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 is exactly what not to do during nighttime diaper changes. 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.

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 will help your baby go back to sleep.

2. 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 reenter slumber land, 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.

3. Change Poopy Diapers 

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.

4. Leave Wet Diapers Alone

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.

5. 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.

Once your baby is asleep, you can also rest assured when you use Nanit.

Laura A

Laura A

Laura Agadoni is a parenting writer and mom whose articles appear in various publications such as Modern Mom, The Penny Hoarder, Tom’s of Maine, Our Everyday Life, and Trulia.