Diaper ‘rasslin

“Frustrated” asked: “Dr. Roy, my 18-month-old son HATES having his diaper changed… particularly by me (mother). Sometimes I can distract him with a toy or object, but more often than not he’ll have none of it and I can’t seem to avoid the crying and trying to roll over the entire time. This has gone on for months, ever since he could roll over. Please, any suggestions on how to change a diaper without it turning into a WWE wrestling match?”

Ahhhhh….the fun of the terrible twos…(yes, I know he’s not 2 yet, but he thinks he is, and that’s what counts.) They know what they want, and they want it now! They can’t really communicate very well, even when they try, so half the time you don’t know what they want. They certainly are tired of everyone else doing things for them and to them, but they can’t do things very well by themselves yet. You think you’re frustrated? What about him?

Here’s some ideas, mix-n-match until you find something to at least bring the WWE match down to the level of high-school wrestling:

  • Stickers! But he only gets one at diaper changing time. If not stickers, try little cheapo plastic dinosaurs from Oriental Trading Company. Want to make prizes even more special? Wrap them individually, and put them in a big grab-bag-basket. He’ll be quivering with excitement…but no prize unless he holds still!
  • Give him a job, a way to help out during the process. It’s his job maybe to hold the diaper cream, or rub a wipe to warm it up. (It doesn’t matter what, it just makes him part of the experience rather than just an idle victim.)
  • Give him a heads-up beforehand, rather than interrupting something fun.
  • Make up a special changing song to sing together, or some other kind of game. You’re not going to be able to make this work with brute strength—silliness, it turns out, is a far more powerful tool.
  • Change the way you change, at least for a little while. Wet diapers can be changed while standing up, or even with a baby lying on his tummy. It’s awkward, and it won’t work if there’s a mess to clean up, but it’s just strange enough to distract and confuse a baby so you can get the job done.

I’ve got one other idea for you, maybe one that you haven’t thought of: maybe now is a good time to work on potty training. He’s young, it’s true, compared to when many families in the US think of potty training, but it can work at this age. If he really doesn’t want his diaper changed, getting him out of diapers soon might be the best fix of all! For more about potty training early, middle, and late-pottiers, check out the potty chapter in my book Solving Health and Behavioral Problems from Birth Through Preschool: A Parent’s Guide.

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