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Nappy-changing hacks for new parents

We've told you which nappies we rate as the best – now read our tips to make changing your bub a breeze.

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Last updated: 21 February 2020

Changing a tiny, helpless newborn isn't always as easy as it may seem. It's one of the first super skills you'll learn as a new parent, and your induction will be swift and likely messy. 

Babies may be cute, but they can also be wriggly, loud, and they can create some surprisingly foul explosions for such little people. There'll be nappies, wipes and cream flying everywhere, and perhaps a few tears (from both of you), so here's some tips to help make nappy time as smooth and stress-free as possible.

1. Use the floor, and your powers of distraction

It's very handy to have a designated changing space or change table set up with all your nappies, wipes etc, but if you have a very wriggly little one, the floor or bed, or any flat surface will do. Just ensure you keep an eye on them at all times to avoid them rolling off where they shouldn't. Somewhere under a baby mobile, a secure window or within grabbing distance of harmless toys that can distract them while you get them clean is another plus. 

2. Pack back-up change kits and put them everywhere

Any new parent will tell you: you are no longer in control. A nappy change can be required anywhere at anytime, and being prepared will save you a ton of stress. It isn't always practical to cart a huge baby bag around with you and there are times you may be caught short. 

Get organised by packing little wallets, wet bags or makeup bags with mini nappy changing kits you can leave in your car, stroller or multiple handbags for back-up when you're on the go. Include a few nappies, a mini pack of travel wipes, barrier cream, hand sanitiser and a fresh onesie or two. 

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They don't have far to fall when you change them on the floor.

3. Stock up on cheap square towels or muslins

"One of the most useful baby shower gifts I received was a huge stack of small square towels that were a godsend for nappy changing (and a million other things)," says another CHOICE parent. 

Laying a clean towel or a wipeable change mat under your baby when you change them each time avoids getting mess on the bed/floor or change table. You can use it to do a final wipe when you're done and then just pop it in the wash. 

4. Do the onesie trick

Had a particularly messy blowout? Most onesies have foldable/flexible shoulders which means that if everything is very messy down below, you can pull the onesie down over their body to take it off (rather than dragging the unpleasantness up over baby's head and hair). 

Throw a cloth nappy or towel over their bits while you're getting organised, unless you want to wear it

5. Avoid the wee issue

CHOICE Mum Margaret has two boys so is well-placed to give this advice: "Boys will sometimes wee when the nappy comes off – something to do with the cold air. Throw a cloth nappy or towel over their bits while you're getting organised, unless you want to wear it."

6. Try a spatula... for your nappy cream

Nappy cream gets everywhere: it's thick, white and impossible to wash off, and you're now going to be dipping your fingers in it multiple times a day. Some parents opt to pop a small plastic spatula or clean foundation brush in the tub (or keep one on hand) so they don't have to make contact with the white stuff. 

But CHOICE parent Julia says: "We were given the spatula tip by some friends who swore by it, but we just found it to be quite messy and annoying once our little boy decided it was a toy and loved to try and grab it out of our hands all the time."

7. Save money, buy in bulk

Storage space may be at a premium but make way for huge boxes of nappies. Our top tip for new parents is to buy in bulk. 

Your newborn can go through 8–12 nappies a day in those early weeks then you'll need about 6–8 a day up to around nine months. Then it might reduce to about 4-5 a day (although we've all had those situations when you put a fresh one on and, bam, they need a new one straight away). That's about 3000 nappies or more, just for the first year. If you're buying nappies in small packets at the most expensive unit price, it adds up.

If you compare unit prices on a leading brand sold in the supermarket, the price per nappy can vary from about 28c each to 33c each, depending on the pack size you buy. If you opt for the smaller pack size of the same brand, you could be spending an extra $150 or more for the first year on nappies alone. 

We test a range of nappy brands in our labs here at CHOICE and we usually buy the biggest pack size available – we have found prices per nappy ranging from 16c to $1.76. And the cheapest newborn nappy we recommend is from Aldi and comes in at 17c.

We've all had those situations when you put a fresh one on and, bam, they need a new one straight away

But CHOICE parent Alice recommends holding fire before you rush out and buy a million of the cheapest nappies you can find: "Babies come in all shapes – try a few different brands to find out which one works best for you and bub." 

8. Get nappies and wipes delivered

Those huge boxes of nappies and wipes are a pain to lug around – get them delivered straight to your door by adding to your weekly shop or buy nappies cheaply online from stores such as Amazon or specialist retailers. While you're at it, create a standing order for wipes and nappy cream so you never run out when you have a messy situation on your hands. Brands such as Thankyou and EcoOriginals offer monthly subscription boxes so you can set and forget – one less thing you have to worry about as a new parent.

9. Reconsider the nappy bin

Some parents swear by their nappy bins and high-tech nappy disposal systems – those contraptions that you pop the dirty nappies in and they twist them into individual plastic bags to keep the smell and mess contained. Although it might be useful if you live in an upstairs flat without easy access to an outdoor garbage bin, some parents maintain they are a waste of time, space and money. Plus, it's just one more thing you have to buy. 

"I just use those scented nappy bags and pop it in the bin after each change – I didn't have space in my baby's room for a bulky bin," says one CHOICE parent.

The refill bags come in 'cassettes' that can be very expensive (prices on a leading brand's product can range from $14 to $20 per cassette if you buy individually and it will only last you around 2–3 weeks depending on nappy changes).