Of the many care practices for your bub, diapering is one that raises some questions for many new parents. Specifically, many new parents wonder if they should change their bub’s diaper during the night. And the answer to this one really depends on your bub! Every bub is unique and their frequency of wet and dirty diapers can vary. However, in general, it is best to consider the age of your bub to find the best answer to this question.
During the first week or two after birth, new parents are encouraged to track their bub’s wet and poopy diapers to determine that their bub is feeding well and gaining weight appropriately. Because newborns eat frequently throughout the day and night, their schedule of peeing and pooping will also occur frequently throughout the day and night. Therefore, we typically recommend changing your bub’s diaper with each feeding, as well as in between feedings when Bub poops.
For the first week of life, new parents will notice that the frequency of poopy diapers will increase with each day until their bub is about one week old. Then we typically see that the Bub gets into a more consistent schedule with their diapering needs. Babies who drink breast milk often have more bowel movements than babies who drink formula, so don’t be surprised if you notice differences among your bub’s diapers and friends’ babies who may feed in a different way.
In order to preserve your nighttime sleep, nighttime diaper changes should align with your bub’s wakings for feedings. If your bub happens to have a longer sleep stretch at night, we want you to be able to benefit from that additional sleep too! Therefore, a good way to manage nighttime diapering is to use very absorbent diapers at night along with a diaper cream to protect your bub’s skin from any irritation. Lastly, during nighttime wakings, parents should keep lights dim and try to make interactions with your bub quick and “boring”. We want to reinforce to your bub from a very young age that nighttime is for sleep, so any activities such as feedings and diaper changes should be as efficient as possible in dim lighting to help everyone go back to sleep as quickly as possible.
3-6 months of age
Once babies move beyond the newborn period, they are more likely to begin having longer and more consistent stretches of sleep, which should mean less need to change your bub’s diaper during the night. If you choose to stop changing wet diapers during the nighttime, a good diaper cream is important to minimize any skin irritations from prolonged exposure to the wet diaper. If your bub is having bowel movements during the night, these diapers should always be changed to prevent messes to bedding and pajamas, and to keep your bub as clean as possible. Nighttime bowel movements tend to decrease as your bub gets older and their daytime calories become higher than nighttime calories. This change in feeding, along with longer sleep stretches, tend to impact your bub’s dirty diapers so a majority of the poopy diapers happen during the daytime/evening hours. However, illness and developmental milestones can impact your bub’s frequency of dirty diapers.
Older babies and sleeping through the night
As your bub matures, their need for nighttime calories will decrease, just like older children and adults can sleep all night without water or snacks. Your bub will become a better nighttime sleeper, and with this sleep milestone they will not necessarily need to cry out in the night for your help. As their sleep cycles lengthen and connect throughout the night, they will go through normal periods of arousal with returns to sleep. They may still urinate through the night, but it may not cause them to wake. Therefore, most older babies can make it through the night without diaper changes for wet diapers. The use of nighttime diapers, or inserts that help to absorb nighttime wetness can be very helpful in keeping your bub comfortable during sleep while also preventing diaper leaks to pajamas and bedding. The consistent use of diaper cream at bedtime can continue to protect your older bub’s skin during the night.
You are the expert of your bub
When it comes to changing your bub’s diaper during the night, it really helps to understand your bub’s age and developmental need for feedings. As the saying goes, “What goes in, must come out!” So, if your bub is feeding frequently during the night, it is normal to expect frequent wet and dirty diapers during the night. This is completely appropriate for newborns and young babies, but as your bub grows and begins to sleep longer at night, the need for diaper changes greatly decreases. This is great, since diaper changes tend to wake up drowsy babies and makes getting your little one back to sleep more challenging. You know your bub best, so always trust your instincts when it comes to your bub’s need for diaper changes during the night. Most parents are able to transition away from nighttime diaper changes at around 6 months of age with the use of extra absorbent diapers and a good diaper cream. These diapering practices can hopefully help everyone get as much sleep as possible during the night!