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changing baby's diaper
newborns

Diaper changing tips for new parents

12 minutes

10/08/2020

Changing a diaper isn’t typically one of the major things most new parents worry about before having a baby. Sure, you might never have done it before, but after a few attempts, how hard can it be?

Well, there's certainly a ‘knack’ to diaper changing and it doesn’t always come instantly.

A tiny baby can wriggle about when you’re trying to get them out of their dirty diaper. Simultaneously, with the challenge of making sure they don’t fall off the changing table, things can get pretty complicated.

Knowing how often to change their diaper can be a bit of a minefield too, especially when you need to change a diaper while you’re out and about with your little one.

Here at WaterWipes, we want to help make diaper changing simple for first-time parents. So, we’ve put together this useful guide which includes useful tips on when to change a diaper, looking out for sensitive skin, along with some guidance on diaper changes at home and in public.

  • What do you need to change a newborn baby's diaper?

  • How to change a newborn baby’s diaper

  • Diaper changing tips

  • How often should you change a newborn baby's diaper?

  • Dealing with sensitive bottoms

  • How to tell if your baby has a diaper rash

  • How to change a diaper in public

  • Key Takeaways

  • FAQs

What do you need to change a newborn baby's diaper?

A stack of baby supplies on changing table

Before you begin, it’s important to make sure you have everything you need to change your baby’s diaper. Here’s a list of essential supplies you’ll need:

  • Mat or towel for the baby to lie on.

  • Barrier cream to protect your baby’s skin.

  • Clean diaper (including liner and cover if applicable) for the baby to wear.

  • Plastic bag or bucket for the dirty diaper.

  • WaterWipes to use when diaper changing.

  • A clean change of clothes. Your baby could get dirty during changing.

How to change a newborn baby's diaper

Feeling daunted and unsure how to change a newborn baby’s diaper? We’ve created some easy-to-follow steps for first-time parents to make that first diaper change a success.

Step 1. Wash your hands

Ensure your hands are clean before you begin by washing them with soap and water. You can also use hand sanitizer if you're changing a diaper in public.

Step 2. Lay your baby down and gather the essential supplies

Lay your baby on their changing mat and ensure the essential supplies are within arm's reach.

Step 3. Unfasten the dirty diaper

Unstick the diaper's tabs then lift your baby's bottom – you can hold them by their ankles and slide the dirty diaper out.

Step 4. Clean your baby

Take some time to give your baby a good clean with a WaterWipe. When cleaning a girl, make sure to wipe from front to back to avoid getting poop in the vaginal area. When cleaning a boy, keep his private area covered with a WaterWipe or a clean diaper to stop a fountain of pee. Ensure excess water is removed from your baby's private area to prevent skin irritation when putting on a new diaper.

If it is a wet diaper, you should fold the dirty diaper underneath your baby, so the clean side is now under your baby’s bottom, and wipe the area. If it is a poopy diaper, wipe as much as possible with the diaper itself then fold it underneath. Then lift the baby’s legs and clean its front with WaterWipes, then lift both legs and clean your baby’s bottom.

Step 5. Slide a new diaper under your baby

Lift your baby again and slide a new diaper under them, ready to fasten.

Step 6. Apply any necessary cream or ointment

If your baby has a diaper rash, you may need to apply ointment or cream to treat this. Apply just a thin layer to make sure their skin can still breathe.

Step 7. Close and seal the diaper then wash your hands

When you're finished, pull the diaper closed, stick its tabs down, and properly dispose of the dirty diaper. The easiest way is to flush any diaper poop in the toilet, before wrapping up the dirty diaper, sealing it in a plastic bag or container, and putting it in the trash. Then, wash your hands.

Your baby is clean and ready to go...until the next change! Now you know how to change a newborn baby’s diaper, read on to discover our diaper changing suggestions to help make that next diaper change even easier.

Diaper changing tips

Newborn getting diaper changed

Whether you're at home, in a coffee shop, or at the park, you’ll always need to be ready to change your baby's diaper. As a new parent, having either never changed diapers before or only changing a few - having top tips to rely on can be super helpful.

Here are our top tips for changing a diaper:

  • Hold their feet - When changing a little one, gently hold their feet in one of your hands. Babies wriggle so they can kick and poop and leave you with a bigger clean-up job.

  • Cover their private area - Baby boys can be known to pee as soon as their diaper comes off. To prevent accidents, cover the baby boy’s private are with a wipe when changing their diaper, so it doesn’t go everywhere (or even worse, hit you straight in the face).

  • Use envelope body suits - If your baby’s poop leaks onto their body suit, pulling it over the body can spread it up their back. Envelope neck vests stretch over your baby’s shoulders so you can pull them down and off their body easily.

  • Distract them - When your baby is old enough to hold something, hand something over to distract them – like a small toy that's kept in your changing bag. Whatever gives you enough time to get the job done!

  • Be thorough - Use WaterWipes to clean the entire area – this includes the front and back and in the inner creases of your baby's groin – as any residue left behind can cause a diaper rash.

  • Keep diapers out of reach - When you take a dirty diaper off, put it out of the way – babies can reach pretty far, and a little hand covered in poop is the last thing you need.

  • Check your bag - Always check your changing bag before you leave the house. Make sure you have a good chunk of diapers and WaterWipes. Check out our baby bag checklist for further items to include.

How often should you change a newborn baby's diaper?

There is a lot to consider when you have a newborn and knowing how often to change a newborn baby's diaper might be a little tricky. You will eventually learn your baby's needs and when they need a diaper change. However, here are some general times to consider changing their diaper:

  • After every feed

  • As soon as they’ve done a poop

Once your little one can sleep through the night, well-padded diapers should last 12 hours so you won’t need to worry about changing again until morning!

The first time I changed my baby’s diaper was when a nurse reminded me, quite a few hours after he’d been born,’ says Luisa, mom to Luca, 4. ‘I was mortified because it hadn’t even occurred to me to change him - I was just lying there staring at him! But he was all fine and from then on it was in my head to do it regularly.

Dealing with sensitive bottoms

Babies pee and poop frequently, plus there’s a lot of cleaning up involved, so it’s not unusual for their skin to occasionally get irritated.

It's not just regularly cleaning your baby's delicate skin that can prove problematic for them, though. The skin and immune system of a newborn can be sensitive so even things such as the fibres in their clothing, the laundry detergent you use, and dedicated baby products may irritate their skin.

WaterWipes can help on this front – the world’s purest baby wipes. They contain 99.9% water and a drop of fruit extract, making them a great choice for newborn skin.

I was surprised by how much I hated changing diapers,’ says James, dad to one-year-old Bella. ‘But their little bottoms are so soft and sensitive, so wiping them all the time and then wrapping them up again in these plasticky pants always felt a bit wrong. I think that’s one reason I was keen to potty-train so quickly!

How to tell if your baby has a diaper rash

baby diaper rash

With sensitive baby skin also comes the possibility of skin complaints. That's why keeping on top of regularly changing your baby is important - if they sit in their diaper for too long, they can develop an uncomfortable rash.

We’ve put together some useful diaper rash tips, but here are the common signs to look out for :

  • Tender, inflamed skin on your baby's bottom

  • Signs of discomfort

  • Crying or fussing during diaper changes or when the area is being washed

  • You might also notice small red dots around the rash

A diaper rash isn’t something to worry about, it’s very common and many babies will experience it in some form or another. In the United States diaper rash affects up to 35% of children under two years old. Instead, keep on top of it, know when to change a diaper to keep them clean, check their skin regularly, and ensure you treat any symptoms as soon as possible. If you are concerned, please contact a medical professional.

How to change a diaper in public

When you feel as though you don’t know what you're doing, changing a diaper in public can be a little stressful. In fact, the fear of changing a diaper outside the house might get so intense that parents can be put off going out altogether.

First of all, just know – you’re not doing anything wrong. There is no ‘perfect’ way to change a diaper and there is certainly no ‘perfect’ baby that always lies still. You're doing your best and these tips should help you along the way:

Remember – Diaper changes are essential

Changing a diaper in public may not be your first choice, but sometimes, it just has to be done. According to medical professionals, leaving a baby in a dirty diaper can cause baby contact dermatitis. If there are no proper facilities, you may not have any other option.

"I had a real complex about changing diapers in public, so when I first had to, at a friend’s birthday picnic, I walked for ages to try and find somewhere private" says Issy, mom to Charlie, 4, and Cecilia, 1.

"It was a horrible grubby patch of ground and I did it in a real rush to get it over with before anyone could see me. Now, I really don’t mind as much, I’d rather get my daughter out of a dirty diaper quickly…"

How to change a diaper without proper facilities

  • In the stroller - Sometimes it’s possible to change your baby in their stroller which can be helpful if there are no changing facilities nearby.

  • On your lap - Small babies can sometimes be changed on your lap, which can be made easier if you have a travel mat to hand. However, a scarf or sweater can also make good substitutes.

  • Back seat or trunk of your car - The back seat or trunk of your car can be extremely helpful if you want to change your baby with a little bit more privacy. Keeping a stock of diaper-changing supplies in your car as well as your changing bag will help to make sure you’re always prepared for an impromptu change.

Key Takeaways

At first, changing a baby's diaper in public can be a little uncomfortable, but once you have your routine sorted, it'll be a breeze – so don't be discouraged.

Changing the diaper of a newborn is a tricky job at first but just keep calm, take some deep breaths (although not while holding the diaper), and remember - you’ll be a pro in no time. Finally, keep in mind that practice makes perfect, and before long, you’ll be changing diapers in your sleep! No, really.

After reading our diaper changing tips, hopefully, you now know how to change a newborn baby’s diaper to ensure good health. You’ve likely also realized that the reality of diaper changing is very different from the typical stuff shown in adverts or on TV!

Want to learn more about caring for a newborn? Check out the WaterWipes Parenting Community for useful tips and advice.

FAQS

Q: How do you know if a diaper is too small?

If all of a sudden, your baby’s diapers keep leaking, it might be because they’re ready for a bigger size. Examine the diaper to see how it fits your baby. You may also notice red marks around their legs and tummy from the elastic in the diaper, which could also be an indication that their diaper is too small.

Q: Where should you change a newborn baby's diaper?

There is no correct answer as to where you should change a newborn baby’s diaper. Change them wherever is most convenient and safe at that time, even if it seems unconventional. We can promise you, your baby doesn’t care, so if it works, it works.

Q: How can I get better at diaper changing?

Like most things, getting better at diaper changing comes with practice. The more you get used to changing your baby’s diaper, the easier it’ll be. Being organized and making sure you have everything you need is at hand, such as diapers, lotions, WaterWipes, etc. can also make the process a lot smoother.

Last Reviewed: 10/12/2023

References
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  1. NHS, How to change your baby's nappy, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/caring-for-a-newborn/how-to-change-your-babys-nappy/ [Last accessed 6th May 2021]

  2. Business Insider, The Best Baby Safe Laundry Detergent You Can Buy, https://www.businessinsider.com/best-baby-laundry-detergent?r=US&IR=T [Last accessed 6th May 2021]

  3. Mayo Clinic, Diaper Rash, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diaper-rash/symptoms-causes/syc-20371636, [Last accessed 6th May 2021]

  4. Kids Health from Nemours, Diaper Rash, https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/diaper-rash.html, [Last accessed 6th May 2021]

  5. Johns Hopkins Medicine, Diaper Dermatitis, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/diaper-dermatitis, [Last accessed 6th May 2021]

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