Having a 2-year old means your family is transitioning… and in a big way! Say goodbye to breastfeeding and teething and “hello” to challenges like tantrums and their new favorite word – “NO!”
As a mom of two daughters, I not-so-fondly remember the stress that consumed me during nappy change time. With a squirmy and wriggly two-year old like mine, trying to relax during nappy changing time became impossible.
Finding myself increasingly frustrated, I researched approaches and techniques to not only survive, but THRIVE during nappy changes.
Here is my motherly advice on what to do when your 2-year old fights nappy change time:
Think About Your Routine
Let’s face it, life with a toddler is anything but predictable. However, creating an environment grounded in routine may provide your child with a sense of calm, confidence and security.
As parents, we tend to prioritize meals, baths and naps… so why not do the same with nappy changes? Consider it one of the anchors to your daily schedule.
Whether it’s getting ready in the morning or winding down for bedtime, try introducing regular nappy changes into a series of already familiar events. With persistence and patience, hopefully you and your child will get into a groove where changing a nappy isn’t a wrestling match, but a special time for bonding and connection.
Routines don’t happen overnight so take it one day at a time.
Go Back to Basics
Even though your child is getting older, don’t neglect those tried and true best practices before, during and after nappy changes. This includes maintaining appropriate eye contact, talking out loud in a positive and encouraging tone of voice and being mindful of your nonverbal communication.
Sing a song or initiate conversation by asking questions like, “How old is Emily?,” “How much does mommy love you?,” or “Where’s your nose… brown eyes… curly hair?” Also, have all necessary items prepared and within proximity because ease and speed are always an underlying goal.
In my personal experience, unexpected changes or deviations to a routine can be stressful for toddlers. So yeah, that’s why your 2 year-old isn’t thrilled when you suddenly interrupt playtime to get wiped down and changed.
Setting clear time expectations in advance may help if your two year old fights nappy change time! Since little ones don’t have the best sense of time yet, avoid giving a “5-minute warning.”
Use kid-friendly cues like “after we brush our teeth,” or “when your show is over.” Toddlers are very perceptive so set expectations that you can consistently follow through on.
This verbal approach may help your child anticipate being changed and perhaps make you feel more in control too.
(Re)Focus Their Attention
The mind of a 2 year-old can feel like it’s always on super-drive. Author, James Windell, says: "kids this age are curious about so many things that they're often going in several directions at once."
When it’s time for a nappy change, first eliminate distractions by turning off television or music, remove toys within their reach and/or retreat to a quiet, comforting location. Then, purposefully focus their attention by introducing something that keeps their hands AND minds engaged.
Other options to consider may include soft covered books, a favorite stuffed animal, hand-held figurines or if they are like my girls - the remote control.
Research on this age group has shown that toddlers have a desire and instinct to help… so let them! If your 2-year old fights nappy change time, try involving them in the process.
Empower your little one with simple and fun jobs. Have them hold up their shirt or dress, hand you wipes and apply a dab of lotion to themselves (under your guidance of course).
It may sound silly but my daughters always loved throwing away their dirty nappy and washing their hands with me in the sink. They saw themselves as a “big girl,” so we had to start treating them as such. Children are routine oriented so build engagement activities as part of their nappy change time.
Regardless if you use cloth or disposable nappies, as your toddler continues to get older and more active, you may want to consider a pull-up style. It’s definitely an age-appropriate alternative.
Pull-ups offer the protection and comfort of a traditional nappy while also building independence and confidence. When you make the switch, celebrate this big step! Talk it up for a few days, take your little one to the store and let them pick some out as many have cute designs or characters.
Involving them in the process and offering choices may prevent your 2-year old from fighting nappy changing time.
Switch It Up
If you are struggling with a wriggly baby or toddler who won’t lay or hold still, it may be time to try a creative approach… changing your child while they are standing. Yes, standing up!
While not ideal for every nappy change, this technique may come in handy during those tough meltdown moments (we’ve all been there) or when using a public restroom. If just the thought of it sounds ergonomically impossible, check out Lifehacker.com where they break it down step-by-step.
Mom advice: when changing this way, double check all areas and crevices are totally clean before putting on the new traditional or pull-up nappy.
The ‘P’ Word
Yes, we have to talk about it… potty training. If your 2-year old fights nappy changes it may be because they are ready for that next stage. There are many signs toddlers are ready to ditch the diaper - including predictable pee and bowel movements.
You know your child best. As a mom, all I can say is follow their lead, love and support them unconditionally and expect many highs and lows.
Zone of Control
My oldest was 2 ½ years-old when my other daughter was born. One day, still in my stained pajamas at noon, messy bun and downing my third cup of coffee, my mom clearly saw I was an overwhelmed, emotional wreck.
In that moment she simply said, “One thing at a time, know your zone of control.” What she meant was, focus on what you need to do, pick your battles and stay grounded in the present. Easier said than done, right?
I do hold that advice close to my heart and in self-reflection realized I was taking on too much. I wasn’t asking for help, was internalizing stress and became consumed with my laundry list of to-dos.
My husband and I reworked our schedule to cluster our girls’ care and chores, identified optimal times for routine nappy changes and built-in (some) downtime.
As parents we carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. Honestly, the amount of multitasking we do on any given day should count as a superhuman power! Life isn’t a picture-perfect commercial.
Not every nappy change is a magical experience with rainbows and butterflies. Quite the opposite. Being a parent is hard, never-done work. Yes, your toddler will squirm, wriggle, scream, run naked and have accidents on your new rug. As they should – they’re kids!
You Have the Tools When Your 2-Year Old Fights Nappy Change
Believe it or not, the “Terrible 2’s” is a wondrous time of growth and development. There’s nothing better than watching your little one’s personality come to life, explore their newfound independence and absorb the world like a sponge.
Years from now when your child enters their teenage years, you’ll fondly look back at these “remember when toddler days” wishing the biggest problems were nappy changes.
So, take a deep breath, show yourself love and grace… because this too shall pass.
About the Author
Nicole Giammarinaro is a proud wife and mom of two young girls. For over 15 years, she has worked full-time in healthcare as a registered nurse and administrator. Nicole enjoys spending quality time with her family, writing, bike riding and a sipping on perfect cup of tea.
Happiest Baby, article entitled, “Why a Toddler Routine Is Important at Every Stage,” accessed via https://www.happiestbaby.com/blogs/toddler/toddler-routine
Parents.com, article entitled, “Understanding Your 2 Year-Olds Mood Swings,” accessed via https://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/development/behavioral/understanding-your-2-year-olds-mood-swings/
Psychology Today, article entitled, “Toddlers Want to Help, and We Should Let Them,” accessed via https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/freedom-learn/201809/toddlers-want-help-and-we-should-let-them
Lifehacker.com, article entitled, “How to Diaper a Standing 2 Year-Old,” accessed via https://lifehacker.com/how-to-diaper-a-standing-2-year-old-125622