How to Change a Baby's Diaper

baby getting diaper changed

 Ruth Jenkinson / Brand X Pictures / Getty Images

If you've never changed a baby's diaper before, the task may seem overwhelming. Rest assured, once you've done it a few times, it will become second nature. And if you are a new parent, your baby will give you plenty of practice. Infants typically go through at least six to 10 diapers a day, adding up to more than 3,000 diaper changes in the first year.

What You Need

It's important to make sure you have everything you need (or could need) before you begin.

Make sure you have the following:

  • A safe, clean place to change the baby: Many parents use a changing table or a changing pad on the floor, bed, or couch. If you are using a changing table, it is recommended to use the safety straps and to follow the pad's instructions for anchoring it to the table. While a newborn won't move much, by 4 months old, your baby will know how to roll. Practicing safety from the start will help you be in the habit when your little one is on the move.
  • Diapers, whether cloth or disposable, in the correct size
  • Something to wipe the baby with: Many parents use baby wipes to clean the diaper area, but a newborn's skin is sensitive and pediatricians recommend using warm water and a cloth or cotton balls during the first weeks of life (wipes sold pre-moistened only with water are another option). Traditional baby wipes, especially those containing alcohol, can cause rashes and irritation until children are about 2 months old.
  • Diaper cream or ointment (if needed)
  • "Emergency" supplies: In the case of a messy blowout, it's helpful to have a change of clothes for your baby and a bag on hand.

    Changing a Diaper: Step by Step

    These instructions are for changing disposable diapers. While some parents choose to use cloth diapers, the basic steps are the same.

    No matter your baby's age, never leave him or her unattended on an elevated surface—even for a moment.

    1. Wash your hands and gather your supplies. Make sure you have everything you need in arm's reach.
    2. Lay your baby on his back on the changing surface.
    3. Unfasten the diaper tabs. Raise your child's bottom off the diaper by gently grasping his ankles and lifting. If there is a lot of poop present, you can use the upper half of the diaper to gently sweep it toward the lower half of the diaper.
    4. Slide the diaper away from the baby and place it nearby, but out of reach of baby.
    5. Wipe the baby clean. When wiping a girl, always go from front to back to prevent an infection. Thoroughly cleanse the area so the baby does not get a rash.
    6. Place any used disposable cleaning supplies on top of the soiled diaper.
    7. Slide a clean diaper under your baby's bottom making 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.
    8. Before closing the diaper, apply any ointments or creams your doctor has recommended for rashes. 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, which can sometimes be difficult.
    1. Close the new diaper by pulling the front up over his belly and pulling the tabs open and around to the fastening surface. If you are not using specially cut newborn diapers, be sure to fold the diaper down to avoid irritation of the umbilical stump until it falls off.
    2. Roll the used diaper and wrap the tabs all the way around it. Place the diaper in a bag, diaper bin, or garbage can.
    3. Wash your and your baby's hands, and clean the changing surface. This step is especially important if your baby is ill, as it helps prevent recontamination.

    Tips

    You and your baby will soon get into a groove, but these tips may be helpful as you find your way:

    • Follow your doctor's instructions when caring for a healing circumcision and umbilical stump.
    • Take care not to make the diaper too tight. You want to avoid leaks, but a too-tight diaper can cause pressure on your baby's stomach making him more likely to spit up. This is especially true after feedings.
    • If your baby has a rash that doesn't clear up after a few days, or if he seems to be in a lot of pain and has skin that is red and raw in appearance, contact your pediatrician immediately.
    • It can be helpful to always keep one hand on your baby when looking away or reaching for a clean diaper.
    • Never change or leave a dirty diaper where food is prepared or eaten.
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