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A Beginner's Guide to Changing Diapers

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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.

Everything you need to know about changing diapers!

Everything you need to know about changing diapers!

Have You Ever Changed a Diaper?

Babies, especially newborns, are really good at a few things in the early stage of their lives: 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 if they have never changed a diaper before.

Don't fret! With my tips, even the most inexperienced person will become a professional in no time! I will share with you some valuable information on diaper changing and the different types of diapers you'll find available today.

Preparing for a Diaper Change

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

The first thing to consider is keeping the baby safe. Babies can move around a lot, even before they're able to roll over. You should always be near the baby, especially when changing him/her on a higher surface, such as a changing table, bed, or couch.

Before changing the baby, have the following items close at hand:

Diaper Changing Supplies

Diapering Items

disposable or cloth diapers

wipes or wash cloth

rash cream

bag to collect soiled items

extra set of clothes (just in case)

How to Change a Baby's Diaper

  1. When you're ready, place the baby on the changing surface.
  2. Before removing the clothing and diaper, have a few wipes ready and the new diaper opened.
  3. 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 afterward!
  4. If the diaper only has urine in it, gently clean the baby's parts with a wipe, apply cream if necessary, and put on a clean diaper.
  5. If the diaper is soiled, gently use the clean part of it to remove any excrement as you fold it under the baby.
  6. 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.
  7. Once clean, apply a bit of the diaper rash cream as necessary and put on the clean diaper.

How to Gain Hands-on Experience

  • It might help to learn with a doll in a prenatal class before the baby is born.
  • The best place to learn, however, is in the hospital or birthing center after you've had the baby. Ask a nurse to demonstrate a diaper change for you using 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 experienced it yourself with a real-life, squirming baby, you'll get a general idea about what is involved.

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, and 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.

How to Change a Baby Girl's Diaper

While you may not get the surprise spray from a girl, you'll have a little extra cleanup to do 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.
  • 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.
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!

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 were used to keep babies' bottoms covered. Disposable ones 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 needs. There are newborn diapers, nighttime ones, extra-absorbent ones, training diapers, and gender-themed diapers.

Once they're used, they're thrown away in the trash. No extra cleaning necessary!

  • Pampers
  • Huggies
  • Luvs
  • Seventh Generation
  • Earth's Best

How to Use Cloth Diapers

Many parents today are switching back to reusable cloth diapers. Their reasons include caring for the environment (think: disposable diapers in a landfill) and trying to save money. Whatever the reason, using cloth diapers can be just as easy as using the disposable variety, 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.

How to Change a Wet Diaper

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

How to Change a Soiled Diaper

  1. Use a clean part of the diaper to 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 is needed. Fastened with snap or pins.
  • All-in-Ones (AIOs): Liner and cover all in one.
  • Pocket Diapers: Fastened with snaps. Needs a liner inside.
  • Fitted Diapers: Needs a wrap or a cover.

How to Change a Cloth Diaper

How Much Do Cloth Diapers Cost?

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

Newborn Diapers

  • Newborn diapers today are made with a special cut-out for the umbilical cord stump, which could be irritated by the diaper if it rubs 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 suggests: they toddle or walk/climb/run around. You need to use diapers 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 cleanup, 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 bedwetting issues.

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

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

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Marissa


Marissa (author) from United States on December 20, 2012:

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

baby diapers on December 20, 2012:

"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!….

Marissa (author) from United States on November 27, 2012:

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!

Carolyn Dahl from Ontario, Canada on November 27, 2012:

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)

Marissa (author) from United States on September 05, 2012:

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

Claudia Porter on September 05, 2012:

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

Marissa (author) from United States on September 03, 2012:

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

Mary Craig from New York on September 03, 2012:

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.

Marissa (author) from United States on August 31, 2012:

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

Dianna Mendez on August 30, 2012:

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