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Why Your Baby Cries During Diaper Changes

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD
Updated
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.


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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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.