For this guide, I will show you how to change a diaper step by step. However, like most guides you read out there, I would talk about the preparation first.

The method and pictures showing how the process works will come later. However, if you already know your preparation routine then please click here to skip to the diaper changing technique.

Table of Contents

  • Preparation Before You Change Your Baby’s Diapers
    • The Area Should Be Clean
    • The Area Should Be Stable
    • Have Your Resources Ready
      • Explanation For Disposable Diaper Users
      • Explanation For Cloth Diaper Users
  • How to Change A Diaper Step By Step
    • First Step: Undo The Diaper and Clean The Front
    • Second Step: Open Up The Thighs And Clean The Creases
    • Third Step: Cleaning The Butt, Thighs, and Variations
      • The Traditional Butt Cleaning Method (Variation #1)
      • The Rolling Butt Cleaning Method (Variation #2)
      • The Waist Lifting Butt Cleaning Method (Variation #3)
    • Fourth Step: Wrapping A Fresh Diaper
    • Other Little Issues With Changing Diapers
      • Pull Out The Frills
      • Stop The Poop From Spreading Like Peanut Butter
      • What To Do If Poop Already Leaked On Your Baby’s Clothes
  • What To Do If Poop Already Leaked On Your Baby’s Clothes
  • How To Decide The Right Time To Change Diapers
    • No Wetness Indicator – Use The Squeeze Test
    • The Famous Smell Test
    • Observation
    • The Leak Test
    • Wetness Indicator

Preparation Before You Change Your Baby’s Diapers

The Area Should Be Clean

In reality, there’s almost no chance that the environment you are in are absolutely clean. However, as parents, we do the best we can to make it possible. If you are at home, this is easy. Just find a piece of clean cloth that is bigger than your baby and this would be your baby changing area.

This is fairly important especially for parents with babies that are born prematurely or have a weak immune system. You will need to do your best to make sure your baby doesn’t get infected by anything.

My Story

There will also be circumstances where you have to get a bit creative. Let me tell you my story. We went out to the mall one day. My wife went shopping around with her friends and I was in charge of watching over the baby. While I was browsing gamestop (it’s a guy thing), I checked my daughter’s diapers just in case.

It was full (I will explain later how you can tell that it’s full). I took her to the bathroom. Apparently there are changing tables in men’s bathroom as well. I unfolded the table and noticed that it is kind of dirty. It wasn’t that dirty, but millions of people probably touched it. I didn’t want to take a risk so I took off my jacket, folded in half so that the inside of the jacket doesn’t get dirty, and laid it on top of the changing table.

This keeps my baby clean, and it acts as a slight cushion as well. After I changed my baby’s diapers, I cleaned my jacket with Lysol wipes I prepared ahead of time. If you ever need an emergency changing pad, your jacket is a great option. Of course, it might be summer for you and you might not have a jacket available as an emergency changing pad.

That’s why it is always a good idea to bring your own changing pad. If it doesn’t put too much burden on your wallet, I highly recommend getting a good diaper bag like the dad’s gear diaper bag. It includes a changing pad and many functions that parents need. It is quite pricey, but it is worth it if you can afford it.

The Area Should Be Stable

Other than being clean, it is fairly important for the area to be stable. This is important, because you want to prevent your baby from rolling around or falling off. Another reason is that you want to prevent your tools like baby wipes and diapers from falling off.

Stability is probably something that is almost impossible to compromise. For example, you might believe that you can change your baby’s diapers on your lap or someone else’s lap.

However, that is fairly unsafe and extremely difficult. I have personally tried it myself and failed. It is very hard. If you encounter a situation where you need someone’s lap, you are better off using the ground you are standing on to change diapers.

That is what I did when I was in the park. I laid my jacket down and change my daughter’s diapers there. If you are going to do this in a parking lot, be extremely careful and make sure there are no cars nearby with ignition on. You don’t want your baby to breathe in toxic gas.

However, in a parking lot situation I highly recommend doing it on the seats in the car rather than the floor outside of the car. It is true that seats in cars are slightly slanted and awkward to change diapers in. However, it is a far safer method.

Speaking of chairs, they are small, hard, and slanted. Honestly that is the worst place to change a diaper especially if you have a toddler (older and bigger version of your baby) on your hands. Toddlers are big, rebellious and extremely wiggly so once again, you are better off using the floor.

Ideally speaking, it is usually more convenient to have a changing table. It prevents babies from rolling off and has convenient storage for your baby supplies.

Have Your Resources Ready

Depending on the type of diaper you use (cloth or disposable), you will need to have different things ready. I will explain both of them thoroughly below. If you are traveling or heading out on trips, it is ideal to separate each item into different Ziploc bags.

The purpose of this is that it keeps each item clean from contamination, spills, and leakage. This is true even if you are using a diaper bag with lots of pockets like dad’s gear backpack diaper bag.

It is also a good idea to have clean hands when you are touching your baby. You might believe it doesn’t matter since you are touching pee and poop anyway. However, whatever is on your hands can sometimes send your baby to the emergency room if you are careless, so it is best to play it safe.

You can either wash your hands with water and soap, hand sanitizer or use disposable gloves. If you use hand sanitizer, make sure it dries on your hand before you touch your baby, because the alcoholic content can irritate skin.

For parents using disposable diapers, have the following ready:

  • Two to three disposable diapers
  • Diaper ointments or diaper rash cream
  • At least three baby wipes depending on your skill
  • Hand sanitizer or disposable gloves (non latex in case of allergies)

Explanation For Disposable Diaper Users

Normally, if you are using disposable diapers, having one diaper is more than enough. The reason I mention a number here, is that if you are out traveling, assume that you need more than one diaper per change.

The reason I say that is that I don’t know the built quality of the diaper you are using. If your diaper is super fragile like Naty’s Nature Baby Care diaper, then you might tear one or two in half by accident.

If you brought too little quantity of diapers with you along a trip then you will be totally screwed. Of course, if you are using something like pampers swaddlers, then that is obviously not an issue.

Diaper ointments aren’t always necessary. It depends on the humidity and the temperature of the environment you live in. If it is always hot and humid, then you definitely need to apply some to avoid diaper rashes. You can do either that or change your baby’s diapers more often. If the environment you live in leans towards the cold side, then you can probably get away without using diaper ointments.

As for baby wipes, using two or three is usually enough if you are skilled enough. In theory, if you are skilled enough, you can get away with using one wipe most of the time unless there is a diaper blowout.

Some parents might be grossed out by how I can only use one wipe to finish wiping my baby. Trust me, it is possible. With one wipe, you can also clean your baby perfectly without dirtying your hands. In my opinion, this saves you money, and it is also better for the environment. I will explain later how it is possible to completely clean a baby with one or two wipes.

Also, make sure you are using wet wipes. Dry wipes do not have the same cleaning effect that wet wipes have. If your wipes dried up from being stored for too long, moisten them ahead of time or have a bottle of clean water to moisten them up with.

As for parents using cloth diapers, have the following ready:

  • One cloth diaper of your choice (flats, prefolds, all-in-one, etc)
  • Snappi pins or diaper pins if necessary
  • Waterproof cover if necessary
  • One cloth wipe depending on your skill
  • Hand sanitizer or disposable gloves (non latex in case of allergies)

Explanation For Cloth Diaper Users

Unlike disposable diapers, you most likely won’t tear your cloth diapers in half by accident, unless you have superhuman strength. This is why you only need one cloth diaper and you are good to go.

As for snappi pins, this only applies to parents that uses prefolds, and flats. If you use anything else like pocket diapers for example, then this does not apply to you. I don’t know the quality of the diaper snappi or pins you buy. It is possible that it might snap, so having a couple ready at hand is recommended.

As for the waterproof cover, only flats, prefolds, and fitted diapers uses them. If your cover is still relatively clean, then wipe it dry and reuse for your baby. You should change it once every day of course.

If you are like me, you should get Aunt Martha’s flour sack towels. They are awesome cloth wipes. If you have ever heard of flour sack towels, then you most likely know how potent they are at absorbing messes. However, I don’t recommend using these as emergency flat diapers, because they are way too thick. Nevertheless, if you use one of these as wipes, then one wipe should be good enough to clean up any mess.

How to Change A Diaper Step By Step

One thing I have to emphasize before you begin is to prepare all your resources before you set your baby down to change. Always stay near your baby and don’t look away even if it is a short moment.

If your baby didn’t poop, then simply unwrap and throw away the used diaper and use a fresh one. The steps below mainly applies to babies that have pooped. However, if you are not sure how to wrap the sticky tabs of your diaper, the pictures below will also illustrate that.

First Step: Undo The Diaper and Clean The Front

Pull open the sticky tabs or snappy buttons. If you see poop, use the front of the diaper to wipe down some of the poop. Use a clean, and moist wipe to thoroughly wipe down the front private area of your baby clean.

Second Step: Open Up The Thighs And Clean The Creases

Next, Make sure to be gentle and thorough especially in the creases between the thighs. These areas can easily develop diaper rashes if you are not careful. Always remember to wipe in a downward motion from front of your baby towards the butt of your baby. Never do it the other way around, because you don’t want to bring germs from the poop into your baby’s private area.

Third Step: Cleaning The Butt, Thighs, and Variations

After cleaning the front of your baby, you would probably realize that you don’t have full access to the inner thigh area and the butt area. This part is actually slightly more difficult and tricky especially if your baby pooped a lot.

However, it is pretty easy and there are three methods to do it. One of the methods is something I do not recommend, because you are literally maligning your baby’s spine. However, I will explain it anyway so that you can avoid using it.

The first butt cleaning method is also the “traditional method”. You lift your baby’s butt up by holding up her knees with one hand while cleaning her butt with a wipe with the other hand. This is the method that most families use, but I don’t recommend it, because it moves your baby’s spine out of place.

This is one of the reasons why babies get colic, because the misaligned spine messes around with the nerves that sends signals to the intestines. If you want to avoid making your fussy baby even fussier, then avoid this technique.

The second butt cleaning method is to gently grab hold of your baby’s rib cage with one hand, and roll her over to the side. Clean whatever poop you see, from front of your baby towards your baby’s butt. You can also lift up with up the leg in front of you gently and clean the inner thighs more thoroughly. Roll your baby to the other side and repeat.

This method is effective and works wonders if you have a newborn. However, once your baby gets older, you will have more difficulty rolling her. The reason is that she is now heavier, and more active. If that is the case, we bring up our third butt wiping technique.

The third butt cleaning method is to gently slip one hand under your baby’s waist and lift her butt up. This method might seem similar to the first method. However, your hand is there to prevent support your baby’s waist so the spine vertebrae (bone of the spine) doesn’t pop out and cause problems.

This method is not as good as the second method, because you are forced to give up one hand to hold onto your baby. However, if your toddler isn’t potty trained yet, then you don’t have a choice.

Wrapping A Fresh Diaper

Imagine Showing Diaper Is Facing The Right Direction

Diaper Is Facing The Right Direction

Slip the fresh diaper under your baby. If you are using a disposable diaper, make sure the sticky tabs are located beside your baby’s back once you lay her down, not in front of her.

Image Of Diaper Facing The Wrong Direction

Diaper Facing The Wrong Direction. The Tabs Should Not Be In Front

The soft cushiony side of the diaper is the part touching your baby. The plastic and rough side should be facing down and touching the changing table.

The Inside Is Nice And Soft

Imagine Showing Diaper Exterior

The outside is rough, and waterproof

Adjust the diaper so that the front flap of the diaper is about the same height as the back flap. Adjust the sticky tabs more if you have a skinny baby, and further back with a chunkier baby. The key is to make sure that both sides are even so that the absorption and leak protection is even on both sides.

If you accomplished a good wrap, the diaper should have a tailored underwear fit to it. Make sure the sticky tabs are not touching your baby’s skin, because some brands make them quite sharp. Of course, if you are using cloth diapers, this doesn’t apply to you.

Other Little Issues With Changing Diapers

Pull Out The Frills

Blowouts can be caused by many reasons. One of the main reason is that the “frills” (feathery looking things around the thighs) are not completely pulled out. When this happens, it leaves a gap in the diaper for poop to flow out.

Untuck the frills to prevent most leaks

Failing to pull these out usually leads to diaper leaks

Stop The Poop From Spreading Like Peanut Butter

Another issue is when you wipe your baby’s poop, you might fear spreading poop all over the changing table you are using or you will accidentally touch the dirty diaper with your baby’s butt again. To avoid these situations, you have several solutions.

If you fold this dirty diaper, you have a temporary spot for your “dirty baby” to lay on top

The poop is inside the diaper so if your baby is only “partially” clean and you want to keep the changing area clean, this is a nice temporary sitting spot.

One solution is to “close” the dirty diaper after you have sort of wiped your baby’s butt clean. However, it is not completely clean yet. The outside of the dirty diaper is relatively poop free so it can act as a temporary “sitting ground” for your baby’s butt to sit on.

Another solution is to use the wipes you are using. One side of it will have poop and the other side won’t have poop. Fold it in half so that the poop is inside the poopy wipe with the clean part staying outside. This wipe can also be used as a temporary shield for your baby’s butt to lean on without dirtying your changing table.

What To Do If Poop Already Leaked On Your Baby’s Clothes

If pooped already leaked onto your baby’s clothes (blowout), then you will have to take off all of your baby’s clothes first before you do a diaper change. Doing it this way will prevent the poop from spreading back onto your baby.

However, don’t just tug your baby’s clothes off carelessly. If you are not careful, you can spread poop all over your baby’s hair and face as you take them off. To do it properly, first roll up all the dirty parts (usually the waist line down towards the leg) like a paper towel roll, and then take it off.

Of course, this should be done in a warm environment. If the area you are in is too cold, then don’t bother changing her diapers yet. After you changed your baby’s diapers, pretreat the dirty clothes with baby friendly detergent as soon as possible. It might be very hard to get the stain out if you wait too long.

How To Decide The Right Time To Change Diapers

If your baby pooped, change the diapers right away no matter how much poop she passed. Poop can not be absorbed and locked into the core of the diapers, so the germs will stay on the surface and attack your baby’s skin.

As for pee alone, that depends on the absorbency of your diapers. For pampers swaddlers, you can leave them a bit longer since they are so absorbent. However, you should leave them no longer than four to five hours depending on how much liquid your baby drank. Any longer and the diapers will start leaking.

If you use something like cloth diapers, then you will have to change them a bit more often since there are no SAP to lock in the moisture.

Wetness Indicator

Most disposable diapers have wetness indicators that changes from yellow to blue once it is wet. You can’t really miss it.

No Wetness Indicator – Use The Squeeze Test

If the diaper you are using is cloth or “baby friendly” then it most likely won’t have a wetness indicator. In this situation, give the diaper a squeeze. If it feels like you are squeezing a wet sponge then it is time to change the diapers. If the squeeze feels like you are squeezing a piece of paper wrapped around your baby’s butt then it’s not ready to be changed yet.

The Famous Smell Test

If your baby started eating solid foods, then this technique will work wonders for you. The reason is simple, poop stinks. If your baby is still drinking only formula or breast milk, then you most likely won’t smell anything.

Observation

A full diaper will “bulge” in between your baby’s thighs. You usually notice it better in the front. It takes a little practice to notice it. If this is hard for you, simply use the squeeze test to confirm.

The Leak Test

This is not really a test. If you notice that your baby’s clothes feel wet to the touch, then it is time to change her diapers. The reason is that her diapers leaked. Usually you will feel this on the waist and thigh areas.