Nappy Time

How To Change a Nappy

As a new parent you will no doubt feel a little nervous at the prospect of changing your first ever nappy. Happily, a little bit of practice does go a long way and after your first few changes, you will feel like it's something you've been doing forever. Changing a nappy is straightforward and by following a few simple guidelines you will become a nappy changing expert.

Choosing the Right Nappy

The first decision you need to make when thinking about nappies is whether you want to use disposable nappies, cloth nappies or perhaps a mixture of both. Disposable nappies are convenient. They are portable, can be bought off the shelf and can be disposed of in general waste after use, leaving no mess behind. Cloth or reusable nappies do the same job as a disposable but can be washed and reused. Dirty nappies are placed in a nappy bucket.

Some washable nappies need to be used with absorbent liners, which are placed inside the nappy. These will catch the majority of the soiling whilst some require a waterproof layer too. Other brands have built in waterproof layers that just require liners. The outer nappy linings can be washed either by hand or in a washing machine. Cloth nappies are better for the environment as they create less waste. However, this should be offset by the need to launder more often. Disposable nappies cost less per nappy and the initial outlay of cloth nappies can work out quite expensive, but in the longer term, cloth nappies can work out cheaper to use. Babies will generally spend the first two to three years of their life in nappies, so choosing the right ones will benefit you both.

Whichever type of nappy you choose to use, you need to be aware of the various shapes, sizes and brands that are available. Nappy sizes graduate and change as babies and toddlers get older. You will find that disposable nappies are coded using a numeric system whereby the bigger the number, the bigger the nappy. You will also find weight guides on the nappy packaging to help you choose the right size for your baby. These nappies are secured with sticky or Velcro type tabs that stretch around from the back to the tummy area before fastening on the front of the nappy. Cloth nappies tend to come in small, medium or large sizes and usually have poppers to keep them secure.

There are many different brands available, each offering to solve all of your nappy problems in one way or another. Usually, experimenting with different brands and shapes is the only way to find one that works for you. Some promote the dryness of their nappies, claiming they keep the soiling contained, drawing it away from baby's skin. Others have extra elastication and contoured designs that concentrate on providing a good fit for babies on the go.

What Essentials Do I Need?

There are a few basics that you will need in order to change a nappy. These include cotton wool and water or wipes (either shop bought or reusable ones), a nappy bucket for cloth nappies or nappy sacks for disposables and a changing mat or area.

In the early days, cotton wool and plain water are all that was recommended for wiping over your baby's nappy area. It is soft and gentle and does not contain any harsh chemicals. This will effectively clean the nappy area of newborns, but as they get bigger and older, you may need to resort to wipes to help cleanse the area more effectively. You can also buy scented wipes that leave behind a pleasant odour. Wipes are also more convenient to use when out and about.

The Process of Changing a Nappy

When changing a nappy, the baby needs to be placed on a flat and secure surface. If using a cot top changer or changing unit, ensure baby cannot roll off and fall onto the floor. Even a small baby can change positions surprisingly quickly, so never take your eyes off them. As they grow and start to move around more, the safest place to change them is on the floor. To make this a bit more comfortable you may wish to buy a waterproof, padded changing mat or a foldaway one that can be used when out of the house. The basics of changing a nappy are the same, whichever sort you choose to use. You need to find a safe surface on which to change baby's nappy and have everything you need to hand before you start.

Once you have baby lying down, undo the dirty nappy and remove carefully to avoid any soiling from escaping. Clean the nappy area with cotton wool and water or baby wipes, taking care to clean from front to back on girls and get in all the creases. Then either pat to dry or allow to dry naturally before putting on a clean nappy. Babies have a nasty habit of urinating whilst they are being changed so be prepared. The cold air hitting them sometimes shocks their body, so it is handy to have a spare nappy or towel underneath them or at least nearby, just in case it is needed. With boys, ensure their penis is pointing downwards at all times to avoid being squirted in the face!

Whilst baby is still lying on a safe surface, slip the clean nappy underneath their bottom, lifting the front part up and over the nappy area. Secure the back of the nappy to the front by wrapping it around their tummy. Finish off by disposing the dirty nappy and washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Ensure that your baby is never left unattended on a changing surface where there could be a danger of them falling from a high surface or wriggling into somewhere they shouldn't be.

If your baby does not like having their nappy changed or doesn't stay still enough for you to do it, have some toys handy to keep them entertained. Sing songs or talk to them to get them to focus on something other than moving about.

Nappy Rash

The majority of babies will suffer from nappy rash at some stage. If you notice the nappy area becoming red or inflamed, take some extra precautions to help it to heal and prevent the problem from getting worse. Change dirty nappies as soon as you notice them. The combination of wee and poo on a baby's skin creates ammonia, which is the chemical responsible for the inflammation. Limiting the exposure of this toxic reaction to the skin will prevent it from getting worse. Pay extra attention to cleaning the area and ensure it is completely dry before putting on a clean nappy. Consider using a barrier cream to stop the chemicals sitting on the skin, spreading it liberally over the whole area. Use a medicated cream to help to heal any rash that may already be present by using it sparingly over the affected area. In severe cases, you may need to see a GP who can prescribe medication to help clear up a nasty bout of nappy rash.

You will gradually become more confident about changing nappies the more times you do it. Choose the best type of nappy for you and have everything to hand before you start. If you end up getting 'weed' or 'pooed' on, take heart that you aren't the first and you certainly won't be the last that this happens to. Even the most seasoned nappy changers encounter this at some time or another.

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