How to Diaper Your Baby

  • Reviewed By: Dan Brennan, MD
Reviewed on 12/4/2018

Diaper Changing, Step-by-Step

Photo of baby diaper change.

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.

Get Your Supplies Together

Photo of a diaper changing table.

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.

Always Keep One Hand on Your Baby

Photo of removing dirty diaper.

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 he doesn't roll off. Never leave your little one unattended, even for a few seconds. If he wiggles a lot, distract him 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. Don't remove it yet.

Wipe From Front to Back

Photo of a dad wiping the baby from front to back.

First, 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 his penis while you're changing him so he doesn't pee on you.

Swap Dirty Diaper for Clean One

Photo of a mom putting a clean diaper under the baby.

Lift your baby's legs, and slide the dirty diaper out. Hold his legs to keep him from touching the messy diaper. Slide a clean diaper underneath him. 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 his penis is pointing down so he doesn't pee out the top of his diaper.

Use Your Fingers to Test the Fit

Photo of a mom fastening the baby's diaper.

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.

You May Want to Flush the Poop

Photo of a dad holding a dirty diaper.

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.

Take Your Time and Enjoy

Photo of a dad changing his baby's diaper.

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 him or her. 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.

How to Diaper Your Baby

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