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Baby Cries During Diaper Changes: 9 Tips to Help You Cope

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD
Nine ways to cope with diaper changing battles.

Does your baby scream and wail every time you change their diaper? Do you dread having to change them in public because they’ll cry hysterically?

As moms, we’ve experienced the diaper-changing battle more times than we can count. We’ve written this article to explain the various reasons your baby cries during diaper changes.

We’ve also included nine helpful techniques for making diaper changes easier on everyone. These solutions have worked for us and hundreds of other caregivers, and we’re sure they’ll help you too.

Key Takeaways

  • Almost all babies hate diaper changes at some point, but there could be several reasons why your baby is getting so distraught. Some reasons could be that they are cold, hungry, don’t know what’s going on, wants to be in charge of their body and time, or prevent newfound skills.
  • If you think your baby might have a medical issue causing them to be extremely fussy during diaper changes, then schedule an appointment with your baby’s doctor.
  • There are nine ways to avoid the fighting and make diaper changes fun again: give forewarning, use distraction, slow down and connect, get silly, sing a song, keep baby warm, narrate your actions, create a view, and change baby standing up.

Why Your Baby May Hate Diaper Changes

If your baby is fussy during diaper changes, you’re not alone, mama. Almost all babies hate diaper changes at some point. There could be several reasons why your baby is getting so distraught.

Why babies cry during diaper changes

  • Cold: A lot of babies, especially newborns, hate the coldness they experience when undressed. Combine that with cold wipes on their tushie, and you have a recipe for an angry child.
  • Hungry: If you’re changing before feedings, your baby may be too hungry to wait to be fed. Try changing after feedings instead.
  • Don’t know what’s going on: Most newborns simply hate diaper changes because they don’t know what’s going on. Over time, as they become familiar with the diaper changing routine, they’ll understand.
  • Wants to be in charge of body and time: As your baby gets older, they’ll want to be more in charge of their body and time. They’ll hate to be swept away while during playtime.
  • Prevents newfound skills: Laying your baby on their back for a diaper change prevents them from exploring their newfound skills (rolling, sitting up, crawling, etc.). They don’t like feeling restricted.

Could There Be A Medical Concern?

If you think your baby might have a medical issue causing them to be extremely fussy during diaper changes, then trust your mom instinct. Schedule an appointment with your baby’s doctor.

Ending The Diaper Changing Battles

Diaper changes sure can be challenging when your baby despises them. But they don’t need to cause anxiety for you or your baby. Here are nine ways to avoid the fighting and make diaper changes fun again:

  • Give forewarning: Wouldn’t you hate it if someone just swooped you up and started doing stuff to you? Avoid a power struggle and create trust by always telling your baby what you will do before you start.
  • Use distraction: Keep some small, fun objects near the changing supplies, and only allow the baby to play with them during diaper changes. Reserving them for diaper changes will help keep their novelty. You could also hand your baby a diaper, the remote, your hairbrush, or the diaper cream to hold on to.
  • Slow down and connect: Take a deep breath and take your time. If you rush, your child will feed off your anxiety, and it won’t be any fun for either of you. Use this one-on-one time to reconnect and bond with your baby.
  • Get silly: Get your baby laughing by tickling, making funny faces, or blowing on their belly.
  • Sing a song: Save a few of your baby’s favorite songs for changing times. This will get them distracted, smiling, and possibly even looking forward to diaper changes.
  • Keep baby warm: Change diapers in the warmest area of the house, or swaddle their upper body. You could also blow warm air onto your baby’s chest while changing or invest in a wipe warmer.
  • Narrate your actions: In a calm voice, tell your baby exactly what you’re doing as you do it. Be sure to make plenty of eye contact as well. This sets a positive tone and shows them they are respected.
  • Create a view: Create a lovely, sensory-filled space to change those diapers. Put the changing table by a window, hang a baby mobile over the changing pad, or paint a mural on a nearby wall.
  • Change baby standing up: If your older baby has a wet diaper, try changing them while they’re standing up.

Remember, no single approach will always work, so be open to trying different things.

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How Long Do Babies Hate Diaper Changes?

All babies are different, so how long your child will hate diaper changes depends on them.

Some kids stay totally docile through all of their diaper changes, and others hate changes right from the start. It’s difficult to say how long your little one will rage against the idea of having their diaper changed.

How Do You Know If a Diaper Is Too Small?

Follow the 2-finger rule when it comes to diaper sizing. If you can fit two fingers into the waistband of your little one’s diaper, that means it’s the right size. If you can’t fit two fingers, it’s time to buy your baby diapers in a size up. Make sure the diapers aren’t too loose, either!

Is It Ok to Go All Night Without Changing a Diaper?

That will depend on the night. Say your little one is sound asleep all night and doesn’t wake up crying. If that happens, it’s perfectly fine not to change their diaper.

If they do wake up, try not to change their diaper unless they absolutely need it. Limiting how much stimulation they get at night will help them learn to sleep for longer periods of time.

Should I Change a Poopy Diaper if My Baby Is Sleeping?

If your baby is sleeping, it’s best to let them sleep. Unless the poopy diaper is irritating them and causing them to wake up crying, it’s safe to leave the diaper as is for a little while.

As long as you’re going to change the diaper in a few hours, leaving it poopy for a bit won’t hurt them.

Do You Use a Diaper Cream With Every Diaper Change?

We recommend using diaper cream with every diaper change because it prevents diaper rash from ever appearing in the first place.

Make sure to apply the diaper cream gently and use a brand with natural ingredients that won’t irritate your baby’s skin. Diaper cream is essential to keep your little one from pain and fungal infection.

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Headshot of Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD

Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett is a veteran licensed pediatrician with three decades of experience, including 19 years of direct patient clinical care. She currently serves as a medical consultant, where she works with multiple projects and clients in the area of pediatrics, with an emphasis on children and adolescents with special needs.