The Only Times to Change Your Baby if They Poop While Sleep

February 14, 2024
 minutes read
Written by
Amanda Kule
Parent Contributor
Medically reviewed by
Arik Alper, MD
Pediatric Gastroenterologist and Aerodigestive Specialist

If you're a parent of a newborn baby, your day is likely full of lots of feedings and even more dirty diapers! Your little baby has a tiny stomach and is growing quickly and needs to be fed often – around every 2-3 hours. With so much breast milk or formula consumed, they likely are going potty quite a bit!

For parents of newborns, you’re going to get used to changing a lot of poopy diapers throughout the day. It’s recommended you change their diaper right after they poop when awake. However, if your baby poops when sleeping, the answer is less obvious.

Read on for what to do if your baby poops when sleeping, and when you can expect them to stop pooping during nap times or bedtimes.


Why Babies Poop in Their Sleep

As we get older, our bodies use our sleep during the night to restore and repair itself. Our bowels use this time to rest, too – so we don’t poop!  However, when a baby is little, they eat and wake around the clock, so their bowels will remain active.

Your baby’s sleeping and feeding patterns will change with age though, which will affect the frequency of them pooping in their sleep. As they grow and their bodies and mind develop, the reasons they poop in their sleep will also start to change, too.


Newborn babies lack nearly all control of their bladder and bowels and often poop during or right after feeding. This is normal and should be expected!

Since your newborn will feed around the clock for the first few weeks of life, expect them to poop around the clock, too!  Some babies poop five times a day or more – but every baby is unique so don’t worry if yours poops more or less. Speak with your pediatrician if you’re concerned.

If your baby is breastfed, they may poop more than if your baby is formula fed. This is because breast milk digests more quickly.

Regardless of how they’re fed, by the time your baby is between 6 and 8 weeks old and starts spending more time awake during the day, they typically start pooping less at night. More awake hours means more daytime eating — and probably more daytime pooping. It also may mean sleeping longer and eating less at night.

Older babies and infants

Normally by around 4 months old, your baby’s circadian rhythm will start to mature, and they their nap times will naturally start to be more consistent and around the same times. At this age they may even start sleeping longer stretches at night. While most still will feed during the night at least one time, longer stretches of sleep does mean longer amounts of time between feeds. When your baby eats less frequently, they often will stop pooping as frequently.

A more consistent daytime schedule also means they will eat more during the day and less at night. Since they also start staying awake for longer during the day, they also have more awake time to poop.

If your baby continues to poop in their sleep as they get older, remember that it’s normal! There are a lot of changes going on, and it takes time for their bodies to adjust. Experts say that babies may poop more during a growth spurt — and there’s a lot of growing going on in the beginning of your baby’s life. If you’re starting to sleep train, your baby may poop more temporarily as they learn to fall asleep independently.

Even though bowel movements during the night decrease as your baby gets older, your baby will continue to pee during the night well into toddlerhood. Overnight diapers that are extra absorbent such as Pampers Swaddlers Overnight will keep your baby comfy and dry, and sleeping soundly. They also have a Blowout Barrier – just in case.


Toddlers usually don’t need to be fed during the night, and most sleep through the night. Naturally, when we are asleep and not being fed, our digestive systems will rest. This is why pooping at night often stops as we get older.

However, it is also between 12 and 18 months that your toddler begins to be able to control their bowels. Some toddlers, in acts of defiance or to delay bedtime, wait until bedtime or nap time to poop. They may still be awake, but choose to wait to poop so they can stay up longer, or get a rise out of you or their caregiver.

This is just a phase of toddler sleep, and will pass as they get used to their newfound independence.

Is it Dangerous to Not Change a Dirty Diaper?

Keeping your baby in a dirty diaper for extended periods of time, especially when there is a poop, can lead to a serious diaper rash and other complications.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, nearly half of babies will get a diaper rash at some point, and a common cause is moisture from a soiled diaper to be on the skin for too long. Moisture from pee and poop can cause your baby’s skin to soften, and softer skin can get damaged when rubs against a diaper. The chemicals in pee and poop can further irritate your baby’s skin. While diaper rashes are usually easily treatable, sometimes they can cause an infection that needs additional treatment.

Despite the risk of diaper rash, if your baby pees during the night, experts recommend not waking them to change – encouraging quality sleep is important for their development, and they’ll wake if or when they become uncomfortable. However, if your baby poops in their sleep, it’s recommended not waiting as long. If you know they’ll wake up soon, you can wait to change their poopy diaper, but if it’s early into a sleep you may want to change them to reduce the risk of diaper rash.

If your baby already has a diaper rash and poops during sleep, it’s often recommended to change them right when you notice so it doesn’t worsen. Newborns should always be changed if they poop.

If your toddler is purposefully holding their poop for bedtime to seek attention, talk to your pediatrician to see if they recommend waiting on changing their diaper. Changing their diaper right away may reinforce their behavior.

How to Prevent a Diaper Rash if Your Baby Poops While Sleeping

If your baby tends to poop while sleeping, you can help prevent a diaper rash by keeping their diaper not too tight and add a thick layer of barrier cream to your baby’s bum before sleep. Consider making it part of your nap or bedtime routine before sleep. For older babies who sleep longer stretches at night, using a more absorbent diaper that’s made for nighttime, such as Pampers Swaddlers Overnight, will help move the moisture away from their bum and keep them dryer for longer.

If your baby has a diaper rash that is painful, not going away. or getting worse after 2-3 days, or includes pimples, sores, or blisters, speak to your pediatrician. It may require more treatment. A fever that accompanies a diaper rash also is cause for calling your doctor.

Sleepy Diaper Tip
Since newborns cannot sleep through the night and need their diaper changed frequently, overnight diapers such as Pampers Swaddlers Overnight typically don’t come in a newborn size. However, a quality newborn diaper such as Pampers Swaddlers should prevent leaks and keep your baby as comfortable for as long as possible when they sleep.

How to Change a Dirty Diaper While Your Baby is Sleeping

If your baby pooped during sleep, consider how early into their sleep they are. If they have the whole night ahead, go ahead and change it – but try and keep things calm and quiet so you don’t rouse them. If they are nearing an end of a nap, you wait for them to wake. For newborns, experts always recommend you change their diaper if they poop. Especially since they likely will wake soon anyways.

Oftentimes it's not recommended to change your baby’s diaper if they peed during sleep. This is because rousing your baby to change their diaper may cause them to wake up and struggle to resettle – and unless they are uncomfortable, there is no concern.

If you choose to change your baby’s diaper when they’re asleep, follow these tips:

  • Keep their bedroom lights off or dim
  • Don’t speak to your baby, or speak in a soft calm voice if they rouse
  • Be quick with your change – clean them with a wipe and re-apply barrier cream and a diaper
  • Put your baby back in their sleep space and leave the room

If your older baby struggles to fall asleep independently, they often will cry for you to help them settle back to sleep – even if they don’t have a dirty diaper.

To help your baby develop healthy sleep habits and not rely on you to fall back asleep if they wake at night and don’t need a diaper change, download the Smart Sleep Coach by PampersTM app. The app's Smart Schedule tracks your baby’s sleep and recommends the ideal time to put them to sleep to align with their circadian rhythm. This helps them fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer – and have an easier time falling back asleep if they wake for a change. Take this free 3-minute sleep quiz and get your personalized plan for helping your baby become a super sleeper!

How to Prevent Night Pooping

For newborn babies who eat around the clock, it’s nearly impossible to prevent night pooping – they don’t even realize the difference between day and night yet!

However, as your baby gets older, there are ways to help them develop healthy sleep habits, which includes a consistent sleeping and eating schedule which leads to more pooping during awake hours – and less during sleep.

  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine. Helping your baby wind down before bed is an easy way to help them recognize it’s time for sleep – and not for poop.
  • Track their sleep. As your baby gets older and you start to get a sense of when they typically sleep and wake, it gets easier to predict when they may poop. When you track your baby’s sleeps and wake ups in the Smart Sleep Coach app, the app will create a schedule for you to predict their future sleeps and wakes to align with their natural sleep rhythms. By encourage the age-appropriate wake windows, your baby will naturally start feeding and pooping during their awake times.
  • Keep a food log. If your baby is starting to poop more often during sleep, start a food log. If they’re starting to eat solids or if you’re breastfeeding and taking a new medication, keep an eye on if that may affect your baby’s poop. Keep in mind, poop comes in many different colors, mostly shades of yellow, green, or brown. Newborn baby’s poop also can be black early on. If you notice your baby’s poop is red, contact your pediatrician immediately – it could be a sign of blood.
  • Offer lots of playtime. Movement and activity during the daylight hours helps your baby recognize the difference of day and night. Movement also can help encourage poops.

The Bottom Line

Babies poop a lot, and we know there will be times when you can’t change it immediately – or when you don’t realize they even went!

If your baby is a newborn, remember they will likely wake soon anyways, so go ahead and change it. If your older baby pooped while sleeping at the beginning of their sleep, change their diaper but keep the lights dim and the mood calm and quiet. If they tend to struggle to resettle, consider other ways to help encourage them to poop during daytime hours. This could include tracking their sleep, keeping a food log, and offer a lot of daytime fun and stimulation.

Remember that your baby or toddler’s feed and wake cycles will change as they age. This will affect their bowel movements! Reinforcing healthy sleep habits such as a consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine will help their bodies get used to pooping during awake time and sleeping during sleep.

How We Wrote This Article

The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.


American Academy of Pediatrics, “Baby Sleep: What to Expect in the First Year."

American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children.Org, “Common Diaper Rashes & Treatments”

American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children.Org, “The Many Colors of Baby Poop”

John Hopkins, “Toilet Training”

Mayo Clinic, “Diaper Rash”

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If your baby’s nap is coming to an end and you smell a poop, you can wait to change them until they wake up. If they just went to sleep when you notice a poop, you may want to change them – you don’t want them to get a diaper rash!

It depends – for newborns, since they poop a lot, experts say to change them right away. For older babies, it depends how early in their sleep they are. If they just went to bed, you should probably change them, so they don’t sleep with a poopy diaper for multiple hours. If you expect them to wake up soon, you can wait a little bit as to not wake them up. If your baby is awake and you notice they pooped, you should also change them as soon as you can.

If you have a newborn baby, there’s no stopping them pooping in their sleep – they are eating so frequently and therefore poop frequently! Once old enough, a consistent schedule during the day including consistent mealtimes and playtime can encourage them to poop more during awake time.

It’s incredibly common for your baby, and even toddler, to pee during the night. Experts say not to wake them if they have a wet diaper as quality sleep is very important! If they are extra uncomfortable, they likely will wake up on their own. If your baby’s diaper has poop in it, it’s recommended not waiting until morning to change them. If you know they’ll wake up soon anyways, you can wait. If it’s early in the night, it's best to change them, so they don’t get a diaper rash.

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