Who Should Change the Diapers?

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Older brother changing baby sister's diaper?

Aug 2002

Hi everyone,
my baby (girl) is due this fall and was wondering if it would be inappropriate to have her older brother (he'll be 12 then) help change her diaper? does anyone have experience with this? i was thinking it should be ok, as long as we make it seem totally natural, but 12 is a weird age for kids so i'm unsure, esp in regard to cleaning her down there? thanks for your help, anon

If you have a 12-year-old who is willing to change a baby's diaper, I say go for it. I have two teen sons who not only refuse to change their baby brother's diaper, one of them will not even touch his clean bottles when unloading the dishwasher. Too gross for him. I think diaper changing is a useful skill for a young teen to learn that will really come in handy later, whether they will be a mom, or a dad, or even an aunt/uncle. I'm still working on my teens .... Ginger

My husband was 11 when his little sister was born and he helped his mother take care of her, including by changing diapers. I think it is one of the things that has made him the good father that he is. When our first child was born, he knew a lot more about diapering and swaddling then I did! He and his sister have always had a very close relationship -- he has always been someone she could turn to who was an adult, but not a parent. I don't think it was weird for him at all; actually my now 14 year- old nephew also changed his baby sister when she was born and his practical experience led to some good money-making babysitting jobs. Stephanie

Husband refuses to change diapers

April 2002

Since our daughter was born 3 months ago, my husband has changed maybe 3 or 4 diapers. It's beginning to turn into the biggest source of conflict between us. If I leave him alone with her and she cries, he doesn't even bother to check her diaper. I can't seem to convince him that diaper changes represent real quality time, and that he should learn how to get comfortable with it now while it's still easy to do. The thought of spending more than two years changing every single diaper myself depresses me. Does anyone have any success stories with this situation? Mary

i am appalled that your husband would refuse to change diapers and completely understand that the prospect of being the only parent changing diapers until potty training is completed is depressing to you. I don't know about your relationship to him, nor would I be justified in coming to any conclusions on the nature of your marriage based on this one piece of information I know. However, I will tell you what part of my experience was just to offer you my perspective and hope that this will help you think things through and not depress you more. I was married for almost two years to a man who didn't change diapers when alone with our son, sometimes leaving wet/soiled diapers on him for so long that the sheer weight of them caused them to fall into a pant-leg. He also didn't help around the house, and when I came home from work and school, he criticized me for ''not standing still for even a minute'' when I would come home and try to wade through the mess. he told me I was a hypocrite for complaining how tired I was because, as he pointed out, I should relax instead of cleaning the house. But he didn't help me out. I became more and more upset about these circumstances. I felt, and still feel, that his behavior was negligent--diaper rashes/wet, dirty diapers are very uncomfortable for baby--and felt negligent and worried leaving our son at home with him. My resentment skyrocketed, and in the end i decided on a divorce, which has benefited me greatly--some things are harder/more expensive for me, such as having to hire someone to watch the kids when I have to go somewhere. However, I no longer have to feel upset every day, and that makes me a much happier person. My ex husband spends time with the kids and is still very bad about diaper changing, but at least it's his house and car that are messy and not mine. We had problems in our marriage that went way beyond these issues, but it was the friction caused by these daily events to make the marriage miserable for me.

I think that you might want to analyze why your husband won't change diapers; you might want to suggest hiring a sitter when he's with baby so diapers will get changed. You might want to suggest going to a family therapist with him to discuss the feelings involved in the situation and take steps to improve communication, empathy, and the mutual feelings of respect and support that are part of the glue that hold a strong partnership together. I feel for you and wish you the best of luck Anna

We had/have a similar problem in our house. It turns out that my husband has a serious fear of poop. (poopaphobia? lol) I never realized it, but now it makes sense - he has always clogged our toilets with gobs of toilet paper because he has a fear of his own poop and needs a ton of tp to feel fully clean. I don't know if this is the case with your husband, but it is something to consider.

Finally, we discussed it and we agreed that he would sniff for poop and I would change all poopy diapers. But, if the diaper was pee-pee only - he would take care of it. I don't love this arrangement, but it is far better than changing all diapers myself, and it keeps my husband from having panic attacks when he needs to change her. It is still hard when I need to leave her with him for extended periods of time, but my daughter is 18 mos now, so her bowel movements are somewhat predictable.

You may think this sounds insane, but I once forced my husband to change a poopy diaper and he started hyperventilating and then washed his hands obsessively for 10 mins. He did it, but it was a terrible experience for all of us. I much prefer our current arrangement, and he is slowing overcoming his fear by at least staying with me when I change her. anon

This one makes me furious! Alas, it's not terribly uncommon, and I don't have a sure-fire solution. I would remind your husband that this child is his responsibitily too, and that goes for ALL aspects of caring - including hygeine. For crying out loud, it's a bodily function, and sure, it's not the most enjoyable aspect, but refusing to attend to a child's BASIC needs of any kind can qualify as child abuse. What if you were physically unable to do the job, heaven forbid? And there are plenty of documented cases of ''handicapped'' adults who manage this task. Get him the book ''Everybody Poops'', remind him of his own body, and tell him to grow up and deal with it. anonymous

Rather than try to sell diaper changing to your husband as ''quality time,'' acknowledge the fact that he hates it - but it's got to be done and you don't want to do it every single time either. (Better than talking about ''fair'' and ''unfair'' in my opinion -- fair/unfair discussions usually go nowhere.) My husband is repulsed by poopy diapers, while I simply find all diapers boring and (this sounds like you) don't want that to be ''my'' job forever. We've come to an understanding that I'll do the poopy diapers and he'll do the pee diapers. As for fair and unfair, when your baby gets older & is pooping only once a day, you'll have the better end of the deal. Fran

My husband could deal with wet diapers but not loaded ones. We used to live a block from his mother and he had been known to walk down and have her change the baby when need arose. That was pretty bad but in the end things did balance out. I did diapers; he did the shopping for most of their clothes . I read aloud; he roughhoused. I worried; he calmed me down. I did most of the cooking; he dealt with all of the medical emergencies. Actually, the thing he did that was most important when our children were babies was giving them a shower every morning. I delivered the baby to him in the shower and he would hold it in the crook of his arm grasping the fat little leg firmly. He soaped them all over with baby shampoo and then after they were rinsed he'd hold them over his shoulder and let them enjoy the hot water hitting their backs. When they were done, I'd come in with a big towel and get the clean baby. It was a great exchange: they bonded and I never had to bath a baby.

If your baby is only a few months old, give the situation time. It takes a while for families to develop and in the end diapers are not very important. Janet

What century is this? Dirty diapers are both parents' responsibility. Put your foot down girlfriend! And yes, significant bonding occurs during diaper changing. Marianne

I thought I'd add an idea to the discussion. If you and your husband both don't like to change diapers, how about potty training?

This is a method that the authors of a book on infant potty training (starting at 0-5 months!) claim was en dorsed by Dr. William Sears (attachment parenting guru): http://timl.com/tt/ http://www.white-boucke.com/ifpt.html

I don't have any experience with this book, but I do have experience with early-ish potty training. I started both my daughters at 18mos. I think you miss a lot of resistance if you start earlier. Now my second daughter is 2 and I rarely have to change a poopy diaper. I put her on the toilet several times a day and she usually poops one of those times. She pees whenever I put her on. If she is naked she will go all by herself. We still have a long way to go until she is potty trained, but I find sticking her on the potty much easier and more pleasant than changing diapers; and because she uses the toilet often I think we will avoid the aversion to it that comes from establishing a long habit of going in the diaper.

You can condition even very young babies to go when you make a certain sound and put a pot under them. Of course, this means you have to put them on a potty or hold a pot under their bottoms several times a day, which many people feel is not worth the trouble. But if you really hate changing diapers you could try it.

Of course, I think parents should share the unpleasant task of diaper changing, but if you can't get your husband to come around, perhaps it would help you to shorten the diaper phase. Good luck. -susan

I guess I'll be the one dissenting voice on the diaper- changing issue. Perhaps being married to a relatively strong-willed person makes me aware of ways to achieve happiness and harmony without trying to change how others feel. I do think it's possible to be happy with a partnership that doesn't follow the self- help books' version of what's proper and fair.

The replies I read in the last Advice Line seemed (to me) to respond to your question as if the diaper problem were one in a string of inequities in your marriage. When I read your post, I didn't draw that conclusion. So if, as I assumed, this is one conflict in an otherwise happy partnership, it seems to me that there are solutions available, other than convincing your husband that he's a bad husband and a bad father because he doesn't want to do diapers. Maybe he can take sole responsibility for the bath every evening, or the laundry, or whatever. I'm mostly writing because I think that parents can be great parents (and husbands can be great husbands) even if they don't fit the politically correct, diaper changing mold. Susan

I have found it very helpful to use surgical gloves in changing a poopy diaper. These can be purchased at Longs or other large drug stores. Nnewborn poop does not smell and the gloves allow me to keep my hands clean and not have to touch the gross stuff. I would suggest you purchase these gloves for your husband. Anon