Should You Wake Your Baby to Change Their Diaper?

· July 23, 2018

Some parents are not sure if it’s a good idea to wake up their baby to change their diaper. They may ask themselves this question every day. 

A baby’s skin is very sensitive to irritants such as urine, feces, or cosmetic products. Babies need their diapers to frequently be changed to prevent rashes or dermatitis.

Waking up your baby to change his/her diaper will depend on several circumstances. A mother who has a hard time putting the baby to sleep surely won’t bother waking her baby up. No one wants to deal with an upset baby because they were woken up.

However, if the baby frequently gets diaper rashes, most likely the mother will wake him/her up during the night to prevent dermatitis.

Should you wake your baby to change his/her diaper?

As mentioned on other posts, each baby is different. What works for one baby may not work for another. This means you shouldn’t rely on the same tactics you used with your other children.

baby diaper

It’s all on the parent to determine what the baby’s needs are. So, let’s get more into detail about the factors which influence the decision of waking up your baby to change his/her diaper.


What’s the priority: rest or hygiene?

Undoubtedly, leaving a dirty diaper containing urine or feces on for long is harmful to a newborn’s delicate skin. However, at the same time, not disrupting the baby’s sleep is essential for their development.

While the baby is awake, it’s fine to change their diaper. The problem is when the baby is asleep. Prioritizing if rest or hygiene is what’s best for your baby is the key to making the best decision.

mom changing her baby's diaper

Babies defecate when food usually reaches the baby’s stomach. This is known as the duodenocolic reflex, which means that it’s time to change your baby’s diaper. A formula-fed baby wakes up every 3 hours: the baby wakes up in order to be fed and have their diaper changed. This means you won’t need to wake up the baby to change his/her diaper.

If the baby is breastfed, then he/she will probably urinate and defecate more often, just like they need to be fed more often. Therefore, the baby will wake up more often, which is a good moment to change his/her diaper without having to wake him/her up.

This article may interest you: 8 things you should never do with a baby

But my baby sleeps 6 hours or more! What should I do?

Parents struggle with this decision even more if the baby sleeps 6 or 7 hours straight. Waking the baby up for a diaper change becomes a concern for parents, which is why many mothers to turn to their pediatricians for help.

Disposable diapers are becoming increasingly more absorbent. Nighttime diapers made precisely to make you baby gets a full night’s rest. You shouldn’t wake a baby who sleeps 6 or 7 hours straight for a diaper change. The diaper should absorb the liquid and remain practically dry until they wake up the next day.

mom looking at her sleeping baby

You just have to make sure to change their diaper right before bedtime and that their skin is clean and dry. Also, you should apply a diaper rash cream to prevent any rashes from appearing. Ask your pediatrician what’s the best diaper rash cream for your baby.

If the baby wakes up for nighttime feedings, he/she will usually fall asleep while being breastfed. Therefore, waking your baby up for a diaper change is completely counterproductive. The diaper should remain dry until the next morning. However, you must make sure to change the diaper right when your baby wakes up.

You should read: Reasons to Nurse Your Baby

When should I wake up my baby up for a diaper change?

If the only option for a baby is using cloth diapers because disposable diapers cause your baby to have allergies, then the best thing for you to do is changing the baby’s diaper if he/she has defecated or the diaper is too wet. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wake your baby up to do a diaper change or he/she will wake up on his own during the diaper change.

Using a cover between the mattress and the bed sheet will help you isolate the baby from moisture. You can also place a blanket or extra towel between the mattress and the sheet. The key is to separate the baby from moisture.

If the baby has diarrhea, they should be changed immediately because the stools can become acidified and be more abrasive on the baby’s delicate skin. Even if you use really absorbent disposable diapers, you’ll have to change the baby’s diaper. It’s very likely that the baby will wake up during the change, and you’ll have to go through all the trouble or putting the baby back to sleep again.