While innocently changing their infant’s diaper, many parents come upon a curious thing: small clear crystals are scattered in the diaper of their perfectly healthy appearing babe.
These parents often head straight to the internet, and come upon a host of potentially anxiety-provoking information. Parents may read that crystals in an infant’s diaper are a sign of dehydration, which is worrisome enough. But urinary crystals can also be associated with dramatic sounding diseases: liver failure (yikes!), congenital cystinuria, tyrosinosis, or the intriguingly-named maple syrup urine disease. Urinary crystals are made of different elements: calcium oxalate, triple phosphate, cystine, and uric acid. And they come in different shapes: some are hexagonal, others are shaped like diamonds, while some take on the shape of a square envelope or even a coffin lid.
Who knew that the urine could be so interesting? But in the mind of an anxious parent, these sometimes colorful descriptions can set the head spinning.
There is, however, usually nothing to worry about. If you can see the crystals in your infant’s diaper with the naked eye, they are not a sign of liver failure nor are they shaped like coffin lids. The types of urine crystals mentioned above are only visible when looking through a microscope.
The large white crystals found in diapers are not associated with any of the above diseases. These crystals are actually a product of the chemical that makes modern diapers “super-absorbent:” sodium polyacrylate. These polymer beads, which absorb 200-300 times their weight in water, leak out of the paper fluff when diapers are very full or if there is a little tear in the lining.
Bottom line: What to do if you find visible crystals in your baby’s diaper? This diaper bling is nothing the worry about: just think of it as a little sprinkling of fairy dust!