Toddler resistance to diaper changing

When Baby spots the changing table, does he scamper like a sailor spotting a pirate ship on the horizon? Toddlers suddenly hating diaper changes isn’t a totally uncommon experience (although it is pretty baffling for parents).

Why all the huffing and puffing? Well, the good news is that it probably doesn’t have anything to do with you or the actual diaper change. Here are some reasons why this might be happening, and how you can try to remedy Baby‘s recent distaste for diaper changes.

Baby might hate having his playtime interrupted

Play isn’t just ‘play’ to a toddler. It’s his job, education, and favorite hobby, all rolled up into one. So Baby might act out when taken out of playtime for a boring old diaper change.

  • Try this: Instead of insisting that Baby abandon all toys during a diaper change, keep some special diaper-time toys for Baby to only use at the changing table. You could also let him bring some toys along when he is getting changed. Some parents even go so far as to learn how to change their toddler while the toddler stands upright, but this will take a fair amount of practice and isn’t really feasible for poopy diapers (unless you’re desperate). 

Baby could be feeling a loss of control

Toddlers don’t always like being told what to do, and it’s possible that Baby wants a little more say in the diapering schedule. Choices can help him feel more in control of the situation. 

  • Try this: Give Baby some choices so that he feels more involved. For example, have him choose what toy to bring to the table, what diaper to use, what song to sing while diapering, what snack to have afterwards, etc. Also try asking Baby for help in the diapering process, like handing you wipes or holding the fresh diaper. 

You might not be transitioning in a way that works for Baby

Toddlers have all different kinds of quirks, preferences, and responses to their environment. Your toddler has his own style of taking in information, and acting on what he knows. As such, he may need a different kind of method for moving between activities. Fortunately, you can help!

  • Try this: Learn Baby‘s transition style. Does Baby need a couple of warnings before it’s time to change? Maybe he requires five minutes to finish up play, or a certain word or routine that signals it’s time for a diaper change. Whatever it is, learning and using Baby‘s preferred method of moving between activities can help make things go smoother. 

Baby might be picking up on some negative diaper-changing vibes

The problem might lie in actual diaper-changing itself. Imagine that someone insisted on brushing your teeth or washing your face around the same time every day. You might start to resist the activity – especially if the person seemed stressed or disconnected from the process (which many parents are, understandably)! 

  • Try this: Spice things up. Make the experience more fun and enjoyable for Baby. Distract him by singing songs or listening to music before, during, and after the diaper change. Use a different tone of voice when you tell Baby it’s time for a diaper change. Reward Baby for a good job at the end of a successful visit to the changing table. 

You might just have a squirmy toddler

Toddlers try to escape the changing table in all kinds of ways, from putting a foot against a parent’s chest to kicking out from against the wall, or rolling alligator-style off the mat. Maybe it’s clear that Baby hates lying on his back, or that he can&;t stand lying still and not doing anything. Or maybe he just finds it funny when you get frustrated. 

  • Try this: Stock necessary items wherever you change diapers so you have them quickly on hand. If Baby likes to roll off the table, find a plastic mat that you can lie down on the floor to change him on. If Baby tends to kick or flail, use one arm to keep his body still, and the other to do the changing. And finally, prioritize. If Baby escapes at the end of a diaper change and runs back to the living room in the nude, let him play for a little bit while you clean up and re-stock. As long as you’re not expecting company, you can get him in some clothes later. 

What’s love got to do with it?

Above all, it can be helpful to try to make diaper-changing less of a tedious task, and more of a special moment that the two of you get to share. Before you do any diaper changing, try tickling and kissing Baby while he is on the table. Even if Baby is just going through a diaper changing-hating stage, it’s worth using this time to bring the two of you closer together. Diaper changes may be a little tedious, after all, but the day that they end will come sooner than you expect, and in five or ten years you might find yourself missing these diaper-changing days.


Sources
  • “19 Ways To Keep Your Baby or Toddler Happy During Diaper Changes.” AhaParenting. Dr Laura Markham, 2017. Available at www.ahaparenting.com/Ages-stages/babies/baby-toddler-hates-diaper-change.
  • “Movin’ On: Supportive Transitions for Infants and Toddlers.” NAEYC. National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2010. Available at www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/201005/YCRockNRoll0510.pdf.
  • “Tips on Playing with Babies and Toddlers.” ZerotoThree. ZERO TO THREE: National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families, Apr 2016. Available at www.zerotothree.org/resources/1081-tips-on-playing-with-babies-and-toddlers.
  • “Don’t give in! Give Choices.” AhaParenting. Dr Laura Markham, 2017. Available at www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/positive-discipline/give-choices. 

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