If teaching your child to use the potty during the day is the battle, nighttime potty training is the war. Many kids figure out the tricks of the toilet during their waking hours, but they fail to do so come evening. They can’t really help it – many bladders get a little wild and crazy once the sun goes down.
In fact, kids wet the bed until the age of six – about 15% of five-year-olds and 10% of six-year-olds will still have accidents in bed. This is perfectly normal – it just means that the link between brain and bladder isn’t strong enough yet to wake them up when they have to go. In the daytime, it’s easier: the full bladder is enough for the child to know it’s time to go.
Even so, most kids learn eventually that dreams aren’t made of soaked and soiled sheets. And you can help them get there by doing the following:
1. Go in order
Somehow, somewhere there is probably a child who learned how to hold his urine through the night before he learned how to do it when he was awake. But, this certainly isn’t the norm. The vast majority of kids only make it through a night without the need for diapers after they’re in control when they’re conscience.
2. Know when to start
Your child may tell you that they’re ready to sleep without a diaper – go with their enthusiasm! But if your son or daughter seems perfectly content to sleep in diapers until middle-age, you might have to seek out the signs that they’re ready for the next level. One of the best indications is that their diapers repeatedly stay dry (or nearly dry) through the night (though some kids will fill them because they know they’re there). Still, it’s up to the parent to take the plunge (and seize the plunger): approach your child in a “no pressure” manner and tell them you think they’re ready to wear regular undies to bed.
3. A word of caution on diapers
Many parents put their kids in overnight diapers for an extended period after they’re potty trained. That’s understandable: it gets old cleaning sheets day after day. But if your child’s diaper is dry come morning, they’re probably ready to try a night with regular underwear. If you’re worried about your mattress, consider a plastic protector. Tell your kid that it’s like sleeping in a balloon.
If your child’s not yet ready to be pulled from the diaper, that’s okay – they’ll get there (or they’ll someday be forced to have a very awkward conversation with their spouse). But, beware, diapers at night shouldn’t equate to diapers during the day – allowing your child to wear diapers after they’ve potty trained puts them at risk of regression.
This is also true once you’ve made the transition from nighttime diapers to nothing. If your child has begun to go to bed in their underwear, keep them that way. They might have accidents, but don’t revert back to diapers. That’ll stymie their progress.
4. Mentally prepare yourself
In order for nighttime potty training to be successful, both you and your child should be mentally prepared. For you, this means summonsing every ounce of patience (you’ll need it!) and giving your child tons of encouragement (they’ll need it too!). Don’t forget to set realistic expectations (for you and your child) – holding in urine all night long is more challenging than doing it during the day.
5. Stock up on extra……everything!
It’s time to go shopping! When you’re planning to conquer overnight potty training, stocking up on materials is essential. Double, triple, or quadruple up on pajamas, bedsheets, underwear, towels, and cleaning supplies. And be sure to keep these somewhere accessible so you’re not stumbling around in the dark opening closets and drawers. You might want to stock up on a little something extra for you too – like wine!
6. Don’t punish or shame
Sure, potty training can drive even the most patient parents insane. But your child isn’t having an easy time either – they don’t like wetting their bed (sitting in your own pee isn’t fun for anyone). Remember this and don’t punish or shame them, no matter how frustrated you get. Cheer them on instead: yay, yay, urine!
7. Limit liquids
You don’t have to limit your child’s consumption of liquids at all hours – here’s one ice cube for the day Frances, make it last. But timing is everything. Following dinner, keep fluids to a minimum and limit those fluids to water. It’s nature’s juice, after all.
8. Go potty before bed
It’s a given that you should instruct your child to go potty before they hit the hay, but don’t just do it once: do it twice. An hour or so before bed, take your child to the restroom. Then do it again right before you turn down the covers. This helps assure that when the sandman visits, he doesn’t need Clorox.
9. Encourage bathroom use
Kids wake up for various reasons during the night – they hear a noise, they have a bad dream, the monster under their bed snores too loud. Remind your child that they need to use the restroom each and every time they wake up, even if they don’t feel as though they need to go.
Other tricks of the trade: figure out what time your child is wetting the bed and wake them during that time; remind your child to ask for help in the middle of the night if they need it; and make sure the path to the potty is lit by a nightlight.
10. Check that they’re not constipated
What are three words for a hobby you never wanted? Checking for constipation! But this act isn’t as messy as it sounds: if your child is failing to poop on a daily basis, increase fluid and fiber. Introduce grains, veggies, fruit, and juice.
Constipation is a common culprit behind bladder issues: a full bowel can put pressure on the bladder and make it unstable (leading to accidents at night and during the day).
11. Try cloth diapers as a last resort
If potty training at night is still not working no matter what you do, cloth diapers may be a game changer. The reason is that they’re much less comfortable for your child – they’ll feel the wetness and they’ll hate it!
12. Get outside help
If none of the above works, consider consulting your pediatrician. It’s always possible that something else is going on that you can’t diagnose (and, no, WebMD can’t diagnose it either). You should speak to your pediatrician if your child is over six or if your child has been dry at night for six months or longer and suddenly starts wetting the bed again.
While the above tips help your child acclimate to nighttime potty training, they’ll continue to have accidents here and there. Wetting or soiling a bed during sleep isn’t something a child controls – they’re not aware they’re doing it. So withhold punishments. Above all, remember that potty training at night is completely different than what you’ve experienced during the day. It has less to do with your child being stubborn and more to do with their body not being ready just yet.