Should I Feed or Change my Baby First? [Facts About Both Choices]

Balint Horvath, PhD

Writer, parent, and veteran of baby feeding battles.


As a new parent, you may have already experienced a fussing baby that needs to be fed but also has a wet diaper! You might want to do a quick change, but, with a crying baby, is it really that urgent? In this case you may be wondering whether to feed or change your baby first. 

Some situations will always make changing first the better option. For instance, very wet diapers, poop filled diapers or leaking will make the diaper very uncomfortable for the baby. In other instances, a mildly wet diaper can easily hold for a few more minutes while the baby feeds. 

Key takeaways

  • There is no hard and fast rule to deciding whether feeding or changing happens first
  • Newborn babies will require more changes to avoid diaper rash and urinary tract infections
  • Changing babies at night might make them more alert and less likely to go back to sleep
  • Always change a full diaper because this will make your baby uncomfortable
  • Develop a routine that works for you and your baby to avoid excessive fussing from the baby
  • Some babies tend to poop straight after feeding so it will be better to change them after their meal to avoid having to do it twice in quick succession

Should you feed your baby before a diaper change? 

As with many aspects related to caring for your baby, there is no simple answer to deciding if your baby should be changed first or fed first. It really depends on a few factors which include the baby’s age, the situation as well as whether or not the little one is breast or bottle-fed. Let’s take a look at each of these aspects in a little more detail. 

Depends on the baby’s age

Newborn babies will need to be changed after every feeding since their digestive systems are still adjusting to food. The average newborn needs to be fed and changed every two to four hours. 

Is the baby breastfed or bottle-fed?

Babies who are primarily breastfed tend to have a higher stool frequency than formula-fed babies. This is because breast milk contains immunoglobulins which serve as a natural laxative. In these instances, you might want to change your baby after each feeding rather than before. 

What time of day it is

Some babies tend to fall asleep quite quickly after they have been fed. It can be difficult to change a heavy, full diaper if the baby has already dozed off. After all, if it’s late at night, you don’t want the baby to be awake and alert as that will make getting them to fall asleep difficult. However, if it’s during the day, having the baby awake after feeding may not be such a problem. 

Your personal preference

For many parents, there is no discussion to be had. They will always change the diaper before feeding to avoid the baby having to sit in a dirty diaper during their meal. In addition to keeping the baby cleaner, many parents believe this also prevents any diaper bacteria from getting on the baby’s hands and possibly into their mouths. 

Other parents prefer to do it the other way around. Get the feeding out of the way and then do a proper change and general wipe down to clean up any bottle spills. It really comes down to the routine you and your baby have developed for feeding and changing times. 

When to change a diaper before feeding

There are a few times when changing a diaper before feeding just makes better sense. Some of these instances are listed below.

If your baby fusses while feeding

Babies fuss when their diapers are wet or full because it goes without saying that it may be uncomfortable to keep a full diaper on. Fussing may simply be just because of discomfort. 

When the diaper is too full

When a diaper is too full, there’s always the risk of the baby becoming ill as a result of bacteria growth. A full diaper creates the ideal environment for bacteria to start growing. Aside from bacteria growth, a full diaper could also cause rashes or urinary tract infections. Depending on the quality of the diaper, being full could lead to diaper leaks.

Comparison of feeding baby before or after a diaper change

If your baby needs both a diaper change and a feed the situation will determine which is more urgent. 

When to change a diaper before feeding

  • Newborns usually require more frequent diaper changes
  • The diaper is full of poop
  • The diaper is heavy and wet
  • There is diaper leakage
  • Your baby usually falls asleep during feeding (changing them after will wake them)

When to change a diaper after feeding

  • Your baby’s fussing doesn’t seem to be a result of the diaper but rather them being hungry
  • The diaper doesn’t appear to be leaking and isn’t heavy from excess pee
  • Your baby usually poops at the end of a feeding session and changing the diaper before will just be double work as it will need to be done again straight after feeding
  • Changing the diaper helps your baby settle down after feeding so that they can go back to sleep—this is ideal for nighttime feedings
  • You and your baby have adapted to a routine where feeding comes first

Facts about feeding and diaper changes

When it comes to feeding and diaper changes, there are a few important pointers to consider.

  • Diapers should be changed every 2-3 hours to avoid diaper rash
  • Consider the sandwich method which involves feeding your baby for a short time, changing them, and then continuing with the feeding – this is a common practice for nursing mothers who change their babies as they switch sides
  • Many parents recommend not changing diapers in the middle of the night because they’ll be more awake and alert – to avoid having to change your baby at night, use the right type of diapers for heavy wetters
  • Also, use the right diapers according to your baby’s weight and age to avoid leakages
  • Feeding usually settles fussing babies, making it easier to change them

If you’re looking for a few tips on mastering the changing process, you’ll find this short video quite useful!

Final Thoughts

Whether or not you want to change your baby before or after feeding, really comes down to what is most comfortable for you both. If you have established a routine where changing happens after feeding, your baby will get used to that routine. If they fuss too much, you might opt for changing first.

By the way, here’s an article I wrote about another type of fussing, the baby swinging the arms while eating where you might find some other useful information about reasons of fussing. Or an article on baby screaming when bottle feeding and what to do about it.

Photo of author


I’m Balint, founder of this site and a father (and dad) to a baby-turned toddler. I found the world of babies so fascinating that I started a blog dedicated only to that topic. By the way, I studied physics, engineering (PhD, MSc), and therefore I do a thorough research when I write about something. Since it’s a blog, of course I also write about my personal experiences.

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