guide to nappy changing
Baby basics

Complete guide to nappy changing

With a bit of practice, and after a few weeks, you’ll soon become a nappy-changing expert. We asked Midwife and breastfeeding consultant Clare Boyle for her top tips on nappy changing – here’s her complete guide to nappy changing.

In the first few years of your child’s life, you’re going to change a lot of nappies – around 6000, in fact, so choosing the right kind of nappy is important. In the end, your choice of nappy will depend on what factors are most important to you and your family.

What kind of nappies could I use?

You can choose between disposable nappies, which you throw away after one use, or cloth/terry nappies, which need to be washed after use and can be used again and again. Your choice will depend on your own lifestyle and ideas, your budget and your time.

Cloth/Terry nappies:

These nappies consist of an inner cloth nappy and an outer nappy cover, there are many different brands available and many are designed to be used from newborn to two years of age. Pins are no longer used with cloth nappies, clips or the nappy cover hold the nappy in place so they are very easy to use.

When there is soiling the inner cloth nappy is removed and soaked for 24 hours and then put in the regular wash.  There is also the option of having an additional liner that is disposable to limit the soiling on the cloth nappy itself.  The nappy cover will only need to washed periodically and they come in fun, colourful patterns and styles.

Disposable nappies:

These nappies are made from extremely absorbent synthetic material. They normally have sticky tabs to close and secure them. They are usually sold in sizes relating to the weight of the baby rather than the age. Is therefore important to have an idea of how much your baby weighs. In the first few months babies need changing more often so you will need more nappies than later on. You may need about 6-8 nappies a day for the first few months.

There are two types of disposable nappies; compostable nappies which are biodegradable or regular disposable nappies which will take several years to break down in the landfill. Compostable nappies compare favourably to the non-compostable nappy for soakage and leaking and cost.

How many nappies will I need?

Stock up on nappies before your baby arrives. If you are using disposables, you can expect your baby to get through about eight to 10 nappies a day when she is a newborn.  Buying in bulk can really save money. You may want to try a few types in the early days before buying your full amount.

You’ll need between 15 and 20 nappies if you plan to use reusable nappies full-time, or between eight and 10 if you plan to use them some of the time. To treat stains, you can soak nappies in a sanitising solution for an hour or two before washing them.

Nappy station

In the first few weeks, it helps to have a  ‘nappy changing station’ (nappies, barrier cream, wipes, cotton wool and water, as well as new babygros and vests) in two or three areas of your home.

What do I use to clean my baby’s bottom?

There are a variety of baby wipes, which are suitable for using on a new baby. However, in the beginning you could use just cotton wool and water as your new baby’s skin could be sensitive. There is no need to use soap as it can dry out the natural oils of the baby’s skin.

Buying a large roll of ‘hospital’ cotton wool is much cheaper than bags of cotton wool balls or pleats. You can change to baby wipes later if they suit your baby’s skin. Using a nappy cream after cleaning your baby’s bottom can help protect against nappy rash. A thin film of it is enough around the bottom and genital area.

Do it regularly

You should change your baby’s nappies regularly. Your baby’s urine, combined with the bacteria in her poo, may make her skin sore and lead to nappy rash. Change your baby’s nappy before or after every feed, or whenever she’s done a poo.

If your baby wakes in the night for a feed, change the nappy as part of your usual routine. Your newborn baby will poo several times a day and pee every two to three hours. Wetness doesn’t bother most babies though, so don’t expect her to cry or show discomfort every time she needs changing.

Disposable nappies absorb moisture particularly well, so you may not always be able to gauge their wetness until they’re soaked. Check nappies at every feed. Some disposable nappies for young babies have a wetness indicator on them. This is a line that changes colour if the nappy is wet. This isn’t necessary, but it’s a handy way to tell if it’s time for a change.

Make it easy

Keep distractions handy. If your baby fusses and squirms during changes, hang a mobile over the changing area, put up pictures or mirrors for your baby to focus on. Or give your baby a small toy to play with.

Enjoy it!

Nappy changes offer a chance for special one-on-one time. Talk and sing to your baby, pointing out the different parts of your baby’s body and explaining what you’re doing.
Once your baby is cleaned up, try a few simple songs or play a bit of peekaboo and have a cuddle once you’ve finished changing your baby.

Step by step guide to changing a nappy

1. Prepare

  • Try to gather all the things you will need before you start.
  • Place the baby on a flat safe surface, this may be a changing unit, or on the floor or on a bed. If you have the baby on a raised surface such as changing table or bed be sure to keep one hand on the baby and don’t turn your back on the baby.  Even though a newborn won’t be wriggling that much it is good practice to get into the habit of always having a hand on baby because within a few months the baby will be able to roll and move.
  • If you are not using a changing unit, place a changing mat or towel under the baby to prevent staining or leaks.

2. Doing it

  • Open or remove the baby’s lower clothing. Sometimes you may need to remove the babies vest or other clothing if they have become wet or soiled.
  • Open the nappy, if the nappy is just wet, remove the nappy then use a baby wipe or wet cotton wool to wipe.
  • For a girl, it is best to wipe front to back and discard the wipe and then wipe front to back again to avoid bringing bowel bacteria into the vaginal and urethral area.  There is no need to use baby powder.  In the days after birth it is not unusual for a girl to have a small amount of blood or white discharge, this is normal and is due to hormonal changes.
  • For a boy, wipe front to back but also you can put a cotton wool ball over the penis just in case baby decides to pee because it can go everywhere and you will end up having to change all his clothes!
  • If the nappy is dirty, use the front part to clean away some of the poo from the baby’s bottom then tuck the front under the baby’s bottom to cover the dirty part of the nappy while you clean.
  • Cleaning the babies bottom may be easier if you hold his feet up and away from his/her bottom.
  • Pat the bottom dry with some tissue or soft cloth, taking care to dry any little creases of the baby’s skin
  • Remove the dirty nappy from under the baby.

3.  Nearly finished

  • You may wish to put the nappy and wipes etc. into a nappy sack or plastic bag before putting it in the bin.
  • Place a clean nappy under the baby’s bottom, making sure that it reaches up to the back of his/her waist.
  • Smear on some nappy cream.
  • Secure the tabs of the nappy.
  • If using cloth nappies put on a nappy and the nappy cover.
  • Make sure the nappy is not too loose or too tight.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Dress the baby again.

About Clare: Clare Boyle is a Midwife and Breastfeeding Consultant, she teaches the Preparing for Breastfeeding Class for pregnant women and their partners in Cork & Limerick and also teaches an Antenatal workshop and has a breastfeeding clinic and runs a breastfeeding support group in Cork.  For more information on any of her services go to

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Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.



Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….