Daniel reached 18 months, Gross-Loh stopped using diapers for good. Gross-Loh, a stay-at-home mom in New York City, is part of a growing movement called "infant potty training"--or, in slightly ickier terms, "elimination communication"--whose followers believe that most parents are overly reliant on diapers. "We believe babies are born with an awareness of when they're going to the bathroom and a desire to keep themselves clean," she says. In 2003, two of her friends (who learned of the method from her) founded diaperfree, which now has support groups in 35 states.

In the past century, the average age at which kids graduate from diapers to underwear has crept up from 1.5 years to beyond the age of 3. This, experts say, is due to the ease of disposable diapers as well as the influence of parenting books like Dr. T. Berry Brazelton's "Toilet Training: The Brazelton Way," which warns against training kids before they are ready. But a growing number of experts are troubled by the sight of kids as old as 4 and 5 still clinging to their Huggies. "There's nothing to show that delayed potty training has any benefit for kids," says pediatrician Jill Lekovic, author of the forthcoming "Diaper-Free Before 3," which advocates starting training at 8 or 9 months. Baby training probably won't harm anyone, but it might not help, either. "I think it's training the parents more than the child," says Brazelton.