How Often To Change A Newborn’s Diaper?

September 3, 2023

Changing a newborn’s diaper is a crucial aspect of caring for your little one. But with so much conflicting advice out there, it can be hard to determine just how often you should be changing those tiny diapers. In this article, we’ll provide you with some helpful guidelines and insights to ensure that you’re meeting your baby’s needs and keeping them clean, comfortable, and smiling throughout the day. Say goodbye to those diaper-changing doubts and get ready to confidently tackle every diaper change like a pro.

Factors to Consider

When it comes to changing your newborn’s diaper, there are several factors that you should keep in mind. These factors will help you determine the best approach to diaper changing for your little one. Let’s take a closer look at these factors:

Age of the newborn

The age of your newborn plays a significant role in determining how often you need to change their diaper. During the first few days after birth, newborns typically have meconium stools, which are thick and sticky. These stools can be challenging to clean, so it’s essential to change their diapers frequently to prevent any discomfort or irritation.

As your baby grows, their stool consistency will change. After the first week of birth, your newborn will have transitional stools, which are thinner and lighter in color. At this stage, you may need to change their diapers less frequently, but it’s still important to keep an eye on their wetness indicators and bowel movements.

Type of diaper

The type of diaper you use can also impact how often you need to change your newborn’s diaper. Cloth diapers, for example, may need to be changed more frequently as they do not have the same absorbency as disposable diapers. Disposable diapers, on the other hand, are designed to be more absorbent and can usually last longer between changes.

It’s essential to find a diaper brand that works well for your baby and keeps them dry and comfortable. Pay attention to any signs of discomfort or leakage, as this may indicate that it’s time to try a different diaper brand or size.

Fluid intake

Your newborn’s fluid intake can affect how often they need their diapers changed. Breastfed babies tend to have more frequent bowel movements, so you may need to change their diapers more often. On the other hand, formula-fed babies may have fewer bowel movements, but their urine output can still be significant.

Keep track of your baby’s feeding schedule and observe their urine output and bowel movements. This will give you a better idea of how often you need to change their diapers to keep them clean and dry.

Frequency of bowel movements

The frequency of your newborn’s bowel movements is another essential factor to consider when determining how often to change their diapers. In the first few days after birth, your baby may have several bowel movements per day as they pass meconium stools.

As your baby’s digestive system matures, their bowel movements may become less frequent. However, it’s important to note that every baby is different, and some may have more frequent bowel movements than others.

Pay attention to your baby’s bowel movement patterns, as any sudden changes may indicate a potential issue that needs attention. If your baby’s stool consistency or frequency changes significantly, it’s a good idea to consult with their pediatrician.

Newborn Diaper Changing Guidelines

Now that you have a better understanding of the factors to consider when changing your newborn’s diaper let’s discuss some general guidelines to follow based on their age:

First few days after birth

During the first few days after birth, your newborn will pass meconium stools. Meconium is thick, sticky, and can be challenging to clean. It’s crucial to change their diapers frequently during this time to prevent any discomfort or irritation.

Aim to change your baby’s diaper every two to three hours, or as soon as you notice it is soiled. This will help keep their delicate skin clean and dry, minimizing the risk of diaper rash.

First week after birth

After the first few days, your baby’s stool will transition from meconium to transitional stools. These stools are thinner and lighter in color and are easier to clean. At this stage, you may be able to extend the time between diaper changes slightly.

Try changing your newborn’s diaper every three to four hours, or as soon as their wetness indicator shows that the diaper is soiled. Keep in mind that every baby is unique, and some may have more frequent bowel movements, so adjust the frequency of diaper changes accordingly.

After the first week of birth

As your newborn continues to grow, their stool consistency will continue to change. After the first week, your baby will likely have yellowish, seedy stools, which are considered normal for breastfed babies. These stools are easier to clean and may not require immediate diaper changes unless your baby is uncomfortable or has a bowel movement.

Monitor your baby’s diaper for signs of wetness and change their diaper every four to six hours, or as needed. Remember to check for any signs of discomfort, leakage, or diaper rash, as these may indicate that it’s time for a diaper change.

Signs to Look for

Knowing when to change your newborn’s diaper goes beyond just following a schedule. Here are some essential signs to look for that indicate it’s time for a diaper change:

Wetness indicator

Most disposable diapers come with a wetness indicator, which is a line or pattern that changes color when the diaper is wet. This indicator can be a helpful tool to determine if your baby’s diaper needs changing, especially if you’re not sure if they are wet just by feeling it.

Check the wetness indicator regularly and change your baby’s diaper as soon as the indicator shows that it’s wet. This will help keep your baby dry and minimize the risk of diaper rash.

Foul odor

Another obvious sign that it’s time for a diaper change is a foul odor coming from your baby’s diaper. Newborn bowel movements can be quite smelly, so if you notice a pungent smell, it’s a good indication that a diaper change is needed.

Even if you don’t smell anything foul, it’s still important to check your baby’s diaper regularly for any signs of wetness or soiling.

Discomfort and fussiness

Babies communicate through crying, and if your newborn is uncomfortable or fussy, it may indicate that they need a diaper change. Pay attention to any signs of discomfort, such as squirming or pulling at their diaper, as this may be a signal that they are wet or soiled.

If your baby is displaying signs of discomfort or fussiness, try changing their diaper and see if it helps to soothe them. Sometimes a fresh diaper and a little extra attention can make all the difference.

Diaper rash

If your baby develops diaper rash, it’s critical to change their diaper more frequently and take extra care to keep their diaper area clean and dry. Diaper rash can be painful and uncomfortable for your little one, so ensuring they have a clean diaper regularly can help prevent further irritation.

If you notice redness, irritation, or a rash in the diaper area, consult with your pediatrician for proper treatment and guidance. In some cases, you may need to change your baby’s diaper more frequently until the rash clears up.

Tips for Diaper Changing

Changing your newborn’s diaper doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Here are some helpful tips to ensure a smooth and comfortable diaper changing experience:

Prepare the changing area

Before you begin changing your baby’s diaper, make sure the changing area is clean and organized. Lay out all the necessary supplies, such as diapers, wipes, and diaper rash cream, within easy reach.

Use a changing pad or table with a protective cover to provide a comfortable and clean surface for your baby. Having everything ready beforehand will help make the diaper changing process quicker and more efficient.

Use the proper diaper size

Using the correct diaper size is vital for your baby’s comfort and to prevent leaks. Diapers that are too small can be tight and uncomfortable, while diapers that are too big can cause leaks and make the changing process more challenging.

Refer to the diaper packaging or consult with your pediatrician to determine the appropriate diaper size for your baby’s weight and age. Regularly check the fit of the diaper to ensure it’s snug but not overly tight.

Wash hands before and after

Proper hygiene is essential when changing your newborn’s diaper. Always wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after each diaper change to prevent the spread of germs.

If you don’t have access to a sink, use hand sanitizer or antibacterial wipes to clean your hands thoroughly. Keeping your hands clean will help protect both you and your baby from any potential infections.

Be gentle and use a soft touch

Your newborn’s skin is delicate, so it’s important to be gentle and use a soft touch when changing their diaper. Avoid excessive rubbing or scrubbing, as this can cause irritation and discomfort.

Gently pat your baby’s diaper area dry after cleaning to remove any excess moisture, and be sure to apply a thin layer of diaper rash cream if needed. Taking these extra precautions will help prevent diaper rash and keep your baby’s skin healthy.

Nighttime Diaper Changes

Diaper changes during the night can disrupt your baby’s sleep routine and your own rest. However, it’s still essential to keep your little one clean and comfortable throughout the night. Here are some tips for nighttime diaper changes:

Choosing overnight diapers

When it comes to nighttime diaper changes, choosing the right diaper is crucial. Look for overnight diapers specifically designed for extended use and greater absorbency.

Overnight diapers are typically more absorbent and can hold more liquid, reducing the need for frequent changes during the night. They are also often designed to be more comfortable and provide a better fit, minimizing the risk of leaks and discomfort.

Experiment with different brands and sizes of overnight diapers to find the one that works best for your baby. Pay attention to any signs of leakage or discomfort, and make adjustments as needed.

Limiting diaper changes during sleep

While it’s important to change your newborn’s diaper regularly, you don’t want to disrupt their precious sleep too much during the night. If your baby’s diaper is only wet and not soiled, consider leaving it on until the next feeding or until it becomes uncomfortably wet.

Check your baby’s diaper during nighttime feedings or if they wake up for other reasons. If the diaper feels heavy or there are signs of discomfort, go ahead and change it to ensure their comfort and hygiene.

Protecting baby’s sleep routine

Babies thrive on routine, and protecting their sleep routine can be crucial for their overall well-being. When changing your newborn’s diaper during the night, try to keep the lights dim and avoid any unnecessary stimulation.

Keep interactions with your baby during nighttime diaper changes to a minimum. This will help signal to your baby that it’s nighttime and ensure a smooth transition back to sleep.

Remember, every baby is different, and what works for one may not work for another. Pay attention to your baby’s individual needs and adjust your nighttime diaper changing routine accordingly.

Diaper Changing Checklist

To ensure you have all the necessary supplies for diaper changing, use the following checklist:


Have a supply of diapers in the appropriate size for your baby. It’s a good idea to have both daytime and overnight diapers on hand to accommodate different needs.

Baby wipes

Choose baby wipes that are gentle on your baby’s skin and free of harsh chemicals. Look for wipes specifically designed for sensitive skin or consider using plain water with a soft cloth for cleaning if your baby has particularly sensitive skin.

Diaper rash cream

Keep a tube of diaper rash cream on hand to help prevent and treat diaper rash. Look for creams that are hypoallergenic and free of fragrances and irritants.

Changing pad or table

Use a changing pad or table with a protective cover to provide a clean and comfortable surface for diaper changing. Consider investing in a portable changing pad for on-the-go diaper changes.

Trash can or diaper pail

Have a designated space for disposing of dirty diapers. Consider using a diaper pail with a lid to contain odor and prevent any mess.

By having these essential supplies ready, you’ll be well-prepared for any diaper changing situation.

Changing your newborn’s diaper is an important part of their daily care routine. By considering factors such as their age, type of diaper, fluid intake, and frequency of bowel movements, you can develop a diaper changing routine that keeps your baby clean, comfortable, and healthy.

Remember to pay attention to signs such as wetness indicator, foul odor, discomfort, and diaper rash. These signs will help you determine when it’s time for a diaper change and ensure that your baby stays clean and irritation-free.

Follow the tips provided to make diaper changing a smooth and gentle process for both you and your little one. By preparing the changing area, using the right diaper size, practicing good hand hygiene, and being gentle, you can make diaper changing a positive experience.

When it comes to nighttime diaper changes, choose overnight diapers for better absorbency, limit changes during sleep, and protect your baby’s sleep routine. By finding the right balance between keeping your baby clean and allowing them to sleep, you can ensure a restful night for both of you.

Finally, make sure you have all the necessary supplies for diaper changing, including diapers, baby wipes, diaper rash cream, a changing pad or table, and a trash can or diaper pail. Being well-prepared with these essentials will make diaper changing more convenient and efficient.

Remember, each baby is unique, and you will soon develop a routine that works best for you and your little one. Trust your instincts, observe your baby’s cues, and make adjustments as needed. With practice, changing your newborn’s diaper will become second nature, and you’ll have a happier, healthier baby.

Sandra McNeil, PhD.
Sandra McNeil, PhD.

Sandra has over 13 years of experience as a child psychologist, both as a practitioner and researcher. She has a Bachelor's in child psychology from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and then she did her master's in Psychology in Education (focused on Children & Families) at Columbia University, NY. She has been writing for health and child-related publications for over 5 years now.

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