Difficult Diaper Changes?

Dear Dr. Rene,

I am the mother of twin (Boy and Girl) 20-month-olds. Since about the age of eight months, changing diapers and clothes has been very difficult. Both children move about during this process, which is normal, but they really scream and fight, and they are really strong, and I have a really difficult time changing diapers and clothes. I have tried giving them toys and little things as distractions, but that works for one day and then they are no longer interested. This also affects their childcare provider and she complains to me about how difficult it is.


I remember these difficult moments well.

There are lots of ideas for things to try. The answer is to try each, see how it goes, and use it as long as it lasts.

  • Before you start, be sure you have all your supplies gathered and ready to go.
  • When you know they need a change, set a timer for one minute and say, “when the timer rings, it is time to change your diaper.” For some children, this works surprisingly well. It takes you out of the argument.
  • In calm, firm language remind them to, “lay down,” and, “stay still.”
  • Some parents suggest that if laying down is the difficult part, try changing them standing up. I have heard of parents that have them stand in the bathtub or just on the outside of it holding onto the edge. Others suggest that the child leans against a wall. I did this just once and thought it was a nightmare, but others swear by it. My guess is this is a controversial approach. Maybe we needed more practice.
  • Provide distractions such as small toys or books. Better yet take a small bag and gather interesting objects from around the house. Go for things that your child doesn’t often see or have access to such as a kitchen whisk, a sand timer, small calculator, clean sponge or toe separators. Stash this bag next to your diaper changing area. When it’s time to change a diaper, hand the child one thing from the bag, lay them down and change them as fast as you can. When the change is over, the object goes right back in the bag. Rotate through items overtime.
  • You might give them related jobs as a distraction. This means making them the wipe holder or the diaper folder.
  • You might spend a few minutes before each diaper change giving a doll baby a diaper change together. Talk about how the baby is still and lays down. After each time, thank the doll baby for being cooperative.
  • You might distract them by singing a familiar song with lots of expression or a song with movements. Once you start the song, continue to sing as you change their diaper.
  • You might distract them with interactive word play like, “where’s your nose?” and, “where’s your ears?”
  • When they do cooperate, even if it’s only through distraction, be sure to give descriptive praise. This means to describe their behavior and label such as, “you were so still for a diaper, that was helpful!” To learn more about descriptive praise view: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rn2Ddh16xIY.

I hope something on this list is helpful.

Please comment below if you have other helpful ideas!

Sincerely, Dr. Rene

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