Alaska Sleep Education Center

Are Your Baby's Diapers Affects Their Sleep?

Posted by Stefanie Leiter

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on Jul 2, 2022 10:31:00 AM

Sweet baby getting the undisturbed sleep she needs.

With more than 11.5 million children in the United States under the age of three, there are a lot of babies waking up in the middle of the night. But not every newborn, baby, or toddler is awake for the same reasons. For some, it cannot be helped by normal newborn issues like gas or separation anxiety. Knowing the needs of your newborn is tough on new and seasoned parents alike.

Unfortunately, there is an added trend occurring for many families that is affecting the sleep of their child and, inadvertently, their family because of a few basic needs. One out of three families experiences a diaper need that directly affects a child’s sleep routine. When a child sits in a soaked or dirty diaper, their sleep is affected while also creating potential health risks.

With many organizations willing to fill the gap for food-insecure or low-income communities, there are resources available. Local food banks often carry diapers and non-profits like the United Way often hold diaper drives. Finding help to care for your infant’s need for diapers should not be seen as a burden but an opportunity to encourage healthy sleeping routines early.

The National Diaper Bank Network is one organization leading the way in the U.S. towards maternal care. Their main goal is to “advance applied, policy-relevant research that leads to well-informed and well-funded public policies and programs that ensure all people have access to the material basic necessities they need to thrive and reach their full potential.”

According to statistics from Stanford Children's Health, newborns average 8 to 9 hours of daytime sleep while averaging 8 hours a night. However, any parent knows newborns sleep in very few spurts the first 12 weeks. With shorter cycles, rapid eye movement (REM) is very low during the dream time of sleep.

When a newborn is deprived of sleep, the entire day gets trickier to maintain wellness. This can prolong the stress for the entire family and it can create harder patterns to maintain long term. When a parent can ensure a child is fed before bedtime with a fresh diaper on their bum, sleep adequately is established early.

For a two-year-old toddler, the average sleep time moves to 11 hours at night and 2 hours of daytime. But this is still an age where diapers are worn depending on the needs of the child and the commitment to potty training from their parents or caregivers. When naps are neglected or sleep is routinely interrupted due to a lack of maternal necessities, it stains the child’s development.

A recent study found that food-insecure families had to go without diapers for their children at least once a year with more than one-third stating a monthly need. With an unstable economy, the standard of living is rising with wages not meeting the needs of insecure families. and BabyCenter state the average formula-feeding newborn eats every 2-3 hours; however, crying normally means the baby has moved past being hungry so it is harder to calm them down. Add in a formula shortage due to supply chain issues, rationing formula is becoming an unfortunate norm for families.

"Sleep promotes brain development and solidifies learning and memory. Children with compromised sleep are more at risk for childhood obesity and emotional and behavioral problems," noted study co-author Sallie Porter, an associate professor at Rutgers School of Nursing in New Jersey.

Part of normal newborn development is separation anxiety around six months. Separation anxiety brings night awakenings or a newborn’s troubles when going to sleep. Common reactions from the baby might include:

  • Crying when the baby cannot hear or see you in the room
  • Waking up more than once a night after consistently sleeping through the night
  • Feeling alone and refusing to fall asleep in their room
  • Clinging to the parent when they attempt to leave the room
  • Reaching for the parent when you try to lay them down at night

Although these are routine behaviors, it doesn’t mean it should stem from a lack of formula or diapers. Diaper needs can also stretch to the right sizing when it is too tight or too loose. This sometimes creates added stress and frustration for the child’s parents with extra laundry needed or more diapers being used if they break. For financially insecure families, this places an additional strain on the family budget.

When potty training your toddler, make certain to not only have plenty of patience but plenty of potty training necessities like underwear, nighttime leakproof pullups, piddle pads on their mattresses for quick clean-up, and commitment to the process. Once you make progress, find unique ways to reward your child with a potty training chart and stickers.

If you still find your child suffering from soaked diapers after reducing the number of liquids in the evening or the number of nutrients they are receiving in the daytime, a call to your pediatrician is the next step. They might suggest a sleep study to discover the underlying issues of why heavy, wet diapers are affecting your child, ultimately affecting their sleep and development.

Remember, a baby who sleeps through the night is a wonderful thing, but a baby who has a tough time sleeping is not a reflection of your parenting! Go easy on yourself, and if you have any questions about your or your baby’s sleep don’t hesitate to call the Alaska Sleep Clinic @ 907-374-3063.


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Topics: Infant, Pediatrics, baby, alaska, alaska sleep, wet diapers

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