Jun 10, 2024
June 10, 2024

How to change your baby's diaper

Diapering basics for new parents
Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Written by
Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Content Writer
Dr. Marcy Borieux
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Marcy Borieux

If you’re new to parenting, changing your baby’s diaper can seem confusing and overwhelming. You’ll change many diapers, so we’ll walk you through the basics. With a little practice, you'll get the hang of it in no time.

Diapering essentials

Before getting started, it’s important to get organized. Here’s a list of diapering essentials you’ll need:

  • Diapers: Have one or two diaper sizes on hand, especially since newborns quickly outgrow their diaper size.
  • Wipes: Choose hypoallergenic, fragrance-free wipes to avoid irritating your baby’s skin or causing an allergic reaction.
  • Changing pad: Whether it's soft, travel-friendly, or disposable, you need a flat surface, or changing pad, for diaper changes.
  • Changing table: While you can technically change your baby’s diaper anywhere, a designated changing table can be easier on your back.
  • Diaper rash cream: Babies have sensitive skin and can develop rashes, so it's a good idea to have diaper rash cream handy.
  • Garbage or diaper pail: Dirty diapers can stink, so having a garbage can or diaper pail nearby will help keep the room fresh. Our favorite diaper pails are hands-free and can be opened with your foot.
  • Change of clothing: Blowouts, leaks, and dirty diapers are inevitable, so keep a change of clothes nearby.

Diaper changes: A step-by-step guide to changing your baby’s diaper

Now that you know all about diapering essentials, here’s a step-by-step guide to walk you through a diaper change:

  1. Wash your hands: It may sound counterintuitive, but it 's important to have clean hands before you touch your baby's bottom.
  2. Gather all your essentials: Make sure you have everything you need within reach. It's dangerous to leave your baby unattended on the changing table (they can roll off), so you’ll want everything close by, especially diapers and wipes.
  3. Unfasten the diaper tabs: Open the diaper and see what’s inside.
  4. Wet diaper: If it’s just a lightly wet diaper, you can put on a new one without wiping, since most diapers are very absorbent. If your baby has a rash, apply a thick layer of diaper rash cream before putting on a new one.
  5. Poopy diaper: For a dirty diaper, use baby wipes to clean away the poop. If your baby is squirmy, hold their feet together by the ankles for a better grip. Make sure to clean between any chubby folds, as well as around the penis or vagina, to remove any poop remnants. Once your baby’s bottom is clean, put on a fresh diaper.
  6. For baby girls: When changing a baby girl’s diaper, always wipe from front to back to avoid urinary tract infections. This is especially important for poop diapers.  
  7. For baby boys: During diaper changes, it’s helpful to cover the penis with a wipe or tissue to help avoid urine spray accidents.
  8. Final steps: Dispose of the dirty diaper, wipe down and sanitize the changing pad, and wash your hands.

How often should I change my baby’s diaper?

If it’s just a wet diaper, change your baby’s diaper every 2 to 3 hours, or sooner if it’s a particularly full diaper. If it’s a poop diaper, changing it as soon as possible can help prevent diaper rash. Some babies are more sensitive to the feeling of sitting in a wet or dirty diaper, so if your baby's uncomfortable (even after one pee), change their diaper to see if it makes them more comfortable.

How will I know it's time for a diaper change?

Your baby will need a diaper change when you detect the smell of pee or poo. If there is no noticeable odor, there are other indications to look for. Many disposable diapers have a wetness indicator that will change from yellow to blue once there's urine in the diaper. If your baby wears cloth diapers, you'll know it's time for a diaper change when the diaper sags or starts to smell.

What should I keep in my diaper bag for diaper changes?

Here are a few diapering essentials to keep in your diaper bag:

  • 2 to 4 disposable diapers or cloth diapers
  • Baby wipes
  • Portable or disposable changing pad
  • Diaper doggy bags for dirty diapers
  • 1 to 2 changes of clothing in case of poop messes or blowouts
  • Diaper rash cream or ointment

FAQs: Diapering essentials, diaper changes, and dirty diapers

How can I distract my baby on the changing table?

If your baby is squirming and crying on the changing table, try singing a song, telling a story, or giving them a toy. These distractions can keep your baby calm and make the diaper change easier for both of you, especially if it's a poopy diaper.

Why are fragrance-free diapering products important?

Babies have sensitive skin, and your baby's skin might be getting irritated by chemicals in diapers, wipes, lotions, or laundry detergent. Choose fragrance-free diapering products, since fragrances can trigger irritations and diaper rashes.

What’s the best diaper rash cream?

The best diaper creams are made with healing ingredients like zinc oxide, and have a thick consistency to provide a protective barrier for the skin. Ointments with petroleum jelly (like Vaseline or Aquaphor) or thick creams work well too. If your baby is prone to diaper rashes, keep diaper creams by the changing table and in your diaper bag.

Should I use cloth diapers or disposable diapers?

It depends on the baby. Cloth diapers can help prevent diaper rashes in some babies. The chemicals and materials in regular disposable diapers could cause allergic reactions, leading to skin irritations and diaper rashes.

How do I choose the right diaper size?

Your best bet is to go by your baby's weight. Each diaper manufacturer will have suggested weight ranges for each diaper size. It's a bit of a toss-up for newborns, so try two different diaper sizes to see what works best.

Are breast milk poops different from formula poops?

Yes. Whether you're exclusively breastfeeding, formula feeding, or feeding your baby a combination of breast milk and formula, poops may have different odors, colors, and textures. If you notice that your baby's poop is particularly smelly, having an odor-eliminating diaper pail will help keep out the stink when it's time for a diaper change.

How do I change my newborn's diaper?

Changing a newborn’s diaper is the same as older babies, but you should pay close attention to wound care if your baby had a circumcision or still has an umbilical cord stump.

Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Content Writer
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