Diapering your baby is as much a part of parenting as feeding, even though it can sometimes seem like a never-ending chore. With a good knowledge of the diapering basics, you'll be able to keep your baby dry and comfortable with no problem at all.
Here's what you'll find in this section:
The Bare Facts
Diaper changing is more about common sense than anything else. Your objective should be to keep your baby as dry and comfortable as possible. Before you start, assemble everything you need:
Remember — never leave your baby unattended on the changing table. Even newborns can roll off and hurt themselves.
First, remove the soiled diaper. If it's only wet, it's best to rediaper immediately without cleansing or gently wipe your baby clean with a wipe or warm washcloth before diapering. For tips on caring for your baby's umbilical cord stump, click here.
If your baby has had a BM, wipe her bottom clean with a wipe or warm washcloth and gently pat her dry. Remember to always wipe from front to back, which will help prevent the introduction of bacteria into the urinary tract. There is no need to use soap unless she has a bowel movement that won't come clean with just water. Use only mild soap when necessary; all soaps strip your baby's skin of important natural oils.
Next, apply diaper ointment or petroleum jelly and put on a fresh diaper. Avoid baby powder — it doesn't help prevent or treat diaper rash and may be harmful if your baby inhales it.
As your baby gets older, she's likely to fidget a lot more during these delicate diaper changes. You may wish to keep some toys near your changing area to distract her with.
Dodging Diaper Rash
What causes diaper rash? Several factors:
Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent diaper rash. Here are the most common:
When to Change?
As a parent, you're in the best position to know when your baby needs to be changed. In general, you can expect to change your newborn as many as 10 times in each 24-hour period. It sounds like a lot, but keep in mind that a lot of wet diapers means your baby is getting enough nutrition and is processing it normally. If you choose to use cloth diapers, be sure to change your baby even more frequently, as these don't have the absorbency of disposables.
As your baby grows, you'll need to change her less often, although still at the usual times: when she gets up in the morning, before or after a feeding, after her naps, and before bedtime. Remember, though, that keeping a dry diaper on your baby will help prevent diaper rash.
The Urination Drill
For the first few days after birth, your baby's urine will be very pale, gradually turning a deeper shade of yellow as it becomes more concentrated. You may find a pinkish stain on your baby's diaper as well. This is probably concentrated urine, and as long as your baby is wetting four or more diapers a day, it's nothing to worry about. If this staining persists for a few days, however, or if you spot true blood in the urine or stool, call your health care provider promptly.
The consistency and color of your baby's BMs reflect the menu. Breast-fed babies will have soft, almost runny BMs that look like seedy mustard. Formula-fed babies will have firmer stools that are tan or yellow. Older babies will pass stools that take on the color and consistency of what they most recently ate.
How often to expect a BM varies with the baby. Some babies have one after every feeding. Others, particularly breast-fed babies, have just one a week. Contact your health care provider if your baby has hard or very dry stools, if she seems to be in pain during bowel movements, or if you notice large amounts of blood, mucus, or water in the stools.
Because a newborn's stools are usually somewhat runny, it's hard to tell if she has diarrhea. Since you're the person most familiar with her BM patterns, look to see if there's a sudden increase in the frequency of BMs, or whether they're unusually runny or in any way different from normal.