Pinworms and Baby Sleep

Pinworms can feel gross. Gross to have, gross to talk about, and gross to think about.
baby hand with soap
baby hand with soap

Pinworms and Baby Sleep

Pinworms can feel gross. Gross to have, gross to talk about, and gross to think about.

There. I said it- now we can move on and talk about them.

Oh wait- two more things:

  1. I am not a doctor. Nothing in this blog post is medical advice.
  2. Consult with your pediatrician for medical advice regarding pinworms and any health concerns related to your child.

Let’s Destigmatize

Pinworms are extremely common in children who are preschool age and older. They are highly contagious, and therefore easily passed around in school and spread to younger siblings at home. People don’t like to talk about it, so it’s easy to think your kid is the only one with them, but they’re much more common then you’d think. It’s just not the kind of thing people post about on Instagram.

While more common in preschool-aged kids and toddlers, it’s quite possible for a baby to have pinworms, especially if an older sibling has them.

Pinworms are not a sign of poor hygiene or a reflection on your parenting, and are pretty easy to get rid of. Oh, and did I mention they’re harmless? Except when it comes to sleep.


How Pinworms Impact Sleep

Pinworms live in the large intestine. During sleep, female pinworms leave the intestinal tract, exit the body through the rectum and lay tiny eggs on the skin on the anus. This can lead to intense itchiness (rectal for boys, rectal or vaginal for girls) discomfort and as a result, disrupted sleep.

As with all sleep disturbances, it’s harder to know what’s troubling your baby before he can speak, so it’s always good to keep the possibility of pinworms in the back of your mind if you can’t seem to figure out the reason for new nighttime wakings.

Pinworms cause night wakings a few hours after bedtime, when the females start to come out. This is when the discomfort and itchiness reach the peak, resulting in night wakings often accompanied by crying, fussing or moaning.

If your baby has been waking multiple nights in a row, the cry sounds like one of pain or discomfort, and your mom-gut is telling you that something just isn’t right, it’s a good idea to check for pinworms.


How to Check for Pinworms

When your baby wakes up crying, open his diaper and take a look – it can be helpful to use the flashlight on your phone. If there are pinworms, you can usually see the worms or eggs. The worms are half an inch long and look like little strips of dental floss, and the eggs are tiny white or yellow dots.

If you’re having a hard time seeing anything, you can take a piece of clear tape and press it against the skin a few times. Any worms or eggs there will stick to the tape and be more visible there.


Treatment for Pinworms

For children, there are medications your doctor can prescribe to treat the pinworms. For babies, often homeopathic or natural remedies are recommended in place of strong medications. Be sure to follow your doctor’s advice for your child.

Some common natural remedies that have been anecdotally helpful (again, consult with your pediatrician before attempting anything with your baby)

clove of garlic

  • Garlic (placed in diaper whole or minced)
  • Ginger (pureed)
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Coconut oil or Vaseline spread around the anus (this prevents the existing pinworms from laying new eggs)
  • Pineapple (pureed)
  • Papaya (pureed)

If your baby does have pinworms, you are the furthest thing from alone- 1 in 10 people have them at any given time. Like all things, it will pass. Stay in contact with your doctor and follow her recommendations for treatment.


Will starting solids help your baby sleep for a longer stretch at night?

You might have heard parents swear “as soon as we started solids she started sleeping 8 hours!” causing you to wonder if you should be feeding your baby real food too. What wouldn’t we do to gain a few more minutes of sleep at night?

Sadly, it doesn’t help. There is very little evidence that suggests a positive correlation between solids and longer stretches of sleep, and there is some evidence that suggests starting solids too early can disrupt sleep (just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse!)


3 secrets to get your baby
sleeping through the night!