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18 different ways to keep your toddler happy during diaper changes

Avoid the diaper changing struggle. 

18 different ways to keep your toddler happy during diaper changes

It’s inevitable. Most little ones go through stages of hating diaper changes. Unless you have the rare child who is uncomfortable in wet diapers, most have no incentive to want a diaper change. Your toddler doesn't want an adult to swoop in and pick him up and disrobe him when he's busy with something. He will want to be more in charge of his body and his time.


Sometimes, simply slowing down and connecting changes everything. Sometimes, giving the child control is the key to avoiding a power struggle. Often, not interrupting their play solves the problem by meeting their needs as well as yours. And sometimes you will probably find yourself resorting to distraction.

Here's a list of 18 ideas to try, most of which will work sometimes or for awhile. You may find some good combinations that work for you:

1. Slow down

If you treat this as a chance to slow down and enjoy your child, he's more likely to enjoy the connection and therefore cooperate with the diaper change. If you rush through the diaper change like it's something unpleasant, he will react as if he is being held down and subjected to something unpleasant.

2. Connect with her

Children are always more likely to cooperate with us if we connect first. Take a deep breath. Get on your child's level and connect. Comment on what she's doing. Then, point out that her diaper is wet. Ask if she has noticed it. This gives her an opportunity to check in with her body. (This is a good foundation block for eventual potty learning.) She also feels, since you've connected, like you're on her side. You aren't just pushing her around, which of course would make her feel resistant.

3. Be more mindful

Mindfulness researcher Cassandra Vieten suggests that our ability to stay calm and connected during a diaper change models for our children how they can stay grounded in the face of their own discomfort. She stresses bringing compassionate, open-hearted full presence to the diaper change, rather than just rushing through it. In fact, she calls this the "Mindful Diaper Change Practice." (And you thought you didn't have time for mindfulness practices anymore!)

4. Give him some respect

Magda Gerber, founder of RIE, taught that even though babies can't understand our words, they feel the difference when they're treated with respect. So from the time they're infants, instead of just scooping them up, move slowly and explain what's happening.

Receptive language is about a year ahead of expressive language, so your son already understands much more than you think. And even tiny babies understand your tone of voice. If you do this from the time your baby is born, they have better associations with diaper changes and don't build up such resistance.

5. Give her some control and choice

Always ask, "Ready for a diaper change?" If she says no, say, "Your diaper is wet. Do you want to change it now or in three minutes? 3 minutes? Ok, let's shake on it!"

6. Get him laughing

Laughter reduces stress hormones and increases bonding hormones. So getting your child laughing for ten minutes is always a good strategy when you know you'll need cooperation. Before you start the diaper change, start roughhousing in a way that makes your child squeal with laughter. Chase him around the house, be completely silly. After ten minutes, make the diaper change part of the fun.

7. Help her transition

...by taking an object she's involved with and carrying it with you. For instance, "Let's drive the truck to the changing table!"

8. Don't make him move

If you can, use a portable changing pad and change him where he is playing, so there is less interruption to whatever's he's working on.

9. Don't interrupt his play

Play is your baby's work. Naturally, he doesn't want to be interrupted. Why not change his diapers standing up, if they're just wet? This will minimize the times that is necessary to ask him to lie down, so he is more likely to cooperate when absolutely necessary for messy changes. Since he may not be fully stable yet, pick a toy he likes and put it on the couch, and stand him against the couch. (I know it's harder than lying down, but if you practice, you get good at it. I did this with my daughter beginning at 11 months, until she was out of diapers.)

10. Invite her to a party

Most kids can't resist a party. Grab the drum, have a conga line, sing and dance your way to the bedroom: "Gonna change that diaper right off of your tush!" or "Happiness is a clean diaper" or whatever song gets her moving.

11. Let him do the walking

Many kids object to being carried off to be changed, but if you're making it into a party and he's dancing along into his room next to you in celebration, he's actively taking part in the plan, not feeling pushed around.

12. Ease into it by first diapering her doll or teddy

Let her help. Shower admiration on Teddy for how quickly he does his diaper change. Then say, "Your turn! Are you quick too?"

13. Ask for his help

Team up with your child to get the job done. For instance, maybe he would like to take off his own diaper? Kids love mastering new skills. Tell him what you are doing at each step and involve him, for instance, "I'm going to clean you off now -- do you want to hold the wipes?"

Ask him to put his feet flat and lift up his bottom so you can slide the diaper under him, if he doesn't want to, say, "Ok, I'm going to lift your bottom now to put the diaper under you."

14. Empathize

Say something like, "Does that feel cold on your bottom?" When your child gets upset, try not to get reactive. Instead, soften and stay compassionate. That way he'll know it isn't actually an emergency, and you understand and are looking out for his best interests.

15. Make it something to look forward to

When you absolutely have to ask him to lie down for a change, for instance when there's a messy diaper, have a basket of toys ready that he only has access to while you're changing his diaper.

You might even go hog-wild and find very small presents that you actually wrap in newspaper, and put in the basket. Every diaper change, he chooses one. What kinds of presents? Stuff you have around the house, or would have bought him anyway: Plastic measuring spoons or a funnel, small board books, little figures, a block with a letter A on it, a roll of masking tape, a broken cell phone, a plastic cup, Chapstick, colorful trinkets from Ikea, clay or playdoh with a plastic garlic press so he can make "noodles," a puppet, a tiny flashlight, little wind-up toys, stickers, an unbreakable mirror, you get the idea. You can even re-wrap things that he's left lying around and has forgotten about.

16. Depersonalize it

If this feels like a power struggle, depersonalize it by setting the alarm for three minutes. Tell her, "When the alarm rings, it is three minutes and time for your diaper change, ok?"

When the alarm rings, say, "Oh, listen, there's the alarm, it's been three minutes -- Time for that diaper change!" Then help her transition using one of the other ideas on this list.

17. Provide live entertainment

If he's fussing, try singing to him very softly. He will usually stop fussing to listen to you. Sing, dance, kiss his belly, blow down his neck, make as many silly faces and noises as you can. Somewhere in there, get the diaper changed as unobtrusively as possible.

18. Let him decorate

Keep a stash of stickers by the changing table. Every diaper change, let him choose one that he is allowed to put on the wall next to the table.

No one approach will always work, so you'll have to mix and match and be willing to try different things. But keep your sense of humor, and remember that this too shall pass. It will seem like the blink of an eye before you find yourself trying to get your six year old to take his bath!

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Here are some our favorite "just because" gifts to give our hardworking mama friends.

New Mother face + body care duo

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This correcting oil and stretch mark minimizer is perfect for the pregnant mama looking to keep her pregnancy glow. The correcting oil brightens the skin while reducing dark spots, and the stretch mark minimizer works to smooth her ever-growing belly.

$70

Allover roller

esker allover roller

This jade roller goes beyond your typical face roller and can be used anywhere on the body. It works to increase stimulation and reduce puffiness and is perfect for applying any oils to the face or body. Plus, it feels like a mini spa treatment.

$65

Kombucha making kit

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What could be a more perfect gift for the health-obsessed friend? This kombucha making kit comes with everything you need to brew your own homemade green tea kombucha. They'll think this is the tastiest gift ever.

$45

Laetitia lipstick

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This red lipstick is perfect for your makeup enthusiast bestie who is looking to spruce up her life in quarantine. Crafted in the United States, these bee and vegan-friendly and cruelty-free lipsticks are created to flatter all complexions. Cupid and Psyche Beauty makes finding the perfect red lip way too easy!

$23

Jigsaw puzzle

inner piecec jigsaw puzzle

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$30

Matilda's Bloombox

matilda's bloombox

If we have to be stuck inside, we might as well have some gorgeous florals to brighten up the space. Matilda's Bloombox locally sources blooms, delivers them to her door and provides simple tips on how to arrange it into a beautiful bouquet.

$39

'I Am Enough' bracelet

I Am Enough bracelet

Let this dainty bracelet serve as a constant reminder to your bestie that she is enough. She'll wear this on her wrist and read this daily oath to herself, "I Am Enough."

$35

Glow assorted teas

vahdam low assorted teas

This tea gift box set covers the entire spectrum of flavors from sweet to spicy. Individually packaged in beautiful tins, your gal pal will feel like a queen sipping her morning tea. Originally $40, this set is currently on sale for just $24. We'll take two, please.

$24

Find your voice journal

find your voice journal

Journaling is a great way to ease anxiety and will slow your bestie's racing mind before bed. This gift is perfect for first time journalists and includes prompts, daily quotes and coloring pages to help her unlock her potential and find her voice.

$22

Premium frother

shore magic premium frother

This gift is fitting for your latte-sipping bestie who can't go a day without her coffee. All she has to do is add two scoops of collagen to her favorite drink, and she'll have a perfectly foamy drink ready in seconds. Skipping the drive-thru line has never been so easy!

$25

Bath soak infusion kit

maude bath soak infusion kit

Say hello to hydration! She'll be feeling smooth and relaxed as ever after a long bath soaking in these salts. This vegan + cruelty-free set incorporates dead sea salt and dehydrated coconut milk powder for an ultra hydrating experience.

$32

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

It's a hard-earned title she answers to a hundred times per day. Whether she's new to the club or a seasoned professional, this delicate script 'mama' necklace is guaranteed to be a perfect fit.

$105

Superfood honey

Beekeeper's Naturals B.Powered honey

With a lack of sleep and jam-packed days, getting through the afternoon can be a real challenge. Send her a powerful pick-me-up in the form of a therapeutic blend of royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis and raw honey. It makes the ideal companion for tea, smoothies, yogurt or even on its on.

$17

Calming midnight mask with melatonin

Who doesn't deserve a reminder to pamper themself every once in awhile? Even better, this mask does all its work at night while you're sleeping with no extra effort needed. It's an amazing plant-powered antioxidant-packed mask that has melatonin, wild dandelion leaf and hyaluronic acid to rehydrate, repair and reset facial skin. It's so good, you might want to gift it to yourself. We won't tell, mama.

$68

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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