How to Change a Diaper

You need to learn so many things when you become a parent. It is the ultimate learn-on-the-job position, but that can also be intimidating. When you’re pregnant, you want to plan and learn as much as possible to be prepared. While things are always going to come up, one thing that you can be sure that you need to understand is how to change a diaper.

If you’re the youngest in the family like me or didn’t do a lot of babysitting, you may never have changed a diaper before having kids. The first time I did this was after we got home because my husband did all of the diapers in the hospital after a tough delivery. I did no prep whatsoever and had to figure it out while still recovering.

Don’t be like me, and check out our article and video link below. We have you completely covered with how to change a diaper, from what you need to where you can change a baby to the best methods for boys, girls, and newborns in general. But first, let’s cover some basics:

What do you need?


First and foremost, you need diapers. If you plan to use disposable diapers, that is really all you need. If you use cloth diapers, you may also need fasteners and a covering, depending on the type of cloth diapers you’re using. Here is a great list of what to get when you’re preparing to cloth diaper. No matter how you decide to diaper, make sure all of these things are within reach.


Wipes need to be within reach as well, so you can clean up your baby during the diaper change. There are many options for these, and they take some trial and error to figure out which ones you and your baby like the best. Sensitive skin ones are usually a good bet to start with or you can get your own cloth wipes and wash and reuse those.

Diaper Cream

Sometimes, babies will get a diaper rash, and there isn’t a great way around it. You need to have diaper cream within reach and put it on the rash every time you change his or her diaper to help it heal faster.

Changing Pad, Blanket, or Towel

You need somewhere comfy for your baby to lay while changing his diaper. A contoured changing pad is great for a setup station, but if you are at someone else’s home, you will want to have something to lay your baby on, like a blanket, towel, or portable changing pad.

Diaper Pail, Garbage Can, or Wet Diaper Bag

Make sure you have somewhere within reach to dispose of the diapers once you’re done with them. If you are using disposables, you can throw them into a diaper pail or the garbage can at the ready. If you are using cloth diapers, a wet diaper bag is a great place to put them until you secure your baby and can come back to clean the cloth diaper later.

Hand Sanitizer

Having hand sanitizer within reach is a great idea to make things easy. You will be able to sanitize your hands without needing to put down your baby in another location.

Where should you change baby’s diaper?

You need to have somewhere safe to change your baby. Various places can work, which are highlighted below.

Changing Table

A self-standing changing table is a great place to change your baby. Usually, these have built-in drawers and areas to stash your diapering supplies.

Contoured Changing Pad on Low Dresser

Instead of having a changing table, you can use a contoured changing pad on top of a lower dresser, which is what I did. You will want to put something under the changing pad to make sure that it doesn’t slide, but it worked well for us.

Bed or Floor

You can change your child on the bed or floor if you have a regular changing pad. The important thing is that it’s a flat surface, so you don’t need to worry about your baby sliding or falling.

How to Change a Diaper

1. Out with the old and in with the new.

Lay your baby down on the changing area or a flat and clean surface. Unfasten the onesie and slide it up to keep it out of any possible accidents. Open a clean diaper and place the opened clean diaper under the dirty one.

Diapering a doll. Overhead shot.

2. Clean the diaper area.

Unfasten the diaper and as you pull down the dirty diaper, use the front of it to wipe off excess poop baby may have on them. Remove the dirty diaper, roll it up, and fasten it with its tabs to keep it shut. Keeping it closed will help keep everything contained while you throw it away. Then wipe clean baby’s genitals and bum with wipes. Be sure to get in between all of the folds.

3. Use diaper rash cream if necessary.

Diaper cream may not be necessary every time, but it is needed often when they are little. If your baby has a rash, make sure to put cream on every time you change your baby to help it heal.

4. Stick it and close it up.

Fasten the diaper by pulling the tabs on the sides open and adhering them to the front of the diaper. They should stay in place. If you are using a cloth diaper, you will need some sort of fastener and will place the dirty cloth liner in a wet diaper bag for when you’re ready to clean it and replace it with a new one. Then, close up the onesie.

5. Sanitize and give cuddles.

Sanitize your hands and cuddle your baby! You’re done! (Unless you need to take care of the cloth diaper!)

Special Considerations

For Newborns

Change often.

You will get plenty of practice because newborns will go through about ten diapers (or more) a day in the beginning. Be sure that you are changing them often enough.

Don’t freak out about the colors.

When you’re first starting out, you may witness some funky colors. The first few times your baby poops, they pass meconium, which is tar-like and black. After this, the poops will shift to more dark green and then yellow-green. You could also see a little blood in the poops for the first few days, which is pretty common. You should still let your baby’s doctor know if this happens.

You may also see some vaginal discharge in girls, which is also normal.

Mind the umbilical cord stump.

You need to take great care when dealing with the umbilical cord stump. When you change the diaper, be sure to fold the top of the diaper down to ensure that it’s not resting on top of it. The umbilical cord stump needs to be exposed to air to help dry up and fall off so it shouldn’t be covered. Many newborn diapers will be cut to allow this, but your baby may switch sizes before the stump comes off. It just depends on their size.

For Girls

Wipe front to back.

It is essential that you wipe a girl front to back. You don’t want to bring any poop forward. By wiping in this manner, you will help prevent your little girl from getting an infection.

Clean skin folds.

Make sure to be gentle and thoroughly clean between the folds of skin.

For Boys

Cover the penis.

I didn’t have a huge issue with my boy on this point, but I know many moms do. When you change a boy, they may pee into the air all over the place. Cover them with another diaper or wipe or other cloth to avoid getting sprayed.

Point it downward.

When you close up a boy’s diaper, be sure the penis is pointing down. This position can help prevent leaks.

For Toddlers

Distract them.

You can distract your toddler from the diaper change itself by talking or singing a song or giving them a little toy to look at and play with. It may be just enough to keep him from struggling.

Have them help.

Toddlers love to help. Give him a job when it comes to diaper changes, and it may be easier to get through it.

Be open to changing in other locations.

It could be that your toddler no longer likes the changing table. You can change diapers in other locations and see how it goes. Again, it’s recommended to change your baby or toddler on a flat surface.

Ask about changing.

Instead of just pulling your child out of their activity, tell them you are soon going to change their diaper, so they know that it’s coming.

Let a toy come along.

If there was a toy they were playing with, you can make it a game to drive the truck over to the changing table or let them bring along the stuffy they were playing with. Those too can be helpful distractions to make the changing process easier and faster for you.

While reading the tips above is helpful, we also have a video to show you how it’s done. This further research will go a long way in preparation. So many things about becoming a parent are unknown when you’re pregnant. How to change a diaper doesn’t have to be one of them.

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