Poopy diapers are pretty gross. This isn’t exactly breaking news.
But for some parents, they’re REALLY, really gross, and especially hard to deal with.
It sounds like a dramatic excuse, but some people truly have intense nausea or severe gag reflexes and just can’t stomach a face full of baby stink for the time it takes to change a diaper.
Unfortunately, not changing poopy diapers isn’t really an option before potty training. So how can you change a baby’s diaper without gagging?
There are really three different categories of ways to get through this: You can block the smell, cover the smell, or power through.
Below, I’ve gathered basically every weird tip, trick, technique, hack, and strategy I could find.
Good luck, nauseous parents!
1. Pull your shirt over your nose
This is probably the simplest method and it requires almost no prep and no extra materials.
(At least, I hope you’re already wearing a shirt. Though knowing what the chaos of having a young baby is like, I wouldn’t put it past anyone to be running around the house shirtless trying to deal with a blowout.)
Just pull the collar of your shirt up over your nose and use it to block the stench while you do your work.
It won’t be super effective, and it’ll be a little tricky to keep the shirt in place, but it should do the trick if you’re just a little bit smell-sensitive.
(And can change diapers quickly.)
2. Use a surgical mask or carbon-filtered mask
If you want to take the shirt technique to the next level, get yourself a box of painters masks or surgical masks and keep them next to the changing station.
These are also part of the ‘smell blocking’ category, but hold themselves in place and counter well to your face, so they should be pretty effective at keeping your nose safe from the stench.
Check out these heavy-duty masks with activated carbon filters (to really stomp out the smell) on Amazon.
3. Vick’s Vapor Rub
VVR has some extremely powerful oils and scents that quite literally assault your nose with overpowering force, jamming some soothing and not too unpleasant aromas into your brain.
If you’re really struggling with the smell of baby poo, consider dabbing some Vick’s on your upper chest, neck, or even directly under your nostrils.
You could even just open a tub of it and leave it on the table while you change your baby.
(We’re now reaching the point where those parents with serious, serious nausea may consider combining multiple methods. A little Vick’s plus a surgical mask should form a nearly impenetrable nose fortress.)
Throw some Vick’s in your Amazon cart right now for your next checkout.
4. Scented lotion under each nostril
If you find Vick’s Vapor Rub a little too potent, you could go with something a little more mild like a scented lotion.
(Some people might find that the menthol-y smell of VVR mixed with the scent of baby poo makes them gag even worse! Everybody’s a little different.)
Rub a little scented lotion (something you really enjoy, like cocoa butter or vanilla or whatever floats your boat) under your nostrils before you dive into changing time.
It probably won’t be as powerful as Vick’s but you’ll have to play around with different smell masking options to find what works best for you.
5. Hum while you work
There is some anecdotal evidence that humming can stop or reduce your gag reflex.
The working theory is that it occupies your mind and the muscles in your throat, keeping them distracted on a more productive task than retching.
The bonus here is that your baby will probably love it if you hum them a funny tune while you change their diaper. It’s great for bonding!
It’s definitely worth a try.
6. Essential oil on your shoulder
This tip comes from nurses, vets, pharmacists, and others who work with potent smells all day long.
Dabbing a powerful scent on your shoulder (essential oils are perfect for this, especially lemon) can be really effective for covering up foul scents.
Just turn to face that shoulder whenever you’re starting to feel overpowered by the poo smell, and breathe in through the nose to get a fresh burst of lemony goodness instead.
Here’s a great essential oils starter kit on Amazon.
Have you ever heard that forcing yourself to smile can put you in a better mood? (And quite the opposite by forcing yourself into a frown.)
There is some scientific evidence that this theory actually holds water.
Sometimes our brain and emotions can respond to our bodies instead of the usual other way around.
You can apply this to gagging during diaper duty. It’s certainly possible that making a disgusted, near-vomiting face can amplify your feelings of nausea.
And it’s definitely possible that forcing yourself into a relaxed or even happy, unaffected facial expression could have the opposite effect.
Try it for yourself and see what happens!
8. Breathe through your mouth
Another favorite trick of professionals who work with disgusting smells all the time, breathing through your mouth is surprisingly effective for preventing smell-related nausea.
It seems a little counterintuitive… After all, who would want poop-air flowing over their tongue?!
But trust me, you won’t taste it.
The explanation here is that your mouth does in fact contain smell receptors, just far, far less of them than your nose does.
So breathing through your mouth is a pretty good way to blunt any foul odor.
9. Clamp your nose with a clothes pin or chip clip
While breathing through your mouth, you may accidentally take a quick nose breath here or there. You may also find the odor drifting idly into your nostrils and aggravating your smell receptors.
The solution? Clip those nostrils shut!
A simple clothespin or chip clip should do the trick.
10. Suck on a Tic-Tac or breathmint
Having a strong, minty presence in your mouth during diaper changing can be a great distraction.
The taste and pleasant smell should give your scent receptors a much more positive experience to focus on, instead of the gooey mess at hand.
Usually we think of smells heavily affected our sense of taste, but it can work the other way around, too.
Try this trick! The worst thing that can happen is you end up with great smelling breath.
11. Use heavily scented diapers
This one won’t be for everyone.
There are some people who find mixing disgusting smells with pleasant smells only makes them worse!
(If that’s the case for you, this list won’t be a huge help, and you’ll probably just want to wear a surgical mask and avoid any of the scent-masking tips.)
But some people have found success with using scented diapers, as opposed to cloth or unscented. They’re specifically manufactured to help disguise the scent of baby poop, and they may just help.
12. Try hypnosis
Your retching reaction to baby poop is probably more of a mental block than a physical one.
(In fact, there’s something called anticipatory vomiting, where you can feel sick just from the mere THOUGHT of something that might make you feel nauseous.)
Instead of trying to duct tape the problem with the ideas above, you could go straight to the source and try to cure your sensitive stomach and sense of nausea once and for all.
Hypnosis is one way to do that.
(I’m not kidding.)
13. Hold your breath and move fast!
If all else fails, guess what: Your baby’s diaper still needs to be changed, whether you’re throwing up or not.
Learn to hold your breath, block the smell as best you can, and get really, really fast at changing diapers.
Oh, and have a trash can at the ready.
(If you liked these hacks, check out my favorite tricks for getting tangles out of toddler hair.)
After-Care and Post-Diaper Nausea
OK, so you got through the diaper change without hurling. Congrats!
If you’re feeling nauseous after it’s over, there are a few things you can do to bring yourself back down. Tips courtesy of WebMD:
- Sit or lie down and refrain from any major physical activity until you feel better
- Have some Gatorade, ginger ale, or soda. The sweetness will help calm your stomach.
- You could also have a popsicle or another similar sweet treat.
- (But avoid anything too acidic like orange juice, that might make things worse!)
I know to some parents, this will all sound completely ridiculous and over the top. But if you look around discussion forums and talk to other parents, there are a lot of people who have serious problems with nausea, gagging, and vomiting while changing stinky diapers.
The tips on this list should help. Combine many of them, if necessary!
And you might want to consider consulting a real health professional if you have intense, chronic nausea. There may be better treatment options available for you.
Good luck, parents!