It’s not one of the prettiest tasks of parenting, but a necessary one, indeed. Doing it seems like a no-brainer. But do you actually know how to change a diaper?
If we’re talking about a quick, no-mess “one and done” situation, many still lack the skills. I did when I was a new mom. I always had a bigger mess on my hands than was necessary.
It wasn’t until I used this step-by-step guide that I felt like a diaper master, instead of a diaper disaster. You too will be changing your baby, in the dark, like a boss.
How Many Diapers Does a Baby Use?
If you’re an experienced mama, you know how many diapers your little one goes through in one day. For those purchasing the diapers, well, you have a better idea of how that adds up from month to month.
For new parents, here’s the reality check on daily diaper usage. Up to 12 for newborns, eight to 10 for one month olds up to five months. Then six to eight for babies older than five months old.
It’s a lot of diapers, which makes you the diaper-changing machine. Let’s get down to business and examine the ins and outs of this routine mission.
Prep Work Is Essential
Whether you’re using disposable or cloth diapers, prep work is where it all begins.
1. Wash Up
That’s right. Even though you’re about to do a nitty-gritty job, you want your hands to be clean for your baby’s bum. If you’re at home, a little soap and warm water will do the trick. Rub with effort for approximately 20 seconds and dry well.
If you’re out and about, make sure to have some hand sanitizer within reach. We recommend keeping this with the other diapering supplies (note our checklist below). Travel-sized bottles have saved me countless times.
2. Prepare the Changing Area
Are you at home with a personal changing table? As long as the area is clean and warm, you’re good to go.
It becomes trickier when you’re on the go or at someone else’s house. When you’re shopping, at a restaurant or running errands, a changing room may not be advertised or available. What are the alternatives?
- Ask for help. Find the manager or owner to inquire about a suitable place for changing your baby. They may have a designated area you weren’t aware of before.
- Close to your car? Use your trunk space. The upside is that unless this area is filled with other belongings, you have plenty of space to get the deed done.
- Set up shop near a bathroom sink. If it’s not too busy, that is. In restaurants and shops, the countertops often have more room than a pop-out changing table. To top it off, you’re right by the sink, so washing up post-change is convenient.
- Shopping for clothes? Changing rooms can double as a baby-changing area. They’re quiet, relatively clean and private. Don’t be shy.
- If you’re out in nature, well, she doesn’t mind. Find a flat grassy area that’s free of pests and complete your mission there.
Once you’ve designated your changing area, remove any debris and give it a once-over with a baby wipe if the surface needs it.
Lay down a blanket, towel or travel changing pad to help keep your baby warm (and protected) from the surface you’re using.
Safety comes first: If you’re changing your little one on an elevated surface, like a bed or changing table, keep a hand on them at all times. Even when babies are young, they can find ways to wiggle around.
In a pinch and need to grab something from your bag? Ask someone to keep an eye, even though it may feel awkward. It’s better to be safe.
3. Gather Your Supplies
Without our supplies, we’d be up a creek without a paddle. Every mom has their go-to brands and specifics.
However, all diaper changes require a few essential items. Make sure to always have back-ups and a few extra of each item listed. No one wants to realize they’re completely out of wipes or diapers mid-change (I’ve been there, it’s not fun).
- Wet wipes. Does your baby have sensitive skin? Thick, soft paper towels with warm water will do the trick. You can also make or buy washable wipes.
- Baby cream or moisturizer. Or jelly, especially important if your little one suffers from a dry bum or has a rash.
- Stash of washcloths and disinfectant spray. In case something blows up (it happens).
On the Go?
If you’re away from home, your supply list will be slightly more exhaustive. We like to prepare for the worst, but it’s usually not that bad. Add the following to your supply list to be on the safe side:
- Portable changing pad. It folds up quite compactly and some have organizational pockets for supplies. Most are waterproof.
- Change of clothes. Accidents happen.
- Hand sanitizer.
- A few plastic grocery bags. To dispose of soiled diapers and to hold dirty clothes or towels.
- A washcloth or two. You don’t know when you’ll need backup cleaning support.
You’re all washed up with a prepared changing area and you’ve gathered your supplies. What are you waiting for?
How to Change a Diaper
We jump straight into here with a step-by-step guide on how to change a diaper.
Step One: Prep a Clean Diaper
It might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at the parents who go to change a diaper in a hurry without having a new one ready. Save yourself the trouble.
Open the new diaper and gently slide the backside (with the tabs) under your baby. The top portion should be level with their waist. The diaper is ready and also acts as a shield between the baby and the changing table.
Do you suspect a significant mess ahead? Put down disposable kitchen towels or a soft towel under your baby instead of the new diaper. This way, the new diaper and changing table aren’t soiled in the process.
If this is the case, keep the new diaper within hand’s reach. Once cleanup is over, you’ll grab it with ease.
Step Two: Remove the Dirty Diaper
Now the fun begins. Carefully remove the front half of the diaper. This step is more straightforward if you have a girl who won’t be peeing all over you by accident.
If you have a boy, shield his penis with a washcloth to avoid getting soaked.
Poop in the diaper? Use this front half to remove most of it from your little one.
Step Three: Clean the Baby Well
Don’t rush this step because every inch counts. Clean your baby’s frontside as thoroughly as possible using wet wipes.
For little girls, it’s crucial to wipe from front to back to avoid bacteria that cause infections. Urinary tract infections are more common in females, as we have shorter urethras. Bacteria have less of a journey to the bladder.
If the baby pooped, give the bum an excellent clean. Different strokes for different folks, but the two primary methods are: lifting the feet with one hand or rolling a baby to one side. With the second method, you’ll then roll the baby in the opposite direction to make sure you reach everything.
Don’t miss all the little folds and creases in the thighs, butt cheeks and vagina.
Do you have a newborn? Give the umbilical cord stump a good clean too.
Step Four: Dry Well and Moisturize
Once your baby is nice and clean, allow them to dry well before dressing them again. Air-drying is fine unless the air is damp and in that case, use a clean cloth to dab their skin.
Does your little one have a diaper rash? This step is all the more important. Ensure the baby’s bottom has completely dried before applying any creams or moisturizer.
Step Five: In With the New
If the new diaper was waiting under your baby, it’s time to fasten it up. Otherwise, grab the one you’ve prepped to the side.
Close the diaper on both sides using the tabs. Avoid the tabs sticking to the baby’s skin or fastening the diaper too tight.
For boys, ensure the penis is pointing downwards into the diaper to avoid pee spraying up and out.
Ensure the part between the legs is smooth and not scrunched up. Extra material bunched in that area can cause chaffing and general discomfort.
If the ruffles around the legs are poking in, make sure they’re out as this helps prevent leaks.
Step Six: Dress the Baby
Your baby is now ready to get on with the day. Get them dressed and place them under someone else’s care while you clean the area.
If you’re solo, place baby in their crib or directly next to you on the floor. It only feels like a minute, we know, but it’s best to never let your baby leave your sight.
Step Seven: Out With the Old
Roll up the dirty diaper from the front and tightly close with both tabs and secure them in place. Toss it (carefully) into a nearby trash can or diaper pail.
If you use cloth diapers, you’ll first spray off any poop, then place the soiled diaper into the designated area for washing.
Double-over the changing area to ensure nothing was left soiled. Give a quick wipe down over the countertop and dispose of any wipes or paper towels that were used.
Step Eight: Wash Up (Again)
Back to where the process started. Give your hands and wrists a thorough clean. Can’t reach a sink? Use hand sanitizer when you’re in a pinch. We assure you it’s better than nothing.
Top Five Diapering Tips
Aside from all the tips strewn throughout the article, we leave you with a further five helpful points.
1. Change Diaper Brands from Time to Time
Unfortunately, we can’t be sure what the full range of materials is in most disposable diapers. But some moms have found that using the same brand for too long can irritate baby’s skin.
We hope in the future that companies are more forthcoming so we can better protect our little ones.
2. Stock Up on Washcloths
The more the merrier. From changing-table accidents to blow-outs on the go, you can never have too many.
You can find ultra-soft washcloths for babies. If you buy in a large quantity at once, you’ll be guaranteed to not run out for a while.
3. Always Read Labels
As parents, we can’t obsess over environmental factors, but we also want to do our best at safely raising our kids. Creams, moisturizers and jellies often contain harsh ingredients that, in the long term, can do more harm than good.
One example of this is a category of chemicals called “phthalates” used for fragrances. Research has shown these materials can disrupt baby’s endocrine system. When routinely exposed, this disruption can lead to an increase in allergies, decreased fertility, among other issues.
Your best bet is to purchase unscented baby products which are now available countrywide and found with ease.
4. Big Space? Build Multiple Changing Stations
If you have a spacious home, especially with more than one level, you don’t want to run across the house every time the diaper needs changing. This is specifically the case if you have more than one child.
Set up another one or two mini-changing stations around the home so you can change your baby easily wherever you are. Throw all the supplies into a basket or storage box that you can reach conveniently when the moment calls.
5. Don’t Forget Entertainment
The older your baby gets, the more challenging it becomes for them to hold still during the changing process. It can test our patience, of course, but it can also be a total mess.
Avoid this by keeping a few of your child’s favorite toys near the changing area. When you’re out and about, make sure to have a small item in the diaper bag. It will ensure your little one can stay occupied for a few minutes.
Changing a diaper doesn’t have to be such a drag. Having a clean routine and practicing it will help you become a diapering pro, even when you’re not at home.
Don’t underestimate your prep work and keeping extra supplies on hand. You never know when you’ll need them.
We hope this step-by-step guide on how to change a diaper has provided you with some go-to info for changing your baby on the regular.