Toddler Diaper Changes Without The Fight

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I didn't think I had a problem with diaper changes, until I nearly missed the train that morning because I was literally chasing 18 month old Brother around the living room while he giggled (and I was freaked he'd get poop on the couch. Eeks!) Now I'm seeing diaper changes in a whole new light. Instead of distracting him and speeding them up to get them "over with," I'm slowing down (way down), allowing him to help as much as he can, and using this time to meaningfully connect with him.

Here are the 5 steps for easy diaper changes, as inspired by Magda Gerber's RIE® Educaring® approach:

First, tell your child that you’d like to change his/her diaper, and allow them to finish playing, if possible.

When I'm not interrupting what he's doing, he's much more cooperative during diapering. So I’ll wait a few minutes for him to finish playing, and have never noticed a rash in such a short time. Then I'll ask him whether he'd like to stand up or sit down for a diaper change. These days he prefers to lay down. It's up to you if you'd like to offer a choice like this. I find it helps his cooperation to get started in a position where he's most comfortable. 

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don’t offer any distractions. instead, make the time meaningful.

This is a meaningful time for us to connect and be together, and a distraction would take away from this. Distractions might also sends the message, "I don't need your cooperation" and "lets get this chore over with." Holding a diaper or a wipe, however, is part of the diapering process and that can be offered. 

Instead of distraction, I talk to him about what I am doing. I do each thing slowly (very slowly), and make eye contact with him throughout the process. This sounds like, "I'm going to take off your pants from your left leg...now the right leg...." When I talk with my children about what's happening to them, the more they learn about themselves, and develop language and trust. I pause and allow him to talk. I like to learn about him during these times too. 

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Involve your child throughout the diapering process.

When he’s well rested, he becomes very cooperative when I ask him for help. I ask him to take off the sides of his diaper and give him some time to try. I ask him to lift up his bottom while I slowly remove the diaper. I ask him to feel the wipe (or the cloth wipe we use at home) to check the temperature so he's not surprised when I wipe his bottom. If you'd like, you can say the correct anatomically names as you wipe. For example, “I’m going to wipe your penis with this cloth.” There are many benefits to embracing and understanding all of our body parts.

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Allow them to see poop and pee in their diaper.

Then I wrap it up tightly and let him throw away the diaper in the trashcan. This has helped him begin toilet learning, and our doctor was amazed when he said, "no poop" at our last doctor's visit when she checked his diaper! We have started potty learning and I keep a simple and small accessible training toilet for him nearby to practice. No rush. 

I also never refer to his poop as "stinky" or use negative descriptions. I want him to feel confident and positive about his normal body functions, never embarrassed or shamed over something so normal. Then we wash our hands together and continue this slow, gentle, connecting time during hand washing. 

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acknowledge the feelings if there is upset during a diaper change,

and carry on.

Brother usually becomes upset having to put a new diaper on, and with carpet, I can’t let him walk around without one. I normally acknowledge his upset feelings about this by saying, "I can see you don't like having the new diaper on...can you pull out your leg?  You don't want to do that. Hmmm... I'll wait until you're ready." Sometimes he agrees right away to put on the diaper, and other times I'll wait and then say, "it's time to put your new diaper on. I'm going to help you get it on. Yes, I see this upsets you. I need to put it on because we're leaving the house soon."

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These 5 steps have made diaper changing times not only feel connected, but fun! He doesn’t resist as often while I'm left feeling annoyed (and freaked over poop getting on our couch!). I also find that the more I slow down and connect during all caregiving times - whether it's diapering, mealtimes, or bath times - the more my children enjoy playing independently while I chop an onion for dinner or chat with my sister on the phone. 

What are your thoughts? Do you struggle with diaper changes? What might you do differently to build more cooperation and/or connection?

With love and respect,

Jesse