While changing diapers is no parent’s favorite activity, it’s an unavoidable part of raising a child. This task might seem daunting to new parents who lack experience and fear they might cause discomfort to their baby. However, a bit of know-how and a little practice is all it takes to transform from a complete beginner to a diapering pro.
To help you step up your game faster, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide on changing a diaper. It contains all the tips you need to pull off a successful diaper change every time.
How to Change a Diaper
Ideally, you should change your baby’s diaper as soon as it gets soiled to prevent a diaper rash from developing (need to know the difference between diaper rash and heat rash? Read here). On average, babies require about eight diaper changes per day. Thanks to this frequency, you should get the hang out of changing diapers quickly, provided you know what you’re doing.
With that in mind, let’s go over how to change a baby’s diaper.
Step 1: Gather the Diapering Essentials
When it comes to changing diapers, preparation is a crucial step. Without careful preparation, you might miss some essential items during the diaper-changing process. Since you can’t leave your newborn unsupervised to fetch these, you’ll have to seek assistance or stop the process, which is unnecessarily time-consuming and stressful.
So, before changing a baby’s diaper, ensure you have everything you’ll need to accomplish this task without making a mess in your arm’s reach. Diapering essentials include the following items:
- Diapers. You’ll probably only need one fresh diaper, but having plenty of clean diapers within easy reach can’t hurt. You can use disposable or cloth diapers.
- A diaper cover or diaper pins. You’ll only need these if you’re using cloth diapers.
- A changing pad or a changing table. If you’re using a diaper changing pad, ensure it’s properly anchored to a dresser or a changing table. As far as a changing table goes, buy one with a concave diaper changing surface in the center and a side rail on all four sides. If you still haven’t gotten around to purchasing a similar diaper-changing station, any flat surface will do, as long as you cover it with a towel or a blanket.
- Baby wipes, cotton balls, or a soft cloth. Wipes might be too harsh on the baby’s diaper area initially. So, to avoid irritating the sensitive newborn skin, use a wet washcloth or cotton balls during the first few weeks.
- A disposable plastic bag, a trash can, or a diaper pail. A diaper pail is a container specifically designed for storing soiled diapers. It is a superior option since it helps eliminate the odors a dirty diaper gives off.
- A diaper cream or a barrier ointment. These products are necessary in case your baby develops a diaper rash.
- A change of clothes. You’ll need a cute new baby outfit in case of a blowout or another diaper-related emergency.
- A distraction. While not essential, your baby’s favorite toy can help calm them.
These essentials rarely change, so you might benefit from keeping a fully equipped diaper bag in the nursery.
Step 2: Lay Your Baby on Your Chosen Surface
After gathering the diapering essentials, wash your hands, and pick up your baby. Then, lay your baby on a changing table or another clean, safe flat surface. Position your little one with their bottom facing you and gently spread the baby’s legs apart.
Step 3: Remove Your Baby’s Clothing
If the content of the soiled diaper has leaked onto your baby’s clothes, you’ll need to remove their entire outfit. Otherwise, only pull back enough clothing to ensure nothing interferes with the diaper change.
Step 4: Unfasten the Soiled Diaper
After the baby’s clothes go, it’s time for the diaper to follow suit. Unfasten the soiled diaper if you’re using disposable diapers, or remove the pins from a cloth diaper. You’ll immediately find out which number you’re dealing with if the smell hasn’t given it away yet.
If you’re dealing with a wet diaper, fold it underneath the baby, placing the clean side under the bottom. The same goes for a poopy diaper after using it to wipe your baby’s skin as much as possible.
Step 5: Clean Your Baby’s Skin
While the dirty diaper is still underneath your baby, lift both legs gently by their ankles and clean their bottom. You can use wipes if your baby is older than a month. Otherwise, warm water and a cotton ball will do the trick.
If you have a baby girl, always wipe front to back to prevent infection. Also, it would be best to clean the vulva with every diaper change, only sticking to its external area.
When changing a boy’s diaper, you should cover his penis with a clean diaper to prevent pee-related accidents with your clothes, face, or the surrounding walls as causalities. Once it’s safe to go in, thoroughly clean your baby’s skin, especially around the penis and scrotum.
Regardless of your baby’s gender, take your time with this step. Failing to remove urine and stool completely can lead to a diaper rash or an infection.
If your newborn is healing from circumcision or has an umbilical stump, follow the instructions given by the baby’s pediatrician on cleaning and rinsing the affected area.
Step 6: Remove the Dirty Diaper
Once your baby is clean, carefully slide the dirty diaper and move it out of the way and out of your baby’s reach. Remember not to leave your baby unattended on an elevated surface, regardless of the baby’s age.
Step 7: Apply a Diaper Ointment or a Cream
If you notice any skin irritation or a diaper rash, you should apply a diaper ointment or a diaper cream. For this step, you can use a zinc oxide cream, petroleum jelly, or a dedicated diaper rash cream.
Using a clean finger or an applicator, apply a thin layer and spread it evenly over the baby’s diaper area, heavily focusing on the irritated areas. During the following diaper change, avoid rubbing off the applied layer of ointment to prevent further irritating the baby’s sensitive skin.
It’s also important to remember that a diaper rash doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing something wrong. Although it can develop from irregular diaper changes, it can also be caused by diarrhea or a difference in the baby’s diet. You can help your baby combat the rashes by having their bum air dry as long as possible.
You can also apply ointments after sliding a clean diaper underneath to avoid cleaning greasy residues on the changing surface.
Step 8: Put on a Clean Diaper
Once your baby is dry, it’s time to put on a clean diaper. Slide the new diaper under the baby’s bottom. Most disposable diapers feature colorful markings to indicate which side goes in the front.
After placing the new diaper correctly, pull its front side between your baby’s legs and over your baby’s stomach. The back side should cover the baby’s entire bottom. Next, fasten the sticky tabs on both sides.
If you’re using cloth diapers, carefully pin or snap the diaper closed around your baby’s waist and legs.
Regardless of the diaper type, avoid fastening it too tightly. You should aim for a snug fit that will prevent leaks, but an excessively tight diaper can put too much pressure on your baby’s belly. This pressure can cause discomfort, make the baby vomit, or develop a diaper rash.
Before closing a boy’s diaper, point his penis downward to prevent leaks.
Step 9: Re-Dress Your Baby
After changing the baby’s diaper, you should put their clothes back on and position them comfortably again.
Step 10: Clean Up
Now that your baby is sparkling clean again, take them to a safe location, such as a baby carrier or a crib. This will allow you to clean up without worrying about their safety.
The clean-up process involves removing the dirty diaper and any materials you might’ve used during the diaper change.
If you use a disposable diaper, dispose of it as the name suggests. Roll up the diaper carefully, with extra care if it’s a poopy diaper, and wrap the sticky tabs around it. Then, place it in a plastic bag, trash can, or diaper pail.
When using cloth diapers, you can throw wet diapers directly in the laundry basket. If you’re dealing with a poopy cloth diaper, you’ll need to drop the contents into the toilet first. Then, rinse away the residues and make your way to the laundry basket.
After disposing of the baby’s diaper, you can clean the changing surface and spray it with a disinfectant to prevent contamination. Then, wash your hands with some soap and warm water. If you feel that’s not enough, use hand sanitizer as well.
Change your Baby’s Diaper Like a Pro in No Time
It’s perfectly understandable to be afraid to change your baby’s diaper, given how tiny and sensitive babies are. Feeling afraid, worried, exhausted, and overwhelmed are all to be expected from a parent, especially a first-time parent. But don’t worry. This guide on how to change a diaper has armed you with all the diaper-changing tips to master this task, just like you will any other parenting task that comes your way.