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Do Wet Diapers Make Babies Wake Up Frequently During Night?

by Sharon Perkins

Your baby doesn't have the ability to control her bladder from bedtime through morning, so she's bound to experience a wet diaper during the night. Depending on how sensitive she is to the feeling of being wet, this may or may not wake her during the night. If she wakes easily, you can take steps to make wet diapers less of an irritant and increase the chance that she'll sleep through the night.

Why Babies Wake

Babies younger than the age of 4 months most often wake up because they're hungry, not because they're wet, according to the Children's Physician Network. If your baby is this age and wakes up crying during the night, she probably needs more than a diaper change and will most likely require a night feeding. Babies have been wet a good percentage of the time since the moment they were born and popped into a fresh diaper, so it's not an unusual sensation for them, explains Dr. William Sears, in his book, "The Baby Sleep Book: The Complete Guide to a Good Night's Rest for the Whole Family."

Staying Dry

Most disposable diapers provide enough absorbent material to wick away urine, but your baby's diaper might fall short if she urinates a lot during the night. A very soggy, heavy diaper could become uncomfortable for your little one to wear during the night. Leaking from a poor-fitted diaper can lead to wet sheets, which are more likely to increase your baby's discomfort than a wet diaper. Choose overnight diapers, which absorb more fluid, or consider using reusable diapers overnight. Reusable cloth diapers of today are nothing like those your grandma pinned on your mother. They're more comfortable, more absorbent, more easily customizable to meet your baby's wetting needs, better fitting and may increase your baby's night comfort.

Decreasing Discomfort from Diaper Rash

If your baby has a diaper rash, any wetness could irritate her tender, already reddened and opened-skin areas. When urine breaks down, it create ammonia as a byproduct, which further irritates the skin. The pain from a wet diaper could wake your baby. Treat any signs of redness or skin breakdown promptly with a zinc-oxide diaper paste to help prevent or soothe diaper rash.

Staying Warm

If your baby gets cold at night, a cold, clammy wet diaper could increase her discomfort and wake her. Rather than putting blankets on her, which an active baby can easily kick off during the night, dress her in a sleeper that keeps her warm even if she moves around. Don't overdress her, though; babies need no more than one more layer of clothing than you would wear at night. Overheating has been linked to an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, the American Academy of Pediatrics warns.

About the Author

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.

Photo Credits

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