As a mom, you know that the number one rule of thumb is never, ever wake a sleeping infant. And wouldn’t you know it, as soon as Baby is soundly snoozing, she lets one loose. But what if your baby's diaper needs to be changed — and it's more than just a wee bit wet? Do you change your baby’s diaper while they’re sleeping?
Check To Make Sure Baby Actually Pooped
Even though it might sound like an explosion just occurred in Baby’s diaper, you may want to check first before going in armed with wipes and ointment. “It might sound like they pooped, but it could just be gas and not worth waking them up to find a clean diaper,” Dr. Candice W. Jones, MD FAAP, a board-certified pediatrician tells Romper. That’s why you might want to wait a minute so that the air can clear — literally. If it’s possible, try to take a peek and see if there’s a poopy present waiting for you. But if you don’t see or smell a dirty diaper after you’ve let some time pass, it might just be that baby passed some gas… and you can both go back to sleep.
So, Your Baby Did Poop While They’re Sleeping… Now What?
Like many things in life, deciding if and/or when to change your baby’s diaper depends on a few factors. “If you hear or smell stool while your baby is asleep, you’ll want to change the diaper soon, but that does not need to be immediately,” Dr. Arunima Agarwal, MD, a board-certified pediatrician explains to Romper. “If you think they’ll wake up soon, then it’s okay to wait a little while. Dr. Agarwal advises waiting no longer than 30 minutes to change your baby, though, or it might not be safe for your sweetie.
Here’s What Can Happen If Baby Stays In A Dirty Diaper Too Long
Nothing turns a cranky baby's disposition around better than a good nap. And the last thing you want to do is wake your baby up and have them (and subsequently, you) in a miserable mood for the rest of the day. But delaying the diaper change can be detrimental to your little darling. They could wind up with diaper dermatitis (that’s diaper rash to you and me), which results not just in a red butt, but potentially some unpleasantness for your baby. Diaper rash, which affects about 50% of babies, happens when your baby’s super soft and sensitive skin comes into prolonged contact with pee and poo, according to a PubMed study.
What Else Can Happen If You Don’t Change Your Baby’s Poopy Diaper Fast Enough
A burning butt might just be the beginning of potential problems that your baby can have if they stay in a dirty diaper too long. “The skin does not do well while in contact with stool for an extensive period of time,” Dr. Timothy Wong, MD, a family medicine doctor at JustAnswer tells Romper. “Stool also has a lot of chemicals and bacteria in it, and it also has a great deal of water content, all of which can damage the skin.”
Because if you thought that only adults could get a yeast infection, think again: your baby can, too. “Yeast infections can develop as well,” Dr. Alison Mitzner, MD, a board-certified pediatrician and author of Calm and Confident Parenting tells Romper. “The diaper area is warm and moist, which attracts yeast and can develop into an infection.” Yeast infections must be treated by an anti-fungal cream which will require a trip to the pediatrician. It will also mean several applications of medication and even more frequent diaper changes.
And did we mention UTIs? Yes, your baby can get a urinary tract infection from an infrequent diaper change. While UTIs are the most common infection in children under the age of 2, (per a PubMed study), it was found that using a super absorbent diaper (you know, one that can hold a lot of urine) might keep your kiddo dry during a nap, but it can possibly cause an infection, too. Dr. Wong agrees, adding: “Skin rashes, UTIs, yeast infections of the skin, skin breakdown, infections, and discomfort are possible consequences of not changing a dirty diaper quickly enough.”
Here’s How To Change A Poopy Diaper So Baby (Hopefully) Doesn’t Wake Up
Yep, your baby pooped. There’s plenty of evidence to prove it. Now what? Well, there are ways to change your baby so that they might not wake up. To begin with, unless Baby soiled their sheets, too, there’s no reason to remove them from where they’re sleeping, Dr. Agarwal advises. “Change them in their crib if possible, keep the light low, and make sure that the room is quiet,” she says. “By doing all that, your baby may not wake at all.” And to ensure that you make it a quick change, try having everything at the ready, so that you don’t fumble looking for an extra pair of pants.
And Here’s How To Treat Diaper Rash
Let’s say that both you and Baby took a siesta, and you didn’t even realize that they took a dump in their diaper. Now they have a red tush and you’re both in tears. “If the baby does develop a rash, any product with zinc oxide works well to heal the irritated skin,” advises Dr. Mitzner. “If the diaper rash doesn’t improve or gets worse, be sure to see your pediatrician.” You can also try letting your baby be a little nudie and air dry the area to prevent further diaper rashes. When it’s time for the diaper to go on, be sure to slather on the diaper cream or ointment to provide a good barrier to block baby’s sensitive skin.
It might go against everything you hold to be true to wake up a sleeping baby, but it’s better to change them now (and let them have a shiny hiney) than to risk a potential rash or infection. Otherwise, you’ll end up changing their diaper a lot more, anyway, as the area heals. By making sure that they don’t snooze with a wet or soiled diaper (and changing them as quickly as possible), it just might make it a less crappy situation — for Baby’s butt and for you.
Benitez Ojeda, A., Mendez, M. “Diaper Dermatitis” 2021.
Fahimzad, A., Taherian, M., Dalirani, R., Shamshiri, A. “Diaper Type as a Risk Factor in Urinary Tract Infection of Children” 2010.
Dr. Candice W. Jones, MD FAAP, a board-certified pediatrician
Dr. Arunima Agarwal, MD, a board-certified pediatrician
Dr. Timothy Wong, MD, a family medicine doctor
Dr. Alison Mitzner, MD, a board-certified pediatrician and author of Calm and Confident Parenting
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