Tuesday, 22 November 2011

How to: change a nappy!

There are many many things that no-one tells you before you give birth to your first child.  There are many more things that no-one shows you before you give birth.  Mostly because those who have given birth forget what it was that they didn't know beforehand!  It's such a fast learning curve.

I do remember not having the first clue how to change a nappy (diaper- for you folk across the pond) and having to actually ask the nurse in the hospital what to do.  So, with the help of a dolly that is unfortunately covered in face paint, (and that's a dolly, not a baby.  I do so hate it when women refer to dollies as babies, and it can be dangerously confusing for young children with new siblings), so with the help of a dolly, a dolly-size nappy (for ease of demonstration) and a baby size nappy (so show you how the elastic on them works), here it goes..

1.  Be Prepared

Ensure you have got everything ready.  If you are using disposable nappies with wipes, then you need a couple of clean nappies within arms reach (sometimes one isn't enough - I'll get to that in a minute!) You also need your packet of wipes open already, with one wipe already sticking up ready to grab (it's not as easy to get those things out of the packet one handed, especially if it's a new packet).  Finally you need your nappy bag/sack ready and "open", so that the used nappy can be dropped straight into it.  (A nappy bag/sack looks much like a sandwich bag, but is generally scented and degrades faster than other plastic bags making it a good plan to keep odours at bay in the short term and to protect the environment in the long term.)  Make sure the bag is within your reach, but out of reach of the baby!

Those of you sticking with the washable reusable nappies will need a couple of clean nappies ready and a safe place to keep the dirty nappy until the washing machine is next turned on.

If you are avoiding wipes and prefer cotton wool and water, then you'll need a bowl of water and some cotton wool balls within arms reach.

All of you will need a changing mat on a flat surface.  Changing tables are good to start with, but be wary of them after a few weeks.  You can't step away from them at all, as you can guarantee that the day you do will be the day your baby decides to roll over for the first time ever.  You don't want them rolling off.

2.  Establish the Damage!

The first job is the disposal of the old nappy.  With your baby lying flat on their back on a changing mat, release the sticky tabs on either side of the nappy one at a time.  Whilst you do the second one, ensure to hold the front of the nappy still.  You don't want to release it until you are absolutely ready.  This is because, both boys and girls have an early tendency to wee the second the air gets to their bottoms.  In the case of boys this is often straight up into the air, right where your head is!  The best plan is to lift the front of the nappy gently upwards, peeking under to establish what damage you are facing, but keeping good protection between the two of you.  Lifting the nappy slightly in this way will, as I said, often cause a further wee.  So I often used to wait in this position for a moment, talking to my baby and letting her kick her legs a little.

3.  Disposal

After a minute or so, holding the babies ankles with one hand, use the other hand to gently wipe the front of the nappy down the bottom (from front to back), pushing the front piece of the nappy against the back piece.

This 'folds' the nappy, keeps any contents covered up and out of reach of any loose kicking feet, and provides continued protection under baby in case of further toileting! 

You then need to wipe the area clean.  I did this, at least to start with, with the old nappy still in it's folded position.  This enabled me to slot any used wipes into the edge of the nappy.  Wipe gently and carefully (with either wipes, or warm dampened cotton wool balls (not hot!)).  You should always wipe from front through to back.  This is particularly important for girls, who could get infections if poo is wiped into their 'front bottom' (to use my 5 year old daughter's terminology!)

Once you are happy the area is clean, remove the nappy entirely and place into the nappy bag/sack or nappy bin for washing.

Many disposal nappies now have a handy tab on the back of them.  I didn't know what this was for for ages!  If you pull the tab it releases a strip of sticky tape that you can use to wrap around the nappy holding it closed.  It's very useful!

Finally wipe clean any other area you may have previously missed.  If your child has done a poo, ideally the poo should be deposited into the toilet before you then put the nappy itself into the nappy sack. (I appreciate this won't always happen, particularly if you are nowhere near a toilet at the time!)

This is a good time, if you can bear it, to leave you baby without a nappy on for a few minutes.  The air will reduce the risk of nappy rash, and baby will enjoy a good kick unhampered by a nappy.


4.  Round 2

The difficult bit is putting a new nappy on in such a way that it a) doesn't fall off the second you pick baby up, and b) doesn't leak.

Leaking nappies are caused by three things.  Either the nappy is too big for baby, and therefore you can't get a snug enough fit to avoid leaks.  The nappy hasn't been put on correctly and therefore doesn't have a snug enough fit to avoid leaks.  Or the nappy is too small for the volume that baby is now producing, meaning no matter how snug the fit is, it will still leak.

The answer is fairly straight forward.

If you look carefully at the disposable nappy design you will notice that there are two elasticated sections.  Just like pants, the elasticated section on the inside (that I am pinching in this picture) is supposed to fit snugly around the top of babies legs without it being folded over or crumpled.  To check this, simply slid your finger around the nappy at the top of the leg to ensure the elastic is placed correctly.  For washable nappies, it's a case of practising with your folds to ensure a snug fit.  I haven't used washables myself, so if anyone has any pictures to help demonstrate the folding, please send them in!

And finally, those sticky tabs or safety pins!  I've seen babies nappies done up so tight the poor baby has cried from tummy ache.  In my experience the sticky tabs may touch each other in the first few weeks for newborns, but generally speaking, after that, there's usually a gap between each tab of approximately a finger width.  You can check the tightness in the same way to check is a skirt fit you correctly.  Again, simply run your finger around waist between tummy and nappy.  You should be able to do this comfortably, yet snugly.  You'll then learn, throughout the day, if you did it too loosely or not!

And there you have it.  Do that 10 times a day for a couple of weeks and an expert you will be!


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  2. Thank you for the recommendation. I will take a look!

  3. One thing to remember about boys, esp. when they are in pull-ups. Always make sure Mr Willy is facing downwards!! Otherwise, the nappy is dry and the tops and vest wet! :o(

  4. Good point Amanda, thanks. I would imagine it's a good idea to hold Mr W gently in a pointing down position too. Unless you want an eyeful! Ouch.


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