Often society sees diaper change as a necessary chore that must be accomplished many times a day, but not necessarily valuable and important. Magda Gerber want us to look at diaper change as more than a chore – as quality time with our baby.
“This is time when you work for cooperation. If you think in terms of quality, you use the time for learning to do a task together when you expect the child to cooperate. It should become something you both enjoy doing together. Your availability is there, …. During this time you also have expectations. This is the beginning of introducing and reinforcing discipline.”
Susie (7 months) is lying on her tummy on a blanket. I walk into the room and we looked at each other and shared a big smile. I slowly walked to the blanket and sat on the floor next to Susie: “Hey girl, I came to see what you are doing….” I said softly. I observed for a minute and noticed that Susie was trying to reach the ball that was close to her. It seemed like an easy task, but every time when Susie’s fingers touched the ball, it moved a tiny bit away. I sat still not helping or interrupting. It took a few minutes for Susie to reach the ball. When she did, she glanced at me with a proud smile. I smiled back and said, “I saw that….you got the ball!”
I waited a bit longer while Susie was exploring the ball. When her interest started fading I said, “I a think that you might need a diaper change….” Pause. Then I let her know that I am going to check her diaper. I said: “Yes, looks like you need a fresh diaper.” Pause. “I am going to get up, get the table ready.” I start describing, “I am getting wipes and a fresh diaper.” Pause “Now I am ready for you.” I came back to the blanket and told Susie, “Now I am going to pick you up and take you to the changing table.” Susie was still holding the ball. I reached with my open hand and said, “I would like to take the ball now. You can have it after we are done changing your diaper.” Susie was hesitant, but let ball go. I showed her where I am going to keep the ball while we are changing her diaper.
Slowly, together with Susie, I walked to the changing table. I told her that I am going to put her down and waited a few seconds to allow her to process. Then I placed Susie down. Susie gazed at the curtains and reached first with her right hand and then with her left hand too. I acknowledged her interest, “You discovered the curtains with the butterfly.” Together with Susie we looking at the bright butterfly on the curtains for a minute and then I brought Susie’s attention to our “business”. I started slowly describing my actions: “I am pulling your pants down. Now I am opening Velcro on right side of the diaper and now on the left. I am going to pull out some wet wipes.” I pulled out a wipe and held it right between me and Susie. “Look, the wipes are cold and wet.” I paused before touching Susie’s bottom. “I need to place a fresh diaper under your bottom. Will you help me lifting your legs?” Instead of holding her by her ankles I might slide my hand under her knees to lift her bottom. “Now I am going to close the Velcro on the right side of your diaper and then on left. And we can pull your pants up. I will wipe my hands and yours. Now you are ready to go play.”
Some parents asked me to convert my story into a few points to have it as a reminder:
- Observe what your baby does. You don’t want to intervene right in the middle of play. For example, if your baby tries very diligently to reach a ball, you might want to give your baby a few minutes to explore this ball, and then you may talk about diaper change.
- Let your baby know that you are thinking about diaper change.
- Sometimes I would prep items for diaper change in front of the child and describe what I am doing.
- Let the baby know it is time to change the diaper. You can offer an older child the choice to crawl to the table or to be carried. Do it now or in 5 min.
- Slowly proceed to the diaper changing area.
- If your baby is holding a toy, ask for it with an open hand. Sometimes you will need to gently take the toy away. You don’t need to distract your baby during diaper change, by dangling toys above your baby. You want to give your baby the opportunity to get involved and take a bigger and bigger part in the process of caretaking.
- Describe what you are doing – talk to the baby.
- Use tarry time. Wait for the baby to process your words and observe him/her to anticipate what you do. This is the first step to becoming involved in the process.
- If the baby’s attention wanders away from diaper change, follow his lead. It is a dance! And then bring the attention to the task you need to accomplish. “(1) You enjoy and acknowledge this playfulness. But when it’s time to get down to business you are (2) Firm. You allow a little time to play game, and you let the child know you are playing; then you become firm and say it’s time NOW.” – Magda Gerber
- Avoid negative comments about the poopy diaper, such as commenting that it is smelly or dirty.
Enjoy your every diaper change!
Some of them will be more cooperative, some less. Don’t expect all of them to be perfect.
Wishing you all the best in the difficult yet exciting journey of parenting!