Mother and Baby

How to change your baby's disposable nappy: a step-by-step guide

baby having nappy changed

It’s a baby basic that every new parent needs to know how to do and is easier than it looks – we promise! We’ve broken the process down for you, step-by-step, to make sure you’ll be a nappy-changing pro in no time.

1) Get prepped

disposable nappiesBefore you start changing your little one, have everything you need to hand.

First, place a changing mat or towel on the floor or make sure your changing table is clean and tidy. If you’re using a changing table, make sure you don’t take your eyes off your baby as he can easily roll off the table.

Next, make sure you have a stack of nappies to hand and a supply of cotton wool and lukewarm water or baby wipes to clean your baby’s bottom with. You’ll also need something to dry your baby’s bottom with and a bag or nappy sack to put your baby’s dirty nappy in. If your baby tends to get nappy rash, it’s handy to have a barrier cream for this nearby.

‘Make sure the room is not too cold for your baby who will, after all, be naked bottom half down for a little time,’ says antenatal instructor Louisa van den Bergh, founder of LuluBaby. ‘It can be helpful to have two changing stations – one upstairs and one downstairs to save you go up and down the stairs too frequently.’

It’s also a good idea to have a clean change of baby clothes in reaching distance, in case he’s made a mess of the ones he’s wearing.
Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to get started.

2) Wash your hands

washing handsAnd dry them properly, too.

3) Undress him

Lay your baby on his back on the mat. Undress his bottom half or undo the poppers on his babygro. Leave his top half covered to keep him warm.

4) Undo the dirty nappy

baby laying downUnfasten the sticky tabs and fold them over so they don’t stick to your baby’s skin.

‘Your baby may pee soon after you open up their nether regions to the fresh air, so best for the old nappy to absorb that,’ says Louisa. ‘If you have a little boy, you may want to point his penis down towards the nappy to save an unwelcome shower.’

5) Clean him up

If your baby’s done a poo, use the nappy to clean as much off his skin as possible. Throw the dirty nappy into your nappy bin or just put it to one side for a minute. 

Use the cotton wool and warm water or baby wipes to clean the rest of your baby’s bottom – regardless of whether your baby’s done a poo or wee. If you’ve got a baby girl, clean her from front to back so she doesn’t get any germs in her vagina and if your baby’s a boy, make sure you clean around his testicles and penis.

6) Dry him

Make sure your baby’s bottom is dry before putting on the clean nappy as the sticky tabs won’t work if they’re wet.

‘Many babies (usually older than three weeks) really enjoy a nice “nappy free kick” which can give their bottom a chance to dry too,’ says Louisa.  ‘If there are any signs of nappy rash, it can help the healing, but also babies just love a bit of time to kick and feel some fresh air around them, and especially if mum or dad are cooing/singing to/ chatting with them. If you are in a rush though, pat their bottom dry with a muslin or towel.’

7) Apply barrier cream

If your baby needs nappy rash, now’s the time to apply it.

‘It is the ammonia in the urine which can produce nappy rash so anything which can help prevent that from coming into contact with your baby’s skin is good,’ says Louisa. ‘If your baby is developing a little nappy rash, we advise using Sudocrem. If your baby has full-blown nappy rash, then Metanium is great at clearing that up. If you are at all concerned, see your GP.’


8) Put a clean nappy on

clean nappy

Get out a clean nappy and place it under your baby. ‘The back half should come up to about your baby’s waist,’ says Louisa. ‘If you have a little boy, make sure their penis is pointing down! If your baby is a newborn, then fold down the top part of the nappy so that their cord stump is not in the nappy. Some newborn nappies are specially designed with a cut out for the stump.’

Make sure the bit of the nappy that’s between your baby’s legs is spread open to avoid chaffing and fasten the nappy on each side using the sticky tabs. ‘Stick the tabs down so it is snug but you can still fit one finger down at the top,’ says Louisa.

9) Relax. You’re done!

Nappy changing tips from the experts

Kathryn Blundell, Mother&Baby editor says: When you’re thinking about nappies, there are two main types for you to be thinking about. There’s the disposable nappies which you get out the packet, use on your baby and chuck when they’re dirty. And then there are the reusable ones, the cloth nappies. Now these have quite a big initial expense but actually work out cheaper over a couple of years, which is how long a baby will be in nappies. And you can always mix nappies to suit your lifestyle.

Nicola Joseph, Health Visitor says: With nappy changing, you always need to make sure you’ve washed your hands and always have everything you need at the time so that you never have to leave your baby on their own.

Katie, Cow & Gate Midwife says: So, whenever you’re changing baby, especially if you’re using a changing table or changing baby up off the floor, it’s always important to make sure you never leave baby unattended. Because no matter how young your baby is, you’ll be surprised how quickly they can roll over on you.

What about reusable nappies?

The cloth nappies of yesteryear have had a make-over. No more boiling and washing, dodgy smells and hard work. In fact, reusable nappies are way easier to include in your baby's routine than you'd think.

Modern-day reusable nappies are elasticated and fastened with poppers or velcro and come in loads of funky prints and patterns. There's no boiling or soaking onvolved either, you just have to chuck them in the washing machine.

There are loads of options out there and the choice can be overwhelming, so we've put together a list of our award-winning reusable nappies. The initial outlay of cost might seem a lot at first, but considering your baby will use approximately 900 nappies before they're into pants, it may well be worth it in the long run. 

Now read:

  • Author: Louella Berryman Louella Berryman
  • Job Title: Audience Development Executive

After training as a journalist at Cardiff University and winning the BBC Best New Brand of the Year Award for her plastic-free magazine, Louella now works in Audience Development across Bauer’s lifestyle brands.
She has also written for The Sunday Times Travel, Grazia, heatworld, Closer Online and her food blog, Louella’s Kitchen. She's interested in writing about food, culture and women's health.

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