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How to Change Your Baby’s Diaper
Updated on
February 27, 2024

How to Change Your Baby’s Diaper

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How to Change Your Baby’s Diaper.
How to Change Your Baby’s Diaper

Babies go through a lot of diapers. Changing a diaper can seem a little daunting at first, especially if you’ve never done it before. With these tips plus hands-on experience, you’ll become a pro in no time.

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What You Need to Change a Diaper

What’s the first step in changing a diaper? “Prepare the space!” says Rebekah Kimminau, a newborn care specialist, postpartum doula and Babylist registry consultant. “You will want a safe, wipeable surface, and a clean diaper and wipes or ointments within reach.”

Make sure you have a dedicated space for changing diapers stocked with everything you’ll need to change your baby’s diaper. Here are the diapering essentials you’ll need:

Where to Change Your Baby

If you’re at home, a dedicated changing area in baby’s nursery is a great place to change their diapers. When changing your baby on an elevated surface, keep one hand on them to make sure they don’t roll off. You can also have a basket of changing essentials, a changing mat and other diapering supplies elsewhere in your home so that you don’t have to go to baby’s room for every diaper change.

If you’re out in public, diaper-changing stations in restrooms are best. But keep your diaper bag stocked with a changing mat just in case you can’t find one.

How to Change a Diaper

First things first, how do you know it’s time for a diaper change? Aside from smelling pee or poop or noticing your baby’s diaper looks saggy or full, most diapers have a wetness indicator which changes colors from yellow to blue when your baby’s diaper is wet.

It may seem pretty straightforward, but there are a few things you can do to help make changing your baby’s diaper go a little smoother. Here’s a step-by-step on how to change a diaper.

  1. Lay your baby on a flat surface
  2. Remove all clothes from under your baby
  3. Unfasten the tabs on the dirty diaper
  4. Lift your baby’s legs with one hand or roll their hips from side to side
  5. Remove the dirty diaper from under the baby’s bottom
  6. Apply diaper cream (if needed)
  7. Place a clean diaper under your baby’s bottom and fasten the sticky tabs on both sides
  8. Re-dress your baby
  9. Discard the dirty diaper and wipes
  10. Wash your hands

What about poopy diapers? Follow the same steps listed above and be sure to change them as soon as you notice they’ve pooped——this helps prevent painful diaper rashes.

You can either “fold the front part of the soiled diaper under baby’s bum if they don’t move too much, or remove the soiled diaper and then clean any remaining soiled areas,” says Kimminau.

She also says to be sure that the diaper fringe around baby’s legs is pulled out as this helps to prevent any leaks.

A few more tips to keep in mind:

  • Umbilical cord care. When you’re changing your newborn’s diaper, use that time as an opportunity to check their umbilical cord stump to make sure it’s healing properly and free from infection. Some newborn diapers have a notch so they don’t rub the umbilical cord but if not, you can also fold the front of their diaper down a bit as well.
  • Keep their little hands busy. As your baby grows into a toddler, you can help them stay still for changes by giving them something to play with or getting them involved in the process. Talk to them about what you’re doing while you’re changing them (this also helps as a step towards potty training!).

How to Change a Girl’s Diaper

When changing a baby girl’s diaper, always make sure to wipe from front to back in order to prevent any urinary tract infections. Also be sure to thoroughly wipe between the folds of skin.

How to Change a Boy’s Diaper

Baby boys are notorious for peeing as soon as you remove their diaper, so keep a tissue or towel close by to cover their penis while changing. Another hot tip? When you’re putting on a fresh diaper, be sure to point the penis down so pee doesn’t leak out of the top of the diaper.

Changing Cloth Diapers

If you cloth diaper, there are a few more steps you’ll need to take when changing your baby’s diaper. If your baby is only drinking breast milk or formula, you can go ahead and throw the soiled diaper (both pee and poop) directly into your diaper pail, wet bag or washing machine. If baby has started solids, you’ll want to dump the poop into the toilet before tossing in the diaper pail or the wash.

Commonly Asked Questions

How often should I change my baby’s diaper?

“The general rule-of-thumb for changing a baby’s diaper is that it should be done every 2-3 hours, or when soiled,” says Kimminau. In the early weeks and months, it can be helpful to change baby after each feeding as they typically eat every two to three hours.

Do I need to wake them up at night to change their diaper?

The last thing most parents want to do is wake a sleeping baby, so we have good news. Unless your baby has a poopy diaper, “there is no need to wake to change them,” Kimminau says.

If your baby is leaking through their diaper at night, she recommends trying diapers specifically meant for overnight use or even cloth diapers that have an extra-absorbent material.

How can I tell if my baby’s diaper is the right size?

The wrong size diaper can contribute to blowouts and leaking, and diaper fit and sizing varies by brand. Kimminau recommends starting by looking at the brand’s size chart to determine what size your baby wears. “A general rule of thumb is to make sure you can adequately fasten the tabs around the waist without having slack or too much overlap. You will also want the leg holes to fit snugly against your baby’s thighs without gaping or leaving marks.”

How often should I apply diaper cream or ointment (and what’s the difference between them)?

Ointments are most helpful when treating a diaper rash, and you’ll want to apply one during every change if your baby has it. “Because ointments are thicker, they create a barrier between the skin and anything irritating it,” says Kimminau. Diaper rash creams on the other hand, “may be used in a more preventative way, or to help treat irritated skin before a full rash develops.”

Diaper cream can be applied at every diaper change if your baby has extra sensitive skin. It’s also a good idea to apply at bedtime for those longer stretches between changing.

How do I prevent diaper rash?

The best way to prevent diaper rash is to change baby as soon as their diaper is soiled. Applying a barrier cream at bedtime can also protect baby’s skin for longer overnight stretches. Kimminau also points out that overusing baby wipes can potentially contribute to diaper rash and irritation.

“Most modern diapers are so absorbent they prevent the majority of urine from touching a baby’s skin,” Kimminau says. If your baby is experiencing recurring diaper rashes, you may want to reach out to their pediatrician.

Is it safe to use baby powder during diaper changes?

You’ll want to avoid the use of baby powder in general, especially those that contain either talcum powder or cornstarch. According to Mt. Sinai hospital system, baby powder, which contains talc, can be harmful if inhaled, and the American Cancer Society says there is a possible link between cancer and continued exposure to talc. Cornstarch-based powders can also contribute to yeast diaper rashes.

When to See a Pediatrician

  • Orange, pink or chalky urine. In the first days of life, your newborn’s urine may appear chalky rust-colored–—this is normal. Their urine is very concentrated until they begin nursing and consuming more breast milk or formula. If this persists past a week, contact your pediatrician.
  • Stools that are bloody, white or black in color. You’ll want to contact your pediatrician if your baby’s poop contains blood or is white or black in color, except for meconium, which is your baby’s first poop following birth.
  • Unusual discharge. Period-like or mucous-y discharge is normal for about the first two weeks of life, this is called false menses. If the discharge persists, changes color or develops an odor you should reach out to your baby’s doctor.
  • Recurring diaper rash. There are different types of diaper rashes, and you’ll want to have your baby be seen by their doctor if they have a persistent or recurring diaper rash to ensure it’s being treated properly.


Briana Engelbrecht

Assistant Editor

Briana Engelbrecht is Babylist’s Assistant Editor, where she brings her passion for early childhood development and the perinatal period, plus experience as a mom of two to Babylist articles and guides. She’s also a certified lactation counselor. A former preschool teacher, she loves children’s picture books, cats, plants and making things.

This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content and review products, as well as the Babylist Health Advisory Board.