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Changing baby’s nappy

Mastering the art of how to change a nappy is something every parent goes through during their child’s early days. But doing a nappy change for the first time can feel pretty overwhelming. The good news is that soon you’ll get the hang of things and be changing them like a ‘pro’ – several times a day!

Nappies come in two basic forms – reusable and disposable. Have a think about the type of nappy you want to use. You may want to consider factors such as the cost and how environmentally friendly or convenient they are. It’s also a good idea to try a few different types to see if you like using them.

Getting ready

It’s time to learn how to change a baby’s nappy and what you’ll need to do it right – so you’ll be truly prepared when the time comes to do it for real.

Make sure you have everything you need ready before the nappy change, such as:

  • A clean nappy (a pre-folded cloth nappy with the clips/pins or a disposable nappy).
  • Cotton wool balls and warm water, baby lotion or wipes to clean baby’s bottom.
  • Barrier cream (in case your baby has nappy rash).
  • A change of clothes (in case their nappy has leaked).
  • Something to put the dirty nappy in (e.g., a plastic bag or bucket).

Types of nappies

There are quite a few different types of reusable nappies available, including:

  • Cloth nappies – made from a variety of soft absorbent materials (such as cotton, hemp or bamboo), they are fastened with pins or clips and need a leak-proof cover.
  • Pocket nappies – have a ‘pocket’ sewn into a leak-proof outer cover where a removable absorbent ‘insert’ is placed.
  • All-in-ones – have the absorbent layer sewn into the leak-proof cover and are fastened with clips, studs or Velcro.

Disposable nappies come in a range of age and pack sizes, and are usually made of a plastic (waterproof) outer layer with a soft, super-absorbent inner lining. There are also biodegradable versions, made of materials such as paper pulp or bamboo, that decompose more quickly than the ordinary disposable ones.

Step-by-step for how to change your baby’s nappy

Now that you’re ready to dive right into nappy-change practice, it all comes down to five simple steps. Learning how to change a nappy isn’t rocket science, and after just a few tries you’ll have mastered the essentials. Here, we walk you through the most important steps involved in changing your baby’s nappy.

1. Prepare

The first step is to wash your hands thoroughly. Next, make sure everything you need is within arm’s reach – that means all the items listed in ‘Getting ready’. If you have a sturdy changing table, you’ve probably stocked it full of all the essentials already. Just remember to keep an eye on your baby at all times to ensure they don’t fall off. Alternatively you can use a cloth or mat on the floor for changing them.

2.Take off the soiled nappy

Now for the dirty work. Undress your child so that you have easy access to the nappy they are wearing. Some suits and onesies allow you to keep most of the clothing on your baby while exposing their lower half for nappy changes. Undo the dirty nappy and fold it back over itself (so it’s covering the dirty area up). Then dispose of it or set it aside to dispose of later.

3. Clean your baby’s skin

Now it’s time to clean and dry your baby’s bottom (if they are a boy, clean around the testicles and penis, you don’t have to pull back the foreskin; clean girls from front to back). You can use wipes to clean your baby’s bottom, and then apply barrier cream if needed for nappy rash. You may also choose to apply a baby lotion after nappy changes.

4. Put on the clean nappy

Grab the fresh nappy you’ve already placed close by, making sure to securely fasten the new nappy in place. Now all that’s left to do is re-dress your baby and set them down somewhere safe and within eyesight so you can dispose of the dirty nappy.

5. Finish up

The soiled nappy needs to be hygienically disposed of. For disposable nappies, they can be wrapped up securely in a plastic bag and put in the bin. Reusable nappies can be stored in a nappy bin ready for washing (or collection by a laundry service). Then you’ll want to wipe down the changing table or cloth/mat with antibacterial wipes to get rid of any lingering germs. And finally – remember to wash your hands again when you are finished!

How often do you change a nappy?

It really does depend on your child, their feeding habits and how often they urinate and defecate. Generally, though, nappies will need to be changed about every 3 to 4 hours (about 6 to 8 times a day) or whenever they are dirty. These timings will change and become more or less frequent as they get older, and when they start eating solids in addition to breast milk and/or formula.


Do you change the nappy before or after feeding?

It will depend on whether your baby’s nappy is dirty before you start a feed. However, oftentimes your baby will dirty their nappy during their feed – this is because they are at their most relaxed and calm when feeding, which often results in them releasing their bowels. In many cases, you will need to change a nappy after feeding.

There is usually no need to change your baby’s nappy after a night time feed, unless it is wet or dirty. The less activity at night the better, as it may interfere with your baby going back to sleep.

What should I do if my baby has nappy rash?

Completely clean and dry the skin during nappy changes, and try applying a barrier cream (containing zinc oxide) – but avoid using talcum powder or creams with fragrances. Talk to your early childhood nurse or doctor if you are unsure about a rash or have any other concerns about changing nappies.

Do you use nappy rash cream every time?

No, it’s not necessary to use nappy rash cream after every change. So long as your baby has no discernible signs of nappy rash, they won’t need a barrier cream applied. However, if you do find they are showing redness or discomfort in that area, a nappy rash cream may help.

Can you use vaseline for nappy rash?

Vaseline is a cheap solution for nappy rash, as it is great at creating a moisture barrier. However, it forms a water-repellant film when applied to skin, which doesn’t allow it to breathe and therefore heal. It’s always best to use a dedicated barrier cream that contains zinc oxide.

Can a tight nappy cause constipation?

A nappy that is too tight may be compressing your baby’s stomach and therefore lead to issues such as constipation. The nappy doesn’t need to be extremely tight in order to do its job, so make sure you are doing up your baby’s nappy to a level that is comfortable for its movement and won’t restrict their belly.

Do nappies expire once opened?

Nappies typically don’t have an expiration date, whether opened or unopened, however manufacturers do recommend using them within two to three years of purchase in order to get the most value out of them (e.g. for liquid-retention purposes).

How long for a nappy to decompose?

Studies indicate that many disposable nappies take up to 500 years to decompose in landfill. During this time they release methane and other toxic gases into the ecosystem. Many parents choose to only have reusable cloth nappies for their baby.