I used to think that my baby made it hard for me to change her nappy but then I realised it was me who was getting it wrong.
With two children under two, I would say, on average, I change between eight and ten nappies a day. As well as the nappies, I do a minimum of four costume changes and I really do mean minimum. With a vomitty baby, in reality it’s more like six changes a day.
A wet only nappy change might take me 3-5 minutes to complete, a soiled change would be more like 7-10 minutes and a full costume change can take anywhere up to 15/20 minutes (this is highly dependent on the time of day, the mood of the child, the type of clothes and the weather in two months time etc -haha). So by my calculations, I spend a minimum of one and a half hours standing in front of a change table every day.
This is a considerable amount of time by anyone’s standard, but if every minute of those 1.5 hours is spent fighting with a child who just won’t lie down, tries to reach in with his hands or does a triple back somersault with full pike when you lift up his bottom, then its no wonder that the thought of these care giving tasks make most parents feel as though they need to approach the change table fully armed with their weapons of choice to make it through the ordeal unscathed.
My weapons previously consisted of distractions such as toys, books, phones or anything else that could hold my children’s attention for the time that it took to get the job done. Upon reading about the RIE style of parenting through Janet Lansbury’s blog and deciding that distractions were not going to work towards increasing my children’s attention span in the long run, I decided to use the time spent at the change table as valuable time during which I can connect and get to know my children better.
At first, this was a difficult challenge. The children were used to being provided with something to amuse them and in the absence of any such tactile entertainment, they found their own way to bide the time which usually consisted of one of the aforementioned manoeuvres. I began by talking my children through the changing process.
For example, if P (1) had a soiled nappy, I would firstly wait for a break in her play, or until after she’d finished her meal etc. I would then say something like, “We need to change your nappy, lets go to the change table.” I’d then hold out my arms and wait for her to give me a signal that she was ready to be picked up. Once at the change table, I would lie her down and talk to her about every step in the change process – “Now I’m going to take off your nappy… now I’m going to hold your legs up so I can wipe your bottom… etc”
I tried this strategy with minimal success for quite some time. Changes continued to be a battle and I was starting to question the validity and sensibility of expecting a baby to cooperate at this time when all she wanted to do was play.
It wasn’t until I watched this video depicting how to fully be present with your child and involve them in the nappy changing process even from infancy, that I realised I had missed a couple of crucial steps in the RIE nappy changing strategy.You see, I was still treating it as a job that needed to get done so that the children could get back to playing and I could get back to parenting.
I had failed to recognise the enormous potential for bonding and communication that could happen at the change table. For those short snippets in the day, I needed to devote myself fully to my child, talk to her, play with her, listen to her and become more in tune with who she is and her capabilities.
Whilst a big part of building this relationship is talking them through the changing process, an even more important part I was missing was pausing after each step to allow them time to process what I had said and more importantly, to give them a chance to respond. By not pausing, I was not having a two-way relationship, I was simply telling them what I was going to do and then doing it.
I have now slowed the process right down and feel it is our special time; a time spent building trust and confidence in each other. My one year old now rarely fights with me and I constantly marvel at how much she is suddenly able to help me.
When I get to the change table with her, I tell her I am going to lie her down and then wait… She will suddenly launch out of my arms towards the change table, keen to get down there and get started. We then play gently together, blowing raspberries and enjoying each other’s company before we start.
Throughout the change I will stop, if she seems distracted, to notice what is capturing her attention and let her know that I notice. I will wait for her to be present with me and the change before resuming. If she is squirming and seems not to want to be on her back I say: “You seem to want to move, would you like to stand to change or go on your hands and knees?”
I talk to her gently, asking her to lift her legs and then pausing to give her a chance to respond. Inevitably, I detect a subtle movement in her legs indicating she is ready to have them lifted and she has even started lifting them fully herself more recently.
The biggest change I have noted comes at the end when I put her pants back on. Instead of doing the left-leg-in-left-leg-out-hokey-pokey-dance we previously did, P now listens when I ask her to put her left leg in the hole, gently touching her left knee. I wait for her and soon enough she bends and straightens the leg I have indicated, trying to push it into the hole of her pants. This is repeated with the other leg. It really is quite astounding and I am so pleased I persevered with using this strategy.
I now look forward to my time spent with each of my children at their change tables and consider it one of the most fulfilling parts of the day. Slowing down the changes has added only 5-10 minutes to the change but has increased our connection immeasurably.
My parenting is inspired by Magda Gerber’s RIE approach which I learned of through Janet Lansbury’s blog. If you are interested in learning more you can find some good information here or I highly recommend these books (affiliate links)
Dear Parent: Caring for Infants With Respect (2nd Edition) ~ Magda Gerber
Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting ~ Janet Lansbury
No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame ~ Janet Lansbury
The RIE Manual For Parents and Professionals ~ Edited by Magda Gerber