How Long Can I Leave A Dirty Nappy On

how long can a baby wear a dirty nappy

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Wet and dirty nappies can be the bane of a parent’s day and night, especially when it comes unexpectedly or when your baby is content and you don’t want to disturb them. Of course, no one will ever say that wearing a dirty nappy is a good thing but the question remains of how long can you leave a dirty nappy on before it causes an issue?

There is no set answer to this question but we’ve provided some useful information to help you make the best decision for your little one.

Reasons for leaving a dirty nappy on


We completely understand that sometimes it makes sense to leave a dirty nappy on for a bit longer than you’d like, we have done it ourselves with our baby. Commonly, parents might be apprehensive to change a nappy as soon as it has been soiled for two reasons:

  • You are not at a place where a baby change is possible or convenient such as
  • Your baby is content and you do not want to disturb them
    • They’re playing nicely unaffected by the dirty nappy
    • They are asleep and you don’t want to wake them

So, there are plenty of times where leaving a nappy on is unavoidable or inconvenient which leads us to the proper question of how long can you leave a dirty nappy on before it causes an issue.

But first, what classes as a problematic dirty nappy?

Does wee or poo cause nappy rash?

Both, and worst when it’s mixed. Most people would only call a nappy dirty if it has poo in it but that is not the case. In the context of problems arising from extended wearing, both wee and poo can cause nappy rash and other issues (listed below) and therefore even if there’s no poo but it is heavy with wee it is classed as a dirty nappy to us. It’s a misconception that teething causes nappy rash.

What are the issues caused by wearing a dirty nappy for too long?

At the end of the day, a dirty nappy contains waste particles that would be flushed away by an adult and never really be in contact with them. But, for a baby wearing a nappy they are stuck with it until it has been removed and cleaned away. A nappy rash isn’t the only condition which can be caused by being in contact with their own waste for a long time. Here is a list of the dangers which can be caused by having a dirty nappy on for too long:

  • Yeast infection
  • Chafing
  • Water infection
  • Infections going into a wound (Staph)
  • Leaking

How long can you leave a baby wearing a dirty nappy?

We would recommend changing them as soon as possible if they’ve had a poo and no more than 3-4 hours if they’ve had a wee. If they’ve had both then definitely sooner rather than later. That is only if they are content and don’t seem bothered. If it’s clearly making them upset then change them immediately.

Every baby responds to nature’s call differently so there’s no one size fits all. For example, breastfed babies poo more whereas bottle fed babies poo is much smellier and contains more toxins. Some people may change every hour and others every 2 or 3.

What should determine the frequency is how healthy the skin is in those areas. A baby with a perfectly clean bum with no signs of a rash does not need urgent changing but a baby with a sore bum does.

If they are asleep then it does get a bit tricky but in general they can be left asleep with a wet nappy as long as they aren’t currently suffering from nappy rash and usually if they’ve had a poo it should wake them up, anyway.

But, if you are aware that the area is sore then it’s best to bite the bullet and change them so the area can continue to heal with the appropriate cream.

Realistically, it is best to change them once there is a noticeable amount of waste in the nappy and never more than 4 hours.

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