How to Change a Diaper

Step-By-Step Instructions

Baby in a diaper

Verywell / Photo Illustration by Madelyn Goodnight / Getty Images

Along with feeding and bathing your newborn, changing their diaper is a task you'll be faced with quickly—and often—as a new parent. Though it may seem a little daunting at first, learning how to change a diaper will become second nature with practice.

And your baby will give you plenty of that: Infants typically go through eight to 10 diapers a day, adding up to more than 3,500 diaper changes until they are toilet trained. Learn the most efficient way to get your baby from a dirty diaper into a clean one, as well as some pointers to make the process easier for both you and your little one.


Click Play to Learn How to Change a Diaper

What You Need

Before beginning, make sure everything you need is handy. Here is a checklist:

  • Change of clothes for your baby (in case of a blowout)
  • Changing table or changing pad
  • Diapers (cloth or disposable)
  • Diaper cover or pins for cloth diapers, if needed
  • Diaper cream or ointment
  • Disposable bag
  • Wipes, soft cloth, or cotton balls

Many people use baby wipes to clean the diaper area. However, a newborn's skin is quite sensitive. Using warm water and a cloth or cotton balls during the first few weeks of life can help prevent skin irritation.

Buying wipes that are pre-moistened with water is another option. Traditional baby wipes, especially those containing alcohol, can cause rashes and irritation until children are about 2 months old.

Options for places to change a baby include a changing table or a changing pad on the floor, bed, or couch. If you are using a changing table, use the safety straps and follow the pad's instructions for anchoring it to the table.

Make sure your changing table is concave in the center (with the sides higher than the middle) or put a changing pad on the table. This can help prevent falls due to the baby rolling off the table, which can cause a serious injury.

While a newborn won't move much, they will know how to roll over by 4 months of age. And a baby of any age can potentially get their body in motion and fall. Practicing safety from the start is a smart idea before your little one is on the move.

Step-by-Step for How to Change a Diaper

These instructions are for changing disposable diapers. Using cloth diapers involves the same basic steps, except that you'll also need to fold and fasten the cloth on each side using diaper pins. However, some cloth diapers come with attached fasteners.

Get Ready

First, wash your hands. Then gather your supplies. Make sure you have everything you need in arm's reach (but out of your baby's reach) so you won't have to turn your back while your baby is on the changing table.

Take Off the Dirty Diaper

Gently lay your baby on their back on the changing surface. Unfasten the diaper tabs or pins on each side.

Then raise your child's bottom off of the diaper by gently grasping their ankles and lifting them slightly. If there is a lot of stool in the diaper, you can use the upper half of the diaper to gently sweep it toward the lower half.

Slide the diaper away. Place it nearby, but out of reach of your baby.

Clean Your Baby's Skin

Wipe your baby clean. Thoroughly but gently cleanse the diaper area with wipes or moistened cotton balls. When wiping a vulva, always go from front to back to prevent infection. Note that you are only cleaning the external area of a vulva to remove any poop. Similarly, be sure to fully cleanse all around a penis and scrotum. Additionally, to avoid getting peed on, place a clean diaper or cloth over the penis while cleaning the diaper area.

Set aside the trash. Place any used disposable cleaning supplies on top of the soiled diaper.

Put on the Clean Diaper

Slide a clean diaper under your baby's bottom. Make sure the tabs are on the side located under your child's bottom. Most diapers today have colorful markings or characters indicating the front of the diaper.

Before closing the diaper, be sure to point a penis downward to prevent peeing out of the diaper. Apply any ointments or creams you choose to use either as rash prevention or treatment. Doing this step after you've placed the new diaper under your baby will help prevent you from having to clean ointments off the changing surface.

Though once a diaper change staple, experts including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) don't recommend the use of baby powder due to the health risks associated with inhaling airborne particles.

Then, close the new diaper. Pull the front between your child's legs and up over their stomach. Pull the diaper tabs open and around to the front, making sure the diaper is snug but not too tight. With cloth diapers, use the attached snaps or carefully pin the diaper closed. If you are not using specially cut newborn diapers, fold the front of the diaper down to avoid irritation of the umbilical stump until it falls off.

Finish Up

Place your baby in a safe location (such as in their crib or in a baby carrier) while you clean up. Firmly roll up the soiled diaper and wrap the tabs all the way around it. Place the diaper in a bag, diaper bin, or garbage can.

With cloth diapers, drop any poop into the toilet and rinse away any residual poop. Then, put the diaper into a bin for the laundry.

Clean the changing surface. Use a disinfectant to prevent contamination the next time you use the changing table. Finally, wash your and your baby's hands.

How Often Should I Change It?

Ideally, your baby's diaper should be changed as soon as it becomes soiled. Typically, this means eight to 10 times a day for young babies but the frequency will vary quite a bit. Often, babies will need a diaper change soon after each feeding, but you'll usually know due to the smell—or you can simply take a look.

While urine is germ-free and does not usually irritate the skin, stool is very caustic. Leaving stool in contact with your baby's skin for any length of time, especially if they are very young or have sensitive skin, will raise their chances of developing a painful diaper rash. However, note that getting a diaper rash is very common and may occur no matter how quick you are to change your baby's diaper.

When you change your baby's diaper, the AAP recommends rinsing the diaper area with lots of warm water in addition to using wipes. This extra step isn't always practical if you're on the go, but doing it at home will keep your baby's skin healthy and free from irritation.

Diaper Changing Tips

You will soon be able to change your baby's diaper without a second thought, but these tips may be helpful as you find your way. First, remember not to change or leave a dirty diaper near areas where food is prepared or eaten.

Wound Care

Follow your pediatrician's instructions for a healing circumcision or umbilical stump. Remember to complete any steps such as cleaning or rinsing.


Keep one hand on your baby at all times. This helps your baby stay safe when you're reaching for a clean diaper or other supplies.

Regardless of your baby's age, never leave them unattended on an elevated surface—even for a moment.


Don't fasten the diaper too tightly. You want to avoid leaks, but a diaper that's too tight can cause pressure on your baby's stomach, potentially causing discomfort and making them more likely to spit up. Tight diapers can also trap moisture and cause rubbing, both of which can lead to diaper rash.

When to See the Pediatrician

While you'll see many colors, consistencies, and textures in your baby's diaper in the early days—from sticky, dark black-green meconium to softer yellow or brown milk or formula stools—you may also discover things you weren't expecting.

For example, baby girls may have vaginal discharge. Discharge that is white or blood-stained is normal for about the first two weeks of life. Let your baby's pediatrician know, however, if it persists beyond two weeks, turns yellow, or has an odor, as these could be signs of an infection.

You may also see rust-colored urate crystals for the first few days after birth. This normal end-product of metabolism is more common in breastfed infants. Breast milk is high in protein, which results in acidic urine that encourages the formation of urate crystals. Although they can be normal, urate crystals may also point to dehydration.

Call your pediatrician right away if your baby shows any of these signs of dehydration:

  • Crying without tears
  • Dark yellow or brown urine
  • Fewer than six wet diapers in 24 hours
  • Skin that is dry to the touch

Additionally, while mild diaper rashes can often be effectively treated at home, if your baby has a diaper rash that doesn't clear up after a few days, or if they seem to be in pain and their skin is red and raw, call your pediatrician. These symptoms could point to an allergy or other health condition.

A Word From Verywell

Learning to change your new baby's diaper can seem a little nerve-wracking at first. Newborns are so tiny, and their bodies are undergoing many changes as they get used to the world. You may feel worried about hurting your baby or doing something wrong in the beginning. These concerns—and feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by parenthood—are very common.

Rest assured that you will quickly master this parenting task along with the many other skills you'll gain as a new parent. If it helps you feel more comfortable, ask a nurse to demonstrate how to change your baby's diaper while you're still in the hospital.

When questions arise or you feel unsure of anything after coming home, call your pediatrician. They are there to help and will gladly address any concerns you have.

7 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.
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  2. Make baby's room safe: Parent checklist.

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Common diaper rashes and treatments.

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By Stephanie Brown
Stephanie Brown is a parenting writer with experience in the Head Start program and in NAEYC accredited child care centers.