It’s an unavoidable part of being a parent: changing diapers. But, when you’re new to the parenting scene, you may not know how to change a diaper properly. Don’t worry — you’re not alone.

To help you prepare for this new responsibility, we’ve gathered everything you need to know about changing diapers in this article. That way, you can start your parenting experience off on the right foot, to keep your baby (and yourself) happy.

There are many important things to prepare for if you will be a first-time parent, especially if your pregnancy is unplanned and you had no prior intentions of being a parent. Education is key to feeling less stressed about your situation, so start with this information below.

What You Need to Change a Diaper

You know that raising a baby is expensive, but what you don’t know is that a good amount of your finances will likely go to the cost of clothing your child — especially if you choose disposable diapers.

On average, a baby uses more than 2,700 diapers in their first year of life, which can add up to more than $550 each year. The cost of diapers varies, depending on which brands you use. Know that you will need to budget for these necessities for at least two years.

In addition to diapers, you will also need necessities like wipes, a changing pad or changing table, lotion, diaper rash ointment and burp cloths.

When you are preparing for future diaper changes, you may want to consider the reduced costs of cloth diapers. Not only are these better for the environment, they can also save your wallet. You will need to put in a certain amount of money upfront to pay for the supplies needed, as well as cleaning costs (whether you do it yourself or hire a cloth diaper service). But, for those parents who find cloth diapers work best for them, it’s well worth the investment.

How to Change a Diaper

You’ll want to make sure that you have all your supplies ready and close at hand before you begin changing a diaper. The easier and more quickly you can access what you need, the faster and cleaner the process will be.

How to change a cloth diaper and how to change a disposable diaper are often very similar. Here are the diaper-changing procedures you’ll need to follow:

Step 1: Lay the baby down on the changing surface. If you are using a changing table, you will want to secure the safety straps to prevent your baby from rolling or falling. Otherwise, you will place your child on the changing pad.

Step 2: Remove your baby’s clothes and un-tape or unpin the soiled diaper. You will also want to place a burp cloth over your baby, to prevent any accidents from spraying you or your baby in the face.

Step 3: Clean your baby’s diaper area with a wet wipe or a wash cloth. Always wipe from front to back, and make sure you properly clean between folds of skin.

Step 4: Open the clean diaper. Quickly lift the baby’s legs up, slide out the soiled diaper and replace it with the clean diaper.

Step 5: Apply any ointment or cream that may be needed. This can include lotion or diaper rash cream. Always talk to your pediatrician before treating any skin irritation in the diaper area.

Step 6: Secure the diaper. For changing disposable diapers, you will pull the front of the diaper through your baby’s legs and tape both sides to the front of the diaper. For changing cloth diapers, there are a few different methods for pinning and securing the cloth. Either way, make sure that you are able to slide two fingers in the top front of the diaper.

Step 7: Dispose of the diaper properly in a diaper pail, after you have wiped off any fecal matter into the toilet. Disposable diapers can be thrown in the trash, while cloth diapers can then be reused after washing.

Learning how to change a baby diaper can be intimidating at first, but know that practice makes perfect. Be prepared to take your time when you first start changing diapers, and enlist a friend or family member to help you secure your baby while you work on securing the diaper. Never leave your baby unattended during their diaper change.

Changing a Baby Girl’s Diaper

Are there specific things to know about how to change a girl diaper? The answer is yes.

You should always wipe a baby’s bottom from front to back, but this is integrally important in changing a baby girl’s diaper. This will prevent fecal material from traveling forward to her vagina, keeping her safe from infections. Always make sure that you get between the vaginal folds and the sides of her thighs to prevent yeast infections. Do not reuse a wipe or different areas of a wipe, just in case it brings bacteria where it shouldn’t be. Letting a baby girl dry completely before putting on a new diaper is also important for reducing infections.

Changing a Baby Boy’s Diaper

Similarly, there are also important things to know about how to change a boy’s diaper properly. While a baby boy is less prone to infections than a baby girl, proper cleaning is still important.

First off, you should always cover a baby boy’s penis before changing a diaper. This will protect you from accidents and being sprayed in the face. You’ll want to remove any fecal matter first, and then take a clean cloth to his front side. Wipe gently but effectively under the penis and around the testicles. Do not attempt to pull back the foreskin in an uncircumcised child.

If your baby has been circumcised, make sure to apply petroleum jelly over the tip of the penis for a few days after the procedure to aid healing.

How Often to Change a Diaper

Young babies often pee about 20 times a day for the first months of their lives — but that doesn’t mean you have to change diapers 20 times a day. So, how often should you change a diaper to keep a baby happy and healthy?

Most doctors will advise you change a baby’s diaper every two to three hours, or whenever they seem extremely fussy. Most of the time, a wet diaper does not have to be changed right away, as urine will not irritate the skin as quickly as fecal matter. You can usually let a baby continue to sleep if they soil their diaper during a nap, but you should make sure to change their diaper as soon as they wake up. Your baby will certainly let you know when to change their diaper, as sitting in a dirty diaper is not a comfortable thing for them.

The information presented in this article is a good place to start when learning about how to change a baby diaper. You may also consider taking parenting classes to practice during your pregnancy or recruiting knowledgeable family and friends to help you when you change your baby’s diaper for the first couple of times. Remember, practice makes perfect, and you’re not alone in feeling overwhelmed as a first-time parent.