A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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Diaper-Free Zone


As a former diaper changer, I have participated in the modern American debate over whether cloth or disposable is the best way to go.

Piles of smelly laundry confronting an already exhausted new mother is a drawback of cloth diapers but, of course, the ever-growing landfills can barely hold another string of plastic bundles from the Diaper Genie.

China provides a third option: Ditch the diaper altogether!


If you buy a snowsuit for your wee one in China, you can be sure that it will have a handy opening in the back. On the coldest days, babies hoisted up on a parent’s shoulder have their tiny bottoms out for the world to see and for, well, convenience.

We saw Chinese moms holding their little ones bent at the waist, tushie down, releasing. But these were toddlers. What happens when an infant needs to “go?” Never got a glimpse of that, but I think I’d rather clean a baby’s smeared derriere than my own winter coat’s sleeves.

For the older set, once you’ve mastered the art of using a toilet, there are still differences from our approach.

Most commodes we’ve encountered in Asia are built for squatting.


A porcelain bowl sits flush to the ground (no pun intended!). Ridged foot areas on each side make sure you don’t slip as you take your best aim. A large scoop and a bucket of water sit nearby for a simulated flush.

And don’t forget to bring your own toilet paper, seemingly superfluous to many people here.

Caroline has been astonished a few times after walking into a (rare) large public restroom to find older ladies using the sides of a western style toilet bowl as squat-worthy foot rests and talking loudly to each other with their stall doors wide open!

For western visitors used to sitting in private contemplation before using a mechanical flush system, the Chinese government has recently devised a method to help you find your ideal bowl: a easy-to-gauge rating system.



1 Sebastian (a lady) { 04.22.09 at 7:40 pm }

In Japan, I’m having to get used to stall roulette. I never know if I’ll find a squat toilet (generally a little nicer than what you show, with a flush tank and even a bar to hold), a standard western toilet, or some elaborate toilet with buttons and controls including sound effects and heating elements. The last one ones frankly scare me the most because, not reading Japanese, I have no idea what the buttons might summon up.

2 Ken Vest { 04.22.09 at 7:43 pm }

Amazing how practicle some cultures are. However as a former diaper tradesman I feel compelled to note that you left out one option–the diaper delivery man.

That was my second job in the DC area in the early 1970s –left the bookstore to make more money.

Now, I’m taking it on faith that the process at Elite Diapers was as environmentally sound as they said it was. But it is a possible choice.

For me it was a splendid launching pad for my PR career. Slinging soiled diapers was excellent training for what was to come later.

Excellent post at any rate. May never work in the states but you never know what choices we may have to make later on.

solve their vexing problems.

3 Doug Spiro { 04.23.09 at 6:11 am }

You all amaze me every day! The Ditch the Diaper was a perfect thought for Earth day!

I love the trap door (a real time saver for the busy mom on the go) and the rating system is a fantastic idea which the US should adopt. I believe I experienced some of what Caroline saw, unfortunately for me it was at Penn Station in NYC

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