Night time potty training is sometimes seen as the last “baby” thing to be done with your child as they transition into a big/bigger kid. We know that a celebration of epic proportions is in order on the day we finally say our final farewell to diapers completely and hand down that Diaper Genie to one of your friends.
Daytime potty training is a whole process (similar to sleep training!) but nighttime potty training is a different beast. Unlike daytime training, nighttime training is not in anyone’s control. AND, as such, I prefer to call rephrase this into “night time diaper removal.” There is really no training involved when it comes to this.
It is not a matter of getting your child to stay dry over night, but assessing whether your child is developmentally ready to transition out of the overnight diapers and into underwear for the night.
I’ve got some tips for you to determine whether or not your toddler’s ready to remove the night time diaper, and if they are, how to maximize your chances for success without sacrificing all of the progress you’ve made with their sleep.
Assessing your child’s readiness
I’ve seen nighttime potty training approaches that involve actually going into your child’s bedroom at regular intervals during the night, and waking them up to go to the bathroom. This is sometimes referred to as “the dream pee.” While timing on intervals has some success in the daytime, it’s a nope for the night time.
We do not sacrifice sleep for potty training. It’s way too confusing to a toddler, to be told after all of the work they’ve done to finally start sleeping peacefully through the night, that they now have to wake up every three or four hours to go to the bathroom.
In addition to the hardship it presents to you and your child, it actually will set the bladder up for habit peeing (the bladder is a muscle and adjusts base on use). Let’s not start a habit we ultimately don’t want!
Instead of the “dream pee” approach, I want you to monitor your child’s overnight diapers.
If your child’s diaper is wet in the morning, they’re not ready for underwear over night. Leave their diaper on at night and tackle this at a later date.
When they are ready,...
If, however, your little one’s had a few nights of waking up with a dry diaper, that could mean that they’re up to the challenge. That’s really the prime indicator that this might be a good time to give it a shot. Two or three dry mornings in a week suggests that their bladder muscles have developed to the point where they can hold it for the night, so if that’s the case, let’s give it a shot. Honestly, I like to see even more of a dryness pattern (like a week or two of dry diapers).
When you notice the dry diaper pattern and you are ready to give it a try, pick a week when you don’t have a whole lot going on. Get some extra sheets and PJs at the ready and get your zen on because the most important thing here is patience. There are going to be some accidents and accepting that reality ahead of time will help make this process bearable for you and your little one. Keep reading for a pro-tip on managing wet sheets in the night time.
Remember, this is not in your child’s control. So while you want to be enthusiastic and super-positive, don’t make it sound too monumental (both with celebrations and set backs).
I also don’t suggest using a reward system as one might do for daytime potty training – again, they can not control night time potty usage so it isn’t fair to reward (or punish) based on something they can’t control.
If you time this right (because you have monitored their morning diaper and you have noticed a pattern of dry diapers), then there may not be too much of a roller coaster (fingers crossed!).
Tips for Success
Ok, so you are doing it! You are going diaper free and keeping your fingers crossed for more dry nights than wet ones. Here are more tips for success:
* Make sure your toddler gets on the potty right before bed, even if they say they don’t need to go. Some parents have found that a potty session 30 minutes prior to bedtime, then again right before bed, has gotten them the best results.
* When an accident happens, as it probably will a few times at least, don’t act disappointed or irritated (go ahead and feel that way, sure, but you keep that noise to yourself). Just get them cleaned up and into some fresh pajamas and change their bed with the clean sheets you’ve prepared ahead of time.
* I do have one really sweet pro tip for you here. Grab yourself some plastic sheeting, lay a layer of that over the mattress, then a set of bed sheets, then another layer of plastic, then another set of bed sheets. That way, if there’s an accident in the night, you just go in, strip off the top layer, and bam! There’s a clean, dry, freshly made bed waiting underneath. That’ll help get you and your little one back to bed in no time flat.
* Keep the room as dark as possible, keep the process short, and don’t put your little one in the bath unless it’s vitally necessary. Getting into the tub is likely to throw a wrench in your child’s sleep for the night, and they might just get it into their heads that wetting the bed gets them fifteen minutes in the bath, which, for some kids, might sound like a pretty sweet proposition. Keep the diaper wipes around for a little while longer and use these for easy clean up.
So what happens if it doesn’t take?
Well, if you’re still seeing regular accidents after a week or two, give it some consideration. Is your toddler ready and just not willing, or willing but not ready? And when you’re deciding, consider whether your own desire to see an end to diapers is weighing in on your decision. Any sane parent would love to say goodbye to diapers as soon as possible, but there really is no rushing this process. If they’re not ready, they’re not ready, and you’re just putting a lot of unnecessary stress on both of you by trying to get it done before its time.
And be prepared for set backs. There are lots of things that can cause a regression – anxiety, transition (new room, new bed, new sibling, new house, new school, etc.), illness, disruption in sleep, etc. Set backs will happen and are normal. If you are concerned, reach out to your pediatrician.
To be frankly honest, there is no rush in this AT ALL. Your child will NOT be going to high school in overnight diapers. Your child will be ready when they are ready. Who cares if they are in overnight diapers until they are 4 or 5? My eldest was in overnight diapers until she was nearly 4 and has only had 2 accidents in the last 3 years of being nighttime diaper free. Why? Because we didn’t push it and we made sure she was 100% ready. I have no intention of even thinking about this with my youngest until she is at least 3.5 years old.
Whatever you do, don’t mess with your child’s sleep routine. Don’t attempt the silly “dream-pee” routine where you try to get them to pee while they’re still sleeping, don’t wake them up halfway through the night to go to the bathroom, and don’t drop two hundred bucks on a bed-wetting alarm (how is that even a thing?). You’ll just be trading one issue for another, and since you’ve already put the work in to get them sleeping through the night, you’re much better off just waiting until the moment is right.
If you need help with daytime potty training or if your child is over the age of 7 and having overnight accidents, first speak to your doctor. You may also want to reach out to a potty training consultant to help! I know several so feel free to reach out if you need a referral!