Whether to change a nappy before or after feeding a baby is a common question for new parents. Both options have pros and cons, and there is no definitive right or wrong answer. The best approach depends on the individual baby and situation. Here is an overview of the factors to consider when deciding if it’s better to change nappy before or after feeding.
Reasons to Change Nappy Before Feeding
There are a few potential benefits to changing a nappy before feeding your baby:
- Lets baby focus on eating – A wet or soiled nappy can be uncomfortable and distracting for a baby during feeding time. Changing the nappy first means they can focus solely on eating without fussing from any nappy discomfort.
- Avoids interruptions mid-feed – If you change the nappy after starting a feeding session and the baby has a bowel movement, you will likely have to stop the feeding, change the nappy again, then restart. Changing beforehand avoids this interruption.
- Helps set a routine – Changing nappy first can help establish a clear routine and schedule. The sequence becomes change nappy, eat, nap/playtime, etc. This consistency and predictability can be beneficial for both baby and parents.
- Reduces risk of diaper rash – Sitting in a wet or dirty nappy during a full feeding can increase the odds of diaper rash starting to form. Changing first means less time sitting in a soiled nappy.
Reasons to Change Nappy After Feeding
However, there are also some good reasons you may want to change the nappy after feeding instead:
- Avoids waking baby too much – If baby is sleepy or fussy at feeding time, changing the nappy first requires fully waking them up which can lead to overtiredness. Changing after lets them stay drowsy and relaxed for eating.
- Better for night feedings – At nighttime feedings, you likely want to avoid fully waking the baby and reduce stimulation. Changing after the feeding prevents disrupting their sleep too early.
- Lets baby eat when hungry – Newborns in particular give hunger cues like rooting, mouthing, etc. When you see those, it’s best to feed them as soon as possible. Waiting to change their nappy first delays eating.
- Poopy nappies are easier post-feed – Babies often have a bowel movement during or immediately after eating. Waiting until after makes cleaning up poopy nappies simpler.
- Takes advantage of natural sleepy period – Feeding triggers the digestive system which releases calming hormones and neurotransmitters. Baby is more likely to fall asleep if you change them during this post-feed sleepy window.
In addition to the above pros and cons, here are some other factors that may impact your decision:
- Baby’s overall mood and temperament – Fussy babies may not tolerate a nappy change before eating while laidback babies may be fine with either order.
- Nappy contents – Very wet or especially soiled nappies are often best changed immediately before letting baby sit in them too long.
- Timing of last nappy change – If their nappy was changed recently, it may be fine to feed first then change again afterwards.
- Type of feeding – Breastfed babies tend to eat more frequently so changing after may disrupt the process less.
- Caregiver preference – If one way makes it easier for you as the caregiver, that can be an important deciding factor.
Guidelines Based on Age
As a general guideline, here are some common practices for nappy changing order based on the baby’s age:
- Newborns – For the first few weeks, it is usually recommended to feed first then change nappies to allow them to eat on demand and avoid disrupting sleep.
- 1-3 months – At this age, many parents find changing before and after every feeding works well to develop a routine while also addressing any bowel movements during eating.
- 4-6 months – As milk feedings decrease, many switch to changing before feeds to promote consistent scheduling and minimize distractions while eating.
- 6+ months – Most continue changing before mealtimes and any snacking at this age. Changing after is still useful for handling poopy nappies during feeds.
Finding the Right Balance
Ultimately, most babies will thrive with both approaches with the order tailored to each situation. Being flexible and responsive to baby’s needs in the moment is key. Here are some examples of finding the right nappy changing balance for your baby:
- Change before morning and evening feeds when baby is alert and likely to focus best.
- Change after night feeds or anytime interrupting sleep should be minimized.
- Start feeding when hunger cues are shown, change midway if needed.
- Change immediately before if very wet or dirty, otherwise feed first.
- Prioritize schedule as baby gets older but stay flexible for needs.
Deciding between changing nappy before or after feeding requires weighing factors like routine, hygiene, convenience and baby’s mood. Most experts recommend focusing on the baby’s needs in the moment rather than strict rules. Paying attention to hunger cues, wakefulness, and nappy condition can help determine the best order for each situation. Being adaptable and responsive while also developing good habits is key to finding what works best for your baby.