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How to change a nappy

4-minute read

You will change your baby’s nappy thousands of times — the key is having everything you need at hand.

Getting organised

Get everything you need in one place before you start. 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, the baby can’t fall.

Sit down so that you don’t hurt your back. If you’re using a changing table, keep an eye on your baby at all times. Don’t walk away or turn your back, even for a few seconds. Babies falling off change tables when parents are searching for nappies or wipes in bags and other places is a common way for babies to be injured.

Always have a good supply of nappies. If you’re using cloth nappies it might take a while to get used to how they fold and fit. Pre-wash them to make them softer. Take care to choose the right size of nappy and cover for your baby’s weight.

You’ll need a supply of either cotton wool and warm water, or baby wipes. It’s also a good idea to have a spare set of clothes handy, especially in the first few weeks.

Getting started

If your baby’s nappy is dirty, use the nappy to clean off most of the poo from your baby’s bottom. Then use the cotton wool and warm water to remove the rest and get your baby really clean. Nappy wipes can irritate a newborn baby’s skin, so should only be used on healthy looking skin.

Girls should be cleaned from front to back to avoid getting germs into the vagina or the bladder via the urethra. Boys should be cleaned around the testicles (balls) and penis, but there’s no need to pull back the foreskin. It’s just as important to clean carefully when you’re changing a wet nappy. Put on some nappy or barrier cream to help prevent nappy rash. Ask your doctor, pharmacist or early childhood nurse which brand(s) they would recommend. Talcum powder isn’t recommended.

If you’re using cloth nappies, put in a nappy liner then fasten the nappy around your baby. Adjust it to fit snugly round the waist and legs. 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.

It can help to 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.

Once you’ve changed the nappy and dressed your baby, put them in a bouncer or cot or let them play on a clean blanket on the floor. Then get rid of the dirty nappy and wash your hands.

How to change nappies - video

Video provided by Raising Children Network.

For step-by-step guides to changing nappies, see Raising Children Network’s instructions in pictures on changing cloth nappies and disposable nappies.

Nappy hygiene

Put as much of the contents as you can down the toilet. If you’re using nappies with disposable liners, the liner can be flushed away, but it’s best to only flush liners that are soiled with poo. Don’t flush the nappy as it can block the toilet.

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 can be machine washed at 60°C, or you could use a local nappy laundry service.

To avoid infection, wash your hands after changing a nappy and before doing anything else.

Safety tips

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2020

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Need more information?

Disposable nappies: Aboriginal parents | Raising Children Network

Use this picture guide for Aboriginal parents to see how to change disposable nappies or kimbies. Check nappies often and change dirty nappies right away.

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How to choose a nappy for your baby

Choosing which nappy you will use for your baby will depend on what is important to you and your family.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Nappy rash

Most babies will get nappy rash at some point in their first 18 months. Find out more, including how to recognise, treat and prevent nappy rash.

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Nappy Rash | Tresillian

A common ailment for babies is nappy rash, a type of dermatitis occurring in the area covered by the nappy, where baby develops a sore, red rash. Learn what causes nappy rash and how to treat it in this tip sheet. If the rash won't go away, seek professional advice.

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Nappy rash treatment and prevention | Raising Children Network

Nappy rash is common and can happen no matter how carefully you look after your baby’s bottom. You can take simple steps to treat and prevent nappy rash.

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Nappy rash -

Nappy rash can result from contact dermatitis, or from a fungal thrush infection. Find out how to manage this condition and when you should see your doctor.

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ACD A-Z of Skin - Nappy rash

Nappy rash is a common, irritant dermatitis occurring in the nappy area, mostly in children under the age of two years. It is not primarily an infection or the result of poor hygiene.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Toilet training: when and how to do it | Raising Children Network

Children might be ready for toilet training if they have dry nappies, know about poos and wees, and can pull up pants. Here’s how to toilet train your child.

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Cloth nappies & disposable nappies | Raising Children Network

What nappies should you use for your baby? Our guide takes you through the pros and cons of cloth nappies and disposable nappies to help you decide.

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Poos and wees

Babies have very delicate skin and need changing soon after they wet themselves or passed a stool (poo) to prevent nappy rash and stop them from smelling.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

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The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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