Can reusable nappies cause sleep disruption in babies?

Sleep, and disrupted sleep can be a major milestone for many new families, with sleep being one of the many things new parents seek help and support for. Babies spend up to 66% of their day asleep and it is essential for their development. However, this sleep may be in short bursts and in may be disrupted, with babies waking mid sleep throughout the day and night.

A study done in China has compared the sleep of babies who wore high quality disposable nappies to those who wore reusable nappies. 82 babies were put into two groups, those who used reusable nappies, and those who used “high absorbency” disposable nappies. The babies then used these nappies for 6 weeks. When all the sleep logs were reviewed it was found that the number of sleep disruptions in the disposable nappy group more than halved. Whereas the cloth nappy groups’ sleep stayed the same. The babies who wore the reusable nappies were woken from their sleep more often than the babies in the other group.

The study noted that the mothers of the babies in the disposable nappy group were more engaged and sensitive to their babies’ needs – perhaps due to less disrupted sleep patterns. The study also showed that the babies in disposable nappies were more engaged with their main carers and showed more positive emotion when compared to the babies in the reusable nappy group. This was based on a parent and baby interactive activity before and after the study and who knows what they really mean by “engaged” and “positive emotion”.

This is a small study but with quite drastic results. More research will follow I am sure, especially around why this may be. At present it is believed that disposable nappies wick any moisture away from the skin, and many have a barrier which prevent the moisture staying on the skin.

With a growing trend for reusable nappies are we causing our babies, and their parents, to get inadequate sleep? We will just have to wait to see what time brings, I for one had never even thought about nappies effecting sleep. There are so many factors which effect adult, let alone baby sleep. Although an interesting point to have looked into I don’t think we all need to run back out and buy disposal nappies. All in all, choose which nappies you want, but if your babe starts waking and being unsettled in the night, it might be worth changing the nappies you use. We such choice in both cloth and disposal nappies you are bound to find something which suits you and you family!


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