I was living the first parent dream. My newborn seemed to have no problem with nappy changes. After hearing friends describe their nappy changing nightmares, I thought I was blessed with a perfect little nappy changing angel.
Oh, how very wrong I was.
At the 1-month old mark, my little angel started screaming and crying during her nappy changes. I can still remember the high pitched squeals that filled the nursery.
The worst part was watching my little girl cry made me cry. As a mother, I worried I was doing something wrong. I referred to it as “nappy torture”. It was the part of the day I most dreaded - and it happened 5-7 times a day!
After months of trial and error, I began to figure out strategies on how to calm my baby’s screaming and crying. Now, I’d like to share my experience with you so you can have strategies for when your baby screams during nappy change time.
What To Do When Baby Screams During Nappy Change: 11 Mother Tested Tips
Gently Swing Baby’s Hips
Most parents tend to lift their baby’s legs over their head when doing a nappy change. While this is an accepted nappy changing technique, many parents will find that this is the point where their baby cries the most.
Parenting YouTuber Marta Ures has a nice video on the technique:
Personally, I find that gently swinging my baby’s hips side-to-side is a more effective technique to keep my baby from screaming and crying during nappy changing. The gentle back-and-forth motion can be soothing for the baby and you will find it can help position them nicely in their fresh nappy.
Establish a Predictable Routine
My baby thrives on routine and consistency. I find that routine helps my baby feel comfortable and builds trust between us.
Magda Gerber, a beloved childhood educator, found that “In a predictable environment, and with regular, dependable schedules, they [babies] feel comfortable, cry less, and life is easier for both infant and parents.”
What are some ways I stick to routine during nappy changing time?
- Change her nappy in the same location as much as possible;
- Sing the same song during nappy changing time (my go-to is “Baby Shark”);
- Performing nappy changing tasks in order (put baby down, get our nappy, remove wipes, wipe, and put clean nappy back on);
The routine of nappy changing time helps prevent my baby from screaming during nappy change. It’s not something you can suddenly do, but a routine is something that is established over weeks and sometimes months.
If you baby isn’t responding to your current routine, try switching things up and see if another style works.
Distract Your Baby with A Toy
One of my top strategies or what to do when my baby screams during nappy change time is distracting them with a toy. I found the best way to distract my baby was to always have several toys ready that she could interact and play with.
Having toys ready helps her associate nappy changes with fun and interactive play and helps distract from the unpleasant fact that she is happy her nappy changed.
With a few fun toys by my side, nappy changing time is a lot less painful. Some of my favorite distractions are small books, hanging toys, toys with mirrors, and toys that make noise.
What works best for us is to have the toy be something she only gets to play with during her nappy change. If your baby feels like nappy changing time is “special” there it will certainly help with the screaming, squirming and crying.
Don’t Start A Nappy Change If the Baby Is Already Screaming
Anytime I tried to start a nappy change when my baby was already upset, her crying and screaming escalated. What I learned was to lay her down where I would change her and then focus on playing with some toys together first.
Once she was engaged, calm, and having fun, I would slowly start the process of a nappy change. This ensured she did not fight the nappy change. While I’m not suggesting anyone delay nappy changes for a long period of time, a slight delay won't cause any harm and may greatly improve things for everyone.
My baby feeds off of my energy as most babies do with their parents. If she sees me hesitate or start to worry when I start a nappy change, she also becomes worried.
With the right strategies, I now consciously go into a nappy change with confidence. Fake it until you make it right? I smile at her and set a positive tone for the nappy change, rather than looking worried about my baby screaming or crying.
A study published in the journal Psychological Science found that babies pick up on the stress and emotions of their caregiver and show corresponding physiological changes of their own.
According to Jennifer E. Lansford, Ph.D., a professor with the Social Science Research Institute and the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University, “From birth, infants pick up on emotional cues from others. Even very young infants look to caregivers to determine how to react to a given situation.”
Quite simply, when you are stressed, your baby gets stressed.
Demonstrate the Process
Once my baby was a little older, I found I could ease anxiety by first pretending to change a nappy on her doll or stuffed animal. I would show her how to change a nappy and explain what I was doing, and then cheerfully tell my baby it was her turn. I would ask for her help in the process, having her hand me wipes or nappies.
This would build my baby’s interest in the nappy changing process and allow her to feel more involved in what was going on, reducing the chance of her screaming. Overall, this cut down on her fighting the nappy change, as she felt like she was participating and had some control over what was happening to her.
Play Music or Sing Songs
One of the things you can do if your baby screams during nappy change time is play music or sing a song. Music has always soothed my baby, especially songs she is familiar with and hears regularly.
Professor Isabelle Peretz of the University of Montreal’s Center for Research on Brain, Music, and Language found in her study published in the journal Infancy that “emotional self-control is obviously not developed in infants, and we believe singing helps babies and children develop this capacity.”
She added that “their findings leave little doubt about the efficacy of singing nursery rhymes for maintaining infants’ composure for extended periods.”
Put on some lullabies before starting a nappy change and you may find that your baby is instantly soothed.
Check for Anything That May be Bothering Your Baby
It’s important to pay attention to your baby’s rhythm and behaviour during nappy changing time. Some babies may have no problem at all and may squirm and squeal with delight throughout the changing process.
Other babies will fight nappy change tooth and nail making it painful for you to the very last second you zip or button up their onesie. What’s important is that you are paying attention to your baby’s typical behavior and looking for any deviation that might suggest there is something wrong.
If your baby screams during nappy change time and it's not a typical behavior, there might be an underlying issue that requires attention. It could be as simple as your baby being cold with his/her skin exposed to the air, or they may have a painful nappy rash that requires soothing balm or cream.
You are looking for signs of anything unusual and paying attention. When my baby starts screaming, I try to always take a pause and consider what factors are causing her to fight the nappy change and cry.
Reset and Start Over
A baby screaming and crying during a nappy change can be incredibly stressful for a parent. If my baby screams during nappy change time, sometimes I just pause and take a deep breath to re-start the process.
Once I am calm, I pick her up and simply hold her until she begins to calm down. This re-setting process is a good way to de-escalate the situation rather than making it worse.
One technique I use is to talk with a quiet voice or sing a song. This allows me to re-start the nappy change from a place of connection, which is more important to me than getting the nappy change done quickly.
If things are off to a bad start, remember that you can always reset.
Keep the Lights Off and the Room Quiet for Nighttime Changes
When I was a new mom, I would always turn on all the lights in the middle of the night and talk and make noise during the nappy change. This of course was very jarring for my baby coming from a deep sleep, and she would get upset and then be hard to put back to bed.
Now, I don’t say a word and keep all of the lights off for her nappy change (even poopy ones). This has led to a few mishaps, of course, but after some practice, I got the hang of it. I could probably change a nappy blindfolded now.
Hang Pictures for the Baby to Look At
Now You Know What To Do When Baby Screams During Nappy Change
My baby and I are now in a place where nappy changes are a fun time to play and interact. These days, our only major problems around nappy changes are when I forget to secure her nappy or forget to even put a new one on (yes, this has happened multiple times).
Neither my baby nor I dread nappy changes anymore and I am pleased to say my child does not cry and scream during them. From one mom to another, I'm telling you that you can end the struggle of nappy changes.
It may not happen right away, but with a little patience and perseverance, I know you can do it!