Germy diapers and squirmy babies can make the changing table a potential danger zone for the unwary parent. Whether you use disposable or cloth diapers, here are a few thoughts on keeping changing time safe and sanitary:

DO

Do have a home diaper-changing station.
Changing your baby in multiple locations throughout the house can spread germs. If you can, set up a permanent changing station in a bathroom. Having water close by makes it easy to wash your hands, and the non-porous tile and porcelain are less likely to harbor bacterial growth.

Do wash your hands afterward.
Right after you change your baby and dispose of the diaper, take 30 seconds to wash your hands with warm water and soap. It’s the best way to prevent the spread of bacteria. Keep hand sanitizer in your diaper bag for times where you’re not near a sink.

Do wipe down public changing stations.
Those fold-down changing tables can be lifesavers in a pinch. But since you have no idea how they are maintained, clean them thoroughly with a disinfectant wipe before you lay your baby down.

Do wipe front to back.
Wiping from back to front risks introducing bacteria into the urinary tract, especially with girls.

Do notice baby’s skin during changings.
The sensitive skin around your baby’s bottom can reveal a variety of problems, from yeast infections to digestive issues. Do a quick scan at each diapering and note any changes. If irritation persists, contact a physician.

DON’T

Don’t improvise. Before you remove your baby’s diaper, have your supplies wipes, baby powder, ointment and a clean diaper within reach. Rushing off in mid-change to grab something you forgot can put your baby at risk of falling off the changing table, and it also means you’re spreading germs as you move from place to place.

Don’t rush. Take time to wipe your baby’s sensitive areas thoroughly, clean the changing area with a disinfecting wipe, and dispose of the dirty diaper in a sealed diaper pail (this helps prevent toddlers from getting curious about the contents). You’re busy, but its worth an extra two minutes to keep your home and baby healthy.

Don’t use soap. Even if changing your baby leaves him or her rather messy, just use a soft wash-cloth soaked in warm water to clean up your little one. Baby skin is very sensitive, and normal soap strips it of natural oils and can cause a rash and irritation. If water alone wont do, use baby wash.

Don’t skimp on buying diapers. According to the U.S. Department of Education, newborns go through 10 diapers a day on average. Make sure that you stock up when you go shopping. Yes, they’re expensive. But the alternative is a baby with painful diaper rash because you ran out and couldn’t change her promptly.

Don’t worry. Changing your baby is a messy, germy process, but some planning and a few smart guidelines go a long way in keeping your baby comfortable and the rest of your family safe from disease.