This is it, mama. Nighttime potty training is one of those parenting milestones that can look peculiar to outsiders, but for those of us who’ve been through it, we know that a celebration of epic proportions is in order on the day we finally say our final farewell to diapers. It’s not the same as completing your Master’s degree or landing a big promotion, but handing down that Diaper Genie to one of your friends after getting your toddler 100% potty trained feels like a huge accomplishment.
Sometimes our enthusiasm can cause us to rush into it before our little ones are ready. 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.
I’m going to share some tips for you to determine whether or not your toddler’s ready to potty train at night, and if they are, how to maximize your chances for success without sacrificing all of the progress you’ve made with their sleep.
Is your little one ready to go the night without using the potty?
Notice how I phrased that? 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!
I do not recommend that at all. 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.
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 your little one is consistently waking up with a dry diaper for a month or two, that could mean that they’re ready to say goodbye to diapers. Consistently waking up dry in the morning is the prime indicator that their bladder muscles have developed to the point where they can hold urine for the entire duration of sleep at night. If that’s the case, let’s give it a shot.
Prepare yourself, mama. There are stories out there about the Toddler who potty trained without a single accident, 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 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 this mindset when you’re explaining what’s going on to your toddler. It’s great to be enthusiastic and 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. This is also something to consider if you’re looking at a “reward chart” for nights without an accident. I’m not inherently against them, but it is better to let them succeed or fail without rewards and consequences in this scenario.
Make sure your toddler gets on the potty right before bed, even if they say they don’t need to go. I recommend your child go to the bathroom 30 minutes prior to bedtime, then again right before bed, to get the best results.
When an accident happens, as it probably will at least a few times, don’t act disappointed or irritated. You’re welcome to feel that way but keep that to yourself. Just take your toddler by the hand and walk them back to their room, get them cleaned up, into fresh pajamas, and change their bed with the clean sheets you’ve prepared ahead of time.
Pro tip: Purchase a waterproof bed sheet, put that on the mattress, then a set of regular bed sheets, then another layer of waterproof bed sheets and another set of regular bed sheets. That way, if there’s an accident in the night, you just go in, take 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. Taking a bath is likely to throw a wrench in your child’s sleep for the night, and they might think that wetting the bed gets them fifteen minutes in the bath, which, for some kids, might sound like a pretty sweet proposition.
What happens if it doesn’t take? 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 developmentally not ready? 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 the reality is you should not rush 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.
I want to reiterate my 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 spend money 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 better off waiting until they’re developmentally ready.
Don’t just take my word for it, read this article written by a pediatric urologist who’s viewpoint aligns with mine.