Potty Training at Night

If your child has mastered daytime potty training, congratulations!! That is a BIG milestone and I know the blood, sweat, and tears (likely yours AND your toddler’s) that went into it. Now you might be wondering how to start potty training at night with your toddler, and whether that’s even possible to accomplish.

While you’ve likely moved on to big-kid underwear during the day, you likely opted to keep him in diapers or pull-ups overnight. Wise move, mama – this is clearly not your first rodeo. Most experts suggest keeping your toddler in diapers or pull-ups until they have woken up in dry diapers for at least a week or more. This is your first clue that your little one may be ready to start potty training at night. If you think your toddler is ready for underwear overnight, here are a few tips to make your transition to night time potty training easier!


1. Waterproof Mattress Pad

Make sure you have a plastic/rubber cover under your child’s bedsheet. There are lots of “waterproof” mattress covers out there that are not, in fact, waterproof. Take it from me; I learned the hard way. Yes, the plastic mattress covers make an irritating noise and aren’t the most comfortable things in the world. But it will save you from googling “how to get pee out of a mattress” at 2 am.

2. Go to bed on an empty bladder

Take your kiddo to go potty twice before bed. In our house, we ask our youngest kids to use the bathroom right before their bath, and again right before bed. These two potty breaks end up being 30-45 minutes apart and help ensure a completely empty bladder when your child climbs into bed.

3. Avoid bedtime liquids

Avoid liquids within an hour of bedtime. This one is TOUGH if your little one is accustomed to sleeping with a cup on her nightstand but oh-so-necessary. If your child is drinking enough water to stay hydrated throughout the day, though, water before bedtime is definitely a habit rather than a need.

4. Try a dream pee

Carry your sleeping child to the bathroom and set them down on the potty right before YOU go to bed. They will almost always go!

Here’s the thing, though, mama: I’m going to level with you. Some kiddos just CAN NOT stay dry during the night. This is largely due to biological causes-NOT your parenting. Kids that have smaller bladders or that sleep more deeply are truly unable to recognize bathroom cues while they are asleep. Kids that have experienced early childhood trauma often are unable to wake when they need to urinate.

4. Tips for nocturnal enuresis

We adopted our oldest child from an orphanage, so given her history, we had no expectation that she be dry during the night. At all. We literally didn’t even discuss it or consider trying night time potty training – she just wore pull-ups until she was 7 years old. Then, one day, it was no longer necessary.

With our second child, the same thing. Though he is our biological child—there was no difference. He didn’t have a dry pull-up for more than one consecutive night until he was 8 years old. A few more months passed before he was able to be done with pull-ups completely.

Because we weren’t expecting this with our second child, we did consult our pediatrician when he was 7 years old and still unable to stay dry at night. She informed us that most pediatricians don’t consider nocturnal enuresis “abnormal” in children until age 7, and she personally didn’t consider it something to be concerned about until age 9. Our pediatrician also noted that constipation in children is often another factor that causes an inability to stay dry at night.

If you are reading this with older kiddo who continues to be wet at night, don’t despair. There are certain tricks you can try-- though you will need to identify what you are willing to do as a parent to help your child be dry at night.

Some parents will swear that chiropractic care helped to cure their child’s nocturnal enuresis. We did try this with our second child but did not notice a difference in his nighttime dryness. Other parents set an alarm to wake their child throughout the night, which is fine if you want to get up, too. For me, that was a hard pass. My kids wake me up at night enough, thank you very much. Sign me up for pull-ups for life, because that’s a big, fat NO.

There are also several bell-and-pad products available on the market that have an alarm to wake your child when they become wet, and I know that parents have had success with these as well. For us though, the same problem: alarms were waking us up every night, and our kids were still unable to sense that they needed to use the bathroom.

If you’re concerned about your child’s nocturnal enuresis, always consult your pediatrician. Certainly, a child who has had a significant period of nighttime dryness and then experiences a regression is concerning and should be brought to the attention of your child’s doctor. Additionally, if your child is 7 years old or older and still not showing signs of readiness for potty training at night, consult your child’s doctor. They may very well tell you not to worry about it, but they may have other suggestions as well.

5. Stay positive

Whatever you do, don’t express frustration or disappointment in your child for wetting the bed. This is easier said than done – at our house, middle-of-the-night mom often bears little resemblance to daytime mom. However, it is so important to remain calm and patient with your child. Similarly, while it’s always great to praise your child for being dry, a “sticker chart” or other behavior modification technique is generally not helpful with potty training at night. Nighttime potty training is truly a biological issue, not a motivation issue. Behavior charts in this instance will often just frustrate your child and remind her of what she CAN’T do right now.

Good luck, mama! And remember while it seems like an eternity now, there is a very small chance that your child will go off to college wearing Depends at night. They will get there when their little bodies are ready!

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