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Diaper duty

A primer for new parents.

Whether you choose cloth or disposables, one thing's for certain: As a new parent, you'll be changing a lot of diapers—about 3,000 in your baby's first year of life, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

The basics of a diaper change

The AAP recommends these steps for changing a diaper:

  • With the dirty diaper still in place, lift the baby's legs and place a clean diaper under his or her bottom.
  • Unfasten the old diaper and use the front of it to wipe the baby's bottom.
  • With the legs still lifted, wipe the baby's bottom with wipes. Wrap the old diaper and wipes together and set them aside.
  • Fasten the new diaper, making sure the front is centered between the legs and comes up to the belly button.

Diapers need to be secure but not too tight. Loose diapers are disasters waiting to happen—either the contents fall out or the diaper falls off. Neither is good.

Be aware that contact with open air will cause some babies to pee. That means it pays to keep your baby covered during diapering.

It may take some time before you become competent with your diapering. Never fear, you'll get plenty of opportunities to practice.

Safety first

You may be in a hurry. Or you may fear that your baby's diaper is about to explode. Still, you need to take the time to follow a few diapering safety rules:

  • Never leave the baby alone—it's very easy for a little one to roll off a changing table.
  • Strap the baby onto a changing table, at home and on the go.
  • Avoid talcum powder, which can harm a baby's lungs.
  • Keep items that might not be safe—such as plastic bags and safety pins—out of the baby's reach.

Change often

Changing your baby's diapers regularly can help avoid diaper rash—which can happen when warm, wet diapers chafe the baby's skin.

Creams or ointments can also help protect or treat a rash. But if the diaper rash isn't improving or is getting worse, call your child's healthcare provider for assistance. Learn more about preventing and treating diaper rash.

Reviewed 11/15/2022

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