Welcoming your little one home for the first time is a whole new experience, one that can be filled with wonder and excitement. But it can also be filled with questions – how does this work? What is that? And how on earth do I do this? Included in this is nappy change time. Many parents are lucky enough to have hospital midwives and nurses to teach them how to handle this incredibly essential task, but some don’t. And even for those who do, the sheer quantity of information thrown about in those early days can be overwhelming, and being sent home to do it all by yourself can be, quite frankly, terrifying. Today, we’re going to briefly go over some of the things you need to know so you can become a nappy-changing pro in no time!
Getting all your things together before you get started on a nappy change is absolutely key. Whether you have a change table or a dedicated changing mat on the floor, having everything near to hand makes life a whole lot easier. So, what do you need? A clean nappy (and experience can often teach us that having more than one to hand is helpful, just in case), wipes (disposable or reusable), something to dry bub’s bottom, and nappy cream. Having everything close means there’s no worrying about hunting for things mid-change, which makes things run more smoothly and avoids the risk of accidents by removing the need to turn away from your baby. There may be other things you find you need as your circumstances change—you’ll be able to incorporate those as required. Which nappies you’ll use—cloth or disposable—will be down to your particular needs and preferences, as will the types of wipes and nappy creams you use. A great place to get started with nappy creams, though, is Haakaa’s Baby Bottom Balm. Made right here in New Zealand with all-natural ingredients, this balm soothes and prevents nappy rash. It’s super gentle, so you can use it at every nappy change.
To make sure you’re not dealing with more leaks than you need to (and unfortunately, they do sometimes still happen no matter what you do), and to make sure your little one is comfortable, ensure you have the correct size. If you’re using disposables, each pack will have a weight guide somewhere on the packaging to let you know. Size-to-weight can vary between brands, so if you switch, make sure to double-check. Most cloth nappies can be adjusted to suit different sizes, as they’re intended to be used long-term. Check the instructions so you’re familiar with how to do this. Some use domes or snaps on the nappy itself, while others may require safety pins. Whichever sort you have, it can often pay to practice on a doll before you let yourself loose on your little one!
Choosing your wipes
A new baby’s skin is incredibly delicate. For this reason, it’s often recommended that parents steer clear of wipes that contain soaps, alcohol, or fragrances, as these substances can very quickly irritate the skin. Water-based is best – you can even make your own reusable ones with soft cotton cloths and warm water. The idea is to gently clean the skin, not vigorously scrub any soiling away. Once you’ve cleaned baby’s skin, pat it dry with a soft, dry cloth. Making sure things are dry will help to prevent nappy rash, as this is often caused by moisture trapped against your baby’s skin.
Remember the Baby Bottom Balm we mentioned earlier? This is the time to put that on. Nappy cream not only soothes nappy rash when it has already appeared – it also helps to create a barrier between your little one’s skin and the dampness caused by their nappy becoming wet or dirty. You generally don’t need a huge amount. Scoop a little out of the container and, if necessary, soften it a bit between your fingers (this can mainly be needed on those cold winter nights). Smear it gently over your baby’s skin. Remove any excess from your hands using a wipe. Some parents find it easier if there’s only a little to quickly wipe their fingers on the clean nappy!
How tight should the nappy be?
Short answer – not too tight. It should be snug enough that it can’t fall off or leak easily, but it should also be comfortable for baby. Just like wearing pants a size too small, a nappy that’s done up too tightly isn’t much fun for babies. A good way of checking is to see if you can put two fingers between the waist of the nappy and your baby’s skin. If yes, that should be about right. Any more or any less, and you’ll need to quickly readjust. For cloth nappies, you may need to use a different fastening point. For disposables, you may need to go up or down a size.
Check & change as needed
In those early days, babies need their nappies changed a lot. It’s not unusual to change them, feed them, and then change them again. Getting in the habit of checking regularly will help keep things running smoothly. Keeping your little one in dirty or wet nappies can lead to nappy rash, regardless of the use of barrier creams. Many disposable nappies now come with wetness indicators, which are especially useful since they can hold much more liquid than cloth or older ones, making it harder to tell if they need changing. Cloth nappies may be easier to check yourself. Either way, checking often is a good habit to be in!
Getting rid of dirty nappies
Dirty nappies, especially once your child has begun solids, can be emptied into the toilet. However, you should never try to flush the nappy itself down the toilet. This can and will cause blockage issues, either in your own plumbing or in the broader sewer network. Instead, dispose of them in the bin. Disposables can be tightly wrapped and secured with their tabs. Nappy bags can be bought to put them in, then put them in the rubbish. If you’re using cloth nappies, they’ll often need to be rinsed then soaked before putting them in the washing machine. You can either do a warm wash or, if you use a nappy sanitiser when you soak, a cold machine wash can often be fine as the sanitiser will take care of the nasties. Check the instructions that came with your cloth nappies when you bought them – they should have recommendations on the best way to keep them clean & hygienic while also prolonging their life.
This is, of course, only a broad overview of nappy time. What works for you and your family may vary slightly, and getting to grips with the trickier parts may take time. If you’re ever feeling stuck, make sure to ask for advice from your midwife, nurse, or other healthcare professional. They will be more than happy to help you through any troubles you might be having and find ways to make things easier for you. Friends and family who have already been through this journey can also be a font of knowledge, so don’t be afraid to take advantage of their experience to find those extra little tips and tricks.
Most of all, be patient with yourself. You’re learning all of this just as much as your baby is.