Why Do Toddlers Hate Diaper Changes? (& Solutions!)


Changing an infant or young baby seems so easy looking back, doesn’t it? They just lay there, looking up at you with love in their eyes. Cut to toddlerhood and changing a diaper can sometimes feel like trying to herd bees with a fish net.

There are actually many reasons your toddler could hate diaper changing time, including:

1. Diaper Changes are Boring.

Your toddler was probably busy having fun doing an activity and didn’t want to stop the fun for something as lame as changing their diaper.

How to Make Diaper Changes Fun

If your toddler is struggling with diaper changes because they have more exciting things to do, make the diaper change the exciting thing.

Distractions like toys work well, especially if those toys are kept for diaper change time alone. Or you can play a special game like guessing the animal sound or eye-spy.

If you have other children or pets, you can also get them involved by asking them to entertain your toddler during the diaper change.

2. A Diaper Change Is Out Of Their Control.

At the toddler stage, the struggle for power is real. They want more autonomy and stopping what they are doing at your demand so they can just lay there while you do something to them leaves them feeling powerless and out of control.

How to Give Them Some Control During Diaper Changes

While letting your toddler choose whether or not to have a diaper change isn’t an option, you can give them some power by letting them make some inconsequential choices in the process.

Giving them the choice between two cloth diaper prints or where they would like to have their diaper changed (on the floor or on the changing table for example) can be enough to make them feel less powerless in the situation and make diaper changes much easier. Just make sure that all the options you give them are ok with you, and stick to what they choose.

It can also help to explain to your toddler what is going to happen. By taking the time to explain the steps of the diaper change and how long each step should take they will understand, and therefore feel more in control over what’s happening to them.

3. Changed Diapers Can Feel Uncomfortable.

It sounds gross to us, but to a toddler who doesn’t know about bacteria and germs, a freshly peed-in diaper is nice and warm. Switching that for a cold new diaper is not enticing.

How to Make Diaper Changes More Comfortable

This one can be a bit tricky, but using some props can help here. Giving your toddler a super-soft teddy or blanket to snuggle during the diaper change can help. A microwavable warm-up teddy bear (They have lots over at Amazon, I use and recommend the Warm Pals brand that has a nice light lavender scent) can also help greatly.

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Finally, using a warm wipe over a cold one can also help. Whether you use cloth wipes or disposable wipes, a good wipe warmer can make it easy to have warm wipes on hand.

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4. It May Hurt.

If your little one is battling a diaper rash, changing their diaper may be actually painful until the rash clears.

If your little one has had diaper rashes in the past, they may actually remember that pain, and remember the process as painful even when it’s not any longer.

How to Soothe the Diaper Change Pain

If your little one is currently battling a diaper rash, the first thing you can do is to work on clearing it up, which may require a trip to a pediatrician. I interviewed Dr. Lyndsey Garbi, the Chief Pediatrician of Blueberry Pediatrics, about the common causes, treatments, and prevention of diaper rash here.

If it’s the memory of a sore bum you’re battling you’ll have a bit more of an uphill battle. Of course the first step is to make your toddler as comfortable as possible. Again, you can also try wiping them with a warm wipe to make their little bum feel nice during the diaper change, to counteract the memories of discomfort.

If your toddler is old enough to be reasoned with, you may also want to explain that you’re changing their diaper to avoid them getting a diaper rash in the first place.

5. It May Be Scary.

There are a few types of fear that could be happening here. The first, and easiest to deal with is a fear of heights if you’re changing them on a changing table. The fear could also be emotional if diaper change power struggles have been happening for a while; it could be a fear of causing the person changing them to get frustrated or “mad” at them.

How to Make Diaper Changes Less Scary

If it’s a fear of heights, the fix is easy just move diaper changes to the floor, a couch or bed.

If the fear is over the recent negativity around diaper changes, re-reading number one on this list and making diaper changes more fun can help.

If you’re not sure what the fear is, there may be something bigger happening, start by seeing a pediatrician and enlisting their help.

While you’re waiting to see them, implement as many stress-reducing diaper change strategies as you can (see paragraph below) and make your diaper changes as enjoyable as they can be while you try to figure out the deeper issues. With some time and patience, you can get your little one back to being ok with diaper changes.

6. They Want to Be a Big Kid

Sometimes, especially if your toddler is older, the hesitation for diaper changes are because they associate diapers with babies, and they don’t want to be a baby any longer, they want to be a big kid.

How to Make them Feel Like a Big Kid

If you’re able to talk to your toddler and work out that this is the problem, it may be time for potty training, or to push potty training a little harder.

Emphasizing that potty training for big kids, and making sure they are ready for it, could help your potty training experience go smoothly for your little-big kid.

Potty training pants (like the Thirsties potty training pants I reviewed here) can also help as they look and feel like “big-kid underwear” to a toddler.

More Tips to Make Diaper Changes Easier

If you’re really struggling and need more tips and tricks to make changing your toddler’s diaper easier, I have a list of 10 Sanity-Saving 3-Year-Old Diaper Change Tips here. While that article is written for 3-year-olds since that is when most parents come looking for help, the tips work for all ages.

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