Many new parents find themselves constantly worrying about their baby and unsure about what to do in different situations. I remember when my twin girls were little, we even had a schedule written down of their diaper changes so that we wouldn’t lose track. At some point, we started noticing that they would have a dry diaper in the morning and we were concerned that it was a problem.
A dry diaper in the morning could be a sign of mild dehydration, but there is likely another reason. The age of your baby, her ability to sleep through the night, whether or not you breastfeed or nurse at night, and potty training can all be contributing factors that aren’t a cause for concern!
During the early months, your baby is rapidly growing so you shouldn’t be surprised if he throws you a curve ball now and then. Just when you think you have a routine figured out – things will change! Let’s see when we need to worry about dry diapers and when it’s completely normal.
Watch for signs of dehydration along with a dry diaper
First and foremost, we want to make sure that there is not a serious health risk going on related to dehydration. If your baby isn’t urinating often enough, this is the first question that you should ask yourself before considering any of the other reasons below.
I want to point out here that every parent is susceptible to second-guessing one’s self and trying not to overreact, but you should NEVER be afraid to pick up the phone and call your doctor if you think there is a problem with your child. There is absolutely no ‘inconvenience’ in the world that is bigger than your baby’s health so PLEASE don’t feel guilty about calling. My wife and I called our pediatrician all the time with the girls just to get peace of mind that something was normal or that we were doing the right thing.
If you are looking for possible signs of dehydration, follow the advice of the Cleveland Clinic and call your doctor anytime you see the following:
- No tears when the baby cries
- A dry tongue and lips
- Fewer than six wet diapers in a day for infants and no wet diapers in an eight-hour period for toddlers
- Sunken eyes
- A sunken soft spot in the middle of the infant’s head
- Deep, rapid breathing
- Cool hands and feet with blotchy skin
- Dry and wrinkled skin that doesn’t snap back when pinched
Don’t forget that dehydration can frequently follow periods of diarrhea or vomiting caused by an illness.
When in doubt, always call!
If dehydration isn’t a concern, then let’s move on to the more common things that could be causing the dry morning diapers.
A baby’s age can greatly affect the number of wet diapers
There is not a more worrying time in a baby’s life for a parent than the first few days after birth. Everything is new and there seems to be something to obsess over constantly whether it be feeding, changing, sleeping, clothing, or more!
The first week of life can be nervewracking keeping track of everything. According to the Journal of Human Lactation, you should expect the following wet diaper counts during the first six days:
- Day 1 – Newborns will have a wet diaper sometime between 12 and 24 after birth. For breastfed babies, the first wet diaper can come later and be very light until the full milk comes in.
- Day 2 – Your baby should have about two wet diapers on the second day.
- Day 3 to 5 – You are looking for 3-5 wet diapers per day during this time.
- Day 6 on – At this point, your baby should be up to speed and wetting 6-8 diapers a day which will increase for a few weeks.
As a simple rule of thumb, your baby should have the same amount of wet diapers in a day as she is days old for the first week!
The number of wet diapers that your baby will produce will change as she grows, leveling off after the first month or so. Here’s a quick rundown for how many diapers you should expect to see throughout the day as per First Cry:
- 0 to 1-month-old – 10 to 12 diapers per day
- 1 to 5-month-old – 8 to 10 diapers per day
- 5 to 9-month-old – 6 to 8 diapers per day
- 9 to 12-month-old – 6-8 diapers per day
Importantly, as long as your baby is filling up enough wet diapers within a 24-hour period then there probably isn’t a cause for concern. It doesn’t matter if they are mostly happening early in the day, later in the day, or at night – just that there is enough hydration coming in for it to come back out again!
Is your baby sleeping through the night?
Around the age of 3 to 6 months, your baby should start ‘sleeping through the night’ which is technically just five hours in a row overnight.
This is important because as your baby’s sleeping schedule changes, so will the feeding schedule. If you have been used to feeding her throughout the night, for instance, this will become less frequent over time. Feeding less at night, especially during the middle of the night, will obviously cut down on the volume of fluids coming in during those hours and it is not uncommon to start noticing a few dry diapers first thing in the morning.
At around the age of 6 to 9 months, most babies will really be getting a good night’s sleep (and hopefully so are you!) since most formula-fed babies have phased out of nighttime feedings. The luckiest parents will even find that their babies can sleep a full 10 hours at night without any significant waking time. Oh, how I wish that I could say that’s how it went with my twincesses! Since they are experiencing longer periods without fluid coming in, it’s much more likely that they will have some dry diapers in the morning from time to time.
Around this same time, you’ll also be transitioning to solid foods which can mean big changes for poopy diapers, but it can also affect the frequency of wet ones as well!
Do you breastfeed or nurse during the night?
Even with similar changes in sleep schedule, breastfed babies can be different than formula-fed babies when it comes to wet and soiled diapers.
In general, breastfed babies are going to feed more often throughout the day because mom can’t always control the supply and breastmilk just isn’t as ‘filling’ as the formula is so babies can feel hungry more often. This is completely normal and your baby is getting a lot of benefit from that healthy breastmilk!
Because of the increased frequency of feedings, you’ll probably find that you have to nurse during the night until your baby is older than they would be if they were drinking formula. If you are co-sleeping with your baby, this could be doubly true because it’s common for a nursing baby to want to use the breast as a kind of pacifier at night if they wake up. You are probably more likely to check and change diapers in the middle of the night as well if you are up nursing as well so that could mean a dry diaper in the morning if it has been changed during the night.
If you don’t change the diaper during nighttime feedings, however, then you’ll probably have a very wet diaper every morning!
Potty training time could be the reason for a dry diaper overnight!
Don’t forget that at some point you will be WANTING to see dry diapers in the morning because your little baby is growing up and can’t wear diapers forever!
If your child is getting into potty training age (18 to 24 months old) then they might already be developing the ability to hold their pee through the night and doing it subconsciously. A good sign that this is happening is if they have a dry diaper first thing in the morning, but quickly wet it right after they wake up. If you see this, you should definitely start thinking about potty training!
For more information on this topic, check out my recent post on child-led potty training where I discuss pros, cons, and how to get started!
And if you are already potty training and worried about not seeing a wet diaper in the morning then don’t because this means the training is working. During training, most kids are able to master holding it during the day first when they are able to think about what is happening and make the decision to go to the bathroom consciously. If you are finding more frequent dry diapers in the morning, then it might be time to try some underwear-only nights!
Peace of mind with dry diapers
Hopefully, at this point, you’ve determined that there really isn’t a cause for concern when it comes to your baby’s dry overnight diaper. Always remember that things can change quickly with babies, so always pay attention to what’s happening at any given moment. In most cases, your baby is just showing you her natural development over time!