How to Change a Diaper: Step-by-Step Guide

How to Change a Diaper: Step-by-Step Guide

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So, you’re expecting a baby, and with that comes the expectation that you’ll just automatically know how to change a diaper, right?!

But it’s not just you who doesn’t have a clue when it comes to that first newborn diaper change.

Whether you’re expecting, looking after a friend’s baby, getting used to a newborn family member, or just refreshing your diaper-changing knowledge, knowing how to change a diaper is fundamental to learn.

Totally new, or forgotten which way the diaper tabs go when changing a newborn diaper?

We’ve got all there is to know about how to change a diaper.

Since newborns often need 8-10 diaper changes per day, don’t worry, you’ll soon be changing diapers like a pro.

In this article: 📝

  • Diaper changing essentials
  • What is the basic technique for changing a diaper?
  • How to put on a diaper
  • How should a diaper fit?
  • How often should you change a baby’s diaper?
  • Messy diaper change tips
  • More “how to change a diaper” FAQs


Diaper changing essentials

So, just what do you need to change a diaper?

Well, as you’ll come to learn, it’s all about preparation and finding your rhythm.

Once your baby is laid down ready for a diaper change, you don’t want to be leaving their side to fetch other supplies you need.

Although your newborn will stay put during their diaper change (for now) they’ll soon be rolling around, so it’s wise to get into safe habits from the get-go.

Here’s your list of diaper changing essentials to help the whole diaper-changing procedure:

  • A clean diaper (or two)
  • Wipes, wipes, and more wipes
  • Diaper rash cream or ointment (either a barrier to prevent diaper rash or a cream to treat it.
  • A clean outfit (just in case)
  • Changing mat or changing table
  • Somewhere to put the dirty diapers
  • A distraction

What counts as a distraction for baby during their diaper change?

Your baby will love to hear your voice, so singing a song, or simply talking about what you’re doing, will help keep baby (and you) calm throughout the process.

Despite the poop, diaper changes are a great time for some mama-baby bonding.

What is the basic technique for changing a diaper?

When it comes to changing diapers, there’s a simple step-by-step guide for you to follow.

This guide is recommended for your baby’s health and to avoid diaper rash, but you’ll find your own rhythm, too.

What are the 10 steps to diaper changing?

It sounds like a lot, but, don’t worry, before long, you’ll have this 10-step diaper-changing process down.

Once you’ve washed your hands and put baby is laid down on a safe surface, it’s go-time!

Whether you’re using disposable or cloth diapers, changing a boy or girl, a wet or a soiled nappy, the basics of how to change a diaper are the same.

  1. Before removing the dirty diaper, lift your baby’s legs and bottom to lay the clean diaper underneath them, with the tabs at the back. This way, any diaper-changing accidents will be caught by the new diaper.
  2. Undo the tabs on the dirty diaper and have a look at what you’re dealing with. If you need to, use the diaper to wipe down any excess poop, folding it in half so you can place their bottom down on the clean outside front of the diaper.
  3. Move the dirty diaper away, out of reach from baby’s grabbing hands. The last thing you need right now is more mess!
  4. Use wipes or a wet washcloth or cotton balls to clean the diaper area at every diaper change, making sure you get in between any folds of skin. If you’re changing a girl baby diaper, be sure to wipe from front to back, to avoid infection.
  5. Put the used washcloth or cotton balls on top of the dirty diaper, to the side, so they’re all out of the way.
  6. Allow your baby’s diaper area to dry before fitting the new diaper. This will help prevent diaper rash. If you do notice a red rash, a diaper rash cream or ointment can help. If your little one has had a rash for more than a few days, speak to your doctor.
  7. Fasten the clean diaper by bringing the tabs around to the front of the waistband and securing it. If your newborn still has their umbilical cord stump, fold the front of the diaper down, out of the way.
  8. Clean up the used diaper and dirty cleaning supplies from the diaper changing process.
  9. Disinfect the changing surface ready to use next time, wash your hands, and baby’s hands.
  10. Victory dance! You deserve it!

How to put on a diaper

Okay, so you’ve got the cleaning part of a diaper change sorted, but what about how to put on a new diaper?

Once the clean diaper is under baby’s bottom, they’re all wiped, clean, and dry, all you need to do is pull the front of the diaper between your child’s legs, over their stomach.

Then, pull the diaper tabs to open them, pull them to the front, and attach them so the diaper is snug.

Most newborn diapers have a special shape so they’re more comfortable for baby’s umbilical cord stump, but if you don’t have newborn diapers, all you need to do is fold the front of the diaper down so it doesn’t rub against it.

But what if the diaper’s too small? Or too big? Well…

How should a diaper fit?

Your baby will be wearing a diaper a lot, so making sure you have the proper diaper fit is essential ‒ otherwise, you’ll have an uncomfortable baby from a diaper that’s too tight, or some leakage if the diaper’s too loose.

When changing baby’s diaper, the proper diaper fit should be:

  • It’s tight, but not too tight, so two fingers can fit between the diaper and tummy.
  • The tabs are fastened symmetrically.
  • The leg cuff ruffles are tucked out. They’re like a stage 2 poop-blocker!

When to change diaper size

There are a few tell-tale signs that it’s time to size up your baby’s diapers, or loosen them, so baby’s more comfortable, and their diapers are more effective.

Here’s how to tell when it’s time to change baby’s diaper size:

  • When you attach the diaper tabs in the middle, they feel too tight ‒ you can’t fit two fingers in the waistband.
  • Baby has diaper rash often because the moisture is too close to their skin.
  • Their buttcheeks are peeking out of the diaper.
  • The diaper tabs pop open when baby’s moving about.
  • Baby’s tugging at the diaper like it’s uncomfortable.
  • There are red marks around baby’s legs or tummy, where the diaper is.

How often should you change a baby’s diaper?

So, babies pee and poop ‒ a lot.

Because they’re eating often.

If you choose to breastfeed, they’ll need to be fed between 8-12 times a day, or every 2-3 hours per day if you choose to formula feed.

But as your baby grows, they’ll have dirty diapers at different rates. Here’s how often you should change your baby’s diaper for each age:

  • 1 week old ‒ 10 to 12 wet diapers per day
  • 2 weeks old ‒ 10 to 12 wet diapers per day
  • 3 weeks old ‒ 10 to 12 wet diapers per day
  • 4 weeks old ‒ 10 to 12 wet diapers per day
  • 2 months old ‒ 8 to 10 wet diapers per day
  • 3 months old ‒ 8 to 10 wet diapers per day
  • 4 months old ‒ 8 to 10 wet diapers per day
  • 5 months old ‒ 6 to 10 wet diapers per day
  • 6 months old ‒ 6 to 10 wet diapers per day
  • 7 months old ‒ 6 to 8 wet diapers per day
  • 8 months old ‒ 6 to 8 wet diapers per day
  • 9 months old ‒ 6 to 8 wet diapers per day
  • 10 months old ‒ 6 to 8 wet diapers per day
  • 11 months old ‒ 6 to 8 wet diapers per day
  • 12 months old ‒ to 6 wet diapers per day
  • 18 months old ‒ 5 to 6 wet diapers per day
  • 2 years old ‒ 2 to 4 wet diapers per day
  • 3 years old ‒ 2 to 4 wet diapers per day

As baby gets older, trying new foods and drinking something other than breastmilk or formula, their poop and pee might change in frequency and consistency ‒ something to be aware of.

How do you know when to change diaper?

Most disposable diapers have a color-changing urine indicator to help you.

If you’re unsure, or if you’re using cloth diapers, a quick peek, sniff, or feel inside will let you know.

So glamorous!

How often should you change a newborn’s diaper?

Wondering “how often should I change my change my newborn’s diaper”? You’re not alone, mama.

For the first month or so, baby will be peeing and pooping pretty often, so it’s best to change baby’s diaper every 2-3 hours.

How many hours once diaper should be changed?

It depends on your baby’s age as to when you should change baby’s diaper.

For the first month of their life, changing every 2-3 hours is generally best.

From 1 month to 4 months, changing baby’s diaper every 1.5 hours to 3 hours is recommended.

From then on, it really depends on the baby ‒ how often you change baby’s diaper could be anywhere from 2 to 4 hours.

But, as we’ve said before, every baby is different, so some mamas could find themselves changing 20 diapers per day.

The best thing to do? Check in with baby ‒ if they’re uncomfortable, they’ll let you know with a few grumbles or tears!

You’ll find your rhythm.

Do you change diaper after every pee?

No, you don’t have to change baby’s diaper every time they pee.

Most disposable diapers tend to have moisture-wicking technology, so it takes more moisture than just one pee to get to baby.

However, if you’re using cloth diapers, or other reusable diapers, it’s best to change the diaper every time baby pees.

Should you change diaper before or after feed?

There’s no hard-and-fast rule for changing baby’s diaper before or after a feed.

But our top tips from our mamas on Peanut is that, when it comes to night-time feedings for newborns, changing diapers halfway through their feed is best.

Why? Because it helps baby to wake up long enough for a full feed in the middle of the night, before they fall back asleep with a full tummy.

Messy diaper change tips

Because we’re all about the full details of mamahood here at Peanut, we’re getting into the less-than-glam side of having a newborn: diaper blow-outs and really messy diapers.

What’s a diaper blow-out? It’s when baby’s poop leaks out of their diaper ‒ and it can make its way everywhere.

So if you’re frantically searching for “how to change a poopy diaper” while baby’s… not looking their best, here are the top tried-and-tested tips from our mamas on Peanut on messy diaper changes:

  • Prevention is the best strategy for a messy diaper change. Make sure baby’s diaper is fitted properly while changing diapers, using our tips above.
  • Change baby’s diaper regularly so it doesn’t fill up sooner.
  • Use ‘envelope’ onesies so you don’t have to pull any dirty clothes over baby’s head.
  • Keep a plastic bag to put baby’s diaper in if you’re out and about.
  • Rinse baby’s messy clothes before you put them in the wash.
  • Use a cloth diaper over the top of a normal diaper at night to prevent nighttime blow-outs.

Sorry to say this, but diaper blow-outs are a normal part of parenting, and something you’ll likely experience at least once in your baby’s life.

So it’s best to be prepared!

More “how to change a diaper” FAQs

Still got some burning diaper-changing questions?

Never fear, here are our quick-fire answers, for when you need answers, like, yesterday.

How do you wipe a baby girl?

When changing a baby girl diaper, always wipe from front to back, to avoid spreading bacteria.

How to change a baby boy’s diaper

When changing a baby boy diaper, place a wipe or washcloth over his penis throughout the diaper change to catch an unexpected pee fountain.

Always tuck your baby boy’s penis downwards (gently, of course) in his diaper to avoid leaks.

How long can a baby stay in a wet diaper?

Standard disposable diapers can keep baby relatively dry for up to two pees. So it depends on how often your baby is peeing as to how long they can stay in a wet diaper.

How tight should a nappy be?

You should be able to fit two fingers in the waistband of baby’s diaper during the diaper-changing procedure.

Why do babies pee when changing diaper?

Yes, babies are more likely to pee during their diaper change.

Why? Some think it’s because of the cold air, since their dirty diaper’s just been taken off.

It’s sort of a reflex ‒ when babies get cold, they pee to keep themselves warm!

How long do babies stay in newborn diapers?

Most newborn diapers can be used up to three months.

But it’s always best to use our proper diaper fit guide above, because not every baby is the same, so sometimes, the diaper size guides aren’t accurate for your baby.

Diaper ruffles: in or out?


Diaper ruffles should be visible when baby’s diaper is on.

They’re there to help prevent any leakage, so make sure they’re the right way during your baby’s diaper change!

Diaper tabs in front or back?


Pull baby’s diaper tabs around the front from the back to fasten the diaper securely, while making sure it’s not too tight for baby ‒ you should be able to fit two fingers into the top of baby’s diaper.

Do diapers expire?

Technically, most diaper brands have an expiration date of 3 years after their manufacturing date.

But in the real world, you can use them for long after then.

There you have it!

All there is to know about how to change a diaper.

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