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How to change a diaper

Changing a diaper may be your least favorite part of parenting, but it’s just as important as feeding your little one. If you’ve never had to change a baby’s diaper before, it may seem like an overwhelming task, but once you do it a couple of times and get the hang of it, it will become second nature. Here’s everything you need to know about changing your baby’s diaper, including how to make it as easy as possible.

Diapering essentials you need

Before you get started, make sure you have the following diapering essentials on hand:

  • Clean diapers

Although you only need a diaper at a time, it doesn’t hurt to have a couple of spares handy just in case.

  • Wipes, clean cotton balls, or washcloths

For newborns and babies that have chronic diaper rash, use a cotton ball dipped in warm water to clean the baby off. You can also choose to use a soft washcloth and water. Another option is to use hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, pre-moistened wipes.

  • A change of clothes for your baby

Sometimes a diaper might leak and stain your little one’s clothes, so you might want to have a clean pair of pants nearby in case this happens.

  • Diaper barrier cream or ointment

You'll need either of these in case your baby gets a diaper rash. Diaper rash creams and ointments create a barrier between a baby’s sensitive bottom and skin-irritating pee and poop.

  • Diaper changing table

A diaper changing table is designed to make the diapering process easier. Go for one that features a side rail on all four sides, to reduce the risk of your little one rolling off. If you don't have a changing table, the top of a dresser (or any other flat, secure surface) should do.

  • Diaper changing pad

This goes on top of the changing surface. Many diaper bags come with a changing pad.

  • A distraction

If you have a squirmy baby, consider keeping a favorite toy or even a music box nearby for distraction

  • A diaper pail

It might be helpful to have somewhere to dispose of your baby’s used diapers. A diaper pail is a convenient way of doing this.

How to change your baby’s diaper

The basic steps for changing a diaper are as follows:

1. Place your little one on a clean, flat surface

If you don’t have a changing table, simply spread a towel, blanket, or waterproof pad on a clean, soft, flat, surface and lay your baby on it on his/her back. Make sure you keep one hand on your baby at all times, even if he/she is yet to start rolling over.

2. Unfasten the diaper and clean your baby’s bottom

Unfasten the diaper. For a wet diaper, fold it underneath your little one, so that the clean outer part is under his/her bum. Proceed to wipe the area. For a poopy diaper, wipe off as much as possible using the diaper, and then fold it underneath, as with a wet diaper.

Use damp cotton balls or wipes to clean your diaper care, making sure to clean between all the creases.  If you’re wiping your baby girl, make sure to do it from front to back, to avoid getting fecal matter in the vaginal area. If you’re changing your baby boy, cover his penis with a diaper or cloth to keep pee from getting on you. Pat your baby dry and then apply a rash ointment on the affected area if needed. 

Carefully lift your baby’s legs by the ankles and slide a fresh diaper underneath. Pull the front of the diaper up between your child’s legs and bring it to his/her belly. Lift the wings of the diaper on both sides and stick the fastening tape on each wing onto the diaper’s front. Fasten the diaper snugly to prevent leaks, but not so tightly that it irritates your baby’s skin. To check this, try inserting two fingers between the diaper and your baby’s tummy. The tabs should always be symmetrical.

3. Dispose of the used diaper

If you use disposables, wrap the dirty diaper and secure it with the tab fastener. Toss it in your diaper pail, trash can, or plastic bag. Never flush a diaper down the toilet. 

4. Dress your child

Change your baby’s clothes if they somehow got soiled as well.

5. Wash your hands

Once you’re finished, clean the diaper changing area and wash your hands.

How can you distinguish a wet diaper from a dry one?

Some diapers have a liquid-sensitive, color-changing stripe so that you can see if your baby needs a fresh diaper. Other signs that your little one may need a diaper change include:

  • You can see or smell poop or pee
  • You reach inside the diaper for a quick feel and it's damp
  • The underside of the diaper feels heavy, or the diaper is sagging.

How often should you change a diaper?

It’s recommended that you change your baby’s diaper after every poop, and regularly in between to ensure that your child doesn’t stay in a wet diaper for too long. When you have a newborn, you may need to change diapers as often as ten times a day.

What to do if your baby’s diaper is leaking?

If you notice leaks and blowouts start to happen more often, it might be time to upgrade to the next diaper size. As your little one grows, the quantity of poop and pee also increases. A bigger diaper will not only fit better but also hold more stuff.

Sometimes the diaper may be the right size, but you may have put it on your baby incorrectly, resulting in leaks. Make sure you double-check that the tapes are symmetrical, the leg cuffs are turned out, and that you haven't fastened the diaper too loosely or too tightly.

Final thoughts

Even if you don’t always look forward to changing diapers, you will have peace of mind knowing that your little nugget feels comfortable and dry in his diaper. Plus, with some time and practice, diaper changes will become effortless for you, and you might even start to enjoy it!

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