How to change a nappy

When and How to Change a Nappy

All babies need regular nappy changes. Doing so will not only help them feel more comfortable, it will also reduce the incidence and severity of nappy rash while keeping bad smells at bay. However, certainly at first it can be difficult to know when to change a nappy and even how to change a nappy.

Although babies with less sensitive skin may be able to wait to have a wet nappy changed – perhaps until they have finished feeding or when they wake up – one thing is certain: if your baby has passed a stool it will need changing as soon as possible. And if your baby has nappy rash, you will need to be particularly vigilant to ensure you don’t exacerbate the condition further by waiting unnecessarily.

In the article below we take a look at when and how to change your baby’s nappy.

How often does a baby’s nappy need changing?

New babies are likely to need around ten or more changes a day. This can feel like a lot but it is completely normal. Fortunately, the frequency of changes is likely to decrease slightly as your baby gets older.

What you need for nappy changing

Successful nappy changing is all about having the right attitude, suitable preparation and the right equipment. You should:

  • Have a clean and comfortable changing mat or towel laid out on a safe space, ideally on the floor and most definitely not from a position of height, unless your baby is safely strapped in place.
  • Have suitable skin-friendly alcohol-free wipes or a bowl of warm water and cotton wool to hand.
  • Have a plastic bag or bin available for the dirty nappy and wipes or cotton wool.
  • Use a barrier cream to protect against nappy rash (speak with your GP or midwife about finding a suitable product).
  • Use a clean, dry nappy or nappy liner (it can be useful to have more than one to hand in case of accidents).
  • Have a clean change of baby clothes available if necessary.

Step-by-step guide to changing a nappy

Learning how to change a nappy is quite simple. However, new parents may benefit from the following step-by-step guide:

  1. Wash your hands before changing a nappy.
  2. Lie your baby on its back on top of a laid-out changing mat or towel.
  3. Remove your baby’s clothing so that you can gain easy access to the nappy.
  4. Unfasten the dirty/wet nappy.
  5. If your baby has passed a stool, you can use the nappy to wipe off any excess solid matter.
  6. Remove the dirty nappy to one side.
  7. Use baby wipes or cotton wool and water to clean the entire nappy area, including between folds of skin.
  8. If cleaning a girl, clean from front to back; if cleaning a boy, you should not clean under the foreskin.
  9. If there are signs of nappy rash, use a barrier cream.
  10. Replace with a clean nappy of the appropriate size and secure in place.
  11. As soon as you can safely leave your baby you should bag up or dispose of any used wipes, cotton wool and the old nappy.
  12. Wash your hands.

Extra helpful hints

While changing a nappy can be slightly unpleasant for you, it should be as pleasurable as possible for your baby. Nappy change time can provide lots of face-to-face contact and, as you will do it very frequently, the sooner you can create positive associations with nappy changing in your baby’s brain, the easier it will be for you both.

So, try to remember to make it fun by talking to your baby, smiling, singing and keeping it stress-free. Once your baby is a little older, you can offer rattles and toys for them to grip and play with during change time.

Lastly, if it is warm enough and you have enough time, you can let your baby ‘go commando’ for a while on the changing mat – some nappy-free time before applying barrier cream and a fresh nappy can help their skin to dry out and reduces the incidence and severity of nappy rash.