How To Change A Diaper? A Step-by-Step Guide & Tips To Follow

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New parents may have several questions related to parenting, including how to change a diaper like a pro. Changing a baby’s diaper entails more than swapping out a soiled one for a clean one. You should also think of how frequently a diaper should be changed, how to recognize a soiled diaper, and whether or not you should wash or wipe the baby before putting on a new diaper. You may also have to consider other attributes, such as a diaper rash.

If you are a new parent searching for the best ideas on how to change a baby’s diaper without making a mess, here is the place to be. Continue reading for a list of items you might need for a diaper change and some tips on diaper rash.

The Diaper-changing Essentials 

Whether you are changing the baby’s diaper at home or somewhere outside, you need a few things handy. Keep these essential items at the changing station or table at home, and in your diaper bag when you go out with the baby.

1. Diapers 

Buying a diaper is just a mouse-click away, but choosing the right diaper is not that easy. When it comes to baby essentials, you have to consider what best suits the baby, rather than reviews or suggestions.

Here are a few things to consider when choosing a diaper.

  • Type of diaper – pant style or tapped
  • Absorbing capacity – normal or high absorbency
  • Fit – Not too tight or too loose
  • Skin-friendliness – should not cause any rash or discomfort
  • Ease of use
  • Fragrance
  • Quality – material used

While the brand does make a difference, it is not the only thing that matters. If one diaper brand doesn’t work, try a couple of others to find the one that best suits your baby’s needs.

2. Diaper changing station 

At home, it is important to have a diaper changing table or a mat to avoid changing diapers on the baby’s bed or sleeping area. You can go for a ready-made diaper changing table or convert any existing furniture to a diaper station.

While using an existing table, make sure it is sturdy and wide enough to accommodate the baby and the essentials. It should be 40 to 42in above the floor so that you can stand and change the diaper comfortably. Look for a table with barriers or rims on the side, to prevent the baby from rolling off while you change them. Diaper changing tables should have safety straps as well to secure the baby safely while changing their diaper.

A table with storage space makes a perfect diaper changing station, as you can stack all the supplies in it for easy access. Otherwise, you can use a tablecloth with some pockets attached to access the supplies easily.

3. Diaper changing mat 

A diaper changing mat is an optional accessory at home. It prevents the changing table from becoming dirty and holds the baby in position with a safety harness. However, it is essential when you need to change the baby when outside. Most mats have some pockets to hold wipes, diapers, and other essentials.

4. Wipes or wash cloths 

Wet wipes are of great help for cleaning the baby’s diaper area. Whether it is pee or poop, they are easy to use and dispose of. It’s better to use hypoallergenic wipes or cotton balls dipped in warm water for cleaning. Once it’s cleaned, use a washcloth to dry the area. The same is recommended for babies with diaper rash.

If you are eco-conscious, there are plenty of eco-friendly baby wet wipes to choose from.

5. Diaper rash cream and moisturizer 

Diaper rash cream can be useful if your baby is often prone to rashes in the diaper area. One with zinc oxide could be helpful but do check with the pediatrician before you pick a cream (1). Most creams eliminate the existing rashes and prevent further rashes by acting as a barrier between the baby’s skin and the wetness caused by poop or pee.

You can also apply moisturizing lotion on the legs and crotch area after every diaper change. If you live in humid climates, then baby powder can also be applied in the region before putting the fresh diaper. Baby lotion is not recommended in the crotch area. Baby powder is no longer recommended, as it can be inhaled by the baby and the small particles are harmful to the lungs.

6. A trash can 

Whether you’re using a diaper pail with an odor control feature or a regular trash can, keep it exclusively for diapers and close to your diaper changing station. Prefer foot-pedal trash, so you do not have to leave the baby or bend to throw the dirty diaper.

7. Extra pair of clothes for the baby 

Keep some of your baby’s everyday clothes in or near your diaper station. These might be handy if you have to change the clothing, and you won’t have to rush to the wardrobe, leaving the baby on the table.

Steps To Change A Baby’s Diaper

Once you’re ready with the essentials, you can change the diaper without any mess while keeping the baby calm. Here is how (2).

  • Step 1: Bring your baby to the changing station 

Whichever place you have chosen as a diaper changing station, bring your baby to it. Spread the diaper changing mat or any other protective sheet on the table before placing your baby on it. Strap your baby (if you have the provision) or hold the baby with one hand. Use the safety straps to secure the baby, and always keep one hand on the baby when changing their diaper.

  • Step 2: Remove the soiled diaper and throw it 

Sanitize your hands and unclip/untie the soiled diaper. Fold the top portion of the diaper under the baby bottom by lifting the legs, fold it again, and put it in the trash. If it is a pants-style diaper, you can gently pull it off while holding the baby’s legs up if needed.

Close the soiled diaper with the tab fasteners and throw it into the diaper pail or trash can. If you’re traveling, do carry plastic bags for keeping the dirty diapers before disposing of them. Avoid placing the soiled diaper on the table or anywhere else.

  • Step 3: Clean the diaper area 

Use a wet wipe or a cotton ball soaked in water to clean the area and let it dry. In the case of a poopy/soiled diaper, use wet wipes or warm water to wipe the baby’s front and back gently, but thoroughly. Move the legs, or spread them wide to clean between the thighs, buttocks, and the creases.

Next, pat dry the area with a clean cloth. Once it gets completely dry, apply rash cream, moisturizer, etc., before putting on the new diaper.

  • Step 4: Put on a new diaper 

Sanitize your hands, take a fresh diaper, and put it on the infant. Secure it tight to prevent any leaks. However, make sure it is not too tight as it might cause some irritation by preventing airflow.

If the baby still has the umbilical cord, try to use special newborn diapers. If it is a regular diaper or a cloth diaper, fold it down so that the cord clip is outside the diaper.

Change the baby’s clothes if needed. Put the baby in the crib or on the cot safely and wash your hands before you touch anything else.

Tips for Changing a Diaper Properly 

Here are some tips and suggestions that would help you change the diaper efficiently while ensuring hygiene and keeping the baby calm. 

  1. While cleaning a girl baby’s diaper area, always clean from front to back, not the other way around, to prevent the poop from entering her genitals (3).
  2. While changing the diaper for a baby boy, cover his penis with a cloth to avoid a pee fountain (4).
  3. When putting on a new diaper on a baby boy, point his penis downwards to prevent leakage.
  4. Make sure the diaper area is completely dry before applying the cream or putting on a new diaper.
  5. Always keep one hand on the baby during the entire changing process.
  6. Keep talking to your baby while changing the diaper.
  7. Hand them their favorite toy or a rattle to keep them busy.
  8. Never leave the baby unattended on the changing station.
  9. Don’t use scented or alcohol-based wipes.
  10. Look for skin marks and rashes after removing the diaper.
  11. Don’t tie the diaper too tight or too loose.
  12. Once your baby starts to roll over, avoid changing stations, and use a diaper changing mat to do it on the floor.
  13. Never leave a dirty diaper open. Always keep it in a closed trash can, immediately after removing it.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How often do I need to change a diaper?

If the baby poops in the diaper, you need to change it immediately. When it comes to pee, it depends on how often your infant urinates. The more they do, the sooner the diaper gets soiled, and you need to change it before they get irritated.

Since every diaper has a set absorbing capacity, make sure you’re not crossing the limit. The moment the diaper becomes bulky, it’s time you change it. Don’t leave the same diaper for more than 3-4 hours.

2. Can I reuse a diaper?

No, you cannot reuse a disposable diaper. However, there are cloth diapers that come with a removable insert (an absorbing pad). You can reuse such diapers as both the inserts and the diapers are washable.

3. Do diapers cause rashes?

It depends on your infant’s skin. If the baby has sensitive skin and the diapers’ materials irritate them, it might lead to a diaper rash.

4. My little one does not have any diaper rash. Do I still need to apply diaper rash cream?

If your kid is always in a diaper, applying a diaper rash cream might prevent rashes. Some parents find it helpful to leave the baby naked for some time during the day, to clear up a diaper rash.

5. Do I need to apply talc to dry the diaper area?

Applying talcum powder or even an organic powder may not be required if you properly dry the area before putting on another diaper.

Understanding how to change a diaper is an important aspect of taking care of a baby. This task requires diapers, wipes or washcloths, a diaper changing mat, and a diaper changing station. Also, it is important to follow the steps mentioned to help you carry out the job without any hassle. Always ensure you have a stock of diapers on hand and you change them every few hours to help prevent your baby from feeling uncomfortable. Also, ensure you never leave the baby unattended at the changing station.

Key Pointers

  • Some essential diaper changing steps to follow are to carry the baby’s changing station, dispose of the soiled diaper, clean the baby, and put on a new diaper.
  • Ensure to stock diapers and wet wipes, and always have a designated trash can.
    Never leave the baby unattended on the diaper changing station and keep the little one engaged if needed with toys.
  • If your baby is old enough to roll, change diapers on a diaper changing mat placed on the floor to avoid any potential falls.


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Rohit Garoo

Rohit Garoo did MBA from Osmania University and holds a certificate in Developmental Psychology from The University of Queensland. The zoologist-botanist turned writer-editor has over 8 years of experience in content writing, content marketing, and copywriting. He has also done an MBA in marketing and human resources and worked in the domains of market research and e-commerce. Rohit writes topics... more

Shelly Taft

Shelly is a licensed nurse, doula, and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Her areas of expertise are Aetna and Unicare. In the last 15 years, she provided medical care to more than a thousand families in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Shelly works as a lactation consultant at UMASS Memorial Hospital in Worcester. She also conducts classes on childbirth and breastfeeding... more