Once little kids start to get mobile, diaper changes can become a challenge. Between the getting up, the screaming and the wandering hands what should be two-minute process becomes as exhausting as running a marathon (ok, so clearly I've never run a marathon, but still, you get the point). So how can we get toddlers to cooperate with diaper changes?
In my experience, the most important step is to stop approaching a diaper change as something you do "to them" but something you do "with them." It's a part of a whole different approach to thinking about what's considered "routine care." (See my article on "Making Routine Care Count" in the related links at the end of this article.)
Here's some suggestions for creating cooperation:
Include your toddler in the process Toddlers can take on multiple "jobs" during a diaper change. The easiest is getting you a diaper (we keep ours in a basket reachable from the changing pad) and patting the tape down when you are done ("pat, pat, pat" was one of our daughter's early words). When a little bigger, they can open up the diaper for you, grab (or hold on to) wipes, and even learn how to push up their bottom to slip the diaper underneath or clothing back on.
Let them get there on their own My daughter never wants to go back for a diaper change when I try to pick up and carry her there. But if I let her walk there on her own, I've got a better chance. And if I offer to let her climb up (which for now is just putting a stool next to the changing table that she can climb onto and the lifting her the rest of the way), she practically runs there.
Use your words Even from infancy, talk to your baby during a diaper change. Describe what you are doing. Talk about how things feel and what's coming "here comes the wipe.. does that feel cold?" Even if they can't understand you, they'll be concentrating on your voice and sense your intention. Especially use your words before you *do* anything to their body, for example "I'm going to lift up your legs and put a diaper under." I know it may feel ridiculous at first, but later, when they get older, you'll be in the habit of directing them by voice rather than just dragging their body around.
Make a game of it Sometimes when my toddler is cranky about a change, it's worth taking an extra minute to cheer her up. "I'm hungry
is there a tummy around here I can eat?" is one of her favorites. Once we have fun for a minute or two, she's a lot more receptive to helping with the diaper change.
Try standing changes I've never been a fan of this personally, but I know a lot of people who have had success with it. It can be a little tricky to figure out the diaper tapes if they are too small for pull-ups, but once they are walking, sometimes half the fight is getting them to lay down for the change.
Give up the changing table I know the changing table makes it easier on your back and keeps supplies handy, but you may want to consider giving up the changing table and moving changes to the bathroom. We used the removable pad from our pack-n-play with cloth diaper flats on top of it on the floor. Like with the standing changes, sometimes making the venue easier is half the battle. At some point it also makes some sense to move stinky diaper pails from the baby's room into the bathroom, as well as moving the whole pottying operation toward its ultimate destination even if the toilet itself holds no interest yet for your toddler.
Diaper changes don't need to be a constant fight. Figuring out how to involve your toddler in the process and showing respect the increasingly independent toddler psyche can go a long way towards cooperation. Imagine how you would like it if someone plucked you up and wiped your bottom without involving you in the process. As toddlers move from infant to "kid" you'll get a lot of mileage from working with them with that concept in mind.