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Step-by-step guide to diapering your baby

Baby with diaper piles - step-by-step guide to diapering your babyAlison 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

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
  • 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

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.

a man carrying two children

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