Smarter, Safer Ways to Change Your Baby’s Diaper
Keep your baby safe and his bottom happy when doing the dirty deed
Think the worst that can happen when changing a diaper is getting sprayed by your little boy? Think again.
Squirmy babies can roll or wriggle off changing tables (or beds or sofas) in the blink of an eye. And of course dirty diapers, which are anything but sanitary, can do more than stink up a room if you’re not careful — they can spread bacteria to your hands and everything you touch.
Whether you’re a new parent, a baby sitter or a diaper-changing veteran, get the poop on the ideal way to change diapers, and be prepared to change not just the diaper but your routine.
Related: 5 Tips for Swaddling a Newborn
Have supplies at your fingertips. Keep your changing station and diaper bag well stocked so you don’t have to leave your baby while you search or even reach for what you need.
“You should have a clean diaper, a wet cloth or wipes, a safe place for changing the baby and either a towel or pad to place on the floor,” says Laura Tichler, a New York-based certified childbirth educator and postpartum doula. (Given babies’ propensity to roll off furniture, many experts say the safest way to change a diaper is to use a towel or changing pad on the floor.) “If using a changing table, ensure it has rails, and always keep one hand on the baby.” (Tichler has videos online demonstrating how to change a baby girl and a baby boy.)
Consider using an antimicrobial changing pad, especially if you’re changing your baby in a public restroom. These have a cover that inhibits the growth of bacteria.
Employ distractions. When a little one resists having their diaper changed, it can make the process challenging. To make it easier, Seward recommends distracting babies with a song or nursery rhyme and giving toddlers a toy to play with.
Wipe right. “Remove stool and urine by wiping the baby from front to back, using a fresh wipe each time,” says Jennifer Seward, director of marketing and communications for Safesitter.org, a national nonprofit program that prepares teens to be safe babysitters. Never wipe from back to front, especially on girls, as this can spread the bacteria that causes urinary tract infections.
When you’re done changing the diaper, wash the changing pad’s surface with warm, soapy water.
Go easy on the baby powder. Baby powder is optional, not de rigueur. If you do use it, keep it away from the baby’s face. Inhaling it can damage little lungs, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. For that reason, don’t let the baby hold or play with the bottle of baby powder.
Avoid diaper rash. Change your baby often to avoid diaper rash. If the baby is having frequent bowel movements or is prone to diaper rash, smooth on a barrier cream that contains zinc oxide. Avoid wipes that contain alcohol or fragrances, which can irritate delicate skin.
Wash up right. Salmonella, listeria and norovirus are among the germs found in dirty diapers, even when a baby is healthy. Contaminated hands can spread germs to the kitchen and to foods — and give people a foodborne illness.
“Always wash your hands after changing a baby’s diaper to prevent the spread of germs,” Seward says. “If you use gloves, the key to removing gloves is, ‘dirty touches dirty and clean touches clean,’ since the outer surface of your gloves is considered dirty and the inner surface that has been protected by the gloves is clean.”
After disposing of the gloves, wash your hands. Keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer with your changing supplies. Although washing with soap and water is best, using a hand sanitizer offers a quick fix so you don’t have to leave your baby unattended.
Related: The Sleep-Safe Baby Guide