If you’re expecting your first, you probably already know diapers will be a big, squishy part of your future life (no getting around it, I’m afraid), but there are ways to make life in the diaper lane quicker, cheaper, and easier on both you and your newborn. As a newborn care expert, I’ve changed my share of diapers — and efficient diapering is a big part of what I teach new parents. Knowing what to expect and how to get the job done quickly will save headaches (you), and tears (baby!). Here are 9 essential diaper tips and facts I’ve picked up after diapering almost 50 newborns (yep, that’s a lot of diapers!):
1. You’re Going To Change A Lot Of Diapers, So Stock Up
Based on my experience, you’ll run through roughly 250 diapers per month, per baby. Because babies grow so quickly in the early days, my advice is to stock up on both newborn and size 1 diapers from the get-go. You don’t like squeezing into skinny jeans when they’re a size too small, and tight diapers pinch!
2. Disrupt Your Diapering
It’s easy to consider diaper changes a mundane, even onerous, chore. But you’ll have more fun if you make it a challenge, and consider it a crucial opportunity to connect with your baby. According to Magda Gerber’s philosophy of respectful parenting, when you switch from chore mode to joy mode, your baby feels the difference in your eye contact and the quality of your attention. During a diaper change, you baby feels your touch, hears your voice, and sees your face, and it helps to think of it as a bonding opportunity, rather than a chore.
3. Chatter While Your Change . . .
Before changing, explain to your baby that you’re going to change his diaper now, so he can feel clean and dry (while a newborn can’t understand your words, they do respond to your affect and tone of voice). While you change, tell him exactly what you’re doing. If he cries, reassure him by telling him he’ll feel so much better soon, and that you’re working as quickly as you can. As an added benefit, if your baby is really shrieking, your words will reassure family members that the baby isn’t being eaten by a shark — just trading one pair of Huggies for another.
4. But Quit The Chatter When The Going Gets Rough
Here something many new parents don’t know (but you will!): Babies hate being on their backs. Being supine makes them feel like they’re falling. Newborns especially may panic, but you can’t afford to (that diaper has to get changed, after all). If your baby screams at the top of his lungs, cut the chit-chat and shush. If possible, shush louder than your baby can scream. Shushing is one of Harvey Karp’s five techniques for soothing crying babies, and I can say from experience that it works wonders — just be sure your baby can hear you over their own distress. Shushing often works immediately, but because it’s stressful to face a crying baby at the changing table, it’s always best to perform diaper changes as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Pro Tip: As much as you might want to, don’t scoop your baby mid-change to soothe his cries. Best case scenario, diapering takes twice as long (and is twice as stressful). Worst case scenario, you now have pee on your shirt, your baby’s sticky, and diapering is three times as stressful for everyone involved. It’s actually kinder to soldier on than to stop and start again.
5. Set Up Your Diaper Station Ahead Of Time
I really can’t stress this enough. Diaper changes are so frequent and necessary when you live with a newborn, that performing them without a clear system — or the proper supplies at hand — is torture! Pick out a station or changing table before baby arrives, and preferably, one with plenty of storage space (shelves, or cubbies for little baskets). Also critical: a changing pad with a waterproof cover.
If a diaper station or changing table isn’t for you (and that’s totally fine!), invest in a diaper caddy. Keep it within reach, and change your baby on a firm, stable surface. A towel spread on a clean floor works well.
Fun diaper trivia: Changing pads come with a safety belt for extra security, but the truth is, no one uses it.
7. Keep One Hand On The Baby AT ALL TIMES
It only takes a second for a baby to roll off the changing table (especially at four or five months of age), but this is a preventable tragedy. Keep one hand on your baby at all times, no matter what. Second to a changing station, the safest place to change your baby is on the floor.
8. The Thin Blue Line Can Be Deceptive
These days, most diapers come with an in-built yellow line that turns blue when your baby is wet. Don’t let this determine the frequency of your diaper change. If the line is blue ten minutes after you put a fresh diaper on, it’s okay to leave it, especially if your baby is falling asleep. As a rule of thumb, change your baby before every feeding (unless they’ve reached the screaming with hunger stage).
9. Naked Babies Love To Pee
That’s why I keep a soft Viva towel on hand to cover their private parts during a change, and it’s the best way to prevent a pee fountain surprise. It will also save your baby’s outfit, and limit your time at the changing table. A wet baby is cold and uncomfortable, and remember: your goal is quick, painless, efficient diaper changes, from day one!