diaper change on baby girl with rattle
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Diaper Changing, Step by Step

Whether you've never changed a diaper before or you're an old pro, you'll get plenty of practice with your new baby. Most parents have made common mistakes, like putting a diaper on backward or lopsided, or even getting an unexpected spray of urine from their baby boy. These step-by-step tips will help you master the art of diaper changing and fix any first-time mistakes fast.

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Diapering supplies under baby changing table
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Get Your Supplies Together

Have everything at hand, because you never want to leave your baby unattended. You'll need a clean diaper or two, something to wipe your baby with, and a flat surface. If your baby has diaper rash or is less than a month old, have cotton balls or squares, warm water, a towel, and diaper rash cream handy.

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Removing baby's dirty diaper
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Always Keep One Hand on Your Baby

Wash your hands, and place your baby on the changing table or a flat surface. Use the safety straps, or keep one hand on your baby so they don't roll off. Never leave your little one unattended, even for a few seconds. If they wiggle a lot, distract them with a mobile or a brightly colored toy. Undo the dirty diaper. Hold your baby's legs with one hand, and use the other hand to pull down the front of the diaper in a cleaning motion and tucking it under the bottom. Don't remove it yet.

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Wiping baby during diaper change
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Wipe From Front to Back

Use the front part of the diaper to help wipe your baby. Always wipe from front to back to prevent a urinary tract infection. Then use a mild wipe or wet washcloth to clean your baby, again wiping from front to back. For a newborn or a baby with diaper rash, use cotton balls or squares and warm water. Pat your baby's bottom dry. If you have a boy, keep a clean diaper or washcloth over their penis while you're changing them so they don't pee on you.

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Sliding diaper beneath baby
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Swap Dirty Diaper for Clean One

Lift your baby's legs, and slide the dirty diaper out. Hold their legs to keep them from touching the messy diaper. Slide a clean diaper underneath them. On a disposable diaper, the adhesive tabs go in back and should be about belly-button level. Pull the front up between your baby's legs. For a boy, make sure their penis is pointing down so they don't pee out on the top of their diaper.

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Fastening adhesive tabs on diaper
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Use Your Fingers to Test the Fit

Close the tabs on a disposable diaper, or snap or Velcro a cloth diaper shut. Make the diaper snug, but be sure you can place two fingers between the diaper and your baby's waist. With a newborn, fold the top of the diaper down so the umbilical stump is exposed. Or use a newborn diaper with a cutout for the stump.

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Dad holding dirty diaper
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You May Want to Flush the Poop

What do you do with the old diaper? If it’s made of cloth, shake any solid waste into the toilet. Then toss the diaper into the diaper pail until it gets washed. Some parents shake solid waste into the toilet from disposables, too. Then tape up the disposable and put it in the trash or diaper pail. You could put disposables in a plastic bag or zipper-top bag before you put it in the pail to cut down on the smell.

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Father engaging baby while changing diaper
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Take Your Time and Enjoy

Many moms and dads find that a diaper change is a great time to connect with their babies. After all, you're leaning over your baby, touching, and talking or cooing to them. Your baby looks up at you and listens to your voice. Take some time to sing a song or play peekaboo. Although some diaper changes will have to be done quickly because you only have a few minutes, try to enjoy the ritual.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 12/20/2020 Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on December 20, 2020


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University of Virginia Health System: "Diapers/Diaper Rash."

KidsHealth: "Baby Basics: Diapering Your Baby."

Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on December 20, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.


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