Nighttime Diaper Changes — How Often Should You Change Your Baby’s Diaper at Night?

Nighttime Diaper Changes — How Often Should You Change Your Baby’s Diaper at Night?

Learn how to manage nighttime diaper changes without disrupting your baby's sleep. Explore our tips to parent confidently through the night.
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How Often Should You Change Your Baby’s Diaper at Night?

Sleep comes at a premium for you as a parent and for your baby. That’s why you might find yourself asking this question in the middle of the night: Do I need to do a nighttime diaper changes for my baby right now?

During the day, that’s a straightforward question. But at night, it’s slightly more complicated. On one hand, your little one may have a soiled diaper while sleeping (it’s more than likely to happen at least once per night). And on the other hand, you don’t want to wake them unnecessarily to change them. So if your baby is still asleep, should you risk waking them to change into a clean diaper?

If your baby is sleeping at night, unless they have poppy diaper or are extremely wet, you can probably let them sleep. Many of today’s diapers are so absorbent that your baby may be able to sleep through the night, or as long as they’re capable, even if they’ve wetted or soiled a diaper. When they wake up on their own, or you need to wake them for a feeding, you’ll have a chance to clean them up and put on a fresh diaper. Until then, you can probably rest easy.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “Okay, I get that I don’t need to change my baby’s dirty diaper every single time they wet it in the middle of the night, but what about when I do need to change them at night? What then? And can you tell me in an easily digestible listicle format?” Well, that’s an oddly specific request, but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Nighttime Diaper Changes — How to Get in and out Without Disrupting Sleep

Every time you interact with your baby, you naturally want to maximize bonding time. And changing diapers, believe it or not, presents a wonderful bonding opportunity.

Turning your head away in disgust to get it over with as quickly as possible isn’t what we mean. We know that you probably use this time to get some eye contact going and to communicate with your baby. You might sing a song, give a tummy raspberry, or just work your magic to make the experience fun.

But that’s actually exactly how not to change a diaper in the middle of the night.

Here are five things to do:

  1. Establish a Routine

Routines are great when it comes to babies. Babies like routines because it comforts them, Will Wilkoff, M.D, a Maine pediatrician, tells Parenting. And parents like them because routines help set the foundation that there are certain rules to follow. Newer baby monitors like Nanit even track your baby’s sleep and let you know when your bedtime routine is becoming inconsistent, as this can result in more sleepless nights for you and your child.

You may think that because your diaper change routine during the day involves eye contact and general playfulness, you should maintain the same routine at night. You can do that, but expect your baby to fully wake up if you do. Setting up a special nighttime diaper change routine can help your baby go back to sleep.

  1. Change diaper at bedtime

Changing your baby’s old diaper at bedtime will give you both the best chance at a full night’s sleep, so consider making that a part of the nightly routine. If your baby has sensitive skin and you’re worried they might develop diaper rash from a wet diaper, you can try applying diaper cream before bed. That might help keep them comfortable and asleep, and spare you both a diaper change.

  1. Use high-quality, absorbent diapers

You may also want to use the most absorbent diapers at night. The extra absorption could mean the difference between a deep sleep and a sleepless night. Look for brands designed with extra liquid capacity to support better sleep.

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  1. Make sure baby’s diaper fits well

It probably goes without saying that the fit of a diaper is paramount. That’s never more important than during the night. Finding a snug diaper could be a matter of trying a handful of sizes and styles until you find one that fits your baby’s body and is comfortable but won’t leak. Some parents have success with cloth diapers, which can be very absorbent and comfortable.

  1. Be in Stealth Mode

When your baby wakes during the night, the idea is to get them back to sleep as soon as possible. Just as lights and stimulation make it tough for you to fall back asleep, they do the same for your baby. Your goal is to get in and out of the room as quickly and quietly as possible, like a sneaky cat burglar. Opt for a swaddles, sleeping bags, or pajamas with a 2-way zipper to help baby stay cozy during a nighttime change. 

  1. Change Poopy Diapers

Remember, if you see (or smell) that your baby pooped their diaper, you need to change it. Whatever you do, don’t turn on the overhead light. You want to keep the room dark. Installing dimmers on the lights or using a night light are both good options for nighttime diaper changes. Change the diaper as matter-of-factly and gently as possible, and do not look into your baby’s eyes. This will only excite them. Your goal is to send the message that this is not playtime. Once you’ve changed the diaper, put your baby back to bed.

Expert tip: Use a wipe warmer at night. Cold wipes are more likely to wake your baby than warm ones.

  1. Leave Wet Diapers Alone

Again, you can leave a wet diaper alone during the night, waiting until morning to change it — unless your baby’s diaper is soaked through to their pajamas. If you’re concerned about diaper rash, the Mayo Clinic recommends using some type of barrier ointment, one that contains petroleum jelly or zinc oxide. You can use this diaper ointment each time you change your baby’s diaper, or you can use it before bed only. You also might wish to use a high-quality or overnight diaper, which should keep your baby dry and comfortable during the night.

  1. Change Before You Feed

If your newborn baby is awake for a feeding, there are two good times to change their diaper and one not-so-good time. Change your baby before you change sides (or halfway through the bottle). This usually wakes babies up enough to get them to take a full feeding. If that wakes your baby too much, change their diaper first, and then feed them. If you change the diaper after you feed your baby, you risk completely waking them again.

Key Takeaways

It’s normal to feel some guilt about leaving your baby alone. A good, quality video monitor can help assuage some of that guilt. Nanit‘s one of a kind bird’s-eye view and crystal clear live stream let parents get the best view of their child, so you can rest easy and leave your little one to get some zzz’s on their own.

Connect with parents like you and get advice in the Nanit Community. Join the conversation or post a question now.

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CONTRIBUTORS

Natalie Barnett, PhD serves as VP of Clinical Research at Nanit. Natalie initiated sleep research collaborations at Nanit and in her current role, Natalie oversees collaborations with researchers at hospitals and universities around the world who use the Nanit camera to better understand pediatric sleep and leads the internal sleep and development research programs at Nanit. Natalie holds a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of New England in Australia and a Postgraduate Certificate in Pediatric Sleep Science from the University of Western Australia. Natalie was an Assistant Professor in the Neurogenetics Unit at NYU School of Medicine prior to joining Nanit. Natalie is also the voice of Nanit's science-backed, personalized sleep tips delivered to users throughout their baby's first few years.

Kristy Ojala is Nanit’s Digital Content Director. She spends way too much time looking at maps and weather forecasts and pictures of Devon Rex cats and no-cook dinners. A former sleep champion, she strives to share trustworthy somnabulism tips with other parents—praying for that one fine day when no tiny humans wake her up while it’s still dark out. Her kids highly recommend 3 books, approximately 600 stuffies, Chopin’s “Nocturnes,” and the Nanit Sound + Light for bedtime success.

Mackenzie Sangster is on the Brand and Community team at Nanit. She supports content development and editing for Nanit’s Parent Confidently blog as well as other marketing initiatives. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her friends, cooking, being active, and using the Pro + Flex Duo to keep an eye on her fur-baby, Poppy!