How to Change a Diaper: Helpful Tips for New Parents

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Changing a baby’s diaper can be a dirty business. Use this step-by-step guide of how to change a diaper and life-changing diaper changing tips and hacks to make your life easier!

how to change a babys diaper


It’s as if motherhood is playing a joke on new parents and throwing them into the deep end by presenting them with the hardest poop to clean the first hours after their baby’s birth.

And the poop keeps coming! There is nothing else to do except take a deep breath and dive into one of the most crucial skill to master as a new parent – changing your baby’s diaper.

After having two kids, it’s safe to say that I have gotten over my fear of changing diapers. I view myself as the one-woman Nascar pit-crew, tackling different tasks as quickly as possible once that diaper has been opened.

When it comes down to it, changing a baby’s diaper is an art, not a science. However, here are some basic instructions to get you started.

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Step-by-Step Instructions for Changing Diapers

1. Lay your baby down gently on a clean, flat, safe surface.

You can use a changing table, a dresser with a changing pad (that’s what we did), a crib, or the floor. Always secure your baby using the safety straps or keep one hand on your baby to ensure he or she doesn’t roll off. I recommend using a changing pad liner to protect the surface from any accidents.

2. Open up a new clean diaper and place it underneath your baby.

The tabs should come up to your baby’s waist, around the belly button area. Keep reading to find out why one of the best tips to diaper changing is to have a clean diaper underneath the dirty one.

3. Unfasten the tabs on the dirty diaper and pull the front half down.

Do not remove the diaper!

4. Hold your baby’s ankles with one hand and gently lift your baby upward so that you can fold the dirty diaper underneath the baby (the clean side is now touching his or her bottom).

For dirty diapers, use the front half of the diaper to wipe off as much poop as you can off the baby’s bottom.

5. Use wet wipes or a wet washcloth to clean your baby’s diaper region.

You can lift your baby up gently by the ankles or roll him or her to her side to get the poop underneath.

If you have a boy, you may want to place a burp cloth or washcloth over the baby to prevent getting shot in the face with pee.

If you have a baby girl, make sure to wipe from front to back to prevent urinary tract infection. Make sure you clean thoroughly between the skin folds because poop can be trapped in there.

6. Pat your baby dry or allow him or her to air dry before putting on the clean diaper.

A dry bottom is the best way to prevent diaper rash.

7. Apply diaper rash ointment if necessary.

Learn how to determine if your baby has a diaper rash and the severity of the diaper rash, click here for pictures and guidelines.

8. Remove the dirty diaper and set it out of the baby’s reach.

The clean diaper should be now under your baby’s bottom.

9. Pull the front half of the diaper through your baby’s legs.

For a boy, make sure his penis is pointing downward so his pee doesn’t come out of top of his diaper.

10. Use one hand to hold the front of the diaper gently against your baby’s belly while using the other hand to secure the adhesive tabs.

The diaper should be snug around your baby’s waist but not pinching.

For newborns, careful not to touch the umbilical cord stump with the diaper. You can fold the front of the diaper down so the diaper doesn’t cover the cord.

11. All done!

Use baby sign language to indicate to your baby that you finished changing his or her diaper by signing “all done!”

There are many techniques to change a baby’s diaper, and you will find that your technique will evolve as the baby starts to move more. After asking numerous doctors, nurses, and other mothers, I have gathered 15 tips that would help make changing a baby’s diaper easier!


Quick and Dirty Diaper Changing Tips

1. “Mise en place” – Everything in its place.

I watch a lot of food channel because of my love of cooking, and one of the most important concepts that is prevalent across all the shows is “mise en place,” which means everything in its place in French.

A master chef needs to have all his/her required spices, ingredients, and tools all organized and ready prior to cooking. Similarly, you need to make sure that diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream, and whatever is necessary to successfully change a baby’s diaper are prepared prior to even putting the baby on the changing table.

Run out of wipes during a change? No no no. Having a clean and organized changing area? Oui oui oui.

2. Put a clean diaper underneath the dirty one before you open the dirty diaper.

I remember this one clearly because I learned this on my son’s first appointment with the pediatrician. If you put a clean diaper underneath the dirty one, even before you take off the dirty diaper, you have the clean diaper right there to block and/or catch any incoming pee or poop attacks.

Trust me, do not leave this one up to your lightning reflexes, especially if you have a baby boy.

3. Use the dirty diaper to wipe away as much poop as possible.

Want to save some money on wipes? Before removing the dirty diaper, use it to get rid of as much poop as possible before using any wipes. Plus, this may save your hands from getting poop on it when the thin wipe tears from wiping the giant wad of poop.

4. Roll up the dirty diaper.

Especially if your baby is crying or screaming, it’s tempting to just take the dirty diaper and set it aside and get to the wiping as fast as possible. However, unless you want to end up with the baby’s feet covered in poop from kicking the dirty diaper by accident, or have the carpet ruined when the baby accidentally kicks the dirty diaper onto the ground, take 2 seconds to roll up the dirty diaper.

You can use the adhesive tabs to re-seal the diaper into a ball and throw it away later. It’s also easier to stuff the dirty diaper into the diaper pail this way and eliminate the risk of you touching any poop in the process.

5. Use your fingers to make sure the diaper is snug.

After you close the tabs on the diaper, place two fingers between the diaper and the baby’s waist. If your fingers cannot fit, then the diaper is too tight. Vice versa, if you can insert more than 2 fingers in there, then the diaper is too loose.

6. Use bottom wash.

Sometimes it seems like you wipe and you wipe and the poop just refuses to come off the baby’s bottom. The solution? Use California Baby Diaper Area Wash. The moist spray helps get dried, sticky poop and poop stain off the baby’s skin, eliminating the need for using lots of wipes.

I do have to caution you that some people claim these sprays may cause your baby some discomfort if your baby has a diaper rash or sensitive skin. I used it for both of my babies, even when they had a diaper rash, and they never reacted negatively. However, I would test it out on a small area on their bottom before using it.

7. Distract the baby.

One trick I learned from my mother-in-law is putting a toy in your mouth while changing the baby’s diaper. Your two hands are occupied, so use your mouth to shake a rattle, toot a horn, or just dangle a toy to distract the baby.

Another idea is to have toys for the baby to play with nearby to keep his/her hands busy, but most of the time the toys are on the ground within seconds. Hence, I keep a small bucket full of teething toys and I just keep handing the baby a new toy as he/she throws the toys off the changing table. This way, after we are done, I gather up the toys on the ground in the bucket and wash them all at once.

8. In the case of a blow-out, pull the onesie down over the baby’s feet.

Ever wonder why there are the envelope folds on a onesie? It’s so that we can pull the onesies down toward the baby’s feet instead of up over their heads in case of blowouts!

What’s a blowout? It’s when the baby’s diaper cannot contain the liquid poop and the poop shoots up the baby’s back. It’s very common for babies to have blowouts, particularly within the first few months of life. If your baby has a full head of hair like my daughter, please remember this tip to avoid using poop as hair gel on those silky baby locks.


9. Prevent a mess with blowout blocker.

Your baby seems to know the perfect time to have a blowout – on the way to a photoshoot, in the middle of a wedding, or when you are running late for an appointment. Using a blowout blocker that creates a barrier between the blowout mess and the baby’s clothes may just save you from hours of scrubbing and washing clothes, blankets, and car seat covers.

10. Use swim diapers in the water.

A regular diaper is meant to absorb liquid, and we are very thankful for that usually. However, being able to soak up tons of liquid like a sponge while the baby is in the water equals a giant, heavy diaper. Seriously, the diaper feels like a brick.

The heavy diaper is dangerous for the baby because it can weigh him or her down, risking drowning. Moreover, once the regular reaches its saturation point, it will no longer be able to absorb any urine or feces and will most likely fall off the baby. So use a swim diaper when you are in the pool or the beach with your baby!

11. Don’t tuck in the cuffs.

I have made the grave mistake of accidentally tucking in the cuffs (or ruffles) when I put on the new diaper and not taking the time to take them out. The result – a gigantic blowout that covered one of the baby’s legs and feet. I didn’t even bother trying to save the pants on that one.

The cuffs act like a barricade that prevents leakage, so use them wisely.

12. Location, location, location.

At one point, the baby may be moving around too much for you to feel safe doing the diaper change on the changing table. Well, there are no rules about where you change the baby!

Take the changing pad and put it on the floor and change the baby there! Or you can (if you dare) change the baby on your bed or on the sofa. A change of scenery might just calm the baby down enough for you to quickly whisk away the dirty diaper and secure the new one. Just remember to never turn away from the baby if you are changing the baby on a high surface and keep a hand on your baby the whole time.

13. Be diligent.

Especially when you are traveling, it’s difficult to keep track of when you last changed your baby’s diaper. Set a timer or keep a schedule of diaper changes to avoid leaks or diaper rash.

The best way to prevent diaper rash is to keep the diaper region dry, so if the baby is wet, change him or her right away. Also, the more saturated the diaper is, the more likely blowouts will happen, and that’s the last thing you want on a day out!

14. Size matters… and the brand matters.

Babies grow faster than we thought, so we must constantly make sure that their diapers are fitting correctly. If the diaper is too small, you may see redness around the baby’s thighs or waist. The diaper may also be soaked through easily and leaks often.

So why not always go with the bigger size? Unfortunately, if the diaper is too big, there will be gaps around the edges of the diaper that causes leakage. The rule of thumb is that the diaper should reach just below the belly button.

If you believe that you have the correct size diapers but still experience leakage, you might want to try a different brand to see if their diapers fit your baby better. We love Honest Company and Bambo diapers!

15. Bond with your baby.

Instead of dreading diaper changes, use this time to bond with your baby. You will find that babies are generally happier when they are not wearing diapers.

Talk or sing to your baby while you let his or her bottom air dry. Use this opportunity to give your baby an infant massage. Take your time to enjoy this one-on-one time with your baby, because before you know it, he or she will be potty trained and running away from you!

There you go!

The last thing we want when changing a baby’s diaper is to decorate the walls with poop splatters and pee stains. Therefore, when it comes to changing diapers, as the saying goes, “Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst.” With these detailed step-by-step instructions and helpful tips, you will be an expert at changing your baby’s diaper in no time!

What are your favorite diaper-changing tips? Tell me in the comments below!


19 thoughts on “How to Change a Diaper: Helpful Tips for New Parents”

    1. Congrats! Wow what a good aunt you will be… Most aunts play with the babies and give the babies back to the parents when they smell something stinky lol. Your sibling must love you! Haha.

  1. Number two is my favorite diaper changing tip! I taught my sister-in-law when she had her first baby! I was over once and her friend changed the baby and didn’t do that, the baby peed on the floor!!

    1. Haha yes! One the most important ones! I barely ever have any pee/poop incidents because I cover it so fast w/ the new diaper… Disasters averted!

  2. This was a great post, loaded with useful info and humorous too! I can honestly say that we put have put all of these into practice when fighting the battle of the dirty diaper except the butt wash. I never heard of that. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Oh no! I know what you mean though, sometimes I get too much of one size and want to use it all up before moving up… which means lots of blowouts 🙁 But diapers are expensive!

  3. Poop splatters and pee stains? LOL Gotta love little Pissin’ Picasso’s! Our family will soon have a new addition soon (a little niece), so I’ll be elbow deep and poo again soon enough. Fun times!

  4. Great tips!

    I have another one for you:

    We use 23×36 blue bed pads on top of the change pad. When there is an explosion up the back, we aren’t trying to keep the change pad clean. We just toss the blue pad with the diaper and replace it. I also have disposable gloves for these messes. I bought a box of 150 of each and 3 years later (with a 3 year old and 1 year old in diapers), I still have some left. It was worth the initial investment. The disposable change pads are great to thrown in their backpack with one or two diapers for quick outings when you don’t want to pack much as well.

  5. What a great idea for a post! Ive been having to distract my son everytime I change him recently, there’s just no other way 😂 Hell try to roll over and crawl away and it can be DISASTEROUS 😫 These are great tips, perfect for new parents!

  6. Distracting my daughter is key while changing her diaper. She won’t stay still and screams. If I give her the hair brush she calms down for a bit while combing her hair. I have to move as fast as possible to avoid a disaster lol!

  7. lol I need to let my husband read this because seriously, that man goes into a dirty diaper all confident like he’s got this, no big deal…and five seconds later is yelling at me to come help him. He doesn’t get the next diaper ready, or anything. We are on baby #2 so I’m not sure if it’s just a lost cause to teach him at this point if he hasn’t gotten it by now LOL

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