It’s never easy when you see that your baby suddenly hates diaper changes. Learn what to do when he fights having his diaper changed.
Diaper changes are tough enough—but what do you do when your baby suddenly doesn’t like them?
My little guy, who was once so easy to change, started to squirm and roll off. Changing on the floor only helped a little, especially since he’d just try to crawl away. And what had started as simple fussing had morphed into a full-on screaming and wrestling match.
He hated diaper changes so much that he’d start whining and inching away the minute he saw me grab the diapers and wipes. And of course, he’d be go back to being completely fine the minute we were done.
To go from calm and content to all of a sudden yelling and wailing can be confusing for any mom. I couldn’t find any sensible reason, either. Our routines hadn’t changed, and his defiance about diaper changes seemed to come out of nowhere. Cleaning a poopy diaper just got even more difficult.
I needed to learn how to stop him from crying during messy diaper changes—and fast.
What to do when your baby suddenly hates diaper changes
Perhaps you can relate all too well.
Maybe your baby acts distressed and fights you each time you carry him to the changing table. Singing or talking to him doesn’t calm him down, much less does wrestling him to the ground. And changing diapers isn’t exactly a task you can avoid—this is something you need to do several times a day.
And why does he dislike the whole process to begin with, especially when this had never been a problem before?
Well, the most common culprit is likely his newfound mobility and curiosity. It’s no coincidence that kids who suddenly can’t stand diaper changes do so right around the time they learn to crawl and are more mobile.
Diaper changes can seem “boring” now, and he’d rather get down and play. The last thing he wants is to sit still in the same place. He may be more conscious of his personal space and doesn’t like to feel contained. And finally, this can also be a sign of his growing independence as he learns to test boundaries.
What can you do to stop him from fighting diaper changes? Take a look at these tips for a few action steps:
1. Change the spot
Could your baby be tired of being changed in the same spot? Try choosing different spots to vary the experience. You might have even more luck picking a spot he already likes.
Let’s say he loves looking at the ceiling fan spin. Take your portable changing mat and change his diaper below the fan, allowing him to watch it move while you clean him up.
And get creative and out-of-the-box! See if he’ll take to a change on the grass in the backyard or on the floor of the living room. Work with his curiosity and desire for new scenery by varying your changing spots.
2. Offer “diaper change only” distraction items
One way to ease your baby’s anxiety and lessen the power struggle? Use distraction. Give her items she normally doesn’t get to use, other than during diaper changes. Keep in mind that these don’t have to be toys, but anything she can hold and explore. You might offer:
- an empty wipes container that crinkles
- your old flip phone
- a rattle she only gets to hold during changes
- sensory or soft books
You might even ask an older sibling to talk and play with her while she’s getting changed. Nothing like having big brother or sister’s attention can make a diaper change feel enjoyable.
The trick is to hand these items to her right before you’re about to change her, not after she’s already fussing. Yes, it might work to calm her down, but if she’s too wired up, no toy or item will work. Your best bet is to hand her the item, be genuinely curious about how it works, and change her soon after.
3. Have all your changing supplies ready
With diaper changes such a challenge as it is, the last thing you need is finding items in the diaper caddy with your baby wailing and kicking.
Instead, long before you even bring him to the changing pad, have everything ready:
- Open a clean diaper
- Pull several wipes out of the container
- Twist open the tub of diaper cream
- Have your distraction item nearby
- Sanitize the portable changing pad
With all your items ready to go, you can focus on him and lessen the time he has to lie on his back.
4. Hold your baby’s ankles as long as possible
Do you keep holding your baby’s ankles and letting them go after each step of the diaper change? Try to hold onto them as long as possible while using your other hand to clean her up. This will make you more efficient and the diaper change much quicker.
For instance, after holding her ankles up, pull the soiled diaper away, wipe her clean, and sneak a clean diaper underneath. All with one hand while your other continues to raise her by the ankles. This way, the minute you let go is when you’ve finished changing the diaper.
5. Sit your baby up as soon as possible
Do you notice that your baby doesn’t like lying down the most? Try sitting him up as soon as you’re able to, typically once you can slide a clean diaper beneath him.
Everything else—strapping it closed, putting his clothes back on—can be done even if he’s in a sitting position. Try to cut the time he lies down by doing whatever you can when he’s sitting up. Once his upper body is upright, he just might stop crying.
6. Have a positive experience
Diaper changes could be difficult when your emotions contribute to a negative experience. It’s especially challenging when you’ve “tried to be nice,” from singing to talking to your baby, only for her to continue crying. Rather than remaining calm, you lose your temper or are harsher with your actions.
Instead, have a positive experience—whether she cries or not.
If speeding through the steps makes you feel anxious, slow down and take your time (yup, even if she’s trying to crawl away). Make funny faces, give her a tickle, blow raspberries on her belly, or sing nursery rhymes.
Yes, it’s frustrating, and you should experience these emotions in an honest way. But part of your game plan could be to make the most of it in a positive way. Your calm and collected demeanor could be all it takes for her to follow suit.
A squirming baby needing a change can definitely test your patience. Thankfully, you now have several tips to try the next time your baby suddenly hates diaper changes.
For starters, vary the spots you change diapers, from out on the yard to beneath the ceiling fan he can’t get enough of. Offer items he can explore—and only use—during a diaper change, making sure to offer it before he cries.
Have all your items opened and ready to go before you even bring him to the changing table. Hold his ankles for as long as possible, and sit him up the minute you can. And finally, focus on having a positive experience, from playing games to staying calm.
No more wrestling with your baby, friend! Now you can have calm diaper changes once again.
Get more tips:
- Adjusting to Motherhood and Life with a Baby
- How to Get Rid of a Diaper Rash in 24 Hours
- What to Do When Your Baby Cries During Diaper Changes
- How to Make Your Baby’s Diaper Changes Easier
- 5 Ways to Keep Your Baby Comfortable in Diapers
Free resource: Is your baby still not sleeping through the night? Join my newsletter and get a preview of How to Teach Your Baby to Self Soothe. This chapter is all about the mindset needed for successful self-soothing and helping your baby put himself to sleep. As one parent said about the ebook:
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