It’s time for a change. And then another. And another. If you’re a new parent, you may be a little shocked at how often your newborn’s diaper needs changing. Whether you use cloth or disposable ones, you’ll change more than a thousand of them in the first year alone.

For parents in need, here’s an easy guide to diapers and diaper rash.

How Many Baby Diapers Will You Need?

We asked moms, dads, and pediatricians, and their estimates were about the same: Expect to use about 10 to 12 diapers each day for the first month of life.

Of course, every baby is different. Some poop and pee a lot; others, not as often. What’s normal is what’s normal for your baby.

Which Size Should You Buy?

Cloth diapers generally come in one size. Disposable diaper sizes are usually based on a baby’s weight, but the weight ranges overlap. So if your baby weighs 24 pounds, should you buy a size 3 diaper, geared for a 16- to 28-pound baby? Or would a size 4, for babies who weigh 22 to 37 pounds, fit better?

In general, keep this advice in mind:

  • Make sure the diaper fits well around your baby’s leg -- snug but not too tight.
  • If they are having a lot of leaks, it may be time to go up or back down a diaper size.


Diaper Rash: Prevention and Treatment

Allergic reactions, leaving a dirty diaper on too long, and changes in a baby’s poop when they switch to solid foods may lead to diaper rash.

To prevent it:

  • Change their diaper as soon as possible after it gets dirty.
  • Let their bottom air dry during a change, and leave the diaper off for a while, if you can.
  • Use unscented, mild soap and a warm washcloth to clean them during a diaper change. Perfume and deodorant soaps can be harsh on their skin.
  • If you use baby wipes, choose those that are free of perfume, alcohol, and chemicals.
  • When you wash cloth diapers (and baby clothes), avoid using fabric softeners, antistatic products, and perfumed detergent. These can also cause rashes.
  • Avoid any foods that seem to make their rash worse.

Diaper rash treatment:

  • Over-the-counter zinc oxide cream and petroleum jelly can help diaper rash.
  • Diaper rash from a bacterial or fungal infection looks bright red and in some cases can blister or cause peeling of the skin. Call the pediatrician for guidance on treatment. They may prescribe antibiotics or a topical antifungal cream.

For diaper rashes from yeast infections, your baby’s doctor may recommend an over-the-counter antifungal cream.

Stopping Diaper Leaks

Baby diapers can leak for all sorts of reasons -- the size, the brand, or how you put them on. Some common causes of leaks and how to prevent them:

  • If your baby is 2 weeks old or younger, they probably still have their umbilical cord stump, which diapers don’t lie over smoothly. Be sure that when you put a diaper on, it fits snuggly below the stump.
  • The diaper may be too big or too small. Try going up a size -- or down, if the diaper is too loose.
  • The diaper may be the right size, but fastened too loosely. Try closing it tighter.
  • A baby boy’s diaper sometimes leaks if their penis is pointing upward inside of it. Try directing the penis downward as you put on their diaper.
  • If your baby is between sizes, the solution is time. Wait a few weeks, and then try the next size up.


Prevent Pin Sticks With Cloth Diapers

Do you want to use cloth diapers, but worry about the pins? To pin safely:

  • Buy diaper pins that are stainless steel and have plastic protective heads that lock, so they won’t pop open as your baby moves around.
  • Keep your hand between the skin and the pin during diapering, so you won’t stick them.
  • Look into buying disposable diaper tape for cloth diapers. You can also try Velcro-fasten diaper covers or cloth diapers fitted with snaps or other baby-safe fasteners.


Diapering a Busy Baby

As babies get older and more active, some squirm, wiggle, or even kick and scream when you change their diapers. What can you do about it?

First, understand that it’s probably just a phase your little one is going through, and they’ll grow out of it. Until then, a few parental pointers:

  • Ignore it. For some children, wiggling is a power play. For others, it becomes a game. In both cases, your reaction is key. If you laugh, you’ve given your baby a powerful reward: Your attention! Keep an even temper and make it seem like the squirming is no big deal.
  • Distract them. Some parents sing to a baby, hang mobiles over the changing area, or give them a new and interesting object during changing time to hold their attention.
  • Never leave a baby unattended on a changing table. This goes for any baby -- wiggly or not. If you’re reaching for supplies with one hand, keep your other hand on them.


Reel in Roaming Hands During Diapering

Babies are interested in everything, and changing time is no different. But what can you do to keep your child’s exploring hands out of the diaper area during changes?

First, remember that this exploration is normal and that babies are interested in all parts of their bodies, especially the parts they don’t get access to very often. But that doesn’t help when there’s a diaper full of poop, or you’re in a rush to get out the door. These tips may help:

  • Don’t scold your baby for their curiosity. It won’t work, and it can send messages of shame about something that’s completely normal.
  • Offer distractions such as singing, mobiles, or a rarely seen toy, preferably one that occupies both hands.

Have a diapering question we didn’t cover? Put your head together with family, friends, and your child’s pediatrician. They know you and your baby best -- and chances are good they’ve been where you are now.

WebMD Medical Reference


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