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Dirty Diapers and Diaper Rash

When you have a newborn, dirty diapers are a part of daily life. But changing diapers is more than just a chore. It’s also a way to make sure your baby is healthy. This sheet will help you know what’s normal and what’s not.

Wet Diapers

Your baby should have at least 8 wet diapers a day. More than 8 is okay. But fewer could mean the baby is not drinking enough fluids (dehydrated) or not eating enough. If this happens, call the doctor.

Bowel Movements

Some babies have a bowel movement after every feeding. Others only have one every couple of days. If your baby doesn’t have a bowel movement for 1 to 2 days and seems uncomfortable, call the doctor. This is because the baby may be constipated. But if the baby seems OK and is eating well, you don’t need to call the doctor.

Normal Stool

The baby’s stool may look different depending on what he or she eats:

  • Breast milk results in light yellow stool that looks like watery cottage cheese.

  • Formula results in  stool that’s darker brown, firmer, and more pasty.

Signs of a Problem

Call the doctor if you notice either of the following:

  • Diarrhea is thin and watery, and more frequent than normal stool.

  • Constipation, which is when the stool is hard and pebblelike.

Closeup of diaper on baby, partly undone to show diaper rash on inner thigh.

Diaper Rash

Most babies get diaper rash at some point. The warmth and dampness inside the diaper causes skin irritation around the groin and buttocks. Diaper rash can happen with both cloth and disposable diapers, but a disposable diaper may keep the skin drier. To prevent diaper rash:

  • Change the baby’s diapers often.

  • Gently clean the diaper area and pat it dry before putting on a new diaper. If possible, leave the diaper off for a little while so the area can air-dry. 

  • Use only warm water and a soft washcloth to clean the diaper area. If you want to use soap, a mild, unscented soap is OK for the baby.

  • Protect the skin in the baby’s diaper area with an ointment containing petroleum jelly or zinc oxide. This forms a barrier that helps prevent diaper rash by keeping moisture away from the skin. When you change the diaper, gently remove only the top layer of ointment. Then spread more on top of it. (Don’t rub off all of the ointment. This hurts the skin and can make diaper rash worse.)

  • If your baby’s diaper rash doesn’t get better, call the doctor.


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