Often, society sees diaper changes as necessary chores that must be accomplished many times a day, but not necessarily as valuable and important. Magda Gerber wants us to look at diaper changes as more than just chores—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.”
One Diaper Change
Susie (7 months) is lying on her tummy on a blanket. I walk into the room and we look at each other, sharing a big smile. I slowly walk to the blanket and sit on the floor next to Susie. “Hey girl, I came to see what you’re doing…” I say softly. I observe for a minute and notice that Susie is trying to reach the ball that is close to her. It seems like an easy task, but every time Susie’s fingers touch the ball, it moves a tiny bit away. I sit still, not helping or interrupting. It takes a few minutes for Susie to reach the ball. When she does, she glances at me with a proud smile. I smile back and say, “I saw that… you got the ball!”
I wait a bit longer while Susie explores the ball. When her interest starts fading, I say, “I think you might need a diaper change…” Pause. Then I let her know that I am going to check her diaper. I say, “Yes, it looks like you need a fresh diaper.” Pause. “I’m going to get up and get the table ready.”
I start describing, “I’m getting wipes and a fresh diaper.” Pause. “Now I’m ready for you.” I come back to the blanket and tell Susie, “Now I’m going to pick you up and take you to the changing table.” Susie is still holding the ball. I reach with my open hand and say, “I would like to take the ball now. You can have it after we’re done changing your diaper.” Susie is hesitant but lets the ball go. I show her where I’m going to keep the ball while we’re changing her diaper.
Slowly, together with Susie, I walk to the changing table. I tell her that I’m going to put her down and wait a few seconds to allow her to process. Then I place Susie down. Susie gazes at the curtains and reaches first with her right hand and then with her left hand too. I acknowledge her interest, “You discovered the curtains with the butterfly.” Together with Susie, we look at the bright butterfly on the curtains for a minute, and then I bring Susie’s attention to our “business.”
I start slowly describing my actions, “I’m pulling your pants down. Now I’m opening the Velcro on the right side of the diaper and now on the left. I’m going to pull out some wet wipes.” I pull out a wipe and hold it right between me and Susie. “Look, the wipes are cold and wet.” I pause before touching Susie’s bottom. “I need to place a fresh diaper under your bottom. Will you help me lift your legs?” Instead of holding her by her ankles, I might slide my hand under her knees to lift her bottom. “Now I’m going to close the Velcro on the right side of your diaper and then on the left. And we can pull your pants up. I will wipe my hands and yours. Now you’re 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 the ball, and then you can talk about a diaper change.
2. Let your baby know
Let your baby know that you are thinking about diaper change.
3. Prep the items
Sometimes I would prepare items for a diaper change in front of the child and describe what I am doing. Imagine that you are painting a picture of what to expect. It might have the same effect if you write upcoming appointments in your planner.
4. Tell your baby
Let the baby know it’s 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 minutes.
5. Slow down
Slowly proceed to the diaper changing area. When you are slow, your child has an extra opportunity to process what’s going on and choose to participate in the caregiving routine.
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 the 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 about what you are doing. Narration helps your baby process what you are doing. Also, it helps the child feel more in control of the process. In addition, it is a great opportunity for learning language.
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 a diaper change, follow their lead. It’s a dance! And then bring the attention back 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
10. No, jokes
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.
Let me know if you need more information about RIE® Parent-Infant Guidance™ Classes.
Wishing you all the best in the difficult yet exciting journey of parenting!