Why Does My Baby Cry During Diaper Changes When She Has Diaper Rash?

February 24, 2024

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Having a new baby is an exciting, rewarding experience. But it can also be challenging at times, especially when your little one gets diaper rash. You go to change your baby’s diaper and as soon as the soiled diaper comes off, she starts crying! Here’s some insight into why babies cry during diaper changes when they have diaper rash and tips to make the process easier on both of you.

Diaper Rash Causes Significant Discomfort

Diaper rash is very common in babies and an inevitable part of infancy. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), diaper rash affects about half of babies during their first 18 months. The culprit behind this nagging skin irritation is prolonged contact with urine and stool. Moisture gets trapped against your baby’s delicate skin, breaking down protective barriers and allowing chafing and infection to develop.

When your baby has a fiery red, bumpy rash on their bottom, it can be incredibly uncomfortable. The AAP compares it to adults dealing with a bad case of hemorrhoids! Every time you go to change your little one, exposing their inflamed skin to air and wiping it causes pain. No wonder they cry when you change their diaper!

Why It Hurts During Diaper Changes

To understand why your baby cries so much when you change them with diaper rash, it helps to know what’s happening beneath those angry red bumps:

  • Chafed, damaged skin from moisture, urine and stool
  • Loss of protective skin barriers
  • Inflamed nerve endings extremely sensitive to touch
  • Possible yeast infection causing further irritation

Making it worse is that babies have especially sensitive skin already – up to 10 times thinner than adult skin. Combine this fragile skin with inflammation from diaper rash and nerve endings right at the surface, and you have a perfect storm for pain and discomfort.

No wonder your poor baby cries each time you try to clean and change their sore bottom! Every touch feels awful.

Tips to Soothe Your Baby During Painful Changes

Seeing your little one in distress immediately triggers those parenting instincts to make everything better. While you can’t take the pain of diaper rash away completely, there are techniques you can use to soothe your baby during changes to minimize discomfort.

Prepare the Changing Area

You’ll need to change your baby’s diaper frequently to allow their skin to heal. Make things easier by having a designated changing station set up with all your supplies in one place. Consider the following comforting and helpful items to include:


Diaper creamProtects and soothes skin
Cotton ballsGently clean skin around rash
Warm waterRinses skin if needed
Distraction toysRedirect baby’s attention
PacifierCalms and soothes baby
Changing padCushions baby’s body

Having everything close at hand means less time exposed during the actual diaper change.

Distract Your Baby

Babies have short attention spans. Use this to your advantage! Distract your little one from the discomforts of the diaper change with toys and sights around the room. Position toys within reach so your baby can swipe or kick at them. Or carry on a calm conversation pointing things out to redirect their focus.

The more absorbed your baby is with something else, the less she’ll concentrate on the sensations of the diaper change.

Be Quick But Gentle

When changing your baby’s diaper:

  • Expose only the area needing cleaning at any moment
  • Avoid rubbing or unnecessary contact with skin
  • Use warm water and cotton balls to gently cleanse skin
  • Pat dry instead of rubbing
  • Apply diaper cream gently with cotton swab
  • Fasten new diaper loosely

Rushing increases the chances you’ll touch painfully inflamed areas. But working slowly also extends the length your baby has to endure discomfort. Find a gentle but efficient middle pace.

Talk In Soothing Voices

Hearing familiar voices is very comforting for infants. Maintain a calm tone even when your baby fusses. Chances are this will help your little one relax rather than becoming more upset.

Quietly explaining what you’re doing also helps promote trust and security between you. As children get older, knowing what to expect prevents surprise reactions.

Offer Pacifiers or Breasts

Sucking motions are very soothing for young babies. Offer your little one a pacifier at the start of the diaper change to help comfort and calm them. If breastfeeding, you can also try nursing during the change or immediately after.

Take advantage of your baby’s natural sucking reflex to not only provide closeness and nutrients but also relaxation. The skin-to-skin contact will also be very comforting for your baby.

TIP: Dip pacifiers in sugar water for pain relief – but don’t overuse this technique.

Stay Calm Yourself

This one can be hard when your baby is crying and you feel stressed or guilty! But your own emotions directly impact your child’s reactions and behavior.

If you tense up, move abruptly or sound nervous, your baby will pick up on this uncertainty. They are less likely to settle down. Remain calm and confident in your actions so your baby gains reassurance from you.

When In Doubt, Stop

If your baby’s cries escalate into hysterics or they recoil from your touch, stop. Forcing the diaper change will only worsen the pain and anxiety associated with it.

Take a break to reset the situation. Comfort your baby, let them settle, then try again later with a fresh diaper and techniques. If cries persist, consult your pediatrician to adjust the treatment plan.

Preventing Diaper Rash Helps Minimize Cries During Changes

Diaper rash results from prolonged moisture against your baby’s skin. So prevention starts with keeping the area clean, dry and protected. Here are proactive tips to help avoid diaper rash or minimize outbreaks:

  • Change wet and soiled diapers frequently – at least every 2 hours is best practice
  • Allow diaper-free time to air skin – try towels under baby on floor
  • Clean gently with soft cloth and warm water
  • Dry skin thoroughly before re-diapering leaving no damp areas
  • Use thick diaper cream barrier such as zinc oxide with each change
  • Choose super-absorbent diapers to pull moisture from skin
  • Consider vinyl pants over diapers to seal out wetness
  • Ease off acidic baby foods that irritate skin like citrus
  • Identify and adjust for food sensitives

Of course diaper rashes still happen! But staying diligent with these prevention tips means fewer rash outbreaks. Consequently, fewer distressed cries when you change those diapers.

FAQs: Why Do Babies Cry Changing Diapers With Rash?

Still have questions about a crying baby and diaper changes? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions for greater insight:

Why does my baby cry even when I’m gentle washing her during diaper changes?

Even with a soft touch and warm water, cleansing sensitive inflamed skin causes discomfort. The nerve endings in damaged skin are extremely sensitive. Light touch can feel painful. Staying still also becomes uncomfortable for babies laying down.

While you aim for gentle efficient diaper changes, some fussing is inevitable. Talk, sing and distract to help offset the sensations of cleaning irritated skin.

Could my baby’s cries during changes be more than just diaper rash pain?

It’s possible. Some babies are extra sensitive and cry easily. Others associate diaper changes with losing physical comfort or feeling exposed.

However, if the cries mainly start once rash appears – or seem extreme given the visible skin irritation– pain is likely the driving factor. Always check with your pediatrician if your baby’s crying seems excessive compared to the rash severity. Other issues could be compounding the situation.

Why does my baby sometimes calm down and other times get more hysterical during the diaper change?

Babies experience good days and bad days just like we do as adults. If your little one had a rough night or skipped a feeding, their fussy temperament will be dialed up.

On other days, your distraction and soothing techniques will keep your baby relatively calm. Diaper change discomfort can quickly hit a tipping point into crying panic though. Staying centered yourself helps stabilize the situation before hysteria hits.

Should I stop diaper changes if my baby keeps crying?

Stopping a short time to allow your baby to reset emotionally is fine. But avoiding all diaper changes with a rash prolongs skin irritation and increases infection risks.

Instead, adjust your techniques like allowing more diaper-free time and using wet wipes for cleansing. If cries persist beyond several changes, do consult your pediatrician to make sure other issues aren’t compounding the rash discomfort.

When should I ask my doctor about incessant cries during diaper changes?

Most babies fuss during some diaper changes when rash is present. Crying throughout the entire process consistently is not typical though. Nor are hysterical screams of pain with gentle touching of irritated areas.

Consult your pediatrician if:

  • Cries persist beyond the first few days of a diaper rash
  • Your baby recoils sharply or screams at feathery-light touch
  • The rash looks infected – spreading, pus-filled blisters
  • Your baby starts running a fever
  • Cries seem unrelated to visible rash severity

Other health issues like infections, skin disorders or stomach conditions could be causing or worsening pain. Your doctor can help assess if complications are impacting diapering.

In Conclusion: Why Baby Cries with Diaper Rash

Seeing your happy smiling baby suddenly scream when you change their diaper is certainly jarring! While no parent wants their child to suffer, diaper rash is an expected part of infancy. The compromised skin barrier allows irritation to occur – which then leads to pain with touch.

Understanding this cause and effect will hopefully help you cope with the crying as a temporary stage. While you continue diligent diapering, also employ distraction and soothing techniques to offset your baby’s discomfort until the rash resolves.

With your loving care and prevention efforts, those sweet coos and smiles are sure to return!

This blog post covers why babies commonly cry during diaper changes when diaper rash is present and techniques to minimize discomfort for your little one. Let us know if you find these insights helpful or have additional suggestions for other parents!

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