Everything You Need to Know About Nappy Changing
Which type of nappy? How do you even change a baby? What do you need and what do you do? We’ve got you covered in the ultimate guide to nappy changing
People love sharing horror stories when it comes to pregnancy, birth and baby care – and nappy changing is no exception. Whether your ears are being chewed off with stories of geysers of pee or explosive room-wrecking poo-namis (gulp), it can all seem a bit bewildering.
Instead, treat yourself to the facts about nappy changing, from choosing the right nappies for you to what you need to buy, and the down-and-dirty info about actually changing a nappy.
What different nappies are there?
You’ve got two choices: disposable or reusable – also called cloth nappies.
Disposable nappies: pros and cons
Disposable nappies could be right for you if: you’re looking for an easy, time-saving nappy; just throw away the old and put on a new – no washing, drying or folding required – so you can focus on baby, not washing. Ideally, you’ll be ok budgeting for the weekly expense of regularly buying them.
Once you’re over the exhausting newborn stage and are settling into parenthood, you can always give reusable nappies a go.
Reusable / cloth nappies: pros and cons
Reusable nappies come in two styles: two-part and all-in-one. Two-part nappies include waterproof outer wraps and washable inner nappies, which you either pop on to the outer wrap or come as pocket inserts. All-in-one nappies don’t have a separate outer and inner, they’re combined.
Whichever style you choose, they can both be used with liners to catch poo plus booster pads for extra absorbency.
Reusable nappies could be right for you if: you’re eco-conscious and hate the thought of so much waste ending up in landfill. You’re ok with higher energy bills in return for cost savings in the long-run and can handle the regular washing and drying time.
You can consider a local laundry service to free up your time – they’ll be doing bulk washing anyway so will reduce your personal eco-impact of regular high-temperature machine washing.
Picking the right nappies for newborns
Whatever nappy you choose, check it’s suitable for newborns. They need to have room at the top for baby’s umbilical cord stump to be uncovered. Once it’s dropped off, the small wound can also breathe and heal properly without being irritated by the nappy.
How many nappies do I need?
The short answer: a lot!
Your newborn will probably wee every 1-3 hours and poo several times a day. This means around 12 nappy changes a day to begin with.
Stock up in advance and buy disposable nappies in bulk to save money.
If you’re going with reusable nappies, aim for at least 24 cloth nappies. Modern cloth nappies have Velcro or snap closures, so you won’t need nappy pins. By using nappy liners to catch the worst of the mess, it’ll be easier to wash and care for the cloth nappies.
Your newborn baby will grow quickly, so try not to buy too many nappies in one size. You might also have a large baby who won’t even fit into newborn-size nappies.
I’ve got nappies – what else do I need?
- Something to clean baby’s bum – you can use cotton wool or washcloths with a bowl of warm water, or disposable baby wipes.
- A barrier cream to keep baby’s bum moisturised and help prevent nappy rash.
- A changing bag for when you’re out – any large bag will do.
- Nappy bags for putting dirty nappies and wipes/cotton wool in.
- A changing mat and table – by using a raised table rather than the floor, you’ll be doing your back a favour. Padded, wipe clean changing mats are comfortable for baby and easy to keep clean. Look for mats with raised edges to avoid baby rolling off. You don’t need either of these things, you can use a clean soft cloth on the floor or secure a changing mat to a chest of drawers.
- Muslins – these parental life-savers can be used to dry baby’s bum after you’ve cleaned it or to cover up weeing-willies.
- A nappy bin – especially an odour-trapping one. Or you can put nappies straight into the bin or washing pile.
How often do I change a nappy?
Daytime: change your baby’s nappy before or after every feed and whenever they do a poo.
Night-time: you don’t need to wake your baby to change their nappy. When they wake for a feed, change them. You can change the nappy as soon as they wake so they’re sleepy by the end of the feed. Or you can wait until after the feed to give them a chance to wee or poo during or after the feed.
How do I know if a nappy needs changing?
Signs to look out for that your baby’s nappy needs changing are:
- Grizzling or crying and you’ve ruled out any other reason for their upset, like being hungry, or tired.
- The smell or heavy feel of a full nappy.
- Checking for wetness every couple of hours by testing with a clean finger.
How do I change a nappy?
You’ll be whipping nappies on and off in no time. Start by watching the nurses or midwives at the hospital or birthing centre for a demo.
1. Set up a safe changing area. Get everything you need within reaching distance and wash your hands. Pop a towel or muslin on the mat to keep baby warm and comfortable.
2. Always keep one hand on your baby so they don’t roll off and stay with them the entire time.
3. Open the dirty nappy and wipe away poo with the front of it. Tuck it under their bottom with the clean side facing up.
4. Wipe baby’s bum from front to back, holding their feet together sole-to-sole and gently flexing their legs up to their tummy. Roll them on their side if you need to wipe higher up their back. Take this opportunity to have some fun – blow raspberries on their belly or sing to them.
5. Pat their bum dry with a clean towel or muslin or wait until it air-dries.
6. Apply a thin layer of barrier cream.
7. Take the dirty nappy out from under baby and place it into the nappy bin or bag with the dirty wipe. Put reusable nappies into your washing bag.
8. Slide a new nappy under your baby and fasten. Done!
As you become more pro, experiment with doing things differently, like letting baby have some nappy-free time after a change so their skin can breathe.
Changing your baby boy’s nappy
Once you’ve removed their nappy, point their penis down to avoid spraying. Gently clean them, removing any bits of poo, but not pulling back the foreskin.
Changing your baby girl’s nappy
Wipe from front to back, towards their bottom, to avoid bacterial infection. Gently clean in all the creases and bottom but avoid spreading the labia.
What about nappy rash?
Nappy rash is mainly caused by wetness from baby’s bum sitting near wee and poo. Avoid it by keeping your baby’s bum nice and dry:
- Change your baby’s nappy regularly, including just after they’ve done a wee or poo.
- Clean your baby’s genitals and bottom thoroughly after each pee or poo.
- Make sure their bum is clean and dry before putting on a new nappy.
- Use a thin layer of barrier cream, like Vaseline or zinc or castor oil creams, after each nappy change.
- Give your baby plenty of nappy-free time as air helps heal, and prevent, a rash.
- Avoid talcum powder as it can irritate your baby’s skin.
- Use a warm, wet cloth to wash their bottom or only choose gentle baby wipes that don’t contain alcohol or soap.
- With cloth nappies, use nappy-wash powders or liquids, rinse them twice, and dry them in the sun and wind, if possible.