Diaper Matters

As a new parent, you'll get plenty of chances to diaper your baby.

Changing diapers is often a source of anxiety and fear. However, it doesn’t take long to get comfortable with diapering.


Your baby's diaper should be very wet six to eight times in 24 hours. If you are breastfeeding, your baby may not have this many wet diapers a day until your milk comes in.

When the baby's diaper is wet or soiled, clean the area with a warm washcloth using mild soap and water. Rinse the area with clean water.

Diaper rashes can usually be avoided by carefully washing the diaper area. Use a clean cloth for each diaper change and wash washcloths and diapers properly. Do not use powders and baby oils. If your baby's bottom looks red or sore, leave the diaper off frequently so the area is exposed to air. Your pediatrician may recommend an ointment to treat diaper rash.

Don't be alarmed if you see dark pink to orange or rust-colored areas on your baby's diaper. These are probably uric acid crystals that are common in the first few weeks of life, but not harmful to babies.

Diapering Girls

Baby girls may have a swollen bottom and a white mucus discharge from the vagina for several days after birth. The discharge may even be blood-tinged within the first week from the effects of the mom’s hormones. This is normal and not a cause for concern. Remember to gently wash the outside area (vulva), wiping from front to back.

Diapering Boys

When washing baby boys, be sure to lift the scrotum to remove any stool. Even small amounts of leftover stool can cause irritation.

Stools or Bowel Movements

Babies should have at least two bowel movements, or stools, each day. The stools are usually a yellow or brown color. The bowel movements of breastfed babies will appear loose and may happen more frequently than those of a bottle-fed baby. It's normal for your baby to grunt, strain and even turn red when having a bowel movement. This does not mean the baby is constipated.


Diarrhea is a large increase in the number of stools your baby usually has or stools that become looser in consistency. Diarrhea can also be watery stools or stools with a water ring around them. Normally, stools are soft. Some are mushy or pasty.

Babies tend to dehydrate (lose fluid) easily and quickly. If your baby has several watery stools, one right after the other, within six to eight hours, call your pediatrician immediately. This can be a symptom of food intolerance or an illness.


Dehydration (lack of fluids) is common in babies. It can be mild, moderate, severe or life threatening. Signs of dehydration include:

  • Dry lips and mouth or thick saliva.
  • Small amounts of dark urine in the diaper.
  • Soft spot on the head (fontanel) sinks in when your baby is held upright or in a sitting position.
  • Skin forms a “tent” when pinched, and stays pinched up.
  • Dark circles around the baby’s eyes.
  • Baby may be fussy, sleepy, not hungry or hard to wake up.
  • Call your pediatrician if your baby shows any of these signs.