By Mathew Miller, Sharon Perkins

Changing diapers is the task new dads are probably least excited about. If you and your partner find yourselves playing rock-paper-scissors to determine which of you gets stuck changing the runny yellow poop that has overflowed out of the diaper and on to the sleeper, your shirt, and the new leather sofa, you’re normal.

Diaper duty isn’t fun, but it’s necessary an appalling number of times a day when your baby is new, so rest assured you’ll both get plenty of experience.

How to clean baby boys

Boys and girls really are different when it comes to diaper changing. When dealing with a baby boy, the worst part is projectile urination. You can easily avoid it if you remember to keep the penis covered at all times. Don’t worry if you forget, though. A few good shots to the eye will reinforce your memory quickly.

Boys who’ve been circumcised, which means that the foreskin covering the tip of the penis has been removed, need extra TLC at first. You may need to wrap Vaseline-coated gauze around the tip for the first few days, depending on your practitioner’s instructions. Change the gauze every time you change his diaper.

A circumcised penis (a) and an uncircumcised penis (b). [Credit: Illustration by Kathryn Born, MA]

Credit: Illustration by Kathryn Born, MA
A circumcised penis (a) and an uncircumcised penis (b).

When you remove the gauze around the circumcision, you may be horrified to see that the skin is a yellowish color. This is normal healing for a mucous membrane. If the area is oozing or has pus or a foul odor, call your practitioner.

Uncircumcised boys are a little harder to clean, and the foreskin needs to be kept loose. The foreskin doesn’t retract or pull back easily before the age of 1 or even longer. Up to this point, you should clean only the outside of the foreskin.

When it can be retracted, gently push it back as far as it will go, which isn’t going to be very far, and clean with water (no soap or other products!). Return the foreskin to its normal position afterward. If the foreskin becomes red or swollen, have your medical practitioner take a look to make sure baby boy doesn’t have an infection.

How to clean baby girls

Baby girls aren’t likely to spray the room when you remove their diaper, but they have their own set of problems. Keep these points in mind when changing a baby girl:

  • Girls have lots of nooks and crevices, and getting all of them clean is difficult. A runny, poopy diaper goes everywhere. Use moistened wipes or cotton balls to make sure you remove all the stool.

  • Girls are more likely to have urinary tract infections because of the proximity of the anus and vagina to the urethra, so it’s really important to make sure the whole area is clean.

  • Always wipe from front to back. Doing so helps to avoid introducing fecal matter into the vaginal area, which can cause infections.

  • Don’t be too gentle. Make sure to thoroughly wipe the opening of the vagina or it can close up. If that happens you have to apply a steroid cream to help reopen it, or, even worse, have it surgically reopened. Don’t worry too much about this, though — it’s not a common problem.