As I explained in a previous post, diapering is a dad responsibility, like it or not. Since you need to get good at it, here are some practical tips to keep this dirty duty as clean and simple as possible.

Be a Boy Scout: Always Be Prepared

Whether you’re home or out, always be prepared for any emergency. Babies aren’t like your faithful pooch: they can’t wait until you get home, and they won’t go on the paper or on a bush. When a baby needs to go…they gotta go. And they will, trust me. At home you have an advantage of being able to sub in a washcloth or TP if you are out of wipes, but there’s no excuse for being unprepared when you’re out. I took my kids everywhere with me when they were little, and the diaper bag should always be stocked before you leave. Always have: diapers, wipes, a change of clothes (for the baby, and maybe for yourself if you’re new at this whole baby care thing), plastic bags (for stowing dirty diapers and soiled clothes), diaper cream (no, it’s not for diapers themselves, no matter what logic tells you), and maybe a valium or two. At home, get a caddy or something to store the individual items it for easy reach, right there beside the changing table. Put together “diaper survival caches” (a diaper and a few wipes stuffed into a Ziploc bag) and keep them in strategic places, such as the living room, your glove compartment, the kitchen…wherever. I always wanted one of those nifty tool-belt type things Vin Diesel sported in “Bullet Proof Nanny,” but Craftsman has repeatedly ignored my letters and calls. Sniff.

Always Stay Hands-On

Babies, even tiny ones, have this annoying habit of moving around when you least expect it, and during diapering it’s a given they’ll suddenly turn into an octopus, growing extra limbs and wriggling as if their little lives depend on it. If you have a changing table, or if you’re out and using one of those changing stations in restaurant or mall bathrooms, use the little seat-belt thingy. Even if you do this, however, ALWAYS keep a hand on the baby’s belly, to keep him or her from rolling off or wandering away while you’re fumbling around for something.

Duck and Cover

If you’re like me and you have a couple of rowdy little boys, you’ll know by now that they’re inordinately proud of their downstairs plumbing apparatus, and that pride exists from the time of birth. Every mom and most dads know that boy babies often turn into Water Wiggles when they’re being diapered or bathed, and that baby is extremely happy with himself to give everyone a little shower. So, even if you’re changing a wet diaper on Junior (meaning he’s already done Number One), until you’ve got that new diaper firmly in place, keep something over his nether regions. I remember my wife telling me a story of how her little cousin actually peed into his dad’s open mouth, because the proud dad was getting too into a game of blow-on-the-tummy and forgot to close the diaper. Gross.

Perfect the Ankle-Grip

It always baffled me how fast my wife could change a diaper until I actually watched her technique; I realized most moms use the same moves. Sorry, ladies, I wasn’t ogling you…it was your diaper-changing form. The trick is in grasping the ankles, so you can lift the baby’s bum clear of the diaper debris and hold him or her aloft securely while swabbing said bum down. Take the baby’s ankles and cross them, then hold them together between your thumb and first two fingers…and lift. It helps to hold each ankle separately, one between thumb and forefinger, the other between forefinger and index finger, thus neatly forming manual baby ankle cuffs. The baby can’t squirm away, limbs aren’t flailing randomly, and you can clean even the nastiest rear end quickly. Now if you can just perfect your form at golf, you’d be all set.