How to Change a Diaper: A Step-by-Step Guide for New Parents

How to Change a Diaper: A Step-by-Step Guide for New Parents

While the first few days of your newborn’s life will be filled with joy, they’ll also be full of new, unfamiliar experiences marked by a whirlwind of feedings, sleepless nights, and countless diaper changes.

As a parent, diaper changes quickly become second nature, and your newborn will make sure of that. On average, infants require around 10 diaper changes daily, which could mean a staggering 3,500 changes before your little one is fully potty trained.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll help you learn the fundamental steps of how to change a baby's diaper, offer insights for unique scenarios, provide solutions to common challenges, and navigate selecting the perfect diaper for your baby's needs. Let’s get started!

What You Need to Change Your Baby's Diaper

Before embarking on your diaper-changing journey, it's essential to gather all the necessary supplies. Each diaper change requires wipes, diaper rash cream, a changing mat, a diaper disposal unit, a disposable liner, and, of course, a diaper.

Many parents set up changing stations with all of their essentials on a rolling cart that’s easy to move wherever they need it. Additionally, having an extra set of clothes for your baby can be a lifesaver in case of a blowout.

When selecting a spot for the change, you have numerous options, including a changing table or a changing pad on the floor, bed, or couch. For the changing table, make sure it has a concave design with elevated sides, which is crucial for preventing any accidental rolling that could result in serious injuries.

Maintaining accessibility to all your supplies is key, especially considering that babies can start rolling around as early as four months. Implementing these safety measures prepares you for the increased mobility of your little one.

Additionally, prioritizing diaper hygiene is just as important. Even tiny amounts of poop can contain millions of germs. But you can minimize germ spread by following safe diaper-changing practices. After every change, be diligent about washing your hands, properly disposing of soiled diapers, and thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing the changing area. Your commitment to these practices will ensure a hygienic and safe environment for your baby.

Step-by-Step Guide to Diaper Changing

Step by Step Guide on How to Change Diaper

Now that you've got all your supplies lined up, your changing table prepped, and your hygiene routine in check, it's time for the main event—changing your baby's diaper! In this section, we’ll share the seven key steps to follow. 

STEP 1: Lay the Baby Safely in the Changing Area

As mentioned earlier, choose a good spot for changing – it could be a changing table, a pad on the floor, a bed, or a couch. It's even better if the table has a bit of a dip and raised sides to keep the baby secure. For easy clean-up and hygiene reasons, lay a disposable liner down across your changing table. 

Lay your little one down on their bottom with their legs slightly spread apart and gently rest their head. Remember, it's critical to stay with your baby at all times and not leave them unattended during the diaper-changing process. If you need to reach for something, be sure to keep a firm hand on your little one.

STEP 2: Remove the Dirty Diaper

Pull back your baby’s clothing enough so that it won’t interfere with the diaper change. Pro tip: dressing younger babies in clothing with easy diaper access, such as onesies with zippers or snaps, can make your life easier!

If any diaper contents leaked onto the clothing, remove the entire outfit. Unfasten the diaper tabs on each side and survey the scene. In the section below, we will discuss how to tackle every possible diaper-changing situation. 

Raise your baby’s bottom off of the diaper by gently holding their ankles and lifting them slightly off the table. If you are dealing with a poopy diaper, wipe up as much as possible with the diaper itself, using the upper half of the diaper to sweep the stool toward the lower half. Then, fold the diaper underneath your baby. Make sure it is not within your child’s reach. 

STEP 3: Clean the Baby

Lift your baby's legs and clean their front using warm water or wipes, ensuring you reach all the creases. Then, thoroughly clean the baby’s bottom. You will likely need multiple wipes in the case of a poopy diaper, so don’t be stingy!

Depending on your baby's gender, there are specific approaches to follow during the cleaning process. For girls, always wipe the vulva from front to back to prevent infection. Focus on cleaning the external area to remove any stools. For boys, clean the penis and scrotum thoroughly. Be sure to cover the penis with a cloth or a clean diaper to prevent any unwanted surprises during the changing process.

STEP 4: Check for Diaper Rash and Apply Cream (If Necessary)

Before putting on a clean diaper, quickly check for diaper rash. If you notice any redness or signs of irritation, gently apply diaper cream or zinc oxide barrier cream to the baby's diaper area, with a heavier coating on affected areas. Remember to pat your baby dry before applying diaper rash cream or putting on a fresh diaper. Alternatively, letting the area air dry for a little while is beneficial for your baby’s skin.

Thoroughly cleaning your baby during the diaper-changing process is the best way to prevent diaper rash and future infections. In cases of loose or watery stools, consider applying a thin layer of Vaseline over the cream to create a moisture barrier and aid in the healing process.

STEP 5: Put on the New Diaper

This step in the process varies depending on whether you are using a cloth or disposable diaper. Start by sliding the clean diaper underneath your baby, making sure it’s not backwards. For disposable diapers, ensure the tabs are positioned underneath your baby, usually indicated by labels or markings. Before closing the diaper, if you have a boy, make sure to point his penis downward to prevent any unexpected leaks.

To secure a disposable diaper, pull the front between your child’s legs and up to their stomach. Open the diaper tabs and fasten them around the front, ensuring a snug fit without being too tight. You should be able to comfortably fit two fingers between the diaper and your baby's stomach. If you are using a cloth diaper, ensure it is securely in place around your child’s waist and legs. Also check that the diaper edges around the legs aren’t tucked in, as this could contribute to leaks.

STEP 6: Dress the Baby

After completing the diaper change, dress your baby in fresh clothes and ensure they are in a secure and safe location, like a playpen, bassinet, or stroller. If their original clothing got soiled with urine or stool, change them into the clean clothes you had prepared before starting the diaper change.

STEP 7: Clean Up and Wash Hands

As you approach the finish line, it's clean-up time! Roll the dirty diaper tightly, securing the tabs around it. Dispose of the diaper in a diaper bin or double bagged in a garbage can. For cloth diaper users, deposit any stool into the toilet, rinse the diaper thoroughly in the sink to remove as much as possible, and then place it in your laundry hamper.

If you use a liner on your changing table, dispose of it in the trash can. If no liner was used, take the time to thoroughly disinfect and clean your changing table. Finally, wash your hands meticulously with soap and water, as well as your child’s if they touched the soiled diaper.

When Should You Change a Diaper?

In a perfect world, your baby’s diaper will be changed as soon as it becomes soiled, regardless of whether it's a wet diaper or a poopy diaper. Recognizing when this happens can be a bit tricky, but a few signs can help.

Babies often need a diaper change after a feeding, and the telltale smell is usually a reliable indicator (or sneak a peek if needed). On average, expect to perform around eight to ten diaper changes daily, translating to one every two to three hours. Early on, you’ll likely need to check and make changes overnight.

As babies grow older, the frequency of diaper changes gradually decreases. Additionally, older babies can stay in a diaper all night unless they’ve gotten very wet or have a poopy diaper.

It's worth noting that while urine is generally germ-free and doesn't typically irritate the skin, the same cannot be said for stool. Extended exposure to stool, especially in the early stages, can lead to a painful diaper rash. However, don’t be overly concerned if your baby develops a diaper rash; they are very common and can be effectively treated with diaper rash cream or zinc oxide barrier cream.

Tips for Special Scenarios & Common Issues

While our step-by-step diaper guide is a reliable resource for most situations, we understand that every diaper change comes with its unique challenges. In this section, we’ll provide some valuable tips and tricks to navigate those special (and sometimes unexpected) circumstances.

How to Change Newborn Diapers

For new parents, there are a few things to remember when changing your newborn's diaper. First, newborns always go through more diapers a day than toddlers. Expect to change your little one’s diaper approximately ten times a day, and make sure you stock up on supplies at home to sustain your baby’s bathroom habits. 

During the initial weeks after birth, use your diaper changes as an opportunity to cleanse your baby’s umbilical cord area. Look for any signs of concern, such as a yellowish discharge or redness around the stump, and promptly contact your baby’s healthcare provider if anything seems amiss.

Your baby’s earliest bowel movements, known as meconium, may initially alarm you. Expect to see a stool that looks like a thick, green, almost tar-like substance. After a few days, the color will transition to a more typical yellowy green. For baby girls, a little white or bloody vaginal discharge is normal, and it's not uncommon to observe a bit of blood in your newborn’s stools during the early days. While usually harmless, it's a good idea to inform your pediatrician about any of these occurrences.

How to Change Toddler Diapers

The diaper-changing game takes a turn when your little one is around one year old. Though toddlers generally demand fewer diaper changes than babies, a new challenge arises: keeping them still.

But fear not; there are a few strategies you can use to make this process easier. Start by distracting your tot with a small toy, waterproof book, or a fun activity, something that won't hijack your changing mission. You can also switch locations from a changing table to the floor. 

Another productive way to use this time is to involve your child in the process as your toddler gets older. Talk them through what you are doing and make it not just a diaper change but the first step of potty training. First dump the diaper contents into the toilet, and watch as your toddler begins connecting the dots about where the poop belongs. Then flush the toilet and wash hands together.

When the time comes, progressing into training pants can also help speed up the process. At this stage, it’s easy to change wet diapers while your child is standing, which may make it easier to keep them still.

How to Change a Blowout

In the early months, diaper blowouts (often up the back) are a common occurrence. Though they can be stressful, especially when you're on the go, rest assured that they are a normal part of caring for a little one. Preparation and staying calm are key to handling these explosive situations, and depending on the severity of the blowout, you may be able to rescue the cute onesie covered in baby poop.

Following a blowout, the next best step is bath time. Strip your baby down and give them a thorough cleaning. If you're on the move or in public, use as many baby wipes as needed as a temporary solution until you can get home. Beyond attending to your baby, take the time to clean and disinfect surfaces and wash any soiled changing pads or bedding.

As for the soiled clothes, start by removing as much poop as possible with a utensil, such as a plastic spoon or knife—anything that can effectively remove the stool without further embedding it into the fabric. Apply a stain remover and let the clothing soak in water for at least 15 minutes before tossing it in the wash.

Diapering on the Go

While the idea of changing a diaper on the go can be daunting—whether you’re at a restaurant, on vacation, in the car, or on the plane—it is very doable. The key is to ensure that your diaper bag is always prepped with essentials for these impromptu situations with diaper bag must-haves.

Start by organizing your diaper bag with the essentials you'll need. One of the most crucial items you’ll need is a portable changing pad that allows you to comfortably change your baby on any flat surface. If you're in a bind, the restroom floor can serve as a backup option.

Be mindful of discreetly disposing of used diapers. Roll them up and seal them in a multilayer plastic bag to contain odors. Pack an extra outfit, wipes, a small trash bag, and diapers for unforeseen circumstances like a blowout. Organize these items using separate compartments or wet bags to keep everything easily accessible and prevent cross-contamination.

Lastly, plan ahead by scouting out locations with baby-changing facilities. Being prepared with these simple steps can turn a potentially challenging situation into a manageable and stress-free experience.

How to Choose the Right Diaper

Selecting the right diaper for your little one can make a world of difference when it comes to both comfort and convenience. There are many factors to consider when choosing the perfect diaper for your child. First, you need to select what type of diaper you want to use. 

There are three main types that dominate the market: disposable, cloth, and eco-friendly variations. Disposable diapers are a convenient, hassle-free choice and are ideal for busy parents or those constantly moving. On the other hand, cloth diapers offer an environmentally friendly alternative and can be cost-effective in the long run, though they require more time and effort to clean. Lastly, eco-friendly diapers made from non-toxic, sustainable materials might be right up your alley for the best of both worlds.

Next, you’ll want to consider sizing. When it comes to sizing, choosing the right diaper size is crucial for your baby's comfort and leak prevention, especially during blowouts. Refer to the weight and age guidelines on the packaging to ensure a snug fit. As your little one grows, be ready to move up to the next size to accommodate their changing needs.

Why Choose VeryVery Diapers

While the market is flooded with excellent diaper brand choices, we designed VeryVery diapers to make the changing process a calm and comfortable experience. We place care for babies and convenience for parents at the forefront of our mission, with a particularly strong focus on your baby's skin and the health of the planet. 

Crafted from hypoallergenic materials without any added dyes, latex, or perfume, these eco-friendly, non-toxic diapers ensure gentleness on delicate skin, reducing the risk of irritation and diaper rash.

With up to 12 hours of leak protection, our thoughtful design combines absorbency and breathability to keep your baby dry and comfortable throughout the day and night (and hopefully give parents a bit of a break from changing). The snug and comfortable fit prevents leaks while allowing for unrestricted movement to accommodate even the most active little ones. 

VeryVery diapers seamlessly combine practicality with a commitment to sustainability and your baby's well-being, making them the go-to choice for parents who prioritize a diaper experience that is both gentle and effective.

The Bottom Line

Changing diapers is one of the many challenges new parents face, but with the right approach and practice, it doesn’t need to be stressful. Remember that with the right mindset, hygiene measures, and a well-prepared setup, diapering becomes a seamless bonding routine for both you and your little one.

From navigating blowouts to changing on the go, we hope our practical tips will empower new parents and turn each diaper change into a confident and rewarding experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Still have questions about diaper changes? Here are our most frequently asked questions. 

How do you know when your baby needs a bigger diaper?

To ensure a snug fit, monitor your baby's weight and age. If the diaper feels tight, leaves marks, or leaks frequently, it's time to move up a size. Regularly check the manufacturer's guidelines on weight and age for optimal sizing.

How do I stop my baby from wriggling when I change diapers?

Engage your baby with toys, songs, or a designated changing toy to distract them. Be swift and maintain a consistent diaper-changing routine. Turning it into a positive experience with a calm voice can help reduce squirming.

How do I clean poop stains out of clothes?

Using a utensil, like a plastic knife or spoon, try to scrape as much poop as possible out of the clothing without rubbing it further in. Apply a stain remover and let the clothing soak in water for at least 15 minutes before tossing it in the wash.

How do I get rid of diaper pail odors?

To combat diaper pail odors, you’ll want to regularly empty and clean your pail. Use scented liners or sprinkle baking soda at the bottom to absorb odors. Consider placing an open box of baking soda nearby or using natural deodorizers like activated charcoal to maintain a fresh-smelling nursery.

Back to blog