Folding a terry towelling nappy or diaper
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Alison Ross
Registered Midwife, DipHe, BSc (Hons) Was a midwife at Kingston Hospital and Specialist Midwife in Perinatal Mental Health.
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Poo, nappies and diapers

How and when do I change my baby’s nappy?

It's something all new parents live in fear of - that first nappy change! Don't worry. It will only take one or two changes before you're cleaning and changing your baby's bottom confidently.
Video Tutorial
In Short

Top tips on how to change a disposable nappy:

Lie your baby down somewhere safe, ideally on a mat on the floor.

Talk to and interact with your baby to reassure them as babies are not keen on having their bottoms exposed!

Undo the sticky front tabs and pull the nappy off gently. If it's a pooey nappy, ensure you remove most of the poo with it.

Clean your baby's bottom with plain water and cotton wool.

By about day four or five, your baby should be doing lots of wees, and at least two poos a day but generally more especially if breastfed. Change whenever necessary.

The first few nappies are a bit tricky because the meconium poo is sticky and tarry and can be harder to wipe off. It’s going to get much easier as the milk poo arrives.

How to change a disposable nappy

Lie your baby down somewhere safe – ideally on a changing mat on the floor. If she’s on a changing table or your bed, don’t leave her even for a second, as she can roll off very easily. Talk to your baby and offer reassurance as babies can feel uneasy and a little chilly when their bottoms are exposed to the cold air. Undo the sticky tabs and pull the nappy off gently, taking with it all the poo you can manage to scoop up. Wrap it up tightly again and secure the tabs so it’s easier to dispose of.

If you’re changing a little girl, use cotton wool and water and wipe from front to back to prevent poo getting into her vagina and urinary tract causing an infection. Use as many cotton wool balls as you need, finishing with a wipe over with clean water. Once her bottom is nice and clean, you might want to pat dry with a clean muslin. Then lift up her legs and bottom gently, slide a clean nappy underneath and do up the tabs at the front – firmly but not too tight.

With little boys, it’s really important to make sure you get into all the little cracks and creases. Gently pick up his penis and move it out of the way so you can clean around it, then lift the testicles to make sure you get underneath and give everything a good wipe. Don’t pull back a boy’s foreskin to try to clean underneath – it will clean itself to a certain extent, and you might not be able to move it back and you might cause injury by trying to do so.

When changing boys, make sure that the penis is pointing down towards the six o’clock position when you do the clean nappy up. If it’s pointing up to 12 o’clock they’ll pee out of their nappy and all over themselves or you!. If you point it to three o’clock or nine o’clock they can pee out of the side.

Be careful when you remove your little boy’s nappy because he might wee up and onto you – it happens a lot! Gently hold a square of muslin over his penis while you’re putting the new nappy on to prevent a soaking.

With both sexes, make sure their backs are dry and clean as well.

As well as disposables, you can use re-useable nappies, which you wash at home or send to a nappy service. You can also use terry towelling nappies.

How often should I change my baby’s nappy?
  • In the first 48 hours, your baby should produce around 2-3 wet nappies. Change as needed.
  • After 3-4 days, your baby should have around six wet nappies a day.
  • In the first few days, your baby will produce 1-2 poos a day as a minimum. They’ll start off dark and sticky and get softer and paler (and sometimes green) as they move towards being yellowy milk poos.
  • By about day 4-5, your baby should be starting to produce yellow poo – at least two a day the size of a £2 coin (U.S quarter) but breastfed babies will often poo a lot more in the early days and weeks

You and your baby will quickly get into a routine. Your baby’s nappy will feel heavy if she’s done a couple of wees and may take on a ‘saggy’ appearance, at which point you’ll know it needs changing. You’ll see lots of parents having a quick sniff of their baby’s nappy area to see whether junior has done a poo – if in doubt, have a quick look!

Should I use baby wipes?

Warm water and cotton wool are all you need, especially with newborns.

If you do decide to use wipes, it’s a good idea to wait until your baby is a few weeks old because baby skin is very soft and delicate. Choose wipes that are non-perfumed and alcohol-free.

Do I need to use a nappy cream?

You don’t really need to use a nappy cream, particularly in the early days, but if you’re worried about nappy rash, use a barrier cream that doesn’t have any preservatives or additives in it, and is non-perfumed. A thin layer is enough.

  • Wipe girls from front to back
  • Don’t force back the foreskin on baby boys
  • Double check your baby’s back is really clean
  • Fasten sticky tabs at the front of the nappy.
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This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here.