How To Change A Diaper

Sure, lots of people grow up with much younger siblings or cousins, or they babysat as teenagers, or they have friends who have babies, or they’re just around babies. For these people, changing a diaper can seem like a no-brainer. But then there are people like me and my husband who never did any of that and changed our first diapers on our very own newborn son.

It’s a nerve-wracking thing, to be a new parent and be expected to have this instantaneous surge of maternal or paternal instinct and also know how to change a diaper. It’s one of those things that seems very obvious in hindsight yet very confusing at the outset. So first, I will tell you how to change a diaper. Then I will show you how to change a diaper. And then you will know how to change a diaper.

Step 1: Lay the baby on a clean, soft surface. If the surface is elevated, be sure to strap them in and keep one hand on or very near to them at all times, even if they’re not rolling yet (that first roll can really take you by surprise).

Step 2: Unfasten the dirty diaper and then follow this strategic advice from What to Expect:

For a wet diaper: Fold the dirty diaper underneath the baby (so the clean, outer side is now under his or her bottom) and wipe the area.

For a poopy diaper: Wipe as much as possible with the diaper itself, then fold it underneath, as above. Lift the legs and clean baby’s front well with warm water or wipes, being sure to get into all the creases. Then lift both legs and clean baby’s bottom thoroughly.

During this step, remember the following:

  • You always need to wipe girls from front to back.

  • Boys can be wiped in either direction, but you’ll want to keep the penis covered with an extra diaper or clean cloth to prevent a pee-fountain situation.

  • You’ll also want to point the penis down as you fasten the clean diaper to reduce leaks.

Step 3: After baby is clean and dry (and you’ve applied any rash creams, if necessary), slide the clean diaper under baby’s bottom. If you’re using disposable diapers, the fastening tabs go in the back, under the baby. Pull the front part of the diaper down between the baby’s legs and fasten the tabs from the back to the front part of the diaper, across the belly.

The diaper should be fastened tight enough to prevent leaks but not so tight as to cause irritation. (If you see red marks during the next diaper change, you’ll know it was too tight.)

OK, now let’s watch real diaper changes in action, shall we? (This is not a particular endorsement of the Pampers brand, but rather a nod at their diaper-changing skills.)

Finally, for disposable diapers, I always liked to fold them up and tightly re-fasten the tabs (as shown in the video) to make the dirty diaper more compact and less messy. For cloth diapers, see this complete guide for cleaning tips.


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