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  • Writer's pictureAdela

Nighttime Potty Training

Nighttime potty training is another one of those parenting milestones that can look peculiar to friends and family, but for those of us who’ve been through it, we know it's a celebration of epic proportions. The day we can finally say our final farewell to diapers has been long sought after.

Sleep Coach Vancouver
Sleep Coach Vancouver

Handing down that Diaper Genie to one of your friends after getting your toddler 100% potty trained feels like quite the accomplishment. But sometimes our enthusiasm can cause us to rush into it before our little ones are ready. And when that happens, we can end up setting the process back a bit. We get a little frustrated, our little one gets disheartened, and we end up calling it off rather than dealing with any more teary-eyed wake-ups and wet sheets in the middle of the night.

So today, I’ve got some tips for you to maximize your chances for nighttime potty training success without sacrificing all of the progress you’ve made with their sleep. But first, let's determine whether or not your toddler’s ready to nighttime potty train.

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Should You Wake Your Child To Potty?

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! From where I stand, 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.

Is Your Toddler Ready for Nighttime Potty Training?

If your toddler can’t get through the night without needing to pee, they’re not ready for this. Leave their diaper on at night and tackle this at a later date.

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 you're looking for. 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.

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Nighttime Potty Training Success

1. Be Prepared

I’m sure there are stories out there about a friend whose child did not need any official potty training and has been accident-free, but the odds of that happening are not in your favor. So 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.

2. Keep the Clean Up Simple

Grab yourself some plastic sheeting/extra mattress protector/PeaPod Mat to layer over the mattress, then a set of bed sheets, then another layer of plastic sheeting/extra mattress protector/PeaPod Mat, 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. 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.

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3. Go to the Potty Twice Before Bed

Make sure your toddler gets on the potty right before bed, even if they say they don’t need to go. I know a lot of parents have found that a potty session 30 minutes prior to bedtime, then again right before bed, has gotten them the best results.

4. Positive Yet Realistic Mindset

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 this mindset when you’re explaining what’s going on to your toddler. It’s great to be enthusiastic and super-positive, but don’t make it sound too monumental. We’ve got to keep in mind that this isn’t something they have control over and building up expectations on them can result in some feelings of failure and disappointment if they do have an accident in the night.

Be cautious with using a “reward chart” for nights without an accident. I’m not inherently against them, but if your toddler tends to get really upset if they don’t make the grade, it might be better to let them succeed or fail without rewards and consequences.

4. Keep Calm

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, but be sure to keep those feelings away from your child.) Just take your toddler by the hand and walk them back to their room, get them cleaned up and into some fresh pajamas, and change their bed with the clean sheets you’ve prepared ahead of time.

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Expert Children's Sleep Consultant Supporting You Through Sleep Training

5. Re-evaluate If Things Aren't Working

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 is really 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 it's time.

6. Don't Sacrifice Sleep Over the Potty

One last time just to emphasize the point, getting your toddler out of their diaper is not worth sacrificing their sleep routine. Don’t attempt this crazy “dream-potty” 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 into getting them sleeping through the night, you’re much better off just waiting until the moment is right.


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