If you’re a new parent, you might be shocked by your first crazy diaper experience. How can someone so small make so much poop? Are diaper blowouts normal? Let’s look at what causes diaper blowouts and how to try to prevent your next big diaper disaster.
Diaper blowouts are completely normal and happen when a baby has loose stool and it leaks out the back or legs of the diaper. While diarrhea due to illness could be a cause of loose stool, so could breastfeeding or eating new food. If a diaper is too loose or put on wrong, there is also a bigger chance of a diaper blowout.
A messy diaper explosion can be disgusting and embarrassing. It always seems to happen when it’s the most inconvenient and the necessary wardrobe change and a bath takes up a lot of time. So what exactly causes diaper blowouts and how can you prevent them? Read on for the answer.
What causes diaper blowouts
In your search for a reason for the outrageous poop situation you find yourself in, you can narrow blowouts down to a few reasons.
The first thing responsible for diaper blowouts is loose stool. Depending on the diet of the baby, their stool may range from very loose to solid. Loose stools can creep out of legs and waistbands much easier than thicker, more solid waste.
Loose stool is not typically caused for concern unless it’s paired with a fever or other symptoms. If a baby suddenly changes from hard to loose stool and their diet has recently been changed, it could be a reaction to the new food.
Newborns tend to have loose stools for their first 8 weeks, so hang on to the promise of fewer blowouts in the future.
The second thing responsible for diaper blowouts is the fit of the diaper as well as the quality. Always make sure to pay attention to the weight limit of the diaper so your baby is wearing the correct size. Most diapers have elastic around the legs which is custom fit when the diaper is put on.
If you are shopping for diapers, look for a well-made elastic band that goes around their legs. If this is too loose, there may be a diaper blowout.
Another important piece of the diaper is the back. Some diapers offer elastic along the back of the diaper which creates a tighter fit. Diapers without elastic in the back have a looser fit and may contribute to a diaper blowout. Most diaper blowouts happen in the back so a snug fit is ideal.
Many cheaper diapers, especially store brands, unfortunately, tend to skimp on this extra elastic and perform worse overall.
Are diaper blowouts normal
The number of blowouts that happen varies depending on the baby and the diaper. While a blowout once in a while is completely normal and just part of raising a baby, you shouldn’t see them constantly or with every diaper.
If you are dealing with them every day, you may want to experiment with a different size diaper. If your diaper size is too small, you will experience more diaper blowouts.
You might also want to take a look at what your baby is eating to see if there are any food intolerances or allergies that could be causing looser stools than normal.
Is it normal for breastfed babies to have blowouts
Breastfed babies typically have very loose stool and it is completely normal. While breastfeeding is the best nutrition option, it also leads to the most blowouts. A breastfed baby will experience more blowouts than a formula-fed baby due to the consistency of their stool.
If you have a breastfed baby, it may be a good idea to pack extra diapers and clothes for your baby because blowouts can be very common in breastfed babies.
Do formula-fed babies have blowouts
Formula-fed babies typically have a more solid stool. They even can experience constipation due to the formula. Diaper blowouts are less common in formula-fed babies because of the consistency of their stool.
If a formula-fed baby is experiencing constant loose stools, it may be a virus or teething as a typical stool from a formula-fed baby is solid.
Additionally, if your baby is constipated for a couple of days, you might have a blowout on your hands when they finally poop again.
How to prevent diaper blowouts
The best way to prevent a diaper blowout is to make sure that you are using the correct size diaper and you are getting the right fit. The size of a diaper is based on the weight of the baby, not the weight it can hold. Here is this simple size chart as an example:
- 1-5 pounds, Preemie
- 6-9 pounds, Newborn
- 8-14 pounds, Size 1
- 12-18 pounds, Size 2
- 16-28 pounds, Size 3
- 22-37 pounds, Size 4
- >27 pounds, Size 5
By the way, I’ve written a whole article on the best diapers to prevent blowouts that you can check out right here. I go into more detail about size and fit and offer a few other tips that I haven’t talked about today!
Proper diaper fit
Typically, a diaper should be loose enough to not cause skin marks but snug enough to contain the mess of a diaper. A great way to check the snugness of a diaper is to slide your finger under the elastic.
It should give a little with some elasticity, but when you let go, it should go back to the original smaller size. If the elastic doesn’t stretch, it is too tight. If the elastic is too stretchy, it will not fit snugly on their leg and the diaper should be adjusted.
The back of the diaper should also be snug. The stretch of the elastic should have some space for growth. If the elastic is too stretched out, it may be time to consider a different diaper size. Not all diapers have elastic in the back so check before you buy them.
How do you know when to change diaper sizes?
For multiple reasons, such as breastfeeding or doctor’s visits, you will have your baby weighed. Keep track of their weight and the size of diapers you use.
It is best to switch to a bigger diaper as soon as they reach the weight limit because diapers are quickly outgrown. The diaper sizes overlap so a baby who weighs 13 pounds may fit in a Size 1 at 8-14 pounds and they may also fit into a Size 2 at 12-18 pounds.
These weight overlaps allow for an easy transition between diapers.
When a diaper is too small, it will be difficult to put on the baby. There just simply won’t be enough to cover them and the tabs will be difficult, if not impossible to close.
If a diaper is too small, it will increase the likelihood of having a diaper blowout because there is less room for the poop to go. Diapers that are too small may also leave red marks on the baby’s skin from the elastic being too tight.
They also leak easily and come undone under their clothes. It is always a good idea to go up a size rather than stay in a size that is beginning to get too small.
If you are going up a size and have extra diapers left over then check out my article on what to do with extra opened or unopened diapers right here!
How to put on a diaper so it doesn’t leak
The best way to put a diaper on a baby so it doesn’t leak is to lay the baby on their back on a soft, clean surface and follow these simple steps:
- Gently grab the baby’s ankles and lift their hips off the changing table until their bottom until slightly elevated.
- Slide the diaper underneath their bottom and hips
- Gently lower the baby’s hips back down to the changing table where they are now on top of the diaper. Be sure the back of the diaper is high on their back.
- Open their legs and fold the front half of the diaper to their navel. Check the legs to make sure the elastic is pulled out and it forms a seal around the legs.
- With one hand holding the front half of the diaper down, use your other hand to unfasten the tabs on the sides of the diaper.
- Fasten the tabs to the waist of the baby, towards their navel. This should be snug against their skin; tight enough to be secure but not an irritation to their skin.
- Double-check that the diaper fits properly with seals around the legs, crotch, and back.
Baby keeps having blowouts up the back
The best way to prevent diaper blowouts from the back is to make sure that you are using the correct size diaper. A diaper that is too small will not contain the mess and a diaper that is too big will leave a gap that allows the mess through.
The elastic on the back should be stretched somewhat but has enough room to put a finger under the elastic. Not all diapers have an elastic back.
Also, every baby is different so some diaper brands may not work for your baby. Some hospitals offer diaper and wipe samples but it really is a matter of trial and error. If your diaper does not contain the mess, even after going up a size, it may be time to shop around and try a different brand.
My personal tip for preventing diaper blowouts up the back is to fold over the top of the back waistband toward your baby’s back. That fold acts as a little lip to stop liquidy poop from shooting out and up the back.
How to prevent blowouts at the leg
Diaper blowouts at the leg are usually accompanied by diaper blowouts out the back. If you are experiencing a lot of diaper blowouts at the leg, you should check the elasticity of the leg holes.
The elastic should be somewhat stretched and snug against their skin. However, it should be loose enough that it doesn’t dig into their skin and/or cause red marks.
Some diapers have curved leg holes meant to prevent blowouts. If your baby has a lot of diaper blowouts at the leg, it may be a good idea to shop around for other brands that have a different style leg hole. Always make sure that the elastic around the leg hole is snug but never too tight as this will cause rash and skin irritation.
How to clean up blowouts
Once the blowout has happened, containment is the real key to addressing the situation.
Clean the baby
If you can get your baby undresses without spreading the poop all over them, you’ve saved yourself a lot of work. Otherwise, a bath is the best remedy for a soiled baby. I especially love sink baths or using a hand-held shower head to rinse the baby in these situations.
If you’re out and about, use baby wipes to clean up as best you can until you get home.
Clean the clothes
It’s a great idea to carry gallon-size plastic bags in your diaper bag for just these occasions. Sequester the soiled clothes in there until you can deal with them later.
Once in the comfort of your home, scrape off the excess poop into the trash or your diaper pail. I just use a paper towel, but you could also use a plastic knife or a diaper cream spatula if you have one.
After that, thoroughly rinse the close in your sink or bathtub until the water runs clear. Don’t forget to disinfect the sink or bathtub when you’re done.
Next, treat the stain. I’ve had the best success with Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover and a soft bristle brush to work the remover into the stain.
For the best outcome, don’t just tosh the clothing in the wash. Actively treat the stain a couple of times with the spot remover and a quick rinse in the sink. Get the stain out as best you can this way before relying on the washing machine.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Does a blowout mean diarrhea?
While diarrhea can cause blowouts, it is not the only or even the most common cause. Blowouts are especially common in newborns who tend to have loose stools.
What age do babies have the most blowouts?
Newborns typically have the most blowouts as they have consistently loose stools. However, you might see a resurgence when you introduce solids as your baby’s digestive system learns to deal with something besides formula or breast milk.
Unfortunately, diaper blowouts are a nearly universal parenting experience. However, with some trial and error, you can both reduce the frequency and severity of blowouts. And, if nothing else, you can master the blowout management.