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Why Your Baby Cries During Diaper Changes

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD
Updated
9 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?

Crying can signal a wet or poopy diaper. Still, you’re probably wondering why your baby cries during every change and how to put an end to these diaper changing battles.

Let’s discuss the various reasons your baby may cry during a diaper change. We’ll also talk about ways to keep them happy during the process.


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. Often, there could be a number of reasons why your baby is getting so distraught.

  • Cold: A lot of babies, especially newborns, hate the coldness accompanying diaper changes.
  • 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, the trust will build.
  • 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 in the midst of play.
  • 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 and 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 are going to 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, they’ll 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 even paint a mural on a nearby wall.
  • Change baby standing up: If your baby has a wet diaper, try changing them standing up.

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

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Make Diaper Changes Fun

It’s completely normal for babies to go through phases of hating diaper changes, and there could be some reasons why they get so distraught during them. Your baby could be cold, hungry, or even just upset they can’t explore and practice their newfound skills of sitting up or crawling.

But diaper changes don’t have to be stressful times. End the changing battles by creating distractions, getting silly, narrating your actions, and taking the time to connect with your baby. No one approach will always work, so be sure to try different things to keep your baby happy.

Headshot of Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD

Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett is a veteran board-certified 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.
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