Six easy tips for potty training at night

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Potty training is a magical time for parents. Is it stressful and messy? Absolutely. But magical all the same. Potty training your child instantly gives a boost to your budget (goodbye diapers!). It also allows you to give your child more independence. Usually, the last step in potty training a child is nighttime potty training. When you start potty training at night, it usually means the end of diapers and pull-ups. Unfortunately, potty training at night isn’t always easy. A lot of kids wet the bed. If that sounds like your child, you might feel frustrated and lost. Here’s what you should know about nighttime potty training.

Potty training at night is developmentally driven

Before you start thinking about potty training your child at night, it’s crucial to understand that nighttime potty training and daytime potty training are two different beasts. During the day, you are training your child to respond to cues and signals that their body sends them. With some effort, most kids master this skill long before they head off to elementary school.

Potty training at night isn’t as easy. My husband and I had concerns about one of our children’s nighttime bedwetting. We were lucky enough to have a wonderful pediatrician who explained that potty training at night is much more developmentally driven than most of us realize. If your child is not developmentally ready to potty train at night, it’s not going to happen. In fact, around 15% of healthy 5-year-old’s still wet the bed. Until your child’s bladder is big enough to hold the urine they produce during the night, and your child is mature enough to wake up to go to the bathroom they won’t be ready to potty train at night.

Knowing when they are ready

So how can you know if your child is ready to ditch the diapers at night? Watch for cues that tell you when your child is ready. These often look like your child:

  • Successfully using the toilet during the day with limited accidents
  • Staying dry during the night for at least a few nights
  • Asking to wear underwear (and not a pull-up or diaper) at night

Six easy tips for potty training at night

My husband and I have now successfully nighttime potty trained three of our four children. Woot! When they were in diapers and/or pull-ups, potty training at night felt daunting. I love my sleep. There was no way I wanted to get up in the middle of the night every night to wash sheets. I put off the transition long after I felt they were ready. Thankfully, our nighttime potty-training experiences haven’t been as horrific as I anticipated. In fact, it’s been kind of awesome to see my kids tackle this big step and successfully potty train at night. Here are six easy tips that we used to potty train our kids.

Need tips for getting your toddler to nap? Read: Napping Tips for Toddlers and Preschoolers

1. Cut back on liquids after dinner for potty training at night

Successful nighttime potty training starts long before bedtime starts. I don’t know about you, but my kids get thirsty right before bed. It’s almost like they count on those late-night drinks to fill up their water intake for the day. As great as all that water is for their bodies, it’s not great for potty training at night. When we start nighttime potty training, we cut out late-night drinks. Load up on more water earlier in the day to help your kids meet their hydration needs long before bedtime comes. Sure, sometimes you might have some whining because someone wants a drink. But kids are smart. If you explain to them why you don’t drink water late at night, it’ll help them be okay with the new no-water-at-bedtime rule. Cut off extra drinks as close to dinnertime as you can.

2. Go potty again, and again, and again

I grew up in a large family. My oldest sister was nearly 12 years older than me. When I was little, I loved sleeping in her bed at night. She did not like to wake up covered in her little sister’s urine. So, every night I made the trek to the bathroom five times before she’d let me get into her bed. And you know what? It worked. It also works for my kids. Yeah, they hate that I make them go to the bathroom again. And again. And again. But I honestly believe that it’s helped our potty-training success.

3. Wake them before you go to bed

One of our sons sleeps like a rock. Waking him up after he’s gone to bed is nearly impossible. I knew if I couldn’t wake him up, there was little chance he’d wake himself up to go to the bathroom. I was worried about nighttime bedwetting until we started waking him up right before we went to bed. It’s funny, but those few extra hours have made all the difference. He started staying dry once we began waking him up to use the bathroom before we went to bed. And we really only had to wake him up for about a week before things just clicked. If your child isn’t successful at potty training during the night, try a late-night wakeup call.

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4. Be patient

One of our kids was easy to potty train at night. We honestly just changed what he was wearing at night and didn’t have to employ any tricks. We have another child who was a lot harder. Even after trying every trick we could think of we were changing sheets every morning. Our child was discouraged. My husband and I were discouraged. We didn’t know what to do. I was about ready to throw in the towel, but got advice from a friend to stick it out. I decided that we’d try it for an entire month before we made any decisions about what to do. A few days later we started having dry nights every single night. I’m so glad we didn’t give up before we gave it a real try. I know the laundry is hard. The lack of sleep is hard. But, give it some time.

5. Be prepared for accidents

No matter what you do, nighttime potty-training means accidents. It’s messy. You’ll be changing sheets. Now is the time to stock up a few extra mattress protectors and sheet sets. Some parents layer sheets so all they have to do is remove the top soiled layer. Since we were nighttime training more than one child at once (twins!) we just kept an extra set or two on hand every night. It’s not fun to change sheets in the middle of the night, but it’s a lot less fun when you have no extra sheets to put onto the bed. Plan for accidents and be pleasantly surprised when your child stays dry.

6. Praise the effort, not the outcome

It’s easy to get critical or mean when your child struggles with nighttime bedwetting. But I noticed that if I kept things upbeat, no matter the outcome, my kids kept on trying. Don’t criticize or belittle your child when they have an accident. Praise their efforts daily. Let them know that you are proud of them. With our kids, we let them plan a family outing once they were dry at night for 30 non-consecutive days. It gave them motivation to keep trying, and kept a positive spin on the situation.

Talk to the doctor if you think there is a problem

There are truly some cases when a medical issue keeps your child from successful potty-training at night. If your child turns seven and still struggles with night-time bedwetting, it might be time to consult with their pediatrician. Don’t let the shame and stigma associated with bedwetting affect your child. Seek help anytime you feel that something isn’t right.

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