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Diapers / Diaper Rash

Diapers/Diaper Rash

What is diapering?

An essential part of every baby's care is diapering. Until a child is toilet-trained, usually by 3 years of age, diapers are used to collect urine and bowel movements. It is estimated that a baby uses six to ten diapers each day - this translates to about 2,000 to 3,000 diapers each year. With so many diaper changes, parents want to know how to make this task quicker and easier.

Generally, there are two choices - cloth or disposable, and each type has advantages and disadvantages. There is no clear answer as to which is best. Parents need to decide what works best for their individual baby and family. Many families choose to use some of both. Listed below are some of the pros and cons of each type of diaper.

Cloth Diapers:
Pros Cons
  • soft on baby's delicate skin
  • delivery service available
  • cheaper than disposable
  • reusable
  • allow a baby's skin to breathe and help heal diaper rash
  • may leak, require diaper cover, or pants
  • home laundering is time consuming
  • sanitizing of cloth diapers uses water, detergent, energy
  • difficult to use when traveling
Disposable Diapers:
Pros Cons
  • convenient, throw away
  • wick moisture away from baby's skin with absorbent material
  • better infection control for day care centers
  • easy to use when traveling
  • waste in landfills of non-biodegradable material and feces
  • many parents wait until the diaper is too saturated, increasing risk for diaper rash
  • higher cost

How to diaper your baby:

New parents often feel awkward trying to diaper a squirming baby. It can be frustrating not knowing how to hold the baby or where to place the diaper the first few times. However, it does not take long to get comfortable changing a diaper, and most parents get plenty of practice.

Here are some tips to help you diaper your baby comfortably and correctly:

While this sounds very technical, it does not take long to change a diaper once you have done it several times. Some special tips to remember when changing a diaper include:

Yeast diaper rash:

Some diaper rashes are caused by a yeast called Candida Albicans, which often causes problems when a baby already has a diaper rash, is on antibiotics, or has thrush. This rash appears bright red and raw, covers large areas, and is surrounded by red spots. Call your baby's physician for a special cream to treat this rash, and follow the guidelines above. With proper treatment these rashes usually improve in two to three days.

Call your baby's physician if:

Caring for diaper rash:

Most babies will get a diaper rash at some time. Their bottoms are in frequent contact with moisture, bacteria, and ammonia, and there is rubbing from the diaper. Babies and toddlers are at risk as long as they are wearing diapers. Rashes are much easier to prevent than to cure. Many rashes can be treated by the following:

Preventing diaper rash:

Changing the diaper immediately and good cleaning are the best things you can do. Diaper rashes occur equally with cloth diapers and disposables diapers. Some children will get a rash from certain brands of disposable diapers, or from sensitivity to some soaps used in cloth diapers. If you use cloth diapers, bleach them by adding Clorox®, Borax®, or Purex® to the wash. Be sure to rinse the diaper thoroughly.


Babies wet their diapers with urine several times a day. The number of wet diapers is a helpful sign of how much fluid the baby is taking in. Although it is sometimes hard to tell when a disposable diaper is wet, generally, a baby should have at least seven wet diapers each day. Fewer wet diapers can mean the baby may not be taking in enough fluid.

Normally, a baby's urine is clear and yellow-tinged. Changes in the odor and color may indicate a problem. Dark yellow or even pinkish color urine may mean the baby is not getting enough fluid.

Call your baby's physician if you have concerns about how often or how much your baby is wetting diapers.

Bowel movements:

The first bowel movement of a newborn is called meconium. This is a sticky, greenish-black substance that forms in the intestines during fetal development. The baby may have several meconium bowel movements before this substance is completely gone from the baby's system. The next bowel movements are seedy-looking and are greenish-yellow. Breastfed babies usually have frequent bowel movements, sometimes with every feeding, and even some in-between. These bowel movements are often loose, yellow, and seedy. Formula-fed babies have thicker bowel movements that are more beige in color.

Occasionally, babies become constipated. This rarely happens in breastfed babies. Firm or formed stools, that occur only once a day or less than once a day, may mean a baby is constipated. A baby may strain or fuss with constipation.

Very runny or watery bowel movements, especially if there is distinct change, may mean the baby has diarrhea. You should contact your baby's physician if this occurs.

Talk with your baby's physician about your baby's bowel movements and their frequency and appearance.

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