Diapering Made Easy

An essential part of every baby's care is diapering. Until a child is toilet-trained, usually by 3 years of age, diapers are a significant part of daily life. A baby typically goes through six to 10 diapers each day—this translates to about 2,000 to 3,000 diapers each year.

With so many diaper changes, parents want to know how to make this task quicker and easier.

Choosing a Diaper

Start by deciding what kind of diapers to use. Generally, there are two choices—cloth or disposable. Each type has advantages and disadvantages. Parents need to decide what works best for their baby and family. They may even use a combination of both.

Listed below are some of the pros and cons of each type of diaper:

Cloth Diapers


  • soft on baby's delicate skin

  • delivery service available

  • cheaper than disposable

  • reusable

  • allow a baby's skin to breathe and help heal diaper rash


  • may leak, require diaper cover, or pants

  • home laundering is time consuming

  • sanitizing of cloth diapers uses water, detergent, energy

  • difficult to use when traveling

Disposable Diapers


  • convenient, throw away

  • wick moisture away from baby's skin with absorbent material

  • better infection control for day care centers

  • easy to use when traveling


  • waste in landfills of non-biodegradable material and feces

  • many parents wait until the diaper is too saturated, increasing risk for diaper rash

  • higher cost

How to Diaper Your Baby

New parents often feel awkward trying to fasten a diaper on a squirming baby. Don’t worry, it doesn’t take long to get comfortable changing a diaper, and most parents get plenty of practice.

Here are some tips to help you diaper your baby comfortably and correctly:

  • Use a changing table or pad positioned waist high. This prevents bending and back strain.

  • Have all diapers, wipes, and other items in easy reach right above or below the table. Never leave your baby unattended, even for a brief moment.

  • Have a washable or disposable mat on the changing table to lay the baby down on.

  • Place your baby on the table with his/her head to your right or left. Most parents find one direction easier than the other.

  • Open a clean diaper and set it aside.

  • Undo the tabs or pins of the dirty diaper. Hold the baby's legs in one hand and pull the front of the diaper down with the other hand.

  • If there is bowel movement in the diaper, use the front of the diaper to wipe most of the mess toward the back of the diaper. Never wipe from back to front as this may lead to urinary tract infection.

  • With the dirty diaper pressed flat under the baby, use a wipe to gently cleanse the baby's diaper area. Be sure to work from front to back.

  • Lift the baby's legs and slide the dirty diaper out and set it away from the baby.

  • Place the back of the clean diaper under the baby and pull the front up between the baby's legs.

  • Secure the adhesive tabs or carefully pin the diaper corners snugly together. You should be able to place at least two fingers between the diaper and the baby's abdomen.

  • Place the dirty diaper in a container near the changing table to save steps. A lid that opens with a foot pedal is a plus. (It is a good idea to dump solid bowel movements in the toilet before placing the diaper in the can. This helps decrease the odor and helps the environment.)

While this sounds like a complicated process, it doesn’t take long once you’ve done it several times. Some special tips to remember when changing a diaper include:

  • Keep a boy’s penis covered at all times. A free stream of urine can go over the changing table and onto the floor, or into your face.

  • With messy bowel movements, hold the baby's legs carefully to prevent feet from kicking into the diaper.

  • Some diaper changes may require clothing changes if the diaper has leaked. A bath may also be needed if there is bowel movement on the baby's back or legs.

  • Try talking or singing during diaper changes as a distraction. Older babies can hold a special toy reserved for diaper time.

  • Diaper sizes and shapes vary among manufacturers. Your baby may fit a certain brand for many months, then it suddenly starts leaking. Try a different brand if the one you are using is not working.

Online Medical Reviewer: Louise Jovino, DO

Date Last Reviewed: 4/2/2010

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