In the early days after you bring baby home (especially your first baby), you tend to freak out about everything.
You’re hyper-vigilant about germs, about sterilizing everything, about potential injuries.
And you’re absolutely on top of those frequent diaper changes! You’ve got wipes and creams and lotions at the ready. No diaper rash on your watch, right?
But here’s a question for you:
Do you really need to wipe a baby after every pee? Is it necessary for sanitation or are you just wasting expensive wipes?
Wiping After Every Pee: The Real and Practical Answers
Experts generally agree that wiping a baby while changing every wet diaper is not 100% necessary.
There are a few considerations.
Number one, modern diapers are incredibly absorbent. Diaper technology has come a long way!
That means a large majority (virtually all) of your baby’s pee is getting absorbed into the diaper and locked in, versus sitting on the skin.
That little bit of pee that does sit on the skin? It’s not so bad! Pee is not completely sterile, but it’s pretty clean. It’s slightly acidic and contains low levels of bacteria, but for the most part these are healthy bacterias that help keep your bladder functioning well.
And second, over-wiping can actually be a problem for some babies. Wipes are designed to be gentle and non-abrasive, but using them at every single diaper change could lead to irritation.
(You’ll also save money on wipes by using them less often, and who couldn’t benefit from that?)
So for these reasons, no, for the most part you do not need to wipe baby at every change, if the diaper is simply wet.
(One note: If you’re using cloth diapers, you should be wiping more often than you would with disposable diapers. Cloth diapers are less absorbent so more urine will potentially be sitting on the skin)
Now if you want practical, real-world advice, I’ll add this: Many, many (maybe even most) parents choose to wipe their baby at every change.
Just one quick wipe to help with odor and cleanliness. And many of these folks report having no problem with rashes or irritation at all using this method.
I think it just makes parents feel more safe and sanitary, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Full transparency: In our household, we usually don’t wipe after pee!
We’ve never had any issues from not wiping pee, we’ve only had problems from our daughter sitting in a wet or dirty diaper for too long (usually at daycare).
Which leads me to…
Isn’t It Bad for Babies to Sit in Pee for Too Long?
Yes, it is!
Sitting in moisture for a long time can cause diaper rashes, yeast infections, and more.
But the answer to this problem isn’t necessarily aggressive wiping.
It’s more important to not let baby sit in the moisture of a wet diaper for long periods of time.
Change them frequently and, if possible, provide some diaper free time to air out the diaper area.
If you get baby out of a damp diaper relatively quickly, even without wiping, your risk of rashes and infections is quite low.
Here are two special circumstances to consider, just to be thorough.
Wiping after an overnight diaper
It’s not feasible to wake up and change your baby every time they pee, so if they’re sleeping through the night, there’s a good chance they’ll be sitting in a wet diaper for a while.
In this case, you may want to give a quick wipe in the morning and apply some Aquaphor, just to be safe.
We swear by Aquaphor in our house and use it for almost everything!
Wiping if a diaper has leaked or exploded
If diaper has leaked or exploded, you’ll want to wipe your baby down, because that means there’s an excess amount of urine sitting on the skin.
There may also be absorbent diaper crystals (sodium polyacrylate) on the skin as well, which needs to be cleaned away.
Usually this happens because a wet diaper has been left on for a long time and has absorbed more liquid than it can handle.
I would use a wipe or two and apply some Aquaphor to prevent rash and irritation.
Wiping poop / soiled diapers
It should go without saying, but you obviously must wipe baby thoroughly when changing a poopy diaper.
But don’t get carried away! Just use regular baby wipes that are gentle and formulated for baby skin.
There’s no need to break out soaps, disinfectants, or special wipes to sanitize baby’s skin after a poo. Just wipe thoroughly and dispose of the soiled diaper, then replace with a fresh one. That’s it!
You can clean them more thoroughly in the bath later. Baby’s skin is very sensitive so overdoing it with products and excessive wiping will do more harm than good.
Wiping Boys vs Girls After Pee
You may have guessed already…
But it’s not necessary to wipe either boys or girls after removing a wet diaper. Though the parts are different, the effects of urine on the skin are the same.
Go with your own comfort level. If it makes you feel better to do a quick wipe at every diaper change, and you don’t mind burning through wipes, it likely won’t cause much harm.
If you notice irritation or rash from too much wiping, you can scale things back.
But again, medical experts and pediatricians advise that it’s not strictly necessary to wipe either boys or girls after a pee.
The answer is simple: Medical professionals agree it’s not 100% necessary to wipe most babies after just a pee.
However, in most cases, it won’t hurt anything if it gives you peace of mind.
The more important thing is to change diapers frequently and get baby out of a damp diaper as quickly as you can. Sitting in the moisture is worse for rash and infection than a trace amount of pee on the skin.
Change frequently and use Aquaphor liberally and you likely won’t have any problems!
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Hope this helps!