Happy In Your Nappy
I used to boast that I could change a nappy in less than ten seconds. Over twenty years’ experience in childcare meant I was a pro at this not so appealing task. However, a few years ago I read about how nappy changes didn’t have to be something to get “over and done”. They could be time of connection. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking – when you’re knee deep in poo, wee and nappy cream, is it really the time to “connect”. Well in a word, yes! Changing a nappy is an intimate moment of care giving. And it should be treated as such. Babies are too young to give consent verbally so they need to trust that you, the care giver will gently, carefully and without shame, embarrassment or disgust change their wet or soiled nappy.
So how do you respectfully change a nappy?
1. Consent: Obviously a child’s nappy needs to be changed if it is soiled (or very wet) but asking for consent can still be done. If they refuse, acknowledge their feelings but tell them that you have to change their nappy as their bum could get sore otherwise. If your baby is older, wait for a break in their play or other suitable moment so you’re not just grabbing them in the middle of their work.
2. Communication: Before you change the nappy tell your baby what you are going to do – “I’m going to lie you on the mat and change your nappy.” And then, as you are changing your baby, guide them through each step. When mentioning your child’s genitalia always use anatomically correct vocabulary; penis, scrotum, vagina, vulva etc.
3. Potty mouth: Never use negative or shameful language when changing a nappy. Calling a child’s nappy smelly, stinky or dirty, even if said in a jokey way, can create feelings of shame and embarrassment around changes. In worst case scenarios it can result in babies holding in poo, leading to constipation. It can also negatively affect toilet learning when the time comes.
4. Gentle Hands: Be gentle when lifting your child’s legs up to change their nappy. Cleaning should also be done as delicately as possible – I know not so easy when it’s encrusted to their bums – but try your best.
5. Me do it, Mama: Involve your baby and child in the nappy change. Ask for their assistance: “Can you lift your legs?” “Do you want to wipe yourself?” Even when they are teeny tiny, it is nice to get into this habit and can help your child feel a part of what is happening.
6. Evolution: Nappy changes will evolve as your child grows – what they liked yesterday they may hate today. Try different things is nappy changes are becoming a challenge. My daughter likes to be changed standing up now – so we often go to the bathroom where I can clean up more easily. Use pull up nappies if it makes things easier. Maybe leave the nappy off after you give them a clean to break up the process if your child gets impatient during changes.
So, I know you might think it’s disgusting – especially if you’ve a poo explosion or an “up the backer” as we call it in the industry – but try not to pass those negative feelings about bodily functions onto your babies. They are born without the stigma we have attached to it all and only learn to be embarrassed.
Nappy changes are something I struggled with myself as Rose got older but by adapting to her needs, I don’t dread them anymore. Putting in place the measures above can help you and your baby and/or child to look forward to nappy changes (or at least tolerate them) making it less of a battle and more of a time to connect. And hopefully in the future these positive nappy changing experiences will lead to positive toilet learning.