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A Beginner's Guide to Changing Diapers

Updated on March 20, 2017
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Marissa is the writer of ThePracticalMommy and the blog Mommy Knows What's Best. She is a stay at home mom to four and was a teacher.

How to Change a Diaper

All you need to know about changing a baby's diaper, the different kinds of diapers, and much needed diaper supplies.
All you need to know about changing a baby's diaper, the different kinds of diapers, and much needed diaper supplies. | Source

Diapers and Babies

Babies, especially newborns, are really good at a few things so early in life: eating, sleeping, and making a mess of their diapers. Of those three things, most new parents have a hard time with the last one, especially when they have never changed a diaper in their lives.

Here you're going to find valuable information about diaper changing and the different types of diapers you'll find available today.

Don't fret; even the most inexperienced diaper changers will become professionals in no time!

Diaper Changing Supplies

Diapering Items
disposable or cloth diapers
wipes or wash cloth
diaper rash cream
bag to collect soiled items
extra set of clothes (just in case)
Here are the diapering items you should have nearby when changing a baby's diaper.

Diaper Changing Tips

Never change a diaper before? It might help to learn with a doll before the baby is born in a prenatal class, but the best place to learn is in the hospital or birthing center after you've had the baby.

Ask a nurse to demonstrate a diaper change for you with your baby or ask her/him to watch you as you do it for the first time. If you have any questions, don't be afraid to ask! Once you've seen it done or experience yourself with a real-life, squirming baby, you'll get a general idea of what is involved in diaper changing. You'll get more practice at home with your baby.

Diaper Changing

Make sure you have all your diapering items nearby.
Make sure you have all your diapering items nearby. | Source

Best Disposable Diapers

Which brands are the best disposable diapers?

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How to Change a Baby's Diaper

Changing a baby's diaper for the first time can be challenging, but if you're prepared, all should go well.

First thing to consider is keeping the baby safe during the diaper changing. Babies can move around a lot, even before they're able to roll-over. You should always be near the baby, especially when changing a diaper on a higher surface such as a changing table, bed, or couch. Before changing the baby, have the following items close at hand:

  • Clean diaper
  • Wipes or wash cloth
  • Diaper rash cream
  • Bag to collect soiled diaper items
  • Extra set of clothes (in case of a mess)

When you're ready, place the baby on the changing surface. Before removing the clothing and diaper, have a few wipes ready and the new diaper opened. Remove the pants or open the buttons to the outfit and check to see if any of the diaper's contents have escaped onto the clothing. If it has, be careful not to make it worse! Clean up the mess outside the diaper first by removing the rest of the clothing and gently cleaning the soiled areas of the baby (in some cases, a bath will be necessary afterwards!).

If the diaper only has urine in it, gently clean the baby's parts with a wipe, apply cream if necessary, and put on the clean diaper.

If the diaper is otherwise soiled, gently use the diaper to remove any excrement as you fold it under the baby. Using a wipe, clean from the front to the back, making sure to check all of the folds and creases of the baby's skin. You may need to use several wipes to do so. Once clean, apply a bit of the diaper rash cream as necessary and put on the clean diaper.

TIP: Wipe your hands on a clean wipe or keep hand sanitizer nearby before picking up the baby. Once the baby is in a safe spot, make sure to thoroughly wash your hands with warm soapy water!

Diapering Video

How to Change a Baby Boy's Diaper

When changing a boy's diaper, it's important to remember that at any time you (your clothing, his clothing, the surrounding areas) can be sprayed. To prevent an extra mess, place a wipe or cloth over the penis and clean up.

If your baby has been circumcised, the tip of the penis may be sensitive for a little while. Apply a bit of petroleum jelly before putting on the new diaper to prevent irritation.

Changing Baby Diapers

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How to Change a Baby Girl's Diaper

While you may not get the surprise spray of wetness from a girl when you remove a diaper, you'll have a little extra clean-up to make sure she doesn't get rashes in all of the folds of her bottom.

Make sure to always, always wipe from front to back when changing a baby girl's diaper. If bacteria such as E. coli from her tiny bottom make it into her urinary tract, she can get an infection in her urinary tract.

Before putting on a clean diaper, make sure there is nothing left from a soiled diaper and pat the baby's private area dry. If there is anything left behind or the area is too moist, infections and rashes will be more likely to occur.

Baby Diapers

I've used both generic and brand name diapers for my babies. Both work well, but the generic will save you money!
I've used both generic and brand name diapers for my babies. Both work well, but the generic will save you money! | Source

Using Disposable Diapers

Did you know that the first disposable diapers in the world weren't invented until the late 1940s? Until then, cloth diapers had been used to keep babies' bottoms covered. Disposable diapers were introduced as a way to make diapering convenient.

Disposable diapers are easy to use and come in a variety of sizes and stages to accommodate your baby's diapering needs. There are newborn diapers, nighttime diapers, extra absorbent diapers, training diapers, and gender themed diapers. Once they're used, they're thrown away in the trash; no extra cleaning necessary!

The most well-known brands of disposable diapers are Pampers and Huggies. Other brands such as Luvs, Seventh Generation, Earth's Best, or store brands are also available and can work just as well.

Cost of Diapers

Depending on the brand and size of the package, disposable diapers can range from $10-$45 a box/package.

How to Use Cloth Diapers

Many parents today are switching back to cloth diapers, citing reasons such as caring for the environment (think: disposable diapers in a landfill) and trying to save money since they are reusable. Whatever the reason, using cloth diapers can be just as easy as disposable diapers, even if it requires a little extra time for cleaning and sanitizing.

Fastening cloth diapers used to be done with safety pins, but many of today's diapers come with snaps, velcro, or a cover to place over them. Any method is fine, but make sure to be extra careful with the pins.

To change a wet diaper:

  1. Remove it from the baby.
  2. Clean the baby's bottom and put on clean diaper.
  3. Rinse the diaper cloth and place it in the designated diaper pail. (Often, rinsing is not required.)

To change a soiled diaper:

  1. Using a clean part of the diaper, wipe away any poop from the baby's bottom.
  2. Clean the baby's bottom and put on a clean diaper.
  3. Using a designated spatula, scrape the poop into the toilet.
  4. Place the diaper in a sink or bucket to rinse, or wash immediately (which may take more than one cycle)

Types of Cloth Diapers

  • Prefolds--Wrap or cover needed, fastened with snap or pins
  • All-in-Ones (AIOs)--Liner and cover all in one.
  • Pocket Diapers--Cover with snaps that needs a liner inside.
  • Fitted Diapers--Needs a wrap or a cover.

How to Change a Cloth Diaper

How Much Do Cloth Diapers Cost?

Cloth diapers are more expensive up front. They can range from $10-$50 per diaper depending on brand and material, but that's a price you'd only pay once.

Newborn Diapers

Newborn diapers are made today with a special cut-out for the umbilical cord stump, which could be irritate by the diaper if it rubbed against it. If you do not wish to buy these special diapers, simply fold down the front of the diaper after it has been fastened. This is true even of cloth diapers.

Some newborn disposable diapers also have color changing lines or pictures to help you determine when the baby has urinated in the diaper. This too is an optional feature and is not necessary, but it isn't a bad idea since newborns may not fuss at first after wetting their diaper.

Diapers for Toddlers

Toddlers do just what their name suggest: they toddle, or walk/climb/run around. You need to use diapers at this point that will hold in any mess as the child moves about and until you are able to change them.

Once the toddler is old enough to begin potty training, you can start using diapers that can be pulled up like underwear but that are fastened at the sides for easy clean-up in case the child has an accident.

Even when potty training is successful during the day, a nighttime pull-up may be necessary to catch any accidents during naps or the night. These are available for toddlers and even bigger kids who have bed wetting issues.

Changing Diapers

Still not sure about changing a baby's diaper? Don't worry; in the next two or so years that you'll be changing them for your child, you'll get the hang of it.

Just wait until you start potty training. Now THAT'S an experience!



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    • ThePracticalMommy profile image

      Marissa 4 years ago from United States

      baby diapers, thank you kindly for your nice comment! :)

    • profile image

      baby diapers 4 years ago

      "I am very happy to read your articles it’s very useful for me,

      and I am completely satisfied with your website.

      All comments and articles are very useful and very good.

      Your blog is very attention-grabbing. I am loving all of the in.

      turn you are sharing with each one!….

    • ThePracticalMommy profile image

      Marissa 4 years ago from United States

      renegadetory, it was brave of you to switch to cloth diapers! I have been thinking about it for my third, but I don't know if I could keep up with it all. :)

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • renegadetory profile image

      Carolyn Dahl 4 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario

      I remember when I had my first baby how utterly clueless I was about anything baby, especially changing diapers. When I decided to switch to cloth diapers I had to watch instruction videos on youtube because I had no clue how those worked either.

      Great hub! I think you've covered just about every aspect of diaper changing any new parent would need to know! Well done! (I especially like the video on how to change a cloth diaper)

    • ThePracticalMommy profile image

      Marissa 4 years ago from United States

      Glimmer Twin Fan, thanks so much for reading and your comment! :)

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Useful hub for new parents, especially ones that have no experience with babies. Well laid out too!

    • ThePracticalMommy profile image

      Marissa 4 years ago from United States

      tillsontitan, thank you very much for your kind words! I haven't considered writing for Parents or the other magazines. Maybe once I write a bit more here and have a better portfolio I will submit something to them!

      I hope all of the people you send this to finds it useful! :D

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      I know several people I'm going to send this hub to! Such a simple thing for many but so very difficult for more. This is a great hub....have you thought about writing for Parents Magazine or one of the related magazines?

      It was especially thoughtful (and educational) for you to include the safety precautions and differences between girl and boy diapering.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • ThePracticalMommy profile image

      Marissa 4 years ago from United States

      teaches12345, thank you very much! I'm glad you liked it. :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      What a great hub for new parents. You designed this well and the information is so well written. Great share. voted up.

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