New Dad Tip: Sign Up for Diaper Duty

It never fails that if there's a sitcom involving a guy around a baby, there's a scene where he struggles to change a diaper.

It's usually hilarious.

It's also really misleading.

About the smell and the awful sight? No, that's dead on. Your baby is adorable. What comes out of them will make you question life decisions. You will say things like "If we never gave him corn why is there corn coming out?"

It's misleading because it makes it seem like dads would be better off never getting near a diaper, like it's not something we should do.

Let me give it to you straight: Unless you want to get side eye every moment of every day by your wife, and unless you live in the 1940s, you're going to need to be an active participant in this whole child rearing process.

Starting with the child's rear is a good place to begin.

Dads, sign up for diaper duty.

This may seem counterintuitive. Out of all the bad jokes you will hear leading up to your baby's arrival, the one you will likely hear most is something about all those diapers that need changing and "Haha hope you're ready!" and "Oh man, better get that diaper bag!" and "Poop!" (Some of your friends aren't good at coming up with jokes).

And you probably are thinking, "Andy, I don't mind getting involved, but does it have to be diapers?"

I think you'd be a fool not to. Now, let's make this clear: Being a dad in 2015 means a lot more than just doing diapers or any one task. Being a dad is amazing, and the more you do, the more you get out of it. You'll see that baby's face, and you'll want to do anything you can to make them feel protected and loved and happy. So don't make this out to be a "Get out of jail free card" situation where you mistakenly think I'm saying you can just do diapers.

Here's what I mean:

There are a lot of unpleasant tasks involved with babies. Being the primary person who deals with the Diaper Genie and changes diapers in the middle of the night? That's not nearly as bad as you think.

Now, sure, Diaper Genies are Satan's butthole's garbage bin. Some people don't use them at all. But if you do, they need emptied out. Make that your thing.

Example: When my son was a newborn, my wife needed to nurse him many times throughout the night. He also needed a diaper change each time. It became a very easy routine. Since he was in a cosleeper bassinet, my wife would grab him, hand him to me, I would change him while she got ready to nurse, she'd nurse him while I cleaned up, then we'd go back to sleep. No one was biting my nipples, but at least I could say we were in it together ... and that's a good way to avoid resentment.  

Your wife is going to be doing the feeding for the most part, right? Unless you figured out how to milk yourself, and in that case, please email me, I have questions.

Even if you're doing formula (and that means you can be much more involved in feeding), it's still likely that your wife is doing the majority of the feeding process.

Think of it this way:

She does input. You do output.

It's a concept I heard on a Freakonomics podcast once, and it makes sense. It can't be more zen-like then this! At least there's some kind of balance. You may have heard a few times already how she had to give birth and you didn't. Ahem. 

Still, you may wonder what the benefit is here. Why would you literally put up with shit?

Here's why new dads should sign up for diaper duty:

  • You know what to expect. When you are super tired and super stressed in the middle of the night, knowing exactly what is expected of you can be really helpful. There's no "Hey I did it last time" or "OK, who is doing what?" You know. 
  • You can bond. That's not just a nice sentiment - there's science to it. Your baby learns to trust you because you regularly make them feel better. And since you can't nurse, the chance to have a bonding thing that's mostly for dad is pretty valuable, don't you think?
  • You'll get respect. Moms notice if a dad volunteers for diaper duty. It's a nice side benefit for your wife, because she'll have the husband who can handle a diaper change no problem. 
  • Funny stories. You're going to have some really great stories to tell, because strange things will happen. My son pooped in a huge rainbow arc once. He peed in his mouth. He has pooped up his entire back. In hindsight, it's all hilarious.
  • It's not as disgusting as you think. Yeah, it looks gross and sometimes smells bad. But, for one thing, pee diapers are the majority and those are simple. And when it's your own kid, it's not nearly as bad - kind of like cleaning up after your dog is a lot easier than some stranger's dog.
  • You just aren't going to avoid changing diapers. Steer into the skid mark. And if you make a few things your "thing," it's much more understandable if there is something you would rather not do - maybe meal time stresses you out, for instance.
  • It's quick. Worst case, you're talking 5 minutes on a full-on poop explosion. Most of the time? You can do it in under 30 or 45 seconds if you're in a rush. It's not hard, either.  Check out this video if you have no idea what goes where:

So if you're trying to figure out who is generally going to do what (remember, you won't be doing every single diaper change ... just like she will, for example, not always be the person who cleans the baby bottles), say yes to diapers! 

A few tips on changing diapers: 

  • If you have a girl, wipe front to back to avoid infections.
  • If you have a boy, he is going to pee on you. They make "peepee teepees but all you need to do is toss a wipe on that thing while you get the new diaper on.

  • When you can and also when you know there's not a huge mess, put the new diaper, unfolded, beneath the wet one. Then you've got it right there when you slide out the old one.  

  • Velcro strips in the back.  Even in the middle of the night when you're delirious, you can remember that.

  • You will learn how to smell your kid's butt to see if they need changed even if you swear you never would. You know why you do it? Because taking off their outfit isn't always easy.  

  • Go with snaps. Don't let anyone get you outfits with buttons or other ridiculous things. Three snaps. Zippers if you can- that's the dream. Lots of snap or buttons will drive you to drink. 

  • Keep a foldable mat in your car or diaper bag (yes, you can get a basic diaper bag- it's worth it). You never know what random place you will need to change them in. 

  • Always, always have a spare diaper and wipes. You won't. But at least try to. Have a plastic bag around - it makes a good "wait till we can find a trash can" fix.  

  • Many men's rooms don't have Koala stations - those fold out changing tables. Note the ones that do. Note the previous suggestion for a foldable mat. I changed my son on a mechanic's bathroom floor.  

Give it a try and tell me how it goes. Have other diaper questions? Let me know!