First of all, know that something that is really quite simple doesn’t need to be interpreted as in any way intimidating or complicated. It’s just changing a baby’s diaper, after all.
When I was pregnant with my first baby a few years ago, my husband and I took a “baby basics” class that reviewed things like swaddling, packing your diaper bag, giving baths, and yes, even changing diapers.
The leader of that portion of the course asked us to raise our hands if we’d never changed a diaper before. She then selected a young (and inexperienced) man to come to the front of the class and try it out, and he did just fine on his very first try.
So don’t fret. It’s not all that complicated, and I’m sure you’ll do just great.
Still, there are certain things that can go wrong, make things more complicated, and up the chances of pee and poop getting, well, out of the diaper. There are also techniques that might cause irritation to a baby and her skin: practices that may hurt more than they help.
So just in case it makes you feel better to prepare by reading up a bit, check out these 15 newbie mistakes people make during diaper changes.
15 Free To Wee U & Me
Let’s be sure to include this classic mistake. It may just be one of the funniest ones – as long as you are not the caretaker who makes it.
It’s when you are changing a little baby boy’s diaper and leave said little boy uncovered for just a moment or two, allowing a stream to shoot right up at your face, the wall, and basically anything in its path.
Now, it’s not the end of the world, and surely you will deal with far grosser (and, quite frankly, browner) things as a parent or caregiver, but my guess is that it’s probably not what you were dreaming of needing to deal with at the moment.
Then there’s the chaos afterward of trying to clean up a potty-related mess while wrangling a baby who thinks it’s all some hilarious game…
There are special covers sold to keep the little guy covered, though a diaper or cloth may work just fine.
14 Jumping The Gun
Let me walk you through this little scenario: You take off the old diaper, perform any required cleanup, and then allow a moment or more to pass between taking the old diaper out from beneath the baby’s bottom and placing a new one underneath.
In the matter of seconds or minutes that tiny booty is left with nothing beneath it, a puddle of this or that can very quickly form.
Once it happens to you once or twice, you’ll likely quickly incorporate a more practical move into your diaper-changing routine: always placing the new diaper either under the old one before ever pulling it out or having a new one open and ready to slide right under the bare bottom as soon as the old diaper is gone.
It can keep things a lot easier, and a lot drier.
13 Rushing The Cream Rubbing
So you know that if you’re trying to keep a baby’s skin free of irritation, it’s now considered best to skip the old-school powder, which may cause irritation to a baby’s lungs (as included at BabyCenter.com, which cites the American Academy of Pediatrics as its source).
Creams, instead, can be quite helpful (and you should surely check with your own child’s pediatrician with any questions or needed advice on how or when to use these and how to care for your little one in general).
But if you slather that white cream on immediately after taking off a wet diaper or wiping up a number 2 with moistened baby wipes, you might be locking moisture in against the skin rather than preventing more from getting to it.
Instead, you might try allowing the region to “air out” for a few moments, then apply cream if needed.
12 Not Disposing Of The Evidence
As soon as babies can reach and grasp things, oh, man, watch out.
They can be quick, and on top of being quick, they can be unpredictable, and on top of being unpredictable, they can tend to strike right when you are for a single moment preoccupied with something else.
For example, let’s say you just took off a poopy diaper (and by the way, until babies start eating “solid foods,” their poops tend to remain pretty liquid-y). You set it aside and go about your business, likely placing a new diaper underneath that little bottom.
But the old diaper (along with any soiled wipes that are likely tucked inside it or piled on top of it) is so near that baby snatches it, and what will seep, well, seeps, creating quite a mess.
The better alternative is putting that thing right in the trash once it’s off, or being sure that it’s not close enough that a little hand can grab it.
11 Sticking With Stinkers
Believe me, I know it can be tempting to want to use every diaper in the package, but I’d like to note that sometimes, a diaper just isn’t the right fit or of a good enough quality to warrant being used.
We bought a drugstore-brand diaper that looked (to our expectant-parent eyes) exactly the same as the name-brand and cost a bit less.
We found ourselves with newborn diaper blowouts on our hands (when the waste actually leaks or shoots out of the back or leg holes of the diaper) something like daily.
Then we knew it was time to make a change.
If it will save you significant time spent scrubbing out stains and cleaning up the mess, it might be a good idea to shop around for a diaper that, quite frankly, works better.
Maybe it’s more absorbent or fits better around the legs.
10 Feeding First
You might not think that the order of things is so important, but once you find out what works – and what doesn’t really work so well – you tend to stick very closely to whatever routine leaves baby (and you) happiest and cleanest when all is said and done.
A new parent may be tempted to get the baby to the boob (or bottle) as quickly as possible once she wakes up or is having fussy fit, but it may be wise to first carefully consider the order of operations.
If a baby has a tummy full of milk and then is laid flat on his back, jostled around a bit, has his legs pressed up toward his tummy, has pressure put on the abdomen as the diaper tabs are closed, and then is swooped upright again, his parent or caretaker might find him- or herself needing to go straight back to the changing table to put on dry clothes. The baby may just spit up that hard-earned milk or formula all over his clothes after all that messing about.
Instead, consider trying changing the diaper first, then going in for the feeding.
9 Blindly Trusting The Line
I am not arguing for or against disposable diapers here, but I do know that these extremely non-biodegradable wonders are used quite frequently by many modern babies (or by their lovin’ parents, in any case).
A great deal of these (all of the ones I’ve ever used, I believe, in fact) now have a nifty feature: a colored line (say, light yellow) turns darker (say, light blue) when the diaper becomes saturated with liquid (read: pee-pee).
New parents, especially, may appreciate this nifty feature, before they get the hang of the (often) rather predictable times they will need to change their children’s diapers. It’s comforting to have a clue.
The problem, though? It can take a few minutes before the fluid saturates through the material enough to change the color of the line,
and poops may not change it for longer yet.
Try giving the diaper a touch or gentle squeeze to see if it feels squishy if you’re ever in doubt. (You can do this without even taking the clothes off first, too.)
8 Baring Before Wiping
It can be overwhelming to realize the huge amount of baby wipes that can be required to clean up a baby’s bowel movements.
That’s part of why it would be a mistake to simply undo the tabs of the diaper and remove it from that little tushy after junior, well, takes a dump.
Instead, you might prefer to use the front of the diaper to wipe away the bulk of the poo, leaving the more detailed cleanup work only to be completed with the use of wipes (or washing, or whatever method you are currently using at the time).
Once the diaper is completely removed, there’s sort of no going back. The new, clean diaper will have to be placed under the baby pronto if you wish to ensure that the changing table or other surface won’t become soaked or, um, soiled.
7 The Trick Of Those Tabs
Babies grow so quickly in the early weeks and months that you might have to sort of constantly be adjusting and refining your technique – when it comes to how tightly to close the tabs of the diaper around the waist, that is.
If you go too tight with those tabs, it might be uncomfortable for the baby or put too much pressure on that sweet little tummy.
If you go too loose, well… let’s just say that’s just creating an even easier escape route for that liquid coming out the back end…
Especially by the time a baby is old enough to be squirmy on the changer (just wait…), it can be tricky to hold them in place and get the tabs just so. But the good news is that by the time this happens, you’ll probably have so much practice that it feels like a sixth sense to get the snugness just right.
6 Positioning Too Low
It can be surprising how high you have to position that diaper under a baby’s bottom / back to get it on right.
The problem is that if you don’t lift or roll the baby adequately to get the back of the diaper well above where the butt crack ends, well, you’re in for trouble.
Someone I know quite well continued to do this, not realizing it and wondering each time why the pajamas (and sleep sack or swaddler) were subsequently soaked with liquid poo.
The trick is to get the back of the diaper up high enough but still be able to close the front of the diaper up and fasten the tabs nicely. There may truly be some sort of art to it.
The stranger the situation that you are in (for example in the front seat of your sedan, on a park bench, etc.), the more difficult it can be to get it just right – but the good news is that it becomes second nature after you’ve done it for a certain amount of time.
5 A Sneaky Crease
You use the front of the diaper to wipe off the bulk of the… messy business. You use wipes or cloths to carefully cleanse the skin to free it of any… debris.
Then, as the legs are spread outward to fold the front of the new diaper upward, there it is: the hidden mess that loves to hide in the creases.
With the abundant pudge that can sometimes define a baby’s upper thighs, there really can be some tricky nooks, crannies, and crevices.
Just when you think you’re all done… you’re not. Or you might not notice it, leaving feces sitting on the baby’s sensitive skin… Yuck!
So don’t forget to check this area out if you’ve just had a particularly messy baby dump on your hands (or, well, hopefully mostly in the baby’s diaper).
4 Getting Girls Clean
Because adults and older children tend to do their business in the toilet, wipe off the back, and move on with their lives, it may be somewhat difficult for a person who has not yet cared for a newborn to understand how in the world number 2s would be all up in the, well, front parts.
But this is actually quite common.
A baby’s poops are very liquid still. Even a toddler’s business ends up getting all up on the front parts now and again, as the soft, um, organic matter is pressed there once it comes out into the diaper (rather than dropping straight down into a potty).
Graphic, I know.
But this, while perhaps gross, is a very important point. For girls, especially, be sure to clean those hidden crevices, and to rinse with clean water as needed.
You do NOT want to leave any feces lingering inside the labia, where it may cause urinary tract or other infections.
3 Overdoing Diaper Cream
It’s nice to feel like you have all the products you need to care for your little bundle, isn’t it?
But a pitfall to avoid is using too much of these products or using them too often.
What I’m talking about, specifically, here is diaper cream or ointment.
It’s probably just not necessary to use it as part of every diaper change (or even most of them). Talk to your own child’s pediatrician, of course, about what you should be doing to care for your own baby.
Here’s what I do, which has worked very well. We have very rarely encountered any sort of diaper rash with our two babies, and any irritations that have developed have been minor and short-lived.
I mainly only use diaper cream at night before putting my babies down to bed, and only after the skin is clean and dry. I change diapers frequently during the day, and I only apply cream as needed if the skin looks irritated.
2 Not Stocking That Station
If a baby is fussy or crying, a new parent may jump at the chance to do anything (anything!) to make that little tot happy and calm again.
But before you rush to the changer to see if it’s a pee or poop that has junior in a fuss, it might be wise to pause.
If any supplies are lacking in your diaper bag or at your changing station, you might have a big problem on your hands.
For example, if you run out of wipes mid poop cleanup, it might be pretty tricky (and risky) business to carry a naked-butt baby somewhere else to grab more. And you can never leave the baby unattended on the changer,
My best solution to this problem was to have many sets of everything. At multiple changing stations throughout my (tiny) home, I’ve got diapers, wipes, cream, and hand sanitizer at the ready, and I’m always keeping watch to see if something will soon need to be restocked.
1 Fighting Blind
Poops can be strangely sneaky. While some of them you can smell a mile away, and while an older baby or toddler will usually be pretty clear about when he or she is working on something of this nature, every now and then one will catch you by surprise.
I find it happening to me when we’ve been, say, out at the zoo or playing somewhere that’s not confined. I can tell that the diaper needs a change but don’t know for whatever reason that it’s a poop that time, and pull it out quickly as if it is a pee – and then it’s not.
Clearly, you do not want this type of mess on your hands, and instead will want to use the diaper to wipe off the poo before wiping up and THEN removing the dirty diaper.
My tip? Always move slowly, and if you’re uncertain what sort of cleanup you’re going in for, simply take a sniff or peek through the leg hole before you get started. That way you can have wipes and supplies at the ready – and avoid making a smear-filled mess.