By Elizabeth Pantley, Author of Gentle Baby Care
Babies are little bundles of energy! They don't
want to lie still to have their diapers changed. They cry, fuss,
or even crawl away. A simple issue can turn into a major tug-of-war
between parent and baby.
Diaper changing as a ritual
The position of parent and baby during a diaper change is perfect
for creating a bonding experience between you. You are leaning
over your baby, and your face is at the perfect arms-length distance
for engaging eye contact and communication. What’s more,
this golden opportunity presents itself many times during each
day; no matter how busy you both get, you have a few moments of
quiet connection. It’s too valuable a ritual to treat it
as simply maintenance.
Learning about your baby
Diapering offers a perfect opportunity for you to truly absorb
your baby’s cues and signals. You’ll learn how his
little body works, what tickles him, what causes those tiny goose
bumps. As you lift, move, and touch your baby, your hands will
learn the map of his body and what’s normal for him. This
is important because it will enable you to easily decipher any
physical changes that need attention.
Regular diaper changes create rhythm in your baby’s world
and afford the sense that the world is safe and dependable. They
are regular and consistent episodes in days that may not always
be predictable. Your loving touches teach your baby that he is
valued, and your gentle care teaches him that he is respected.
A learning experience for your baby
Your baby does a lot of learning during diaper changes. It’s
one of the few times that she actually sees her own body without
clothes, when she can feel her complete movements without a wad
of diaper between her legs. Diaper-off time is a great chance
for her to stretch her limbs and learn how they move.
During changing time, your baby is also a captive audience to
your voice, so she can focus on what you are saying and how you
are saying it — an important component of her language learning
process. Likewise, for a precious few minutes, you are her captive
audience, so you can focus on what she’s saying and how
she is saying it — crucial to the growth of your relationship.
What your baby thinks and feels
Many active babies could not care less if their diapers are clean.
They’re too busy to concern themselves with such trivial
issues. It may be important to you, but it’s not a priority
for your child.
Diaper rash or uncomfortable diapers (wrong size or bad fit) can
make him dread diaper changes, so check these first. Once you’re
sure all the practical issues are covered, make a few adjustments
in this unavoidable process to make it more enjoyable.
Take a deep breath
Given the number of diapers you have to change, it’s possible
that what used to be a pleasant experience for you has gotten
to be routine, or even worse, a hassle. When parents approach
diaper changing in a brisk, no-nonsense way, it isn’t any
fun for Baby. Try to reconnect with the bonding experience that
diaper changing can be -- a moment of calm in a busy day when
you share one-on-one time with your baby.
Have some fun
This is a great time to sing songs, blow tummy raspberries, or
do some tickle and play. A little fun might take the dread out
of diaper changes for both of you. A game that stays fresh for
a long time is “hide the diaper.” Put a new diaper
on your head, on your shoulder, or tucked in your shirt and ask,
“Where’s the diaper? I can’t find it!”
A fun twist is to give the diaper a name and a silly voice, and
use it as a puppet. Let the diaper call your child to the changing
station and have it talk to him as you change it. (If you get
tired of making Mister Diaper talk, just remember what it was
like before you tried the idea.)
Keep a flashlight with your changing supplies and let your baby
play with it while you change him. Some kids’ flashlights
have a button to change the color of the light, or shape of the
ray. Call this his “diaper flashlight” and put it
away when the change is complete. You may find a different type
of special toy that appeals to your little one, or even a basket
of small interesting toys. If you reserve these only for diaper
time, they can retain their novelty for a long time.
Try a stand-up diaper
If your baby’s diaper is just wet (not messy), try letting
her stand up while you do a quick change. If you’re using
cloth diapers, have one leg pre-pinned so that you can slide it
on like pants, or opt for pre-fitted diapers that don’t
Time to potty train?
If your child is old enough and seems ready for the next step,
consider potty training.
This article is an excerpt from Gentle Baby
Care by Elizabeth Pantley. (McGraw-Hill, 2003)
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