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Getting started with disposable diapers
Use our step-by-step guide to learn how to change a conventional disposable diaper.
There's no one right way to change a disposable diaper, of course. In time, you may develop your own method – which you'll be able to do in a darkened room while half-asleep.
Before you begin, check our list of diapering supplies to make sure you have everything you need.
Step 1. Set the stage
Set up a warm, clean changing area. If you're not using a changing table, consider laying a blanket, towel, or changing mat on the floor or bed.
Open up a new clean diaper and place the back half (the half with tabs on either side) under your baby. The top of the back half should come up to your baby's waist. Now the clean diaper is ready to go – and is there to protect your changing table from getting dirty. (If the dirty diaper is a big mess, you might want to lay a cloth, towel, or disposable pad under your baby instead of the clean diaper while you clean up.)
Safety note: If your changing station is on an elevated surface such as a changing table, keep one hand on your baby at all times. Don't leave your baby unattended for even a second, even strapped in.
Step 2. Peel back the layers
Unfasten the tabs on the dirty diaper. To keep them from sticking to your baby, fold them over.
Step 3. Take precautions
Pull down the front half of the dirty diaper. If your baby is a boy, you can cover his penis with a clean cloth or another diaper so he doesn't pee on himself or you.
Step 4. Contain the mess
If there's poop in the diaper, use the front half of the diaper to wipe the bulk of it off your baby's bottom.
Step 5. Protect the changing surface
Fold the dirty diaper in half under your baby, clean side up. (This provides a layer of protection between the clean diaper and your baby's unclean bottom.) To do this, lift your baby's bottom off the table by grasping both ankles with one hand and gently lifting upward.
Step 6. Wipe from front to back
Clean your baby's front with wet cloth or wipe. If your baby's a girl, wipe from front to back (toward her bottom). This helps keep bacteria from causing an infection.
Step 7. Mind the creases
If your baby's diaper is poopy, grab another wipe and clean her bottom. You can either lift her legs or roll her gently to one side and then the other. Be sure to clean in the creases of her thighs and buttocks, too.
Step 8. Take time to dry
Let your baby's skin air dry for a few moments or pat it dry with a clean cloth. To help treat or prevent diaper rash, you may want to apply rash cream or petroleum jelly.
Step 9. Place dirties out of reach
Remove the dirty diaper. Set it aside and out of reach. Your baby will be wiggling and grabbing before you know it, so don’t skip this step if you want to avoid an even bigger mess.
Step 10. Minimize leaks
If you followed step one, a clean diaper will be underneath your baby, ready to go. Pull the front half of it up to your baby's tummy. If your child is a boy, point his penis down so he's less likely to pee over the top of the diaper.
If poop keeps leaking out the top back of your baby's diaper, it may be time to go up a size. The weights noted on diaper packaging are just guidelines, and your baby may need a bigger size sooner.
Step 11. Newborn precautions
If your baby is a newborn, avoid covering the umbilical cord stump until it has dried and fallen off. You can buy special disposable diapers with a notch cut out for the stump, or fold down the front half of a regular diaper.
Step 12. Fit for comfort
Make sure that the part of the diaper between your baby's legs is spread as wide as seems comfortable. Too much bunching in that area can cause chafing and discomfort.
Step 13. Fasten up
Fasten the diaper at both sides with the tabs. The diaper should be snug but not so tight that it pinches. Make sure the tabs aren't sticking to your baby's skin.
Step 14. Success
Step 15. Keep your baby safe
Dress your baby and put her in a safe place – like on the floor with a toy or in her crib – while you clean up the diaper changing area.
Step 16. Dispose with care
Fold up the dirty diaper, fasten it closed with its tabs, and put it in the trash or diaper pail. If it's flushable or compostable, dispose of it according to the manufacturer's guidelines.
If you're out of the house, carry extra plastic or biodegradable bags with you so you have somewhere to put dirty diapers if there's nowhere to dispose of them.
Step 17. Wash your hands
Wash your hands thoroughly, or use hand sanitizer if you can't get to a sink. That's it – you're done!