06 May Nighttime Potty Training
You’ve done it! You’ve mastered the epic potty training milestone! Congratulations!
Now the rest of your parenting years will seem like a walk in the park, well except teenage years, but no fear, in 15 or so years, you’re little one be off to college.
But real talk, saying good bye to diapers and handing off that Diaper Genie to a friend after getting your little one is potty trained feels like you’ve landed a big promotion (and in some ways you have, because you’ll no longer be buying diapers!)
But sometimes our enthusiasm to tackle this dreaded feat can cause us to rush into it before our little ones are ready, setting the process back a bit. And we tend to get frustrated, our little ones get dishearten, and we end up calling it off because that’s easier than dealing with more teary-eyed wake ups and wet sheets in the middle of the night.
Potty training in general and nighttime potty training specifically is tricky. So I’ve put together some of my top tips to help you determine whether your little one is ready to nighttime potty train, and if they are, how to maximize your chances at success without sacrificing their good sleep.
Is my little one ready to sleep through the night without using the potty?
Notice how I phrased my question. Many approaches to potty training involve going into your child’s bedroom at set intervals during the night, waking them, and taking them to the bathroom.
I’ve even heard of “dream potty” routine, where you take them to potty while they’re still asleep. Both of these approaches are a huge nope from me! We should not be sacrificing sleep for potting training.
This approach can be quite confusing for a toddler. Especially after they’ve just done all that hard work to finally begin sleeping peacefully through the night, and now you’re waking them every few hours to go the bathroom?! And not only is his confusing, it’s incredibly disruptive to their natural sleep patterns, preventing them from getting to deep, restorative sleep, and furthermore, can throw their block clock out of whack!
So if your toddler is still waking in the morning with a wet diaper, their bladder muscles aren’t ready; so leave their diaper on at night and don’t force it.
If, however, your little one wakes dry for two or three days, it could be time to ditch the nighttime diapers. This could be a sign that their bladder muscles have developed to the point where they can hold it through the night, so let’s give it a shot.
Forewarning, patience here. There are going to be accidents during this process, so accepting this reality ahead of time will help make this process more bearable for you and your little one.
How do I nighttime potty train?
When explaining this to your toddler, maintain a positive and enthusiastic mindset and attitude, while also not making it sound too monumental. Remember, this isn’t something toddlers have control over and building up too much expectations on them can result in some feelings of frustration, failure, and disappointment if they do have an accident in the night. Because of this, I wouldn’t implement a “reward chart” (and certainly not consequences) or such for waking up accident-free.
Your bedtime routine probably already includes going to the potty. But make sure your toddler gets on the potty right before bed, even if they say they don’t need to. The potty should be the last step of your bedtime routine, before getting into bed.
What should I do if there’s an accident?
When accidents happen, and they will, don’t act disappointed or irritated (I know, it’s hard not to at 3am, but keep it to yourself). Simply take your toddler by the hand and walk them back to their room, get them cleaned up and into some fresh PJs, and change their bed with the clean sheets that you’ve prepared ahead of time.
Pro Tip: Grab 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. No need to get flustered fighting an annoying fitted sheet at 3am.
While all of this is happening, I recommend keeping the room as dark as possible and keep the process short and business-like. This will help both of you settle back to sleep more quickly. I wouldn’t suggest giving your little one a bath at this time, unless absolutely necessary. Particularly for a kiddo who loves bath time, they’ll soon learn that wetting the bed gets them some midnight fun, and we’re back to those fun night wakings all over again.
What if my little one wakes and needs to potty?
If your little one is independent in her skills, and you trust her, allow her to go, but with rules and expectations. Keep a dim nightlight (motion-sensor ones are great) in the hallway and/or in the bathroom for safety. Leave the toilet seat up and stool nearby. During the day, you can practice independent bathroom trips to help encourage this behavior overnight.
What if my little one is still have accidents at night?
If your little one is still having regular accidents after a week or two, it might be time to reevaluate your situation. Is your toddler ready and just not willing, or willing but not ready? And when deciding, consider whether your own desire to see an end to diapers is weighing in on your decision. Of course you’d 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.
You’re much better off just waiting until the moment is right, for the sake of you and your little one.