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November 15, 2022

Practical Life for Babies: Inviting to a Diaper Change

Even small babies can participate in their everyday lives. If we, as the prepared adult, open up opportunities for participation, there are meaningful ways that babies can be an active part in lots of areas of their day. And one big activity for a lot of babies is diaper changes. It's something they (mostly) will all experience and something that we have the opportunity to engage in several times a day. 

I think from both a RIE perspective and a Montessori one, diaper changes are a huge and often underutilized area for connection and participation. Adults can sometimes want to rush through them, getting back to the "important" work of either playing or getting other adult tasks done. But, we can shift our expectation and see the diaper change as an incredible opportunity for participation. 

"Diapering can be prime time for baby and parent, as enjoyable as playing together, when it is not seen as a chore. Within the process of diapering, there are many opportunities available for the infant in the form of learning experiences, playful interactions and the development of the parents' and infant's relationship." Magda Gerber, Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect

While diaper changes from birth can be an opportunity to connect with your baby, I think a huge shift can actually occur once a baby is old enough to make more purposeful movements. Once Penelope started creeping and crawling, I was able to start to invite her to diaper changes. A simple change to our environment - placing the changing pad on the floor, gives her access to our changing area. 

This prepared environment, allows her to tell me if she needs a change, and for me to invite her when I notice that she needs one. Since she moves freely, she is able to come join when asked. I find a lot of cooperation at the baby stage - toddlers are another business! - and so she often eagerly crawls on over. And as she is making this active choice, she is often ready to engage more in the process. 

We chat, she can pull a wipe out for herself, she can help me (using hand over hand) to unstrap the diaper. This simple act of placing the opportunity in her environment helps me to remember this is something we are doing together, not something that is simply happening to her or that I'm doing for her. 

A couple things that I keep in mind: 

  • It doesn't have to be every single time - we live in the real world. I have four other kids. Every single diaper change cannot be a long drawn out, process of connection, chatting, and invitation. But make it a priority that at least some of your changes will be. 
  • Prepare your space for your baby to actively join. Place diapers and wipes low. Place the space low. But keep it consistent each time so that it is predictable and routine. This helps to support their sense of order and understand what is coming. 
  • Look for little ways to engage them! It can be chatting with them, explaining what you are doing, or it can be actually waiting for them to help in someway. The actual process should look similar each time, but your baby's level of participation and interest can vary.

It's this early participation that can blossom into a toddlerhood full of practical life participation. It's these moments that help shift your views and set the foundation for future work! 

Do you invite your baby to diaper changes?

This post is week 39 of my Montessori Baby series featuring Penelope. 


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Anonymous said…
Unfortunately, as someone with chronic pain and mobility issues, I cannot place my baby's change area on or near the floor. It is too painful to get onto the floor, and worse trying to get back up. In this case, what do you suggest to get my baby involved in a voluntary diaper change? Thanks!
Anonymous said…
My baby is really active. She flips on her knees before I change her diaper. But I will give it a try th your suggestion. Thank you :)
Iset said…
My almost 10 month old is so active. Since he learned to roll over and now he crwls and stands, the diaper changing experience has been quite challenging for him and myself. Trying to find ways for diaper change to be more pleasant for us and with respect.