7 Reasons Why A Toddler Suddenly Hates Diaper Changes

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Diaper changes become such an important part of the daily routine for our babies that we sometimes feel as though we could do them in our sleep. We go through the same motions day after day and expect the same responses. However, there comes a time when our children begin to resist. Around the age of two, there is a little rebellion underway where kids say no to diaper changes and stubbornly refuse to go along with the same routine. They have had enough. But, they still need to be changed. So, what is the reason for all of this and what can you do to make things easier for all concerned.


What To Do When Your Toddler Suddenly Hates Diaper Changes

There is a good chance that your two-year-old will get into a mood where they don’t like diaper changes anymore. This could come out of the blue one day after they had no problems previously, possibly due to a medical concern or some other factor influencing their needs in the present moment. Or it could be the start of an ongoing issue where they start to test their independence and sense of control.

It is a good idea to not only get an idea of why your child may be refusing to have their diaper changed but also what you can do about it. You may find that some kids will be fine with a new way of doing things if you meet them halfway and give them the impression that they are getting their own way. It is all about finding a middle ground where you can both come away happy with every diaper change. But this is easier said than done when you have a two-year-old running off and screaming if you even say the words “diaper change”.

In this guide, you will learn about some of the different reasons why your toddler is suddenly refusing a diaper change. This includes some potential short-term issues as well as other behavioral changes that are long-term and significant parts of your child’s development. From there, you will find a series of potential solutions that you can implement based on each problem. This should provide a more well-rounded approach so you can deal with situations as they arise. After all, there may not be one single issue that you have to deal with.

A quick disclaimer here is that I can’t guarantee success with any of these. They are all great starting points for the issues raised, but they will all take some work and practice to perfect. You may also find that you need to make little tweaks here and there to suit your personal schedule and the likes and dislikes of your child. Every child is different, but you can find a solution with patience and perseverance.


Signs That Your Child Isn’t Happy With Their Diaper Changes.

I want to start by talking about some of the signs that toddlers aren’t happy with their routine. I do this because even if your toddler isn’t exhibiting any of the signs that they are fed up with diaper changes, they could make that switch at any time. There is often no slow shift in behavior but instead more of a dramatic shift. Therefore, it is a good idea to be aware of the potential issues that you may end up dealing with.

If you can prepare yourself for this now, you should find that it is a little easier to deal with the situation when it does arise. You may even consider implementing a few small changes already, such as getting kids more involved and asking if they want to be changed. This smoother transition into a more age-appropriate diaper changing experience could help them out.

Often, parents will find a sudden shift in behavior and feeling where kids flat out refuse to go to their changing area for a fresh diaper. This can seem irrational to us as we wouldn’t want to run around in a soiled diaper if we can get nice and clean. But, for one or more of the reasons highlighted below, a toddler will start to rebel. Early signs of this could be increased fussiness and crying when you go to change them. They may go along with the process but aren’t that calm or happy about it.

Or, you may find that the situation is a lot more volatile with the child screaming, crying, and throwing all kinds of tantrums to avoid having to go to their changing area. The situation no longer suits them and they want a change. This form of acting out, and physically trying to get away from the situation, is the best way they know to avoid it. This can be stressful for all concerned, which is why it is important to not only understand the causes but to find the best solutions.


Why Is My Toddler Distressed When Changing Nappy?

Before we look at the things that we can do to make diaper changes easier for toddlers, we need to understand why they are acting out in this way. The reason isn’t going to be the same for all children and can vary depending on the situation. There is also the potential that there are various underlying factors at work. So, the more you know and can prepare for, the better able you will be to handle the situation in the future. Here are 7 common reasons why your child isn’t cooperating at diaper changing time.

1) There is a medical issue that means that don’t want that sort of physical interaction.

The first thing that you need to rule out here is that there isn’t some underlying medical condition responsible for your toddler’s change of heart. It might not be the psychological and development issues mentioned below but rather a physical issue that could be resolved in the short term. For example, kids dealing with urinary tract infections or rashes in that area may not want anyone going near for fear of pain and discomfort.

They may try and avoid diaper changes as best they can for a while. On a related note, the fear and short-term trauma of a rash or infection don’t go away that quickly. Be aware that even if the physical symptoms are over, there may still be some doubt and fear holding them back. Give them time to process what has happened.

2) Toddlers don’t like being interrupted in the middle of an activity.

Toddlers like a clear beginning and endpoint to an activity, whether it is something they have chosen to do themselves or a scheduled task. They expect to see it through to the conclusion and don’t like to be interrupted. Of course, this can be a bit of an issue for any kids when it comes to time for a diaper change. They don’t want to have to stop their game or other fun time to go and do this thing that isn’t that enjoyable for them.

The tantrums and refusals to do anything more stem more from the displeasure over the interruption than the diaper change itself. It is just the easiest way for them to react. You didn’t let them finish their cartoon or their story or whatever else they were invested in, so why should they give you the time and effort for a diaper change?

3) Toddlers get bored too easily to lie down for a diaper change.

Toddlers have short attention spans and aren’t going to sit or lie quietly if they aren’t getting anything out of the situation. You might argue that the change is highly beneficial for giving them a comfortable and hygienic new diaper to wear, but they aren’t necessarily going to see things that way. They have better things to do – which may tie in with the previous point about interrupted activities.

If they were already doing something fun and you take them away to lie there and do nothing for a few minutes, they aren’t going to be impressed. So, you can expect a fuss before and during the process. You may even get kids trying to leave halfway through. Remember that two minutes to us feel like a lot longer to them.

4) Some toddlers have an issue with getting undressed.

This is something that can vary between children with different responses. Toddlers develop their own relationship with clothing as they develop. Some love dressing up and changing outfits across the day while others are more comfortable in specific things. Some will hate being undressed as it feels uncomfortable to them or perhaps because they fear getting cold, while others much prefer running around naked and will resist being clothed at all.

This poses some key challenges for any parent at diaper changing time. Those that hate to be undressed if it isn’t bedtime may resist the act and stop parents from accessing their diaper. Those that love to be naked may resist being reclothed after the diaper change. Then some will insist on brand new clothing if they had to remove the last outfit. As long as you are in tune with your child’s views, you should have a better idea of understanding the potential issues here.

5) Some toddlers don’t like being restricted on their backs.

A lot of the issues mentioned here are related to the problem of freedoms and restrictions. Toddlers want to enjoy a newfound sense of freedom and independence and not have to endure the restrictions they had as an infant. This is related both to the activities they have to do, but also to physical restrictions that now make them feel uncomfortable.

A diaper change can fall into both categories here. There is the activity they no longer want to be a part of, but also the physical restriction of being placed on their back with their legs held in what is now an awkward position. Many tots want nothing to do with that anymore, and so they will resist being physically placed in that position.

6) Toddlers have a greater sense of independence and how to do things for themselves.

On a related note, there is the issue of freedoms and independence concerning what the child can do for itself. This is an age where kids are starting to learn a lot of new skills and to carry out a lot of tasks with their own motor skills and cognitive intuition. They can thrive when given the chance to try and do things themselves. Even if they fail, there is a lesson to learn for next time. They will also get a sense of joy and accomplishment from being trusted to try and be a part of something bigger.

So, a diaper change in the old style they endured as infants can feel like a step backward. There is nothing they can do for themselves and they have to show complete dependence on their parents. Kids that are fed up with this will understandably act out.

7) Toddlers may simply be too preoccupied with other needs.

Finally, there is the simple fact that toddlers can refuse to have their diapers changed or throw a tantrum of crying and screaming over simple priorities. The diaper change seems like a priority to parents keen to get the task over and done with so kids can have a clean diaper in place. But, what if that child is tired or hungry at that moment. Those are more pressing needs and a child may not want to do anything else until they have vanquished their hunger or had a good nap.


What Can You Do To Get Toddlers To Have Their Diaper Changed?

There you have 7 of the most common reasons why toddlers refuse diaper changes. But, the question now is what you can do to make things easier for your child. Thankfully, there are plenty of solutions to these problems that you can test out.

1) If there is a medical issue to deal with, make sure to watch out for symptoms and resolve the issue as soon as possible.

Starting with that medical issue, you need to be proactive and careful here. It is important that children still get their diaper changes on schedule, but you may need to be a little more gentle in coaxing them to do so. Remember that there may be discomfort in the area and to work to relieve that as quickly as possible. Also, don’t rush them back into a regular routine. Make sure that you always have enough rash cream and other helpful supplies at hand to deal with issues before they get too bad.

2) If your child is in the middle of an activity, consider bringing the diaper changing station to them.

The issue of transitions between activities is a problem if a diaper change is essential sooner rather than later. But, there is still the option of forming a compromise with the child where you agree that once they are finished with the cartoon or task they need to be changed. You might even set a time limit to give them time to reach a natural conclusion to a game.

If that is impractical, another idea here is to bring the changing station to them. Change them in front of the TV so they can still hear the cartoon and don’t remove them from that playroom and mindset.

3) If your child is easily bored, find some way to distract them and make the changes more fun

Toddlers that get bored too easily and want to leave midway need suitable distractions. You could give them a small toy to play with and make sure to have some to hand at the changing station. Although, some parents do make makeshift toys out of crinkly wipe packets and other practical items. Anything to keep kids quiet for 2 minutes. Some parents that are happy to multitask can also tell stories or sing songs to keep their children engaged.

4) If your child doesn’t want to undress for diaper changes, consider new approaches and outfit changes.

The response here will depend on the specific issue with the child. But, there are solutions. Kids that don’t like being undressed could benefit from only being partially unclothed when they have their diaper changed. This means focusing on outfits with two pieces to give the torso coverage and warmth. Kids that like outfit changes may enjoy a greater emphasis on picking out what they will get to wear next after they are good and have their diaper change. Try and few approaches and see what fits.

5) If your child doesn’t like being restricted, try changing them standing up.

Toddlers that are unhappy with the physical restriction of being on their back could benefit from being changed while standing up. From the child’s perspective, this is much better because there isn’t the same sort of restraint and sensation as being on the old changing mat. They have a new way that fits in with their new skills and independence as a child that can stand and walk unaided.

The downside is that you have to learn how to handle the diaper and wipes with an effective clean in this position. You also have to keep them engaged enough so that they don’t run off partway.

6) If a child craves some independence, find a way to let them “help” with the process.

Toddlers that want a greater sense of control and independence will appreciate becoming more involved in the task. Some parents do this by explaining what they are doing to kids and engaging in some one-sided discourse. Others follow on from that idea of giving kids a distraction of a baby wipe container by letting kids hand them what they need and involving them that way.

There, kids can feel like they accomplished something. Another great suggestion is to ask if kids want a diaper change rather than tell them they need one. You might still get a no from them, but it is a more positive starting point.

7) If your child gets fussy when hungry or tried, reschedule the diaper changes

Finally, there is the simple notion of rescheduling diaper changes around a child’s meals and naps. They may be more content and happy to have their diaper changed after they have satisfied their hunger or had the nap they crave. It is about finding a balance between what is appropriate for you both.


More Tips For When A Toddler Suddenly Hates Diaper Changes

These diaper changes aren’t going to be easy so don’t expect a miraculous change in behavior and results by trying one thing for a day. Be prepared to work through these tips and try new things to see what works best. For example, the idea of creating a distraction only works once you find something suitable, and it also helps to mix things up so kids don’t get bored.

If you can find a way to make diaper changes fun and more worthwhile for the child then all the better. At the same time, adaptability and preparedness are essential to be able to handle whatever the day throws at you. Have everything you need at hand for quick changes with minimal fuss but also remember that you may need to adapt on the fly.

Remember That There Is A Positive Hidden In The Negative Situation.

It is understandable if all you want is for things to go back to how they were and for toddlers to get past this phase. However, it isn’t as simple as that. You are on a stepping stone in the grander journey of potty training – and that isn’t a bad thing Your child has outgrown the methods you used when they were a baby and doesn’t want to be treated that way anymore.

That is understandable and shows a new level of maturity and development. Soon enough, you will find a compromise for this new diaper changing regime before it is time to get started on their potty training.

Meet Toddlers In The Middle For A Better Experience For Everyone

The secret to success here isn’t to insist that toddlers do as they are told and have done for the last two years. Any attempt to infantilize them and fail to appreciate their growth and development will backfire. Appreciate the fact that your child hasn’t grown out of the need for diapers, but that they have grown out of the process as it was. The more you lean into this and find that compromise of control and independence with new approaches, the better it will be for you all.

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This post is written and edited by Sandy who is a clinical pharmacist with over 20 years of experience specializing in pre-natal and post-natal care.