“Whilst some problems—at the leading edge of scientific knowledge, say—may take decades or lifetimes to crack, many everyday problems, like the nappy-changing one, go from seemingly impossible to solve, to solved with a brilliant solution, in a matter of minutes. And you know what? Solving problems is fun! It is interesting! It sparks joy! Not just in our babies but in us too!”
– Sarah Fitz-Claridge
[‘diaper’ = ‘nappy’ in British English]
“Help! My baby hates diaper changes! What do non-coercive parents do?? Ideas for baby-pleasing solutions?”
“My 18 month old has never liked getting his diaper changed (after all, it’s a transition from warm to cold), but it is a matter of his health and well-being that the diaper get changed.”
The second questioner above seems to have a fixed theory about nappies, and about babies not liking having them changed. That theory is mistaken.
The trouble with this intransigent stance is that if you are saying that it is a matter of health or medically necessary that the nappy be changed, and changed when you deem it needs to be done, you are asserting that you know the truth, and that your baby not only doesn’t know the truth, but is irrational. By that posture, you are not even considering that there might be a better idea possible—such as an improvement in how exactly you change the baby’s nappy. If babies must have their nappies changed because Health Requires It (silent addendum—regardless of how much they hate it) then their resulting suffering is medically justified.
If the proposition ‘it is necessary for health’ is justified regardless of their opposition to the idea, then you are taking the view that their suffering can be discounted as irrelevant, and you therefore blind yourself to any creative solution to the problem that could make all the difference. And if you had had a different view, you might otherwise easily have found a good solution by a bit of lateral thinking or thinking outside the box.
If you take the view that so long as they are objecting, there is something wrong, and that if they are objecting a lot, then there is something badly wrong—and that it is up to you to remove the cause of their distress and that then they will enjoy having their nappies changed—then you will be looking for a solution. That solution may be quite easy to find. Even if you do not discover a good solution easily, at least you will be engaged in trying to solve the problem, experimenting, considering alternatives to nappies, scrupulously respecting the child’s wishes about when to change the nappy, trying different kinds of nappies, and so on.
Since so many parents seem to have no idea how it might be possible to deal with the diaper issue entirely without any coercion, here are some ideas to get you started:
- be gentle instead of rough
- scrupulously respect any sign of any lack of consent—any micro-expression suggesting lack of consent—maybe your baby was in the middle of something and this particular moment is wrong because you are interrupting—no one likes being wrenched away from creative work important to them (yes babies are doing this before they have explicit language)
- bring fun, connection, playfulness, lightness and ease to the process instead of being in stressed battle mode or weird blank-faced or pseudo-empathetic intransigence
- change them in front of a warm air heater (the shock of the cold is often the cause of their objection)
- warm the baby wipes in the microwave before using them (so simple!)
- warm the barrier cream too (just like they warm the ultrasound gel in hospital for us adults—if that seems important enough for a bit of gel on an adult’s abdominal skin, why on earth would it not be important to warm it for a sensitive baby’s sensitive regions?!)
- find wipes, cream or whatever that do not sting if there is nappy rash (for those of us with ultra-sensitive skin, almost everything stings even without skin lesions, let alone with—including ‘hypoallergenic’ products!) and warm the cream too (in bad cases of nappy rash it can be better to use the cream to do the cleaning too instead of using wipes for the cleaning)
- avoid anything scented (it is absolute misery to have a sense of smell like a dog and to be assaulted by powerful perfume smells—do not assume your baby does not have a good sense of smell or that your baby shares your taste in scent)
Maybe they do not want to wear nappies at all most of the time? After all, people with a puppy somehow manage to deal with the puppy not yet being housetrained, without putting nappies on it: if those bed-protecting huge flat absorbent medical incontinence pads or whatever it is people put all over the floor when they have a puppy are an acceptable solution when dealing with a puppy, why not a human?
But actually, because they are human, we can do better than how people deal with puppies: human babies notice when their bladders/bowels are full and they communicate that fact from birth in pre-crying utterances and squirming, just like they communicate their need to feed. We just don’t notice. Unless we are aware that this is so and start noticing, and do something about it.
If, the moment you notice or think you notice that your baby is squirming or grimacing or making pre-crying utterances that might be an indication of the need to relieve themselves, you gently hold your baby over a potty in a warm room or in front of a warm air heater, they will use the potty—and I am talking about from as soon as they can hold their head up, not an older child. Babies dislike soiling themselves just like we do.
This is nothing whatever to do with toilet training—toilet training is about having an agenda for your child into which you are coercively pushing the child. On the contrary, far from being coercive child training impervious to the child’s own wishes, what I am suggesting is paying attention to when your baby is expressing the desire/need to urinate or defecate, and non-coercively helping the baby do so in a way that the baby likes.
Even if the baby does not go nappyless, or doesn’t go nappyless all the time, it is still worth paying attention to these pre-verbal communications from our babies and immediately responding as above, because babies actually tend to prefer unsoiled nappies anyway, and the more we actually listen to our babies’ communications from birth, the better all round.
Problems are soluble! And whilst some problems—at the leading edge of scientific knowledge, say—may take decades or lifetimes to crack, many everyday problems, like the nappy-changing one, go from seemingly impossible to solve, to solved with a brilliant solution, in a matter of minutes. And you know what? Solving problems is fun! It is interesting! It sparks joy! Not just in our babies but in us too!
Thoughts? Other ideas? Please do share in the comments.
- How is she sleeping?
- Does breastfeeding require self-sacrifice?
- If we should take babies seriously, should we not take pigs seriously too?
Sarah Fitz-Claridge, 2023, Taking Children Seriously FAQ: ‘Help! My baby hates diaper changes! Ideas for baby-pleasing solutions’, https://takingchildrenseriously.com/help-my-baby-hates-diaper-changes-ideas-for-baby-pleasing-solutions