How to Change a Diaper for Beginners (Step-By-Step)

Sometimes I forget how intimidating changing that first diaper can be.

I’ve changed a lot of diapers. I’ve changed disposables and cloth diapers of all kinds. Once, in a pinch, I even helped pin on a promotional t-shirt until the missing diaper bag arrived. But that doesn’t mean I don’t remember that first one, when I was about 14-years-old and babysitting for a neighbor — I remember it because I had no idea what I was doing.

So, if this is you now, take a deep breath, it’s not as hard as it looks, we’re going to go through it now.

Important Rules for Changing Diapers

Before you start, know that there are two important rules to follow when to keep baby safe during changing time:

  • Never, ever leave a baby alone on a high surface like a changing table or bed.
  • Have everything ready and with you before you start, so you don’t have to break the first rule by searching for something mid-change.

What Items Do You Need to Change a Diaper?

Not only is it safer for the baby to gather the things you’re going to need for changing beforehand, but it also might mean a lot less clean up for you. Once that diaper is off, so is any barrier between you, your carpet, your furniture, etc. and whatever may come out of that baby bum at any minute.

So, what do you need to change a diaper? Here’s a list:

  • A clean diaper
  • Something to clean baby’s dirty bum with — a disposable baby wipe or a moist reusable wipe are best.
  • Diaper cream — if using a cloth diaper, make sure it’s “cloth friendly.”
  • Something to change baby on — a changing mat is ideal but an old towel or any soft fabric you can use to protect the surface under your baby from mess will do in a pinch.
  • Something to put the dirty diaper in — a trash can, diaper pail or just a plastic bag will do.

How to Change a Diaper Step-By-Step

  1. Put the changing mat or another cover down where you’re changing your baby. Put the clean diaper next to it.
  2. Lay your baby on the changing mat.
  3. Open the diaper’s tabs, Velcro, snaps, or pins.
  4. Take off the dirty diaper by gently lifting your baby’s ankles with one hand and folding the diaper in half under your baby’s bottom before pulling it away with the other hand.
  5. Put the dirty diaper aside, making sure it’s out of baby’s reach.
  6. Use a wipe to clean your baby’s bum and genitals. Dry him off. If your baby is a girl, wipe from front to back to avoid any germs from her bottom getting into her urinary tract and causing an infection.
  7. If your baby’s bottom or genital area appears red or irritated, put some diaper cream on the area.
  8. Lift your baby’s ankles with one hand and use the other to put the clean diaper under the bum. with the tabs at the back.*
    If you’re using a disposable, make sure the diaper is up nice and high; if using a cloth diaper, sit the back of the diaper lower, near the hips.
  9. With the baby lying on the clean diaper, pull the tabs up and around to the front securing them with the tabs, Velcro, snaps, or safety pins. If your baby is a boy, point his penis down so when he pees, it goes into the diaper, not up the front.
  10. Put your baby somewhere safe, such as on the floor or in their bouncy chair.
  11. If you’re using a disposable diaper, put the dirty diaper in the trash. If you’re using a cloth diaper, dispose of any solids in the toilet and put the soiled diaper in your diaper pail or wet bag until washing.
  12. Wash your hands thoroughly, ideally with an antibacterial soap.

*Some cloth diapers, like GroVia have reverse tabs. Familiarize yourself with the diaper and make sure the back of the diaper is placed under baby’s bum during the change.


April is Violet's mom. April founded Babies for Beginners in 2020, following the success of her first authority website, Cloth Diapers for Beginners. April is an author and experienced writer with 15 years of experience writing, publishing, and editing for various newspapers, magazines, books, and blogs.

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