The bottom line on smooth changes
Parents of babies change over 1800 nappies a year – and most can probably do it with their eyes closed! Baby expert Dorothy Waide shares the bottom line on smooth changes.
Shopping for a new baby is an exciting prospect, but it can be overwhelming due to the vast array of products available. It can also be expensive, so it pays to spend your money wisely and look for products that will go the distance. While we often first think of nappies in disposable terms, long-term reusability and quality are still worth keeping in mind when shopping for all things nappy.
I’ve changed more nappies than I can count in my career as a consultant, educator and Karitane Mothercraft nurse. In this article I’ll share my professional opinions on nappy bags, change tables, skincare, cloth and disposable nappies, as well as tips and tricks for efficient nappy changes.
IT'S IN THE BAG
A well-designed and well-packed nappy bag will give you a valuable boost in confidence when it comes to leaving the house with your little one. There is a wide range of designs on the market and in my experience, nappy bags are like handbags – very personal to the purchaser. I tend to go for backpacks, as dads are happy to carry these (rather than one that looks like a handbag). They’re also easier to use when travelling or if you have a toddler in tow. If your budget is tight, you don’t have to purchase a purpose-built nappy bag. Any backpack or tote bag with a few compartments will do the trick.
There are plenty of change-table designs out there, with styles to suit all decors, but my favourite change table is a simple chest of drawers with a change mat on the top to create a changing area. Ensure that the change mat is the same width as the set of drawers and if you are concerned that there is too much movement, the change mat can be stuck down with something like Velcro strips. When buying the set of drawers, ensure that it is at the right height for you, as excessive bending can cause damage to your back. You’ll be lifting baby up and down from the change table multiple times a day!
It’s helpful to cover your change mat with a washable fabric or cover, as things can get messy up there. Old-school cloth nappy squares are great to have on hand, as they can mop up spills and be chucked straight in the wash.
Truth be told, change tables really are a luxury purchase rather than an essential, as a baby can be changed anywhere (so long as they are safe from falling). The floor is actually the safest place to change your baby, although you do need to consider wear and tear on your back from all the bending and lifting. If you’re not buying a change table, make up a basket or container to store all your nappy-change supplies so everything is in one place and easy to grab when needed.
CLOTH OR DISPOSABLE
I love that we have so many choices today. When I first did my training, we only had cloth nappies. When disposables first became available, I was a little critical of them but they’ve come a long way since the 1970s and many different styles have flooded the market. Modern cloth nappies have had a huge overhaul too, and their designs are fantastic compared to the cloth nappy of the ’70s.
Many parents opt to use a mixture of cloth and disposable nappies. I find that in those first few newborn weeks, disposables are ideal, but once you and baby are settling in, it can work well to choose cloth all the time, or cloth at home and disposables when out and about.
Kate Meads, otherwise known as The Nappy Lady, is a cloth nappy expert, and I asked her advice on the key things to consider when buying cloth nappies. Kate reminds us that babies are all different shapes and sizes; that they all have different urine outputs; and at night-time, some babies sleep longer than others. All these variances are reflected in the fact that cloth nappies come in many different shapes, styles and sizes.
Cloth nappies today look similar to disposables, but instead of putting them in the bin, they’re washable. You no longer need to soak cloth nappies in bleaching products, it’s now recommended they’re only soaked in pure water. Cloth nappies aren’t designed to stay snow white and over time will look a little grey or discoloured. This is okay, and is preferable to using bleach which can damage parts of the cloth nappy over time. The magic of modern cloth nappies is there’s no need to fold fabric or use safety pins like in the ‘old days’, as they now come with Velcro or snap fasteners.
When buying cloth nappies, it pays to do your homework and find the nappy that will best suit your baby, your lifestyle and your budget. The initial set-up is expensive, but your ongoing expenses are only in the laundry department, unlike disposables which need weekly top-ups.
The world of cloth nappies has its own language. We have lots of information HERE on cloth nappy options, but here’s an overview of some of the terms you’ll come across while you do your research.
B2P, or Birth to Potty, refers to nappies that can be worn from birth right through to potty training. These nappies can also be called OSFM, or One Size Fits Most. The advantage of OSFM nappies is they can be adjusted to suit different sizes of babies. However, as baby grows, the nappy does not always fit so snugly. Sized nappies, on the other hand, come in different sizes and you’ll need to buy more as your baby grows through the weight ranges.
Cloth nappies come in pre-fold, snap-in, pocket, fitted or all-in-one styles. The differences are basically in how the nappy is put together; some have separate components, others are all-in-one. They all have a wrap or cover, which is the waterproof, outermost layer of the cloth nappy system. The cover does the ‘containing’, keeping all of the wetness in while still allowing the skin to breathe. The other key component is the absorbent layer, which can be separate (perhaps attached with snap fasteners or fitting in a pocket) or permanently attached. These layers absorb the urine and are made from a range of absorbent fabrics, such as cotton, bamboo, microfibre, hemp or minky – a very soft polyester. Watch this space: as cloth nappies continue to take over the world, more and more absorbent fabrics will appear.
Boosters are also available for some styles of cloth nappy, and these add extra absorbency. Boosters are made from multiple layers of absorbent fabric and are great for heavy wetters and for overnight.
The one common rule for using either cloth or disposable nappies is that the solid waste (or poo!), should be flushed down the toilet, rather than put in the rubbish bin.
Like anything to do with parenting, you have choices when it comes to nappies. The main difference between cloth and disposable is convenience. Disposables are easier, but they’re costly – to the environment and your wallet. Cloth nappies are expensive initially, but they can be used for years to come, as long as you follow the care instructions.
Now there is also a middle ground, too – biodegradable and compostable nappies. Eco nappies are great for parents who can’t quite face cloth nappies, but want a more sustainable option than mountains of disposables going to landfill. Currently eco nappies are only compostable in commercial composting facilities, so you can’t throw them in your own compost bin or vege garden! However, as technology meets demand, nappy composting facilities will continue to be developed for added convenience.
My final word on changing nappies is to remind you that while it is a chore you will revisit MULTIPLE times a day, remember that it’s also a really lovely opportunity for bonding with your baby. It’s a nice time to chat with your precious babe about what you’re doing, to spend a few moments massaging his gorgeous little legs, and to have a little cuddle at the end of each change. A wise person once said of childhood that the days are long but the years are short. Indeed, the day will come when you change the very last nappy. And then comes toilet training – but that’s a whole other article!
TAKE CARE DOWN THERE
Some of my favourite products are:
⭐ Never leave a baby unattended on a high surface – even for a few seconds. They can easily roll off.
⭐ Place your baby on the change mat. If using a change table or higher surface, ensure that your body is close to the counter top so there are no gaps, and don’t move away or take your eyes off your baby. If leaning away, place one hand on baby’s tummy before doing so.
⭐ I tend to change a nappy while standing to the side of the baby. I believe this way is more nurturing, providing closer eye contact and, as your baby grows, you’re less likely to be kicked!
⭐ Have all items within arm’s reach: nappy, nappy sack (if using for soiled items), wipes, a change of clothes and creams for bottom.
⭐ Undo the soiled nappy and, if using disposables, turn the tapes down so that they don’t stick to your baby’s skin. Pull down the front part of the nappy but don’t remove it fully. Instead, tuck the front flap under your baby’s bottom so that the dirty nappy is closed.
⭐ Wet a dry wipe in a bowl of warm water (use a fresh wipe for each movement — no soiled wipes should be re-wet).
⭐ Starting on one side, gently wash your baby’s groin area working from front to back. Don’t rub, as this can make the skin red and sore.
⭐ Repeat on the other side — one wipe per side.
⭐ Wash through the centre, then finally the cheeks and anus area.
⭐ Using dry wipes, a cloth or tissues, pat baby’s bottom dry (being sure to dry in the creases) in the same order that you washed.
⭐ Place soiled wipes into the dirty nappy area, a nappy sack or the bin.
⭐ Roll up the dirty nappy and fasten it with the tabs, ready for disposal. If it’s a soiled nappy, the correct step here is to flush the poo down the toilet before putting the nappy into the bin. Perfumed nappy sacks help reduce odour in the nappy bin BUT, as these bags fall in the category of ‘single-use plastic’, many people avoid them these days. If the nappy is not soiled, throw it in the bin or, if you’re using cloth nappies, into your nappy bucket and dispose of the liners appropriately.
⭐ Open a new nappy.
⭐ Gently raise your baby’s bottom. An easy way to do this is by holding your baby’s ankles and lifting them so their bottom rises. Then put down the new nappy.
⭐ Lower baby onto the new nappy.
⭐ Apply nappy cream (optional).
⭐ If using cloth nappies, follow the manufacturer’s care instructions.
⭐ For boy babies, ensure their penis is facing downwards to avoid them peeing upwards and getting their clothes wet – important tip!
⭐ To fasten a disposable nappy, attach the tabs to the nappy, making sure the adhesive part is not touching your baby’s skin but is fully attached to the nappy.
⭐ Do this on both sides. Ensure the nappy is not too loose, and make sure the ruffle around the leg opening is facing outwards to prevent leakage (if the design calls for this).
⭐ Some newborn disposable nappies come with a notch cut out to accommodate the umbilical cord. Alternatively, fold the nappy down so the cord isn’t covered.
⭐ Wash your hands or use hand sanitiser.
Dorothy started her career training as a Karitane Mothercraft nurse in NZ in the 1970s, and is one of NZ’s leading baby-sleep experts. Dorothy is the author of You Simply Can’t Spoil A Newborn (now available as an audio and e-book). She’s also working on her next book, which covers babycare from 12 weeks to toddlerhood. You can find her at facebook.com/BabyWithin and babyhelp.co.nz.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 46 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW