Kate is a mother of two and holds a bachelor of science (B.S.) degree from Sonoma State University. She's also a passionate researcher.
As parents, we work hard to make our babies comfortable in hopes that they will sleep peacefully through the night. We make sure our babies have full tummies, a warm crib, and a clean diaper.
It can be frustrating when we do all of this only to have our little ones wake up a couple of hours later because they have peed through their diapers and are now wet, cold, uncomfortable, and wide awake. But don't worry, you're not alone. Dr. Phil Boucher, a pediatrician at Lincoln Pediatric Group, says, "[Babies peeing through their diaper at night] is very normal and usually starts around 6-9 months."
If this happens during sleep training, it’s even more frustrating for the parents and the baby. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to stop nighttime diaper leaks.
Tip #1: Limit Liquids at Night
One of the most common reasons why you're dealing with overnight leakage issues is that your child is drinking too much before bed. Many children cling to their bottles or sippy cups before bed, leading to issues since their little bladders can't handle that much liquid overnight. However, don't withhold liquids from babies as they need the formula.
If your toddler pees through a diaper every night, try to limit liquids a few hours before bed. We would never recommend keeping water away from children, but if they are thirsty, they should drink only water for at least three hours before bed. This means no juice, flavored water, or sports drinks.
If a drink tastes good, children are more likely to drink it for its flavor and not to quench their thirst. Sugary drinks also act as a diuretic, increasing the production of urine. If you only offer water in the evening, they will likely only drink it if they are thirsty, reducing the chances of nighttime wetting.
Another good thing to do is encourage toddlers to drink more fluids earlier in the day to help prevent nighttime thirst. Get them into a routine of drinking water with breakfast and taking water breaks early in the day (I know it's really difficult to get a busy toddler to sit still for a minute to drink water, but it will help!). You can even get your child into the habit of eating foods that are high in water content—cucumbers, celery, watermelon, tomatoes, strawberries, etc.
Tip #2: Change Diapers Before Bed
Change their diaper right before they go down for the night. The feeling of a fresh diaper will also help them get to sleep easier. If they are a toddler that has started potty training, make sitting on the potty a part of your nighttime routine. Your child might not always go pee, but if they get used to this process each night, they may be more likely to empty their bladder right before going to sleep in the future.
If your baby is a heavy sleeper, and you can change them without waking them, consider changing them once more before you go to bed. If you have a boy, remember to point his private parts downward before bed to make sure he's not peeing upward. It sounds obvious, but many parents forget this little tidbit!
If you are still nursing or bottle feeding during the night, use this time as an opportunity to change their diaper if needed. Always change the diaper first then feed them; this way they are still drowsy from the feeding when you put them back down.
Tip #3: Use Overnight Diapers
Most brands offer overnight-specific diapers, and you may eliminate nighttime leaking simply by switching to one of these.
Every parent has a preferred overnight brand they swear by. If you talk to five different moms, you likely will get five different diaper recommendations. The fact is every baby is different, therefore, diapers fit differently on each baby. So finding the right one for your baby may require some trial and error.
I recommend starting with the brand you already use during the day and buying a smaller pack of their nighttime diapers to test them out. For my son, we found Huggies OverNites Diapers work the best. They fit his extra chunky thighs great and seemed to be (by far) the most absorbent, which of course really helped to prevent any nighttime leaking.
Tip #4: Use a Larger Diaper for Nighttime
Sometimes a bigger diaper at night can help prevent leaking. For example, if your baby is wearing a size 3 during the day but is peeing through these diapers at night, try going up to a size 4.
Keep your baby in their size 3 during the day but get a box of size 4 for nighttime. The bigger diaper needs to still be snug around the waist and thighs. If it’s not, go back down a size.
Tip #5: Double Up on Diapers
Doubling up on diapers at night could be the key that stops the nighttime leaking. Put your baby’s diaper on, then go ahead and put another one right on top of that.
It might help to get one size bigger for the second diaper. If your baby wears a size 2, put that diaper on and then put a size 3 on over it. If your baby is only occasionally having leakage issues, then the second diaper might often still be dry in the morning so you can reuse that one the next night.
Tip #6: Use Cloth Diapers
If you are a parent who only uses disposable diapers, then the thought of cloth diapers might seem a bit odd. It also might sound like a lot of work. But it just might be the key to stopping those leaks. Try using cloth diapers only at night and sticking with disposable ones during the day.
Cloth diapers are great for night leakage because you can easily adjust the absorbency. If your baby is peeing through them, use a thicker insert. You can also double up the inserts for more absorbency.
There are many types of cloth diapers, but for overnight leaking purposes, I recommend a pocket one like Mama Koala One Size Baby Cloth Pocket Diaper. These have a waterproof exterior and an inside pocket where you place absorbent inserts. The inserts allow you to adjust the absorbency for your baby’s needs. I have also discovered that these cloth diapers can fit two inserts in their pockets quite well. Another bonus to cloth diapers is that while they are a bigger purchase upfront, you will save money in the long run.
Tip #7: Use Diaper Liners
Diaper liners are simply padded liners you put inside your baby’s diaper. You can adjust the placement of the liner for boy or girl needs. It holds about eight fluid ounces and keeps your baby feeling dry all night.
One of my personal favorite items to help prevent nighttime leaks is a liner like Sposie Booster Pads Diaper Doublers. These are also disposable so you can just toss them out in the morning. These worked great for my babies and if used every night, they increased my budget by about $10/month. Not bad considering I was also getting more restful nights and spending less time changing sheets.
Tip #8: Double Stack Your Baby's Bedding
If you’re still figuring out what works for your baby, this tip is for you. When making your baby’s bed, lay down the mattress pad and sheet followed by another mattress pad and sheet on top of that.
If your baby leaks through their diaper, pajamas, and sheet in the middle of the night, you can quickly take off the top sheet and mattress pad, change the baby, and put them right back down. No fumbling through drawers looking for a new sheet and mattress pad, and having to change them while the baby is on the floor crying.
I had a couple of stressful nights before I figured this one out. There's nothing worse than trying to keep your newly sleep-trained baby tired while changing the crib’s sheets. If you're willing to spend a bit of money, there are specially made, plastic-backed bed covers. They're easier to toss into the washer and dryer and will save your mattress. And don't worry, they're designed to draw the moisture down so your baby won't be laying in a puddle of urine.
Tip #9: Change Brands
If your baby is still wetting the bed at night, it might be time to switch to a different brand. The options are endless. Some moms love Huggies, while others swear by Pampers or another brand. It's all about finding the best fit and size for your baby (within your budget, of course!). The best way to start looking into a different brand is to check out the top-rated disposable diapers. When you switch brands, buy the smallest package so you can test the diapers out before committing.
If your child is a heavy wetter or urinates frequently, you'll want to look for a diaper that is more heavy-duty. But be careful if you have a child with sensitive skin; you'll want to make sure to buy something that is comfortable and doesn't give them a rash.
Should I Change My Baby's Wet Diaper Immediately?
Babies have little bladders that only hold about one tablespoon (15ml) of urine, so they may empty it very often. Some newborns will pee up to 20 times in 24 hours, and that's okay. Don't feel like you need to immediately rush to change a diaper. A diaper change before or after each feeding, approximately every two to three hours, should be enough.
What if you discover in the middle of the night that your baby peed through their diaper, but they are still asleep? Dr. Boucher says, "Babies do not need to be woken up [to have their diaper changed] as most tolerate it just fine. Never wake a sleeping babe!"
However, in general, it's important to change diapers often enough to reduce the risk of diaper rash. This is a very common thing in babies and in most cases, there's no need to worry if your baby gets one—most OTC diaper rash creams will do the trick. Babies who stay in diapers too long may also be at risk of a yeast infection. If your child's diaper rash won't clear up, make an appointment with your pediatrician to ensure it's not an infection.
When Do Babies Stop Peeing at Night?
I'm sure you're wondering when this bed-wetting phase will end. Once you start potty training your child, their body will slowly learn how to stay dry throughout the night. However, this milestone is different for every kid. In order for them to sleep through the night without urinating, their bladder needs to be able to hold the urine they make during the night. To help this happen, the body produces a hormone that slows down urine production. Remember to be patient and know that there will come a day when their beds will stay dry.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
firstname.lastname@example.org on March 18, 2020:
Such an informative article, thank you for putting this together. Double backing the bedding had been a lifesaver.
Also, I tried cloth diapers, but in winter months, it's not for us. Came across organic disposable diapers, and these have been brilliant too.
Thanks again for this well put together article.. really needed to read this.
Kate Daily (author) from California on December 19, 2017:
Thank you Bill!
Kate Daily (author) from California on December 19, 2017:
That really does help, a lot. Sometimes it can be a pain to stock two different sizes at home (one size for daytime and one size for nighttime) but once I tried it, it was well worth it!
Liztalton from Washington on December 07, 2017:
Great article. I swear by using a bigger size diaper at night to stop leaks. When my son was in size 2 diapers, I used size three at night.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 07, 2017:
I am absolutely certain I will never have to worry about diapers again, but it's always nice reading your work. Have a great weekend ahead.