When to change a nappy
Babies need frequent nappy changes.
Babies have very delicate skin so their nappy needs to be changed as soon as they wet or poo themselves, otherwise their skin becomes sore and red.
Changing your baby’s nappy as soon as possible after they’ve done a wee or poo will help prevent nappy rash.
Young babies may need changing as many as 10 or 12 times a day, while older babies need to be changed around 6 to 8 times.
What you need for nappy changing
Before you change your baby's nappy, wash your hands and get everything you need in 1 place, including:
- a changing mat or towel
- cotton wool and a bowl of warm water, or fragrance and alcohol-free baby wipes
- a plastic bag or bucket for the dirty nappy and dirty cotton wool or wipes
- barrier cream to protect your baby's skin
- a clean nappy (and liner and cover if you're using cloth nappies)
- clean clothes
Where to change a nappy
The best place to change a nappy is on a changing mat or towel on the floor, particularly if you have more than one baby.
That way, if you need to see to another child for a moment, your baby can't fall. It's best done sitting down so you don't hurt your back.
If you're using a changing table, keep an eye on your baby at all times. You shouldn't rely on the straps to keep your baby secure. Never walk away or turn your back.
Older babies may try to wriggle away when you're changing them. You could give them a toy or use a mobile to distract them.
How to change a nappy
It's just as important to clean your baby fully whether they have wet themselves or done a poo.
If your baby's nappy is dirty, use the nappy to clean off most of the poo from their bottom.
Then use the cotton wool and plain warm water (or baby wipes) to remove the rest and get your baby really clean.
Clean the whole nappy area gently but thoroughly and make sure you clean inside the folds of skin.
Girls should be cleaned from front to back to avoid getting germs into their vagina.
Boys should be cleaned around the testicles (balls) and penis, but there's no need to pull back their foreskin.
If it's warm enough, let your baby lie on the changing mat without a nappy on for a while. Wearing a nappy all the time makes nappy rash more likely.
If you're using disposable nappies, take care not to get water or cream on the sticky tabs as they won't stick if you do.
If you're using cloth nappies, put in a nappy liner and then fasten the nappy. Adjust it to fit snugly round the waist and legs.
Chat to your baby while you're changing them. Pulling faces, smiling and laughing with your baby will help you bond and help their development.
Try not to show any disgust at what's in their nappy. You don't want your baby to learn that doing a poo is something unpleasant or negative.
Disposable nappies can be rolled up and resealed using the tabs. Put them in a plastic bag kept only for nappies, then tie it up and put it in an outside bin.
Washable cloth nappies don't have to be soaked before they're washed, but you may choose to soak them to help get the stains off. Check the washing instructions first.
Cloth nappies can be machine washed at 60C, or you could use a local nappy laundry service.
There's no evidence that using washing powders with enzymes (bio powders) or fabric conditioners will irritate your baby's skin.
Wash nappies that are dirty with poo separately from your other washing.
To avoid infection, wash your hands after changing a nappy before you do anything else.
If your baby's old enough, they can wash their hands with you as it's a good habit to get into.