Changing a Diaper

As a new mother, feeding and changing can seem to take up most of your time. It’s not your imagination: babies may use as many as 10 diapers a day. Changing a diaper may seem complicated at first, but all you need is a little practice, and you’ll be getting plenty of that!

General Guidelines

Before you begin, gather your supplies within easy reach:

  • a clean diaper
  • fasteners (if needed)
  • cotton balls (for newborns or babies with sensitive skin)
  • a clean washcloth or diaper wipes (for older babies who aren’t sensitive to wipes)
  • an extra washcloth for patting baby dry after wiping
  • diaper ointment (if needed for rashes)
  • changing pad or a spare cloth diaper to place under your baby.

Optional supplies:

  • a spare diaper to place over your little boy’s penis
  • sanitizing wipes or a disinfectant spray to clean and sanitize the changing surface after each use.

Babies should never be left alone when you are changing a diaper, even for a second.

Since a baby who has something to focus on will wiggle and squirm less, give the baby something to look at while being changed—such as an unbreakable mirror or a colourful picture. Later on, when baby is able to grasp objects, keep favourite toys close at hand.

Once you are ready, unfasten the soiled diaper and hold your baby’s legs up by grasping both ankles with one hand. Remove the soiled diaper and set it aside, out of baby’s reach.

Clean the baby completely. (See Tips for Proper Wiping, below.) For boys, it’s a good idea to place a clean diaper over the penis while you change the diaper. Exposure to air often causes baby boys to pee—on you, the walls, or anything else within range. When you have cleaned the baby, place the penis in a downward position before fastening the clean diaper. This will help prevent leaks at the waistline.

If your baby’s umbilical cord stump has not fallen off yet, fold down the waistline of the diaper to keep that area dry.

Tips for Proper Wiping

  • Using cotton balls, a wet washcloth, or baby wipes, gently wipe your baby clean from the front to the back. Never wipe from back to front, especially on girls, or you could spread bacteria and cause a urinary tract infection.
  • You may want to lift the baby’s legs so you can see and reach all areas. Don’t forget the creases in the thighs and buttocks.
  • Once you’ve finished wiping, pat your baby dry with a clean, dry washcloth.
  • Apply lotions or creams only on buttocks or upper thighs and not on the genitals, unless your health care provider has told you it is okay to do so.
  • If you find any marks around your baby’s legs or waist, the diaper was too tight.
  • Disposable wipes, disposable diapers, laundry soap, bleach, and fabric softener that you use to launder cloth diapers can irritate your baby’s skin.
  • Completely clean and disinfect the changing surface with a sanitizing wipe or disinfectant spray.
  • Always wash your hands well after changing your baby’s diaper to prevent the spread of germs.

Odour Control Tip

To neutralize odours from used diapers, sprinkle baking soda on them in the diaper pail.

Disposable Diapers

  • Open the diaper and slide it under your baby while gently lifting the legs and feet. Pull the diaper up between baby’s legs, making sure it’s on straight, so it will wrap evenly around baby’s hips. The back part with the adhesive strips should be about level with the baby’s belly button.
  • Raise the front part of the diaper the rest of the way up between your baby’s legs, and onto his or her belly.
  • Next, open the adhesive tabs, place them over the front of the diaper, and press them firmly in place. Be careful not to let the tape stick to your baby’s skin.
    • For a snug fit, fasten the side closest to you first. Then roll your baby gently toward you to tighten and fasten the other side.
    • Try to keep the overlap of front and back as neat as possible, so the diaper will hug baby’s waist comfortably.
  • Dispose of stool in the toilet, and then throw the diaper in the trash.
  • Empty the garbage regularly (about once a day). This reduces smell and also prevents the growth of bacteria.

Cloth Diapers

  • There are many kinds of cloth diapers, including all-in-ones (which include the cover), pre-folded, fitted, or flat—with or without fasteners, Velcro, or snaps.
  • New diapers and covers need to be laundered at least once before using them. Follow the manufacturer’s directions.
  • Cloth diapers are less expensive than disposables in the long-run, especially if you launder them yourself.
  • If you hire a diaper service to pick up your dirty diapers and drop off clean ones once a week, this becomes much less expensive per child when you have two or more in diapers.
  • If the cloth diapers you use do not have snaps or Velcro fasteners attached, you can use diaper tape or oversized safety pins with plastic heads. If you decide to use pins, keep your hand between the pin and your baby’s skin to prevent pricking.
  • Wet diapers can be tossed right into the diaper pail, but soiled diapers should be emptied into the toilet first.
  • Sprinkle the diapers in the pail with baking soda for odour control and keep the pail covered.

Cleaning Cloth Diapers

  • Always wash diapers separately from other laundry.
  • Pre-soak heavily soiled cloth diapers and use hot water to launder them. Use a mild detergent and do not use fabric softeners or dryer sheets.

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