Diaper Blowout: Causes, Cleanup, and Prevention

Asian baby getting diaper changed.

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Nothing ruins a sweet moment with your little one like the sudden explosion of baby poop. Whether it came with a warning rumble or erupted with a swift vengeance, diaper blowouts are never fun. The greenish-yellow streak running up your baby's back might be alarming, but it is a common (and frankly, unpleasant) part of being a tiny human.

"Sometimes [babies] give a 'Hershey schmear' and other bowel movements can be more voluminous," says Jonathan Jassey, DO, FAAP, a pediatrician at Allied Pediatrics and Family Medicine of Bellmore-Merrick in New York. Whether your baby is producing poopy diapers every day or once a week (both of which are normal), you are bound to experience the dreaded blowout at some point.

So, as you say goodbye to that adorable outfit that is now matted in baby poop, we will help you understand why diaper blowouts happen, how to help prevent them, tips for the cleanup, and when to call your pediatrician.

Why Do Diaper Blowouts Happen?

Let's start with the dirty details: what a diaper blowout really is. A diaper blowout is exactly what it sounds like—your baby's bowel movement escapes from the diaper before it has a chance to be absorbed. Why, exactly, does this happen?

You Have a Newborn

If your baby is between 1 and 8 weeks old, you are likely living the blowout life. "Diaper blowouts happen for several reasons," explains Florencia Segura, MD, FAAP, a board-certified pediatrician and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics practicing at Einstein Pediatrics.

"Physiologically, newborns are most at risk," says Dr. Segura. "They stool very frequently, up to eight to 12 times per day, and their stools tend to be a watery liquid consistency, making blowouts more likely to happen."

Diaper Issues

Dr. Segura adds that if your baby is wearing the wrong size diaper, you are in for more blowouts. "If the diaper is too small, it won't be able to contain your baby's stool. If the diaper is too large, this may cause gaps and lead to leaks, especially around the diaper cuffs," she says.

A poorly fastened diaper or one that has not been changed in a while is also at risk for a blowout.

Frequency of Bowel Movements

Diaper blowouts can happen regardless of whether your baby is breastfed or formula-fed, although, according to Dr. Jassey, formula-fed babies are more prone to constipation. "Sometimes [blowouts] can happen if [babies] skip a day or [two] going to the bathroom and all of it will come out at once," he says.  

Tips for Preventing Diaper Blowouts

To help keep your baby's bowel movements where they belong (i.e., not on their back), Dr. Segura stresses the importance of proper diaper size and positioning.

"Make sure your baby is in the correct diaper for their weight range," she says. "Check that the diaper is fastened snugly around your baby's waist, back, and legs. You will know it's a snug fit if you can't accommodate more than one finger around your baby's waist. Make sure that the ruffles are pulled out on the leg cuffs to help with the fit and prevent leaks."  

Dr. Segura also explains that car trips tend to be the prime time for blowouts due to your baby's inclined position. "Make sure you change the diaper right before placing your baby in the car seat and always bring a change of clothes," she says.

Cleaning Up a Diaper Blowout

Depending on the severity of the diaper blowout, you may be able to salvage that onesie you just bought! Here are some tips for cleaning your baby and their adorable clothes.

Bathe Your Baby

Once your baby is covered in poop, bath time seems like a no-brainer. Take your baby to the bathroom, strip off their clothes, and give them a good scrub down. If you're in public (a cringe-worthy experience), find a changing table or private area and use as many baby wipes as you can to get them clean—and always remember to bring a change of clothes!

Along with cleaning your baby, make sure you disinfect any hard surfaces and wash any changing pads, bedding, etc. that may have gotten caught in the cross-fire.

Diaper Blowout Quick Tips

  • Give your baby a thorough scrub down with soap and water (or baby wipes if you're in public)
  • Wipe down any surfaces that may have been contaminated
  • Treat the soiled clothes with pre-wash stain remover
  • Soak the clothing for at least 15 minutes before washing

Save the Clothes

To save their clothes (at least try to), start by removing as much poop as possible with a plastic spoon or knife, or anything that does the trick without rubbing it into the clothes. Spray the items with a pre-wash stain remover, give them a good soak (at least 15 minutes), and throw them in the wash.

With any luck, the blowout stain will disappear. If not, treat them again before they dry to avoid letting the stain set even more.

When to Call the Pediatrician 

For the most part, diaper blowouts are a normal part of being a baby, especially in the early months. That said, there are a couple of signs that may warrant a call to your pediatrician.

According to Dr. Jassey, if your baby is having 10 or more bowel movements a day, it's best to contact their primary provider. "Also, if you notice any bright red blood, mucousy, watery, and green stools, call your pediatrician to make sure there's not a food intolerance, like cow's milk protein intolerance," says Dr. Segura.

A Word From Verywell

It is hard to believe that so much poop can come out of such a tiny body, but diaper blowouts are, unfortunately, commonplace in the world of babies. They are more likely to occur in newborns due to the liquid-like consistency of their bowel movements.

If you find yourself in the throes of a blowout, remember to wash your baby as best you can, give their clothes a pre-soak before starting the laundry, and wipe down any soiled surfaces. Diaper blowouts are certainly messy but remember—this phase will only last a little while!

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Pooping by the numbers.

  2. Pampers. Diaper leaks and blowouts: When to change diaper size.

By Alex Vance
Alex Vance is a freelance writer covering topics ranging from pregnancy and parenting to health and wellness. She is a former news and features writer for Moms.com and Blog Writer for The HOTH. Her motherhood-related pieces have been published on Scary Mommy, Motherhood Understood, and Thought Catalog.