What I have learned from six years of nappy changing
(That’s six years total over three kids, by the way.)
Darling child #3 wants to do everything himself. “Me! Mine!” Unwanted help and interventions from me are met with expressions of fury entirely disproportionate to his diminutive size!
It is at this moment that I realise that every moment of patience mustered at earlier stages of his two year old life - to allow him to have a go - has paid off in spades! Each time he attempted to use a wipe on his own little bum. Each time he pulled open a popper on his nappy. Each time I waited for him to wriggle his own foot down a trouser leg.
In contrast, every time I did things for him - just to be quick, just to be efficient - I took away a tiny opportunity for him to skill up in his own self-care, and has minutely added to his frustration now.
My approach to changing a toddler nappy can be summarised simply:
1. Expect co-operation; communicate love
When learning whether something is enjoyable, your child will take cues from you! Let your manner, your attitude, your words, your body language all communicate to your child that it is your joy to care for them. It’s not a chore.
2. If you don’t get the response you want right away, give it all the patience you’ve got!
I’m not proposing that if a child doesn’t want their nappy changing then it’s ok to leave them indefinitely in the their own poo - that’s called neglect!
The challenge is, when faced with resistance, what opportunities can we create for our child to come around to co-operation? Instead of short-circuiting the process with a get-it-done-quick nappy change, how can we open up possibilities for making nappy change a shared, respectful task?
For example, if your child is in the middle of play, tell them you don’t mind waiting for them. Saying “in five minutes” may not mean much to a toddler, but if you have a sand timer at home, that can be understood. But just saying, “I can wait for you” may be enough.
If your child doesn’t want a clean nappy on, can they have some nappy-free time, and maybe a potty available to try out if they are interested? There may be little accidents - no problem, offer your child a cloth and show them how to clean up.
Offering a distraction can be effective for getting the job done in the short term, but it doesn’t communicate your expectation of your child to co-operate, or trust in their capacity to participate in this task. Make it easier for your child by talking gently/affectionately/playfully about what’s needed - be yourself and take it as a chance to express your love and build your relationship. And the relationship is both ways - patiently wait for their response.
If talking doesn’t elicit a response, singing sometimes will! It’s not intuitive for everyone, but take a risk - especially if there’s no-one else listening. As our friend and inspiration, Lou Harvey-Zahra, says - they don’t know you can’t sing until they’re nine!
Encouraging your child to stand up for a nappy change can be highly appropriate for a toddler - for more details, read this excellent article by Jessica Langford.
If you're interested in using cloth nappies, I have found them great, especially for the transition to using the potty. They may be a bit more work than disposables, but not as much as you might think, especially in summer. Also, cloth nappies are not all-or-nothing - you can do what works for you. For example, through the winter, I use just one or two during the day while I'm at home and just add them to my regular laundry.
If your little one is not yet toddling, you might be interested in How to change a nappy which is about new babies, and How to change a wriggly baby's nappy which is applicable to rolling and crawling babies, and if you like our approach, come and find out more on Monday mornings at our parent & baby group, Gentle Days.
If you’ve found any of this helpful, I’d be really interested in hearing about it! If you’re still banging your head on the metaphorical wall, I have never yet met a parent unwilling to talk about poo - come and join the brilliant, kind, hilarious parents at our Friday parent & child group. We’re already taking bookings for the Autumn term. Newbies always welcome!