Friday, May 22, 2009

5 tips for effective use of disposable diapers.

Diapering is a messy business. No matter what you choose (disposable, flush-able or cloth), there is no getting around the fact that they all have their drawbacks. One of the most widely used forms of diapering is of course disposable, and while there are many reasons and arguments about why people should (convenience) or should not (environment) use them, a less often discussed topic is how they should be used to their best advantage if they are the diaper of choice for you. Obviously most folks can tell which end to put them on, and which side goes in the front, but there are a couple other considerations you might find helpful.

1. Fit
The weight restriction on diaper packages are a very broad generality, and should be used as a vague rule of thumb, not gospel. A disposable diaper should be able to cover from the middle of the back to just above the belly-button with ease, and the closure tabs should meet or even overlap in the middle. It may sound like I am describing a diaper that is too large, but actually many babies are wearing diapers that are too small. In infants the front of the diaper should be folded down toward the inside so the belly-button is not either irritated by the diaper rubbing it, or urine seeping up to it. I usually fasten the tabs overlapping in a "v" shape low on the front of an infants diaper, this increases the seal around the leg and cuts down on leaks.

2. Absorbency
Don't be fooled by all those "these diapers are for girls and those are for boys" marketing ploys. The placement of absorbent material in the diaper has little to no effect on efficiency. When a baby goes pee they are not going to aim for where the diaper is most absorbent, (especially not little boys!). If your baby's diaper is leaking, it could be because it is too small, improperly fastened or that your baby's "output" was too fast for the diapers "input". If you think you have the right size and fit then you need to try to improve the speed at which the diaper absorbs. I recommend putting an ultra thin super absorbency pantyliner inside your baby's diaper, especially at night. Make sure it is unscented, cotton and free of deodorants. If your baby regularly leaks on the tummy, place the pad horizontally across the front of the diaper on the inside, if the leaks are by the legs position it down the center of the diaper, and if the leaks are up the back, place it horizontally across the back of the diaper on the inside.

3. Smell
Don't be fooled and fall for a diapers claim that their product can neutralize the smell from a diaper. What makes a diaper stink is often not something that is completely absorbed by the diaper, if you get my drift. Poop is what makes diapers stink, and a good thing too! The reason it stinks so much is to prompt us to change it as quickly as possible. The faster you change your babies diaper the better! Though you shouldn't try to cover or neutralize diaper smell while it is on your baby, after you take the diaper off it is a good idea. Since there is no real ecologically friendly way to dispose of a disposable diaper, the least damaging while still controlling the smell is to individually seal disposable diapers in compostable plastic bags and store them in a stainless steel air-tight container until it is time to throw them out. You can also sprinkle baking soda inside the container to help control odor.

4. Rash
The single most important thing you can do to prevent diaper rash is to change your baby's diaper often. Part of the reason that cloth diaper proponents say that diaper rash happens more often in disposable diaper wearing babies is that disposable diapers are so effective at absorbing liquids, that you don't need to change the diaper after each one, and this infrequent changing pattern leads to the buildup of bacteria on our baby's bottom, and that bacteria cause diaper rash. However even the most vigilant parent will sometimes be unable to get to a dirty or wet diaper right away, and diaper rash will happen. The one best ingredient to look for in your diaper rash ointment is zinc oxide. Many creams and salves have it, but some do not, so read the labels before buying. Also, some brands like Boudreaux's Butt Paste, have citrus acid in them, and while this is has antibacterial properties, and therefor helps prevent diaper rash, it can actually sting pretty badly if applied to a bottom that already has a rash on it.

5. Growing
As your baby grows you will need to continually buy bigger and bigger diapers, until they start to pull up on furniture and "cruise". Once your baby is perpendicular to the floor for a good portion of the day each day, the way a diaper should fit changes. A walker's diaper should still start coverage at the small of the back, but in the front it should not reach the belly button. A good fit will have the fastenings nearly touching, and the front of the diaper reaching only up to the bottom of where the belly starts to stick out. Though night time diapers can still be larger to maximize coverage and protection, if your baby wears those diapers during the day, some serious sagging will most likely be on the agenda, and sagging equals leaking.

Keeping your babies bottom clean and comfortable is one of the constant battles that every mother faces. Hopefully, these little tips of mine will help you have a couple more tools in your arsenal of useful things to know about how to properly protect your baby's behind. If you have any questions or comments for me please don't hesitate to share them, I love feedback, and will try to respond to any questions you might have in a timely manner. If you find these tips useful, please pass them on to other new moms that you know. Also you can find a my Tripi's Tip of the Day here: Happy parenting!


  1. Thank you, this was very helpful.

  2. Yes, very baby's diapers are too small, explains a lot. :)

  3. Hi there,

    Just read your post on diposable diapers. Why do you recommend that on toddlers the diaper not go above the belly button? I'm trying to make a waist for my baby who is now 18 months old and I know that her diapers are not helping when they go below the belly button. I want her diapers to fit right but make her a waist that way that clother diapers allow? Any suggestions. Thank you

    1. The fit I recommend is for the prevention of leaks, and comfort of the toddler. Aesthetics are not one of the concerns I take into account for the most part.

      However, to get a waist that is more similar to an adult waist, between the bottom of the rib cage, and above the belly button, I would rely more on clothing that is fitted on the top half, and looser on the bottom half.

      A thinner diaper will help with the silhouette you want, but to get the waist to stay in the place you'd like, you'll need more seamstress skills than I possess. I wish you luck, and would love to see a picture of the look you are trying to create.

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