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Dear Care and Feeding,
I am a grandmother to two little girls, ages 6 and 7. After the enforced separation of the last few years, they are finally having sleepovers at Grandma’s house! While getting ready for bed, I saw they were keeping their underwear on under their pajamas. To be clear, these weren’t the “pull up” underwear for nighttime protection; these were the standard cotton briefs they wear during the day. When I gently queried this, I was told that “Mommy says this is what we do.”
My daughter-in-law is a wonderful woman and I’m certainly not to question any of her parenting decisions, but this goes completely counter to what I was told growing up. Back then (a long time ago), it was generally accepted that it was not healthy to wear underwear to bed, particularly when also worn with pajamas, as everything in the vaginal area needed to air out to avoid possible UTIs and yeast infections, etc. We live in the coastal Pacific Northwest, so it’s not particularly hot or humid here, but I am still concerned as to whether the wearing of daytime cotton briefs under pajamas is a potentially unhealthy practice or not.
—Briefless in Seattle
I scoured the web, and the repeated advice from OB-GYNs (such as the one cited here) is that loose-fitting cotton underwear is fine for sleeping, while synthetic fabrics or anything else that prevents air from circulating down there can lead to yeast infections and other uncomfortable outcomes.
However, you should make sure the girls are wearing fresh underwear to bed, and not the same funky pairs that they’ve had on all day. Sleeping in the same panties you’ve had on for hours can have exactly the same consequences that you’re worried about. You should keep extra undies on hand for your granddaughters; though they’re way past potty training, they are still at that age where they can get a bit of pee in their panties without automatically thinking they need a fresh pair.
Talk to them about the importance of staying clean and dry down there, and make sure they wear clean drawers to bed each night. If it turns out that they are sleeping in their day-old undies at home, you can politely talk to your daughter-in-law about the importance of changing for bed.