Changing diapers is one of those score-keeping childcare tasks - "I changed the last one so it's your turn!"
I felt the same way too BUT one little section of Magda Gerber's book "Your Self-Confident Baby" completely changed my perspective.
It didn't make the process faster (or smell better) but it changed these diapering moments from an obligation to an opportunity for connection with my babies. That sounds a little dramatic but it's completely true. Let me explain what changed.
If you're not familiar with Magda Gerber, she developed a parenting approach known as RIE® (Resources for Infant Educarers®).
It's very aligned with Montessori and often provides more useful info for parents compared to Montessori, as Magda Gerber's approach was developed for parents, whereas Montessori was more focused on the school and learning environment.
The Benefits of Magda's Diapering Approach
Both you and your child participate in caregiving tasks, like diapering, thousands of times over the course of their life. It's not an insignificant amount of time.
By treating these moments like an obligation or something you need to rush through, we risk making our children feel like a burden.
Instead, we can slow down these moments, connect with them, and use this time as an opportunity to show our children just how much we care for them.
Following Magda's approach below, we can also use diapering as a time to teach, model consent, and build trust.
The 7 Parts of Magda Gerber's Approach to Diapering
1. Start by telling your child that you need to change their diaper. You can saying "I'm going to pick you up now" for infants or ask "can I pick you up now?" for toddlers.
Older children don't like being interrupted while in the middle of a task so if you don't need to change their diaper immediately, wait a few minutes. Give them time to process the information and your request.
This helps engage their cooperation and tells them you respect their bodily autonomy. More below if they're usually resistant to diaper changes.
2. Give choices. Ask if they want to hold the diaper or a wipe or if they want to walk to the change table or be carried. This helps your child to feel respected and more in control of the process.
Magda explains that caregiving tasks should be done 'with the child' rather than 'to the child' in order to build a trusting and respectful relationship.
3. Talk about what you're doing. The RIE® approach emphasizes that teaching is not a separate function for parents. It is an everyday life experience. When we narrate what we're doing and why, our children learn about the real world around them.
This helps with language development and creates more predictability because they learn what to expect during a diaper change.
4. Show empathy. If your child fusses, let them know that you understand they don't like it but it has to be done. Follow through, gently but firmly.
For older children, you can even explain that we need to do it to keep our body healthy.
5. Avoid using distractions. Distractions, like screens or toys, take away from the spirit of participation and cooperation you are trying to create.
It also treats your child as an object to which a task is being performed on. Rather try to engage them in the process.
6. Avoid being distracted. Don't answer the phone or someone talking to you from another room. Focus on your child, talk to them, connect with them. Show them that they are important and this task is worthy of your full attention.
7. Avoid the use of negative words around diapering, like stinky or smelly. It gives a young child negative feelings about their bodily functions and can embarrass an older child.
For Children That Resist Diapering
Even with the approach outlined above, I still am met with resistance some days.
When that happens or you're limited with the amount of time you have, you can simply say "sorry, we can't wait any longer. I know you don't want to change your diaper right now but we have to because of X." Give them transition time, if possible, and help them to understand why changing their diaper is so important. It can even be 'because your bum will get sore'.
You can also remind them that soon they will be able to use the toilet and won't need wear a diaper anymore. This can also help your child look forward to toilet independence.