Diapering FAQ: Know the Basics
How many times a day should I change my infant’s diaper?
Babies of all ages, infants especially, should simply be changed as soon as they’re soiled. Not only is it more comfortable for them, but it’s also the single best way to prevent diaper rash. Since newborns tend to excrete more waste in the early weeks, you might want to buy disposable diapers (if you choose to use disposables) with a color-changing strip down the center that turns from yellow to blue when wet. (A poop-filled diaper smells for itself.) You should expect at least five to eight wet diapers and at least two bowel movements per day in your baby’s first few weeks.
How do I know if my baby is peeing and pooping enough each day?
It’s important for parents to know how much their baby is peeing and pooping because it’s the best indicator that he or she is eating enough and staying healthy. Here are general rules of thumb:
- Newborns should wet five to six disposable diapers or six to eight cloth diapers with a clear or light yellow-colored urine. They should also have two to four loose, grainy, mustard-colored stools each day. (The consistency will be looser for breastfed babies than formula-fed babies.)
- As babies get older (around 4 weeks or so), you might notice they suddenly drop down to one poop a day (or even skip a day) as their digestive systems mature. Instead of looking at the frequency, look at the consistency of bowel movements:
- Frequent stools that look extra watery and green could mean diarrhea.
- Firm, small pebble-sized stools (sometimes streaked with red or black blood) usually indicates constipation.
- The same goes for urination — you should look for other signs besides the number of wet diapers to make sure your baby is healthy. Your baby could be lacking nutrients and/or dehydrated if you notice:
- Dark or bright yellow urine;
- Strong smelling (sometimes fishy) urine;
- Urate crystals that turn the diaper a pink or red color;
- Other signs of dehydration, like dry lips, unusual lethargy, sunken eyes, and cold hands and feet. If you suspect that your baby is dehydrated, go to the emergency room immediately.
Should I wake my baby up in the middle of the night to change the diaper?
While it’s true that changing your baby as often as possible will help avoid diaper rash, it’s usually not necessary to wake up your baby while he or she is sleeping. However, keep in mind:
- If you smell a certain unmistakable smell, you might want to try changing your baby’s diaper as carefully as possible as to not disturb his or her peaceful slumber. Of course there’s a good chance that a large bowel movement might wake your little one on its own, but still try and do a quick and efficient diaper change while the lights are dim and your baby is in the crib or bassinet. If a wardrobe and sheet change is needed, you’ll most likely end up waking your baby.
- You may experience overnight diaper leakage, especially during the early weeks when your baby is producing more wet diapers and you’re still getting a hang of the diapering process. It’s a good idea to have some sheet savers and mattress protectors (don’t worry, they make eco-options), as well as an extra set of sheets, clothes and diapers on hand.
- Always change your baby’s diaper as close as possible to bedtime.
- If you’re using cloth diapers, many companies sell “soakers,” which are extra strips of cloth to use at night.
- Disposable diaper-users can always look into overnight alternatives, which claim to be a bit more absorbent.
- There might be a trial-and-error process in finding the right diaper for your baby.
- Every baby is different, and some might need to be changed throughout the night to avoid painful diaper rash. In fact, some particularly extreme cases of diaper rash might benefit from a diaper-free night to let the area breathe and heal. (Remember to protect the mattress and put blankets underneath your baby!)
When baby gets older, when should I consider potty training?
There isn’t a universal answer to this question, as every baby is physically and emotionally ready at different ages. Perhaps even more than that, it really depends on the kind of philosophy and approach that each individual family is comfortable with. Some take a more parent-led potty-training approach at an early age, while others are more laid back about potty training, willing to wait until their baby is fully ready or until preschool admission time rolls around.
There’s a lot of debate on which is best for a child, and experts have been sounding off on this topic for decades. The generally accepted rule of thought here in the U.S. has been to look for certain “readiness” cues, usually between 18 months and 3 years. The logic (made popular by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and adopted by the American Academy of Pediatrics) is that potty training too early can cause anxiety, low self-esteem and a prolonged training process because the baby might regress. Some of the “readiness” signs include:
- Being able to walk and run.
- At least two to four hours between wet diapers.
- Having bowel movements at fairly predictable times.
- Showing interest in the adult toilet and/or wanting to wear underwear.
- Asking (whether verbally or not) to be changed when wet and/or letting you know when he or she is about to have a bowel movement.
- Being able to follow instructions and communicate effectively.
- Having a word or signal for pee and poop.
Yet there are many families and cultures that believe there’s no need for children to wait as long as they do in the U.S., and that it could actually be harder for older toddlers to learn and could possibly lead to bladder problems. If you look at the potty training statistics, American babies have been potty trained later and later as the decades go on (possibly because of easier, bigger, more available disposable diapers), begging the question: Do we really need to be changing diapers at 4 years old? In fact, children are potty trained by their first birthday in most parts of the world. Even here in the States, more and more families are practicing “elimination communication” to train their little infants in the first six months, which requires patience, dedication and the ability to really hone in on your baby’s cues.
So, whether you’re potty training a girl or a boy, every baby and every family is different. You could start at 3 months or 3 years, whichever sounds the most convenient and feasible. They all get there eventually; the route is up to you.
Find more helpful tips and products for potty training at Baby Zone!