Changing Diapers

The Zen of Diaper Changing Maintenance
Diapering a baby provides a chance for parent and child to spend special time together. Because diapering is a repetitive activity and because there is care, nurturing and focused time involved, it allows for wonderful learning and interaction.

For the baby, there are opportunities to learn about his body, about health and safety, about language and communication, about sequences and predictability and about trust. For parents, diapering offers a chance to get in rhythm with your baby, to learn his special signals, to develop your unique communication system, to teach your baby how to care for himself and to establish a sense of trust and predictability.

Diapering children at various ages provides different opportunities and challenges. Here are some things to think about as you prepare for your years diapering your young child.

Preparing for the Diaper Change
Before you begin, make sure that you have a safe and well-supplied diapering area. Be sure your area contains the following:

  • fresh diapers
  • wet wipes
  • fasteners
  • trash can
  • new outfit
  • diaper rash cream

Once you begin, it will be very hard to run for forgotten items.

Remember that with the new baby, you'll have a lot to juggle. Many parents turn toward a diaper delivery service as an affordable and time-saving alternative to buying diapers at the store.

Keep Your Baby Safe
Most diaper changes take place on an elevated surface, which means that you need to have a hand on your baby throughout the diaper change. Even babies who have never rolled over or crawled may be capable of catapulting themselves off the diaper table. If you need to walk away from the table for any reason, take the baby with you.

Don’t use powders on your baby’s buttocks. Many powders are harmful to babies when breathed in, and many have carcinogenic properties. If you need to put something on your baby’s bum, use cream.

Follow Good Hygiene Practices
Good clean-up not only keeps your child healthy in the short run, it also teaches him methods for keeping himself healthy in the long run. Proper hand washing, cleaning of the diapering surface and disposal of the used diaper are essential for each diaper change. Both adult and child should wash their hands after a diaper change. Young babies who have good back strength can be held up to the sink and helped to wash their hands. Toddlers can use a stool to reach the sink to wash theirs. Disposal of the used diapers should be in a secure container away from the child’s reach.

A Little TLC
Loving, appropriate, respectful touch provides a child with the sense that their bodies are precious. One of the most important things children can learn in their early years is how they can expect to be treated in the world. Studies have shown that within the first five years of life, a child’s outlook on life is set in stone. It’s important therefore to consciously shape a positive environment for your child. If children are treated respectfully by being informed about what is happening to them and included in the process, they will learn to expect that kind of treatment in all of their relationships. They will less likely agree to being treated hurtfully in future relationships and they will know how to treat others with gentleness and care.

A Lesson in Diapering
It's not just you who's learning a lot about diaper changing. Your baby is learning things from diaper changing too.

Involve your child in the process. Even very young children can begin to participate in their own diapering. Babies can lift their legs or bottom, hold the clean diaper, look at the used diaper. Older infants can help wipe their bottoms after you get them mostly clean. They can help unfasten their diapers or wraps. Young toddlers can help pull up their pants. If you have a diapering table with pull-out stairs or a step-stool, mobile children can climb up themselves.

Diapering is important preparation for toilet training. When children make the transition to the potty, it can be a big change from the passive experience of being diapered. However, if children are involved in their own diapering and self-care, even before they begin to use the toilet, they may make the transition more easily. "I remember how to pull my pants down and wipe myself. I’ve been doing it for diaper changes already!" And because this step is probably approaching faster than you think, make sure you're prepared with potty training techniques that are both easy and fast.

Diapering can teach children about their bodies. Children are born with bodies that they don’t yet know. They can’t fully control them, they don’t know how they work; nor do they know the names of their body parts. Diapering, bathing and dressing all provide opportunities for children to learn about their bodies. A chance to participate in the process offers children practice in physical coordination and self-care. Learning words for their body parts gives children a vocabulary to use to talk about their bodies and their bodily functions. Teaching children names for all their body parts, for genitals, as well as elbows and toes, helps them learn that they can be proud of their whole bodies, not just certain parts. Finding appropriate names for children’s genitals may be challenging and/or embarrassing for parents. Even if you use "cute" family names for children’s genitals, it can be important to also give them the correct vocabulary for their penises, testicles, vulvas and vaginas.

Talk. Tell your child what you are going to do. Talking to your child about the process as you go along not only helps her feel included, it also helps her learn language as she is given words for what she is experiencing. "I'm going to pick you up so I can change your diaper. I'm going to wash your bottom with this wipe."

Making Diaper Time Fun
Lastly, diaper time should be enjoyable. Often, we go into a diaper change hoping to get it over with as soon as possible. Sometimes this is necessary. However, when you have the time, it can be enjoyable to have a leisurely diaper change where you pause and get your child’s attention before you go to each next step. Also, many babies love time with their diaper off when they can move freely, kick and exercise their lower bodies without that bundle between their legs. You can play games like, "Find your toes or your belly button" when diapers are off. You can name or sing about body parts and kiss tummies. You can play "peek-a-boo" with t-shirts or clean diapers.

Avoid distractions when possible. When babies begin to get mobile, lying still for a diaper change is the last thing they want to do. It is tempting and sometimes feels necessary to fill their hands and attention with a toy. If you find that you need to do this for a while, try to get back to including your child in the process. Distracting her prevents your daughter from feeling involved in what is happening to her and limits her opportunity to learn about her body and how to take care of it.

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