My Toddler Won't Let Me Change His Diaper

How to Manage a Diaper Change When Your Child Resists

Crying baby boy
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Right around each mobile milestone -- rolling, crawling, walking -- many formerly easy tasks get more complicated. At first, your toddler may no longer go down for naps without jumping back up. Then he may start squirming when it's time for a bottle or meal. And, eventually, that I-finally-got-the-hang-of-this-diapering-thing moment is history as your little angel races away from you, refuses to lie still, and melts down right on the changing table.

So what's a parent with a stinky tot to do? Deep breath, first. Then keep in mind a few key strategies.

  1. Be ever ready. Just as you learned in basic diapering, having the materials you need on hand before you try and change that diaper is key. By your child's first birthday, you've probably found a spot that works best for quick changes. Even if it's the couch or your own bed versus the luxe changing table you once drooled over in Mega Baby World. Be sure that your spot is always stocked with the diapers, wipes, and any essential diaper cream you need. Don't stress if you need to give up the nice-to-have extras like a dash of baby powder. Your toddler doesn't really need those, especially at every changing. Like spa add-ons, you can reserve them for special times (like post bath).
  2. Be ever flexible. Okay, now that you have the go-to spot set, be ready to take on a dirty diaper anytime, anywhere. Converting a small tote into your MASH-style mobile changing station can do wonders for handling a toddler who does not want to stray too far from his Little People Airplane or Elmo video. You might even just use the diaper bag that you keep always stocked and at hand. Or, if you’re more like me, you might take this opportunity to create an always-stocked diaper bag that can be used indoors or on the go out of the house. What to pack in your tote? I recommend:
    • a changing pad
    • travel-sized wipes
    • travel-sized diaper creams
    • five or six disposable diapers
    • plastic bags that you can quickly wrap a diaper in before tossing it out
    • two small toys or novelty items for distraction...which brings us to the next point
  1. Bring on the distractions. In a pinch, parents (this one included) might give a toddler the car keys or smartphone, but for reasons you can probably guess, these are not good items to give a small child, especially one that might be upset and thus likely to throw it, chew it, or beat you up with it. Instead, I keep a stash of about six items near the go-to changing station. These include things that light up, beep, and play a story read-aloud by grandma. I also have plenty of those Fisher Price Little People (compare prices) that my kids and I love. If I am in the field with my MASH bag, I search for a good toy distraction before I even try to corner my toddler for the change.

    The key is not to throw all your distraction items at your child at once. Try to get him interested in one plaything and talk him down into changing position with that one. If that doesn't work, go with plan B.
  1. Plan B: Get silly. My husband gets full credit for this tip. He is just really good at making the kids laugh, especially at those high-stress times when my instinct is to scream like the banshee. When he picks up a fussy baby he starts jumping up and down and sings the Tigger Song from Winnie the Pooh ("A Tigger's a wonderful thing. Their tops are made out of rubber..."). While baby is laughing, he lays her down, ends the song with a raspberry on her cheek. And starts opening the diaper without baby even noticing. It. Works. Every. Time.

In addition to these tips, what's equally important to keep in mind is the fact that this is a phase. If you try not to make too much of a big deal about it (easier said, I know), your toddler will eventually stop the most extreme behaviors. And, of course, one of these days he'll be potty trained, and those diaper dramas will be nothing but a memory.