How to change a diaper

Learn How to Change a Diaper

February 26, 2020
6 min read

Diapering your baby is as much a part of parenting as feeding your little one. Although changing a diaper takes a little practice, it will soon become routine once you get the hang of it.

Read on for our step-by-step guide on how to change your baby’s diaper, and learn what's slightly different about changing a boy’s diaper and a girl’s diaper. We’ll also explain how to change your toddler’s diaper so you're all set when your child becomes more active and mobile.

Plus, we’ve listed some of the signs you need to look out for that indicate your little one is ready for a bigger-size diaper so that you can avoid some of those dreaded leaks and blowouts.

What's in this article:

How to Change a Baby’s Diaper What Do You Need to Change a Diaper? How to Change a Boy’s Diaper How to Change a Girl’s Diaper How to Change Your Newborn’s Diaper How to Change Your Toddler’s Diaper How to Change a Poopy Diaper How Frequently Should You Change a Diaper? How Do You Know It’s Time for a Diaper Change? What Are the Signs Your Baby Needs a Bigger Diaper? What to Do if the Diaper Is Leaking

How to Change a Baby’s Diaper

Make sure you have everything you’ll need for the diaper change on hand. Once you’re ready, here’s how to change your baby's diaper in a few easy steps:

  1. Lay your baby down on her back and remove the used diaper. Wrap it up and stick the tapes down to seal the bundle. Toss the diaper in the diaper pail or set it aside to throw out later in the garbage can. If you’re throwing the diaper into a garbage can, place it in a plastic bag first to reduce odors.
  2. Gently clean your baby’s diaper area, taking care to clean between the folds of skin. You can use gentle diaper wipes, such as Pampers Sensitive Wipes, or you can use a wetted washcloth. Remember to wipe front to back.
  3. If your baby has diaper rash, apply diaper rash ointment or barrier cream on the affected area.
  4. Carefully raise your baby’s legs and lower body by the ankles and slide a clean diaper underneath. The colorful markings should be on the front, facing you. Then, pull the front of the diaper up between your baby’s legs and lay it on your baby’s belly.
  5. Lift the two wings of the diaper on both the left and right side, and stick the stretchy fastening tape found on each wing onto the front of the diaper. Make sure you don’t fasten the diaper either too tightly or too loosely. To check this, you should be able to comfortably run two fingers between the diaper and her stomach. The tabs should be symmetrical. Turn the leg cuffs out to prevent leaks.

Once you’re finished, wash your hands and clean the diaper change area, including the diaper changing table and changing pad.

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How to change a diaper

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What Do You Need to Change a Diaper?

Here’s what you need to change a diaper:

  • Diapers. Although you only need one diaper at a time, it can be helpful to have plenty of diapers on hand so that you don’t run out when you need one. You may even like to have some of the next size up so that you’re ready with those when the time comes. Store the diapers within your easy reach, but out of your baby’s reach.
  • Wipes. To clean your baby's bottom, you'll need wipes. Another choice is a washcloth and water.
  • Diaper ointment or barrier cream, such as petroleum jelly. You’ll need one of these in case your baby gets diaper rash. Most babies get diaper rash at some point. It’s most common among babies who are 8 to 10 months old. No matter the age, there are many contributing factors, including if the diaper isn’t changed often enough, if the baby has diarrhea, or if the baby has just started on solids. Your baby’s healthcare provider will be able to recommend which ointment or cream to use.
  • Diaper changing table. These are designed to make changing your baby easier. Choose one with a side rail on all four sides that’s at least two inches high, as these can help prevent your little one from rolling off. There are usually drawers or shelves underneath for storing your diapering essentials.
  • Diaper changing pad. The pad goes on top of the changing table. Choose one that is curved so that the middle is deeper and the sides are raised. It’s usually easy to wipe clean. Most models come with a strap, which you can use to secure your baby. Although this strap is an extra layer of security, it’s safest to always keep a hand on your baby, and never leave your baby unattended on the changing table. You might also like to buy a disposable or portable changing pad that fits in your diaper bag for when you’re out and about with your little one.
  • Towel or blanket. You don’t have to use a diaper changing table or changing pad. Any flat surface will do. For example, you could use a bed, the couch, or the floor. Just lay down a towel or a blanket first to help keep the area clean. If your baby is on a raised surface (such as the bed or the couch), always keep a hand on him to prevent any falls. You may find changing your baby on the floor easiest if your little one’s in a particularly wriggly mood.
  • Diaper pail. It’s helpful to have somewhere to stash your baby’s smelly diapers. A diaper pail helps lock away odors.

You might like to set up a diaper changing station in your baby’s nursery where you’ll have all the things you’ll need for diaper changes as well as the clothes your little one will change into. This way, with everything within arm’s reach, you’ll won't have to take your eyes or hands off your baby.

Diaper changing station

How to Change a Boy’s Diaper

Follow the step-by-step guide above to learn how to change your boy’s diaper. You'll want to cover his penis with a diaper or burp cloth while changing him to prevent getting wet yourself, or pee getting on the wall.

Another tip is to place his penis in a downward position before closing the diaper as this can help prevent leaks.

How to Change a Girl’s Diaper

Follow the step-by-step guide above to discover how to change your baby girl’s diaper, being extra careful to wipe from front to back. This helps reduce the risk of your little one getting an infection such as a urinary tract infection (UTI), as these are especially common among young girls. Don’t forget to gently and thoroughly clean between the folds of skin.

How to Change Your Newborn’s Diaper

If you’re a first-time parent, you may find it takes a few tries to get used to changing your newborn’s diaper. Following the above steps will help you get the hang of it.

Just after your baby is born, your midwife, doula, or one of the nurses may give you some hands-on lessons.

Keep in mind that your newborn will go through about 10 diapers a day, so you’ll have plenty of chances to practice how to change his diapers.

For the first several weeks, as you wait for your baby's umbilical cord stump to fall off, you might like to use some of the diaper changes to gently clean the umbilical cord area and check for signs of infection like a yellowish discharge or red skin in the area around the stump. If you do notice anything like this, contact your baby’s healthcare provider.

Your baby’s first few poops will be a thick, greenish, almost tar-like substance called meconium. As the meconium passes your baby’s poop will change color to a yellowy green.

Don’t be surprised if you notice a little vaginal discharge in your baby girl’s diaper — this is normal. Also, you might see a little blood in your newborn’s stools in the first few days. This is quite common and usually harmless, but it's a good idea to let your baby's healthcare provider know if you spot this.

Be sure to check with your baby’s healthcare provider if you have questions about what you’re seeing in your newborn’s diaper.

How to Change Your Toddler’s Diaper

As your little one gets older, you might find it harder and harder to keep her still for diaper changes. After all, there’s so much for your toddler to do and discover, and diaper changes tend to interrupt all the fun and activity.

You could try using diapers with stretchy sides to change your wriggly toddler’s diaper. With these diapers, pants, you simply pull them up like you would pants. Then, to take them off, you simply tear the sides for easy removal.

As you change your toddler’s diaper, you might like to tell your little one what you’re doing — this way she can start to become familiar with what’s happening as an early step toward potty training. You might also like to dump the poop from the diaper into the toilet or potty in front of her so that she can begin to make the connection that that’s where poop should go.

How to Change a Poopy Diaper

Follow the same steps that we listed above, making sure to change your baby’s diaper as soon as he’s had a bowel movement.

Leaving the poopy diaper against your baby’s skin increases the risk of diaper rash, and leaves your little one more prone to things like yeast infections.

As you change your baby’s poopy diaper, be sure to thoroughly clean away all the baby poop using a wipe or wet washcloth.

How Frequently Should You Change a Diaper?

Experts recommend changing your baby’s diaper after every poop, and frequently in between to ensure a wet diaper doesn’t stay on too long.

Depending on your baby’s age and whether she’s breastfed, bottle fed, or eating solids, as well as other factors like digestive issues, your baby may have a bowel movement anywhere from after every meal, once a day, or even once a week. All these can be normal.

When it comes to pee, your little one may pee as often as every one to three hours, or only about six times a day.

Remember that in the beginning your newborn will need about 10 diaper changes a day.

How Do You Know It’s Time for a Diaper Change?

Some diapers have a wetness indicator so that you can see at a glance if your baby needs a diaper change.

Other signs your baby may need a diaper change include:

  • You reach into the diaper with a finger and it’s damp
  • You can smell or see pee or poop
  • The diaper is sagging, or the underside of the diaper feels bulky.

What Are the Signs Your Baby Needs a Bigger Diaper?

Here are some signs that your baby needs a bigger diaper:

  • The tapes don’t reach the center of the waistband
  • You can’t fit two fingers under the waistband
  • There are red marks on your baby’s tummy or thighs
  • The diaper doesn’t cover your baby’s bottom
  • Your baby seems uncomfortable (for example, she tugs at the diaper).

Our diaper size and weight chart can help you get the right fit, as can our diaper size quiz.

Baby diaper fits right

What to Do if the Diaper Is Leaking

If leaks and blowouts start happening, it might be time to go up a diaper size. As your baby grows, so does the quantity of pee and poop. A bigger diaper may not only fit better, it can also hold more liquid.

Even if the diaper is the right size, if you don’t put it on correctly you could still experience leaks. Double check that you haven’t fastened the diaper too tightly or too loosely, that the tapes are symmetrical, and that the leg cuffs are turned out.

Read more about reducing leaks and blowouts.

Even if you don't always love diaper changes, you will love knowing that your little one feels dry and comfortable in his diaper. Plus, as you become a diapering pro, diaper changes will become easier and easier. Before you know it you'll be done!

How we wrote this article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below.
The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

See all sources
All links sources

Healthy Children: Changing Diapers

Kids Health: Diapering

Book: Caring for your baby and young child birth to age 5, Sixth Edition Paperback – November 2, 2014
by American Academy of Pediatrics (Author)

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