Step-by-step guide to diapering your baby

By Alison Gilmour on September 17, 2012
Alison Gilmour has changed a diaper or two in her lifetime. As a mother of four and the Nursing Unit Administrator in the Women and Infants Ambulatory Health Program at Mout Sinai Hospital in Toronto, she's compiled step-by-step instructions for Best Wishes on how to get the job done right. It may take some practice, but here's what you need to know:

You may need to change your baby's diaper 10 to 15 times a day. If your baby is sleeping, you can wait until he/she wakes up to change the diaper.
  1. Wash your hands before and after each change. 
  2. Have all necessary items close at hand, such as clean diapers, wet washcloths or wipes and clean clothes.
  3. Put your baby on a flat, soft surface, such as a change table or on the floor.
  4. Keep one hand on your baby at all times.
  5. Watch out for a bowel movement squishing up your baby’s back as you lay him/ her down.
  6. After removing the diaper, wipe the diaper area with a warm wet washcloth or baby wipes (non-scented).
  7. Pat the area dry or allow to air dry.
  8. While the baby is passing meconium for the first few days, you may find it helpful to use a thin layer of petroleum jelly at each diaper change. This will make it easier to remove the meconium from the skin.
  9. Do not use powder or cornstarch. A puff of powder near the baby’s face can cause choking or difficulty breathing.
  10. When using disposable diapers, ensure that the elastic edges surround the baby’s leg and are not lying flat against the diaper. You can do this by running your finger along the inside of the diaper along your baby’s thigh and pulling the elastic out to fit snug against the skin.
  11. Until the umbilical cord falls off, keep the diaper below the umbilical area by folding the diaper down if need be. Some newborn diapers have a special cut out for this purpose.

To clean a girl
  • Wipe from the front to back to prevent germs from her bowel movement from getting into the urinary tract.
  • Clean between the outer folds of the labia.
  • There is no need to clean inside the vagina.

To clean a boy
  • Wash the area well and clean from front to back.
  • Do not pull the foreskin back when cleaning the penis.

Dealing with diaper rash

Diaper rash begins as red, inflamed skin and can lead to raw, open areas of skin. Rashes can be caused by:
  • irritation from the dampness of urine or a bowel movement on the skin. 
  • reaction to soap, perfumes or oils.
  • a yeast infection that can be spread from the mother or from stool.

Steps to avoid diaper rash
  • Wash your hands before and after changing a diaper.
  • Keep skin dry by changing the diaper as soon as it gets wet or soiled.
  • Allow the area to air dry for a short time before putting on the clean diaper.
  • Avoid using soap. Wash the diaper area with warm water and dry well.
  • Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly or zinc-based cream.
  • Avoid perfumed wipes and using airtight plastic pants over the diaper.
  • Before placing the baby in the bath, clean the diaper area when removing the diaper. Then, when bathing the baby, wash the diaper area again as the last step.

Call your health-care provider if your baby has not had a dirty diaper in two days or if your baby is not having at least three wet diapers a day.

Alison Gilmour RN, BScN, MN, PNC (C) NUA, Women and Infants Ambulatory Health Program, Mount Sinai Hospital

Originally published in ParentsCanada: Best Wishes, Spring 2012.

By Alison Gilmour| September 17, 2012

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