How to change a nappy
Updated: Oct 10, 2019
Part 1: babies
How to change a nappy - I’m joking, right?
Yes, kind of, I am, it’s really easy to change a nappy, practise on a teddy if you’re in any doubt!
I’m not even here to persuade you to use cloth nappies. But do use cloth nappies if you can, they’re great! It is true that you have to change them more frequently than disposables but by the time you’ve read to the end of this, I’m hoping that you’ll view that not as a con, but just another pro. I want to invite you to consider that nappy changing is not a chore that you want to do as infrequently and as quickly as possible - quite the opposite. Hear me out!
We learn first through our bodies. As infants, we know we are safe, loved and happy - not by the toys, routines or decorated cots with music and mobiles - but by the people who hold us and the way that they care for us. The care tasks that we do with our babies - of which nappy changing is just one - are opportunities for connection, for expressing our love, and for communicating to our child that they are deeply cared for.
1. A nappy changing place
Although we sometimes have to be a bit flexible about where we change nappies, try to create a nappy changing station at home that is a pleasant place to be. It wants to be warm and peaceful. A bathroom can be a good place - your baby doesn’t know or care what a bathroom is yet! - given the proximity to warm running water, it’s super convenient to use little cloth squares as wipes. For my first child, I made a nappy changing station that fitted neatly on top of our bath along the same principles as ones that fit on top of a cot. It was a square of plywood, with a ledge on the underside (so it couldn’t slip off or into the bath) edges on each side on the top (so baby couldn’t roll into the bath) padded with some reclaimed carpet, covered in oil cloth, stapled on so it was neat and wipe-clean. I have googled to see if you can buy something like this but cannot find it, so maybe I invented it! If you do find it, please share, or if you want a sketch so you can make your own, pop me a message.
If you are a little bit creative and crafty, I hope you are reading this while you are still pregnant and have plenty of nesting time! With baby number three, I went to town with a little nook by a window, and filled it with fairy lights, boat-shaped shelves and floaty silk cloths.
In a little house with no room for a designated changing station, and with queues for the bathroom, activities have to be stacked. A nappy changer on a bed is just perfect. If bending is uncomfortable for you, you can kneel on the floor, or if knees are uncomfortable you can sit on the bed. Give yourself what you need to be comfortable. Have all your gear together in a bedside cupboard or in a box under the bed, so you’re not popping off leaving baby lying there alone when they may be about to learn how to roll. It needs to be warm, peaceful, pleasant - somewhere you’ll be able to linger and not hurry.
2. Make eye contact
Make eye contact to connect with your baby at nappy changing time; make nappy-changing a time of loving care and bonding that you share with your child rather than a necessary chore.
But don’t just make eye contact - take time to whisper and sing to your baby. I made up a nappy changing song for my baby - which is too ridiculous and silly to print here - but nonsense is just fine, feel free! Give her your full attention. Lavish her with smiles. Stroke her skin. Blow on her tummy. Do everything to let your baby feel happy and safe and utterly beloved!
3. Talk to your baby
Pikler practitioners - who work on the principle of deeply respectful care of infants - will literally ask baby’s permission to do each task. I think it’s not a bad idea - not least as a reminder to ourselves of how to treat someone else’s body, and to involve a child in their own care tasks from the very earliest stage. If that’s not for you, you could try talking through each stage, add a few sounds effects and funny facial expressions - “let’s pull your little socks off - Ping! Ping!” or “Time to unfasten your nappy - ready for the pops? Pop pop pop pop!”
4. Take your time
There’s no rush - communicate to your baby that caring for him is your pleasure. To be frank, changing a nappy is not disgusting and doesn’t smell that bad. But even if you do find it unpleasant, try not to express disgust to your child.
Try and do each task with care, gentleness and consideration - make sure the baby wipe, or nappy cream if you are using it, is not too cold, and put the fresh nappy or clothes on a radiator if possible. If you mis-pop a babygro (we all do it!) - no problem - make it a game to unpop it all again! If you need to lift baby up to put on a clean babygro, take the chance for a little cuddle, so the lifting and holding is loving and not just practical.
Intersperse the changing and dressing tasks with tickles, nuzzles, kisses, nursery-rhyming, nonsense talking (motherese, as Sue Palmer calls it), eye-brow-waggling, gentle face-blowing, whatever your baby enjoys!
It can sometimes feel difficult to do this - maybe you’re tired, there’s a friend or someone else waiting for you to finish, or a dozen other jobs that need your attention. Don’t beat yourself up if you have to be fast occasionally - sometimes there are multiple demands on us at the same time, life can be like that. Try to value this time for yourself and your baby, and make it a priority as often as you can - then be kind to yourself when you just can’t. Most especially, I encourage you to learn to enjoy nappy changing: your baby will enjoy it too, and the rest will come naturally.
Consider the difference in experience for your baby between the nappy change that I have outlined above, with being laid down on a draughty floor and stepped over, being handled briskly by someone who dislikes the task - maybe they’re talking to someone else or just annoyed that they’ve been interrupted from something more important, having your bum wiped with cold wipes, and being pulled and popped quickly into clothes by someone in a hurry.
But I can also tell you that it makes life so much easier as babies grow into toddlers to have a child who likes having their nappy changed! Maybe you’re reading this with a child who is already a little wriggler on the nappy changer? More on this soon…
Have you put some love into creating a special nappy station? Have you had a happy nappy change? Tell us about it!