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Sunday, March 15, 2015

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Ending Diaper Change Battles

Some babies will just lie still and let you change their diapers, others will get so good at alligator rolls you'd think they've been watching Animal Planet. When my son was around 15 months I was getting fed up with the constant struggles over diaper changes. My son would wrestle away from me as soon as I said it was time for a diaper change. He alligator rolled, kicked and generally thrashed around. It was exhausting. I had to find a way to cope. If you're in the same boat, here are some strategies that worked for us.

1) Forget about discipline. Focus on fun. I read one seasoned mom's advice to firmly tell children to "be still" and physically hold them still until they complied. This just didn't work. My son literally laughed at me. Not in a defiant way, he just didn't understand that it wasn't a game. In his mind, he just wanted to have fun. I started to understand that little ones, especially some in particular, need to expel physical energy. They can either expel that energy through play or through tantrums. As I learn more about my son, I'm learning he craves physical touch and loves to be tickled and roll around on the floor with us. Instead of fighting his wiggles, I encouraged them in appropriate context. I find times during the day to roughhouse with him. During changes, I started to spend a couple minutes tickling him and blowing raspberries on his belly before even reaching for his diaper. Singing songs with hand motions (like "Itsy Bitsy Spider") was helpful too--especially if I was hoping his hands wouldn't dart into his diaper area as soon as the diaper was open. (Gotta be honest, not always successful keeping his hands out of there.) Playing first put both of us in a better mood and made the change a lot easier.

2) Give warning. Toddlers often have difficulty with transitions. I realized that one of the reasons my son hated diaper changes was because they suddenly pulled him away from what he had been doing. I started giving him warning that a diaper change was going to happen soon. "I see that you're having fun playing. In two minutes we'll change your diaper and then you can play some more." Then later, "In one minute we'll change your diaper and then you can play some more." And finally when it was time to change his diaper, I gave him an option of choosing a small toy to bring with him. "It's time to change your diaper. Would you like to bring this toy with you?" If he didn't bring a toy, I had a basket of "diaper change only" toys next to the changing table I pulled from.

3) Wait it out. When giving warning didn't work and I had some time, I didn't enter the battle. I simply placed my son in his crib and said, "Ok, you can wait here. I'll come back in a couple minutes and see if you're ready to get changed yet." Sometimes it took three or four times, but eventually I would come in and ask, "Are you ready to change your diaper?" and he'd let me pick him up without a struggle. He realized that he wasn't going to get to do anything very interesting until he had his diaper changed. It's a nice compromise because I'm giving him control of when he gets his diaper changed, but I get to control what he does until the change (and I can put the clothes in the dryer, get a glass of water, read e-mail, etc). This doesn't work if you need to change your kid urgently, of course, but for those run-of-the-mill changes it saves your energy. Some people let their kid pick one of two places to get their diaper changed. My son doesn't care where it happens--if he's not ready, he's not ready and he'll still wiggle his way out of there.

4) Have diapers that are easy to put on! Sounds too simple to even mention, but there really is benefit to having at least a few pocket or all-in-one (AIO) diapers with hook and loop (velcro/aplix) closure on hand, even if you're usually a prefold or flats and cover user. I love prefolds and flats, but they often wouldn't work for me during the wiggly stage. Too many things to line up and tuck and generally keep in the right spot. My favorite slap-on diapers were my aplix Rumparooz and Tots Bots Easyfits. Even though I don't have Thirsties pockets or AIOs, just their covers, their new aplix is so wide and sticky, it's very easy to put on. Even just having a couple of these "easy on" diapers for when your kid is in an uncooperative mood can be helpful.

5) Eliminate escape routes. Some moms don't understand the need for a changing table. You can technically change a baby's diaper anywhere--on the floor, on the couch, on a bed. But with a super wiggly babe, you need to limit the places they can escape to. For me, that meant strapping my son onto the changing table. If you don't have a changing table, think of places that restrict movement, like between the couch and the coffee table or in a hallway. (This is another reason I don't give my son the option of where he gets changed.) Now that he's older, he knows the routine when he's placed on the changing table. Since he has tried and failed to escape from the changing table so many times, he's much more cooperative on the table.

I hope that helps some of you exhausted mamas. When all else fails, take deep breaths. This too shall pass, and we will miss the days when our kids were small enough to wear their adorable cloth diapers.

Bio: Amber Elbon is a stay-at-home mom who lives in the Seattle area with her husband, almost two-year-old boy and their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Her son and dog give her daily lessons in psychology and behavior modification.

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1 comment:

Sue B. said...

Thank you! I call my son the "tornado" when I am trying to change his diaper. Sometimes he cooperates and sometimes he doesn't. I will try to make it more fun for him, or more fun leading up to it.