What to do when baby figures out how to take off their diaper

It doesn’t have a cute name like “the terrible twos,” but the phase where a baby learns to take off their own diaper before they are ready to swap it out for big-kid underwear and time on the potty is common enough that any experienced parent who doesn’t remember it first-hand has at least heard some stories from friends or relatives. This means that if your little one has started slipping out of their diaper unexpectedly, and even making a little bit of a mess in the process, you’re definitely not alone. More than not alone, though, you’re in a good position to learn from the tricky – and sticky, and mess-filled – experiences of the parents who have gone through it before you.

Try a little persuasion

Maybe your little one won’t appreciate your well-reasoned argument about why they should stay safely diapered, but there are some less verbal ways you might be able to convince them not to go diaperless. Some babies start taking off their diapers because they’re a lot less comfortable with them on, either because of a nasty case of diaper rash, a scratchy piece on a specific brand of diaper, or because they’re wearing a diaper that doesn’t breathe well, and they’re overheating. This means that switching diaper brands, or even switching from disposable to cloth, or vice versa, can make all the difference in keeping Baby diapered.

Another possible reason Baby might have for taking their diaper off, whether you’re ready or not, is just that they like to. Babies love to master new skills and hate being bored, and their newest skill is an exciting one. There isn’t much you can do to keep them from feeling proud of themself, but if they have turned to diaper-escapism out of boredom, you may be able to discourage them from keeping it up just by wearing them out during a very busy day.

Of course, no matter how persuasive you are, there’s a good chance Baby won’t listen to reason, especially not when the alternative is the chance to pull their diaper off their body, so you may need to move on to plan B.

Dress for success

One of the easier ways of slowing down Baby’s quest to be diaper-less is just to get in their way. If they usually run around in just a diaper, adding a onesie over the top could slow them down. If that’s not doing the trick, pants over the top, or even a pair of footie pajamas can make diaper removal feel like more trouble than it’s worth.

Babies who have mastered the trick of zippers can still be slowed down if clothing, or even a diaper, is put on backwards, though depending on the clothing or diaper, this can also be uncomfortable. Some parents find that putting underwear on top of a diaper can help protect that diaper from little hands, but others have found that, for some children, this can cause confusion later, when it’s time to transition to underwear and potty training.

For the advanced escape artist:

For some babies, even the trickiest of clothing layering isn’t enough to keep those diapers on. In those cases, occasionally, slightly stronger measures are called for.

  • For disposable: If your little one is busting their way out of disposable diapers and needs a little bit of an extra obstacle to keep
    them clothed, many parents find that using a heavy tape to tape over the diaper’s tabs will do the job.
  • For cloth: If Baby has figured out the ins and outs of unfastening cloth diapers, many parents find that switching the pre-folds with snapped on covers over them provides enough of a barrier to deter them, especially in addition to layering clothing. In cases where this doesn’t work, either pinning diapers closed with old-fashioned diaper pins or a switch to disposable diapers that can be taped closed might be called for.

Time for potty training?

For many parents, the point when their children stop being willing to wear diapers seems like the perfect time to introduce something new – the potty. In many cases, especially with older toddlers between 2 and 3, this can work very well. However, there are many reasons a baby might have a sudden diaper-aversion, and potty-training readiness is only one of them. If your little one isn’t showing any interest in the potty yet, there’s a good chance they just isn’t ready for it. A few signs that Baby might be ripping off their diapers as a way of preparing for potty training include:

  • If they are communicating with you strongly enough that it seems reasonable that they might be able to tell you when they're ready to go.
  • If, instead of just wiggling out of diapers, they are showing the manual dexterity and fine motor skills for taking their clothes off and putting them back on.
  • If they are showing an interest in the potty.
If Baby isn’t showing any of these signs, there’s a good chance they're ripping off their diaper for some other reason, and it might be a good idea to hold off on introducing the potty for a little while longer.
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