This week we are going to take a second to chat ammonia, we are getting lots of emails about what is normal/what isn’t, so I think it should be addressed 🙂 Ammonia cannot “live” in our bodies. It is toxic to our internal systems, so our body converts urine into other ingredients until it leaves our bodies, when it meets air it will convert back to ammonia salts and other byproducts. When you have ammonia in your diapers, sometimes it is normal, sometimes it isn’t, so take a look below:

When it IS normal:
-When you open the lid to your pail, or unzip your all day wet bag, and you smell ammonia
-When you go to change your baby or toddler’s nighttime diaper after having it on for 6+ hours

When it is NOT normal:
-When the diaper has been on for less than a half an hour and you are wondering why your baby smells like a fraternity bathroom.
-When you take your washed and dried diapers and press them to your nose and take a deep whiff, and have ammonia odors.

Nighttime ammonia is completely normal, and will get stronger as they get older. Newborns have very pure urine, they are eating formula or breastmilk, and their output is in small and frequent spurts. As babies get older, they gain muscle control, holding urine for longer periods of time, and releasing it in higher quantities. Plus, their intake isn’t as pure, figure in solids, dirt and small plastic toy pieces from their older sisters who never put polly pocket’s shoes away, and you get a mix of conditions for ammonia to be stronger. Also, if you put your older baby/toddler to bed, and they pee right away, that urine is going to sit there in some sort of covered fashion for 8+ hours. Dip your cotton tee shirt in the toilet, put it in a ziplock bag and sniff it the next day, you have the same scenario here. What you can do is add absorbency to that diaper, if you can dissipate the urine and distribute it a little more so it isn’t as concentrated. This can help a great deal, also adding different fibers to the diaper instead of all microfiber/hemp/cotton to vary the density of the fabrics. Disposables use lots of chemicals to mask this smell, and to me a perfumy/ammonia disposable stinks worse then ammonia/cloth (personal opinion though). Same deal in the pail, when those soiled diapers meet air, they will off gas ammonia, and as time goes by this adds up.

Now, if you have it on the other two times, you likely have buildup/not enough detergent. You can refer back to our other washing articles or email me at AbbysLane@… if you fall into this category. Usually, fresh diaper ammonia is buildup, ammonia out of the dryer is not enough/wrong detergent. Fixing it can be easy, but you do need to catch it. Ammonia left behind on a baby’s skin can cause a nasty chemical-like burn, it will be bright red and painful, so keep an eye out. If you are getting that rash from the nighttime diaper, time to switch up fabrics/absorbency. For some this means using a fleece liner on natural fabrics, for others just increasing the absorbency of your natural fabrics can work. For very sensitive babies, sometimes a barrier cream is needed (but please follow our liner advice so you don’t get cream buildup).

Let me know if you have questions!


March 1, 2011. cloth diapers, Diaper Chatter, Q & A.

One Comment

  1. potty training replied:

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