baby in diaper sits on the ground holding a toy car

How to Change a Disposable Diaper (with step-by-step instructions)

Whoever finds it first, deals with the dirty diaper! That’s the rule in our house anyway. 

I get it, having to change a diaper (especially poopy ones) isn’t the most enjoyable task. But there’s no use in complaining, bickering, or ignoring it… it needs to get done. And the faster you get to it, the less “mess” you’ll have inside. 

To make your dirty diaper duty a little easier, I’ve laid out simple steps on how to change a disposable diaper using the best diaper changing technique… that anyone can do!

But I’m not even joking. Follow the step-by-step process below for the easiest way to change a diaper. 

To save you all from actual diaper changing photos, my daughter kindly let me borrow her baby doll to demonstrate on.

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How to Change a Disposable Diaper (step-by-step Instructions)

Check if the Diaper Needs Changing

Before anything, you’ll want to check if the diaper needs to be changed or not. There are several ways to tell if your baby’s diaper is wet or soiled. Some are more obvious than others.

These days, many disposable diaper brands have a vertical stripe in the middle of the diaper which is yellow when the diaper is dry and blue if the diaper is wet. Take a look to see what colour is there and whether it’s time to change or not.

You can also do the squish test. Disposable diapers are made of a unique super-absorbent compound that turns into a gel when wet. If you gently squish the bottom part of the diaper, you’ll feel whether it is dry and tissuey or wet and gel-like. 

Lastly, you can peek into the diaper to see if you can see any mess or, hold the baby close, and perform the tried and true sniff test! 

Related Article: How to Change a Diaper in the Car

Before You Change a Diaper

Gather all of the supplies you need before starting to undress or change the baby. It’s useful to keep a diaper caddy or basket close by with all of the essentials. You’ll want to ensure you have the following:

Newborns usually lie quite still while being changed. Lucky you, it may be a simple task. Be sure to always keep a hand on them in case they decide to practise their rolling skills while you’re reaching for a wipe. 

If you’re changing an older baby, it’ll be a good idea to have a few toys or something to keep them distracted (and STILL) while you’re changing them. I always kept a “diaper-changing toy basket” so that the items were interesting each time I needed them not to move around. 

You can also talk to your little one, make faces/noises, or sing if they start to get squirmy when you’re in the middle of changing their diaper! If you’re really in a bind, hand them a clean diaper to grab their attention and keep them from wiggling.

Now that you’re prepared, let’s get on with the diaper changing instructions!

The Easiest Way to Change a Baby’s Diaper

  1. Lay the baby on the changing area.

Gently rest the baby on their back on a secure changing surface. 

lay baby down to change a diaper
  1.  Remove any clothing covering the diaper. 

Take off any pants or clothes over top of the diaper. Ensure you push any shirts or onesies well out of the way. If the baby is in pyjamas, you can tuck the pants part flatly under their back.

remove baby's clothes to change a diaper
  1. Open the diaper. 

Pull the diaper open by releasing the side fasteners. 

This is a good opportunity to assess the mess you’ll need to clean and confirm whether you’re changing poop or just pee! 

Beware of any open diaper peeing at this point! This frequently happens with boys but can happen with both boys and girls.

If they start to pee, cover them with the front part of the diaper until they have finished. You may want to keep a washcloth or “peepee teepee” nearby to avoid any pee squirting towards your face (or theirs) when changing a boy.

open the straps when you change a diaper
  1. Fold the diaper down, trapping the mess.

If it’s only a pee diaper, you can lay the front part of the diaper over the back part by tucking the front part under their bum, trapping the wet area in. 

If your baby has pooped, you can gently push the poop into the main diaper part using the cleaner front piece, helping remove the majority off of the skin. Be careful not to wipe any poop into the vagina or penis area! 

This is a great trick to avoid getting any additional pee or poop on a wiggling baby and by not removing the diaper completely yet, it keeps the changing pad cleaner too, avoiding additional transfer of poop. 

If you’ve successfully contained the messy part, the baby can lie its bum onto the folded outside part of the diaper.

If the diaper is too soiled, remove it completely and try to do your best to keep the bum slightly raised off the changing pad until it is clean. You can also lay down a wipe or two under the baby’s bottom. Otherwise, you can just clean the changing pad as needed.

fold dirty diaper downwards when you change a diaper
  1. Wipe the entire area.

With an open hand holding the wipe, do a mass swipe over the area, trying to get the majority of pee and poop off of the skin. 

Leave each wipe, dirty side downwards, on top of the folded diaper. The baby should be able to comfortably rest its bottom on top of the clean side of the wipes. 

wipe entire diaper area when you change a diaper
  1. Clean the crevices.

Once the general area is clean, you’ll need to do a more thorough wipe of any crevices and folds in the skin. 

Be very gentle with the genital area, ensuring to not wipe any poop towards the vagina or penis. 

Make sure you are always using a clean wipe on the baby’s skin. 

clean small areas carefully when you change a diaper
  1. Make a diaper ball.

When the baby’s skin is completely clean, fold the diaper on itself again, trapping the used wipes inside. 

Pull the side fastener straps around the front to seal a neat little dirty diaper package to properly dispose of. 

bundle dirty diaper into a package when you change a diaper
  1. Put the clean diaper on.

How to put on a disposable diaper is actually quite easy.

Unfold a clean diaper so that it lays flat pulling the sides outwards. Slip the diaper under the baby’s bottom by lifting gently at their ankles. Stretch the front part between their legs and up towards their belly. If your baby requires diaper cream, put this on now before you fasten the diaper.

Pull the side straps (small plastic rectangles) around to the front to fasten (similar to velcro).

Most diapers indicate which side is back and front, but if not, the back should have the straps to fasten on the soft front area.

Pull out the ruffle area around each bum cheek and leg for maximum protection from leaks.

close side straps of clean diaper when you change a diaper
  1. Get the baby dressed again. 

Put their clothes back on over their nice clean diaper. 

put clothes on baby when you change a diaper
  1. Go wash your hands!

Hygiene is important! Even if you don’t think you touched anything besides wipes, you need to go wash your hands pronto.

wash your hands after you change a diaper

Diaper Changing Safety Tips

  • Make sure your diaper change station is safe and clean. You’ll want a secure changing pad or mat on a firm surface. 
  • Always keep a hand on the baby so that they do not roll off. Babies move when you least expect it and can get seriously injured if they fall off of a changing table or high surface. 
  • Never walk away from your baby on the changing pad and do not rely on changing pad straps to keep your baby secure. You should be with them at all times!
  • Make sure all creams, straps or heavy items are out of the baby’s reach. 

How to Clean a Diaper Blowout

Don’t panic! Your baby is bound to have messy poops at least once (but probably MANY more times). These are commonly known as “blowouts”, where the diaper cannot contain all of the poop. 

If poop has come out of the diaper and onto the clothes (possibly right up to their neck!), carefully peel away the clothes. 

If they are wearing a onesie or snaps at the neck, roll the clothing downwards, away from their face! Did you know that’s the reason for the shoulder folds on most baby onesies? It is so that you can easily pull downwards rather than over their heads! 

Clean as best as you can. You may want to do a thorough wash with a wet washcloth, or just bathe the baby once they are mostly wiped clean. 

Once the baby is clean, diapered, and redressed, make sure to spot clean the poop stained clothes as quickly as possible to avoid staining! 

Baby poop seriously stains. This one isn’t sponsored, but I personally find that Oxiclean Baby Stain Remover worked the best on poop stained clothing. 

Looking for more baby tips? I’ve recently shared my best tips for clipping a baby’s nails!