Part of my goal with the Balancing Life as a Mom blog is to help you vet out products that are heavily advertised to moms. As any mom knows, advertisers are constantly appealing to our innate desire to take the best possible care of our children – regardless of the cost. I myself had limited exposure to younger children when I was growing up, so I really had no idea what was truly necessary and what wasn’t. (Fun fact – the first diaper I’d ever changed in my entire life was for my son! Talk about starting out with ZERO knowledge base.)
Regardless, given my obsession with being organized and wanting to minimize the clutter in my life, I made a pact with myself from the beginning that I wasn’t going to let all that marketing get to me, and that I wasn’t going to be buying my child every new thing out there just because I thought it would be good for them. If you think about it, children have been raised for thousands of years without owning all the latest and greatest gadgets, and I would say that the majority of people have turned out just fine.
So my ruthless obsession with minimizing the clutter was turned onto all things baby. However, I have learned that babies and children do come with stuff – and lots of it. Some of it is absolutely necessary, some is just nice to have, and some is really overkill. So I want to share what I’ve learned with you in the hopes that you can keep more of your hard earned dollars to spend on what you really should be spending it on. This way you can avoid buying every must-have object that you come across (you know those ones that you regret spending money on later when it just collects dust after a few weeks or months of use).
In this category of blog posts you’ll find products that I’ve personally tried and deemed generally worthy of your time and money. Just like all parenting tips, not every recommendation will be worthwhile for every person, so be sure to read the full review before committing to a purchase to be sure that the product is right for you and your needs. But I hope to give you a great overview of my opinion of the product, and what I found most helpful or unhelpful. And if you like these reviews and would like to check out more of them, you can find all the reviews I’ve done so far here: Reviews & Recommendations. You can sort through by title to see what interests you most.
Diaper Changing Essentials – The Only 5 Things You Really Need
When I was setting up the nursery for my son over 3 years ago, I was honestly confused about what exactly I needed. I found myself looking at idealistic images of pristine rooms which looked like they came from a Pottery Barn catalog (and many of the images did!). And if you read the introduction above, you’ll remember that I had zero experience with babies, so I really wasn’t sure what was necessary and what wasn’t.
As I started thinking about all the things we still needed to buy (or thought I needed to buy), the dollar signs started to add up. I knew that some things were going to be necessary (a safe crib), but wasn’t sure about others (the infamous baby swing, a bassinet, rocking chairs, diaper changing tables, etc). Luckily, my frugality and hate of clutter kicked in before I pulled out my debit card. I decided to see just how little I could get away with for the nursery – without feeling like I was going without any essentials that would truly make my life easier.
So here’s the only 5 things you need for your diaper changing area. This changing area worked great for my son from birth till he was potty trained around age 2.5. And it’s working great for my daughter in her first 3 months of life. It’ll save you both space and money (two things I know that as moms we are always trying to find more of!)
It probably goes without saying, but you’ll need diapers! Have lots of them ready, and display them in such a way that it makes it easy to grab as well as see how many you have left so that you can restock when you are low. You don’t want to be mid-diaper change only to realize that you don’t have any left to work with! I stock our diapers in the pink plastic bath bins that were given to us in the hospital at each birth. (Bonus: since it’s an open-top plastic bin, it makes it super easy to just dump the diapers on the floor if you need an emergency puke bucket when a GI bug hits! We’ve used this a few times and have been very grateful!).
My favorite diapers by far are the Huggies Little Snugglers. Both of my children have used these whenever possible. (If I’m gifted another brand we will use them, but I always buy these when I’m restocking). They aren’t as expensive as some of the “natural” diapers out there, which is helpful for as many as you will go through. They also don’t have a bothersome scent (we try to limit fragrances in our home) and do a great job at containing the mess. And neither child has had irritation caused by this brand of diapers. I appreciate the wetness indicator too!
Another obvious but essential item. Again, you want to have plenty available and ready to go, and you want an easy way to know that they are running low so you can restock when needed. You don’t want to reach for another wipe and find out that you just used the last one!
My favorite wipes are the Pampers Sensitive Water-Based Wipes. My husband is prone to getting eczema on his hands with exposure to certain materials and chemicals. Many of the traditional wipes were causing breakouts for him (and made me wonder what they were doing to my baby’s skin!). I tried almost every brand of “natural” and “sensitive” wipe out there, and found these to be the best. Other natural and sensitive wipes would shred when I pulled them out of the package or not do a good job of actually wiping the mess away. These pull out easily, are strong enough that they never break or shred, and clean up the mess well. By far the best!
You can get these wipes in a pop top version (which I will buy for the diaper bag when on the go), but for the changing station at our house, I think it’s more economical and better for the environment (less plastic), when you buy the refill packs. And if you go that route, you’ll need a good wipes holder. I don’t think it’s necessary to warm wipes (first because baby gets used to a warm wipe which makes for a fussy baby when you are on the go, and secondly because it dries them out faster and then they don’t clean as well). The holder I use and love is the OXO Good Grips Wipes Dispenser. It’s a simple design, but works amazing! The weight you place on top of the wipes has a big opening which makes it easy to grab, but provides enough weight to give you just one at a time. The viewing window on the bottom lets you see when it’s getting time to refill the box so you don’t get caught short. And the pop top is super easy to open or close with an elbow if for some reason your hands are dirty or otherwise unable to be used. If you opt to use wipe refills, this is an amazing companion product!
#3: Diaper Rash Cream
At some point, it’s likely that your baby will start to get diaper rash of some sort. We battled it really badly with Matthew in the first few months of life. He couldn’t keep a dry diaper for more than a couple of minutes and his little bum actually had raw, open sores from the irritation. I tried almost every barrier cream on the market, and the only thing that cleared him up and kept him clear was Aquaphor Baby Healing Ointment. It was amazing! He had raw patches for weeks that no other cream seemed to touch, and with just one application of Aquaphor he was 50% healed! By two applications all the sores were gone. I was shocked, but thrilled. After that we always kept a container on hand. At even the slightest bit of red, irritated skin we apply it preventatively to keep sores at bay. So far we’ve been diligent with Emma and she has yet to have any diaper rash, which I’m grateful for (and I’m sure she is too!). The Aquaphor has also cleared up every other weird skin issue with both of our children. It’s an amazing product!
When using diaper rash cream, you have to wait till the skin is completely dry (I typically fan the area with a diaper or burp cloth to speed up the process) and then apply liberally. And liberally is the trick! Our pediatrician told us to “pretend we are frosting a cake”. Keep that in mind when applying and you’ll be sure to get enough!
Again, seems obvious, but you’ll want a place to throw those dirty diapers. It should be convenient and close at hand. And quite honestly, as long as you change the basket frequently and wrap the dirty diapers up into a tight little ball after you’ve taken it off your baby (to contain the smell and mess – I can include a picture of this later if anyone wants to know what I mean), a regular wastebasket works just fine.
As you can see from the photo of my diaper changing station, I do have a Diaper Genie. There’s a few reasons I have this over a regular wastebasket. First, I was gifted it, so I gladly put it to use. Second, once your toddler starts moving around and playing more independently, it’s a great way to ensure they aren’t going to get into the dirty diapers since they are securely contained in the diaper genie. Third, it really does contain the smell well, so you don’t have to empty the container as often.
If you choose to get a diaper genie, you’ll want to stock up on Diaper Genie Refill Bags. The one downside I have found to the diaper genie is that you never can tell when the refill bags are getting low. More than once I’ve found myself changing the bag only to discover that I didn’t have enough bag left in the current refill for the next load. So buy the multi-pack to ensure that you always have a spare on hand and ready to go. Problem solved!
#5: A large disposable incontinence pad.
Yes, you read that right! This is the golden gem that I can’t live without when it comes to changing diapers. My sister turned me onto this tip (Hi Andrea!) and I’ve mentally thanked her for it every day that I’m dealing with diapers.
Having a clean, but absorbent and disposable changing surface is fantastic when dealing with diaper changes. As you can see from my photo it’s a good size (we generally find ones that are 3’x3’ or 2’x3’ like these: Incontinence Bed Pads) and will fit even your growing toddlers. Inevitably, there will be a disastrous mess when you are changing a diaper, and likely many more of them to come. Either your little one will poop, or pee, or spit up, or do all three while you are trying to get them changed. You’ll encounter a blow out and find poop all over your child, and then they roll around while you are trying to get them cleaned up. Having a large pad like this will save your sanity! It absorbs the mess, keeps your floor protected, and gives you a place to keep the dirty diapers and clothes off to the side without messing up your floor or having them too near the flailing limbs of your child while you finish getting them cleaned up. And if they’ve messed up part of the pad, just fold it over to cover the dirty spot and make a new clean area while you finish the job at hand.
Sometimes we can go weeks using the same pad, and when it gets dirty enough we replace it with a new one. Other times we’ll go through 3 or more in a day. It all depends. But either way, there’s less gross laundry to deal with. And if you want to be super environmentally friendly and don’t mind the laundry, they do make washable ones, but I’m a big fan of the disposable option.
I just place the pad right on the floor. I put an old, folded up bath towel under the pad to provide extra cushion, but that’s it. As long as you are physically able to get up and down from the floor with ease, I think that is the best place to change diapers for a few reasons. First, kids and babies play on the floor all the time anyways, so there’s no need for anything fancier. Second, it saves you space and money since you don’t need to invest in an elevated changing table (which they will grow out of in a few years anyways!). Third, it’s super safe. A baby or child can’t fall off the floor so there’s no need to strap them in. Plus they can safely lay there while you go and run to wash hands or grab something you may need if necessary.
Another thing I love about these is that they are so compact. I toss one in my diaper bag to use instead of the tiny diaper changing pads that come with most diaper bags. It gives me an instant, large, clean surface for diaper changes or just for my baby to play on when we are out and about. Additionally, we used them on car seats and other surfaces when we were potty training Matthew. They are so useful with young children, they are literally worth their weight in gold. I gift a pack of these to all new moms when I go to a baby shower!
As you can see in my photo, there are two other things you can have in your diaper changing station, but they certainly aren’t necessary.
Bonus Item #1: A distraction toy.
This isn’t needed with an infant, but as your child gets older and starts rolling over and squirming more (another reason I like to change diapers on the floor!), it can be helpful to have something with lights and music that can keep their attention for even a few seconds while you get them changed. The more still you can keep your child, the quicker and cleaner your diaper change will be. We just use toys that were given to us for this purpose, and keep one for use only at the diaper station, occasionally switching out which toy is there so they don’t get bored of it.
Bonus Item #2: A burp cloth or cloth diaper.
If you have a girl, or a spitty baby, this can be handy to have nearby since the jostling of a diaper change can bring up messes. But again, it’s not necessary.
If you have a boy though, I would consider this to be an absolute necessity! Every time we opened up Matthew’s diaper when he was little, a stream of pee would instantly jet into the air. To solve this problem (and cut down on the rate we had to throw away the disposable changing pads), I invested in an inexpensive pack of Flatfold Cloth Diapers. At each changing, I would have one hand opening the diaper while the other immediately placed a folded up flat diaper over his front side. I would leave the cloth diaper in place the whole time while I cleaned up below, and then remove it right before sealing up the new diaper. 50% of the time or more, the cloth diaper ended up soaking up a stream of pee. Since pee is much cleaner than poop, I didn’t mind just tossing that into the laundry basket and washing it for use the next time. Another massive problem solved!
Once Matthew outgrew the need for these cloth diapers they were repurposed as burp cloths, rags for him to blow a snotty nose into, or just general cleaning rags for around the house.
And that’s it! That’s all you really, truly need to spend money on for your diaper changing station. In a few years your child will be potty trained anyways, so invest as little as you can get away with to make this functional for your household.
All the best,
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