Development Physical & Emotional

Why Do Babies Cry During Diaper Changes? (10 Tips To Help)

If you have a newborn you’ll probably need to change their diaper up to 3,000 times in the first year!

Given it’s something you’ll have to do 6-12 times a day for the first year, diaper changing is obviously something you’ll want your baby to at least tolerate, making life easier both for you and your little one.

With so many changes ahead of you, it’s important to know why babies cry during changes, and what can you do to make the experience just that little bit easier.

Let’s find out.

Why Do Babies Cry During Diaper Changes?

If your baby hates diaper changes or cries during a change, you’re probably wondering exactly why are they fighting a change so much.

Firstly, you should understand that it’s very normal for babies to hate having their diaper changed.

Here are some possible reasons why your little one cries or dislikes diaper changes.

  • Hungry: A hungry (or hangry) baby is unlikely to respond well to having their nappy changed, so if possible it might be better to wait until after a feed to change them.
  • Cold: Undressing your baby from their warm cotton clothing and exposing them to cold air can be very unsettling, especially when it’s then followed by being placed on a cold surface and you’re using cold wipes on their skin.
  • Over-tired: When your baby is over-tired or over-stimulated it won’t take much to push them over the edge, so a diaper change at this point may be enough to push them over the edge and send them into a rage of anger!
  • Stressed: Just like adults, babies can experience stress too, and this could be a cause of disliking diaper changes, especially if they used to be ok with changes.
  • Lack Of Being In Control: A baby might be happily playing one minute, and then whisked away and put down on a changing table the next. Given this is something your little one has no control over, it’s understandable that this experience will make them angry.
  • Not Used To Being On Their Back: Being awake and lying on their back is unusual for a baby, so they may be crying because they are not used to being in this position and want to be face down.
  • Wants To Keep Moving & Exploring: Babies are super curious and love learning and exploring, so anytime they are having their diaper changed they’re being stopped from doing any exploring.

How Many Diapers Does A Baby Use In A Year?

A baby gets through a lot of diapers in their first year, especially during the newborn phase when their tiny bladders mean their diapers need changing every 2-3 hours.

In their first year your baby will need an astonishing 2,500-3,000 changes.

Thankfully as your baby grows older and their bladder increases in size, the frequency of changes comes down quite a bit, as you can see below.

Here’s a breakdown of average diaper changes by age:

  • Newborn to 1 month: 10-12 per
  • 1 month to 5 months: 8-10 per day
  • 5 months to 12 months: 6 per day
  • 12 to 18 months: 5-6 per day
  • 18 to 24 months: 4-5 per day
  • 24 to 36 months: 2-3 per day

How Many Diapers Does A Baby Use In A Lifetime?

If we calculate the numbers based on the breakdown above, we can see that on average a baby will use around 7,000 diapers during their lifetime before they become potty trained.

So the difference between your baby fighting a change and tolerating a change (“liking” is a stretch) can be the difference between 7,000 stressful experiences and 7,000 calm ones.

What If Your Baby Cries In Pain When Changing Diapers?

Clearly if your baby is crying in pain when you’re changing their diaper you’ll want to examine if anything serious is going on.

The key to determining whether your baby is in pain or not is to ask whether their crying is normal compared to their usual activity.

So if your baby is crying a lot, but fights and screams during changes at the best of times, then they might not actually be in pain.

Similarly, if it’s unusual for your little on to cry a lot during a diaper change, then they may have a painful rash.

So if you think anything unusual is going on, it’s worth seeking help from a medical professional.

Top 10 Tips & Hacks To Make Changing Diapers Easier

If your baby hates having their diaper changed, check out our top 10 tips to make changes less traumatic for your newborn baby or toddler.

Stay Clam

Although easier said than done, if you can stay calm it will greatly increase the chances of your baby cooperating.

If mom or dad becomes angry or frustrated during a challenging diaper change, it may cause your baby to get even more upset or cry more.

Try using a soft, gentle voice and adding some humour to proceedings, as these tactics can often stop a baby’s meltdown in its tracks.

Related: Navigating Your Child’s Early Development

Prepare Everything In Advance

Taking longer than necessary is definitely not going to go down well with your baby or toddler.

So the more efficient and faster you are, the less you’ll need to rely on your child’s limited supply of patience.

Sing A Song

Songs can be very calming and soothing for babies, toddlers and adults alike.

Singing their favorite nursery rhyme or other fun songs they like can be a great was to distract your baby from what’s going on.

Play A Game Together

Another changing table distraction is to play a game, such as asking your baby to identify and name their body parts, asking them to touch mommy or daddy’s face or nose, or say a new word they’ve recently learned.

Ask Your Baby To Point Out Interesting Decorations

If you can decorate the area near your child’s changing table with interesting things such as family photographs, they can enjoy pointing people out while you’re getting they changed.

Asking your little one “where’s mommy” or “where’s daddy” when they’re looking at photos on the wall often works well in helping to take their mind off the diaper chance.

Screen Time

Many parents use screen time as an effective way to both distract and bribe their little one.

If your baby is allowed to watch their favorite cartoon or Disney movie while having their diaper changed, you may be pleasantly surprised that their resistance and crying suddenly stops!

Explain What’s Happening / About To Happen

It can be unsettling for a baby to not have control about what’s going on or any say in what you’re doing.

Try explaining that you’re about to change their diaper and ideally get their permission or agreement if they are old enough to understand.

Even if they’re still very young, talk your baby through what you’re doing so they have a better idea of what to expect both during this change and for future diaper changes.

Standing Change

A standing change can be a god-send for many parents.

By skipping the changing table and letting your baby stand up when changing their diaper, you don’t have to disrupt them too much from what they’re doing.

If you do try this tactic, it’s worth noting that pull-up diapers make standing changes much easier (more on this below).

Use Slip-On / Pull-Up Diapers

Slip-ons or pull-ups have a stretch waistband around the side, making it easy for you to slide them up and down your baby.

While some parents claim they are not as absorbent as regular diapers, most parents agree they make changing a little bit faster and easier.

Move On To Potty Training

Finally, if your toddler is ready to begin potty training (around 2-3 years of age), you may want to consider starting the process, as it will eventually eliminate the need for changing altogether.

How To Make Changing Diapers Easier

  1. Stay Calm
  2. Prepare Everything In Advance
  3. Sing A Song
  4. Play A Game Together
  5. Ask Your Baby To Point Out Interesting Decorations
  6. Screen Time
  7. Explain What’s Happening / About To Happen
  8. Standing Change
  9. Use Slip-On / Pull-Up Diapers
  10. Move On To Potty Training

See Also:

Tori is mama to 3 year old Isabella and co-founder of Rockinbaby. She has a BSc in Psychology, is a certified yoga teacher and is a working mom. In her free time Tori loves cooking delicious foods and baked treats, entertaining and working out. Learn more about Tori here.

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