How can I tell if my baby is stressed or in pain during diapering? What cues or signs will my baby give me?
It’s important for all parents and caregivers to learn the difference between stress and pain in your baby, and for some babies, this stress may come during diapering time. Your baby may be stressed if they grow pale or turn red-faced, grimace, grow restless and wave their arms or kick their legs or go stiff. Your baby may also look away rather than make eye contact during this time. Babies experiencing pain typically pierce the air with a strong cry, have faster breathing or a faster heart rate, and may try to push away from you or arch their backs as if trying to withdraw from a painful situation.
Use a diaper change as a chance to be present in the moment and try to find the source of your baby’s stress or pain. Inspect the skin for signs of diaper rash or other irritation and explore whether an ill-fitting diaper may be causing your little one discomfort. To protect your baby’s sensitive skin, use infant skin wipes with an appropriate pH balance for a baby’s best skin, as well as a barrier cream to prevent rash. Baby’s diaper should fit snuggly but not so tight it pinches their skin, folding up from between the legs to rest right below the belly bottom, and the tabs should close easily.
Help your baby in times of stress by providing your fingers or a toy to grasp. Move slowly and draw your baby’s arms and legs into their body as you physically swaddle them with your arms to your body. Provide extra support during diapering by “nesting” baby within rolled up blankets and let baby suck on their own fingers your clean fingers or a toy. Babies find sucking relaxing, and this natural reflex helps them manage their emotions, focus and feel comfortable and secure. If you’re nursing, consider breastfeeding your baby as a comfort following a stressful diapering time.