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Changing Diapers

Mother Holding Baby's Hand
Changing Station

Location, Location, Location

Wherever you choose to change your baby’s diaper—whether it’s on your brand new changing table or next to you on your bed—you’ll want to prepare the area so that everything you need is accessible. At a minimum, this means a diaper and some wipes.




While changing tables are clearly the norm when it comes to location, and some people, one of us included, even opt to have more than one around the house, you should be aware (if you aren’t already) that they aren’t inherently necessary.


If you decide that you don’t want your diaper changing to be limited geographically by where your changing table happens to be, then also consider keeping diapers accessible in convenient locations around the house (and in the car once you start to venture out). That way, you can limit how far you have to go to take care of business.


Some people opt to use a simple diaper changing pad in lieu of the table, and the floor, bed, couch, or even the back seat of your car can easily serve the same purpose once you are comfortable with the routine. That said, some particularly messy episodes might require not only a new diaper, but also an extra pair of hands, a new outfit, and even a trip to the tub. On such occasions, you’ll be much better off if you’ve chosen your “changing station” in close proximity to your supplies.

Technique Of The Change

Mother and a Child


Before starting to change your baby’s diaper, keep in mind that some babies have a tendency to pee as soon as they are exposed to open air. By keeping them relatively covered as much as you can during the course of a diaper change, you can help keep yourself, your changing surface, and your baby’s clothes from getting unnecessarily wet. 


If your baby is cooperative, which most babies are at least until they learn how to roll (somewhere around 4 months), you can first lift her legs with one hand and place a clean diaper under her bottom with the other. Make sure you have the picture side of the new diaper in front and the side with the tabs underneath. Then unfasten the old diaper and wipe your baby’s bottom with the front (inner side) of it as you remove it.


While you clearly don’t have to wipe with the old diaper before taking it off, doing so can often remove a significant amount of poop before you reach for your first baby wipe. If the old diaper isn’t overwhelmingly messy, leaving it folded over on itself but still under your baby’s bottom can help prevent her still-dirty bottom from getting the new diaper soiled before you’ve had the chance to clean her up, and also serve to absorb any new pee that may present itself during the uncovered stage of the diaper change.

Next, wipe your baby’s bottom and surrounding dirty areas with a baby wipe, moist tissue, or washcloth. Then remove the old diaper along with the wipes from underneath your baby (if you haven’t already) and find a “safe” place to set them so that you don’t end up with your baby’s foot in poop, or find yourself with a new mess to clean up after accidentally knocking the diaper and its contents to the floor.








Securing the new diaper simply involves making sure that the front of the diaper is centered between the legs and pulled up to at least the same level in the back that it is in the front—usually around the level of the belly button. Check to see that the tabs are evenly secured in the front so that there aren’t any gaps around the hips. Also, to help prevent leakage, make sure that the fringe around the legs isn’t tucked into the diaper’s elastic edges.

Disposable changing pads (available in most drugstores and sometimes referred to as bed liners) can be helpful in protecting your changing table, crib, bed, floor, or wherever else you may choose to set up shop. These are especially good when you’re away from home because they can be used first as a changing pad and then to wrap the dirty diaper for a quick and easy disposal. If you’re at home and don’t mind a bit of extra laundry, a towel can easily serve the same purpose.



Laura A. Jana, MD, FAAP and Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP

Last Updated




Heading Home With Your Newborn, 2nd Edition (Copyright © 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics)

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