Are you, and your child, ready for overnight potty training? If you’re feeling unsure about how to start and what to do, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Whether you’re just starting or are having trouble, here are some of my top tips for getting to that overnight potty training milestone.
#1 Let Them Master The Day Time First
There is a significant gap between staying dry during the day and staying dry overnight for most children. There can be months or even years between these two milestones. A good rule of thumb is to wait until your child is consistently dry for around six months before you start trying overnight.
Waiting until they are confident at using the potty during the day time can also limit the toilet accidents at night. Don’t forget that, for your child, using the potty is a new skill. So, trying to do it while half asleep can be a lot harder. If they start to struggle with the potty overnight, it can knock their confidence and set them back with their potty training during the day as well.
#2 Don’t Start Too Early
Staying dry overnight is a little more complicated than during the day. Your child needs to have reached a level of development where they can wake up when their bladder is full. This age will be different for each child. It’s not a case of being the right age. A promising sign that your child might be ready is if their diaper is only a little wet in the morning, or perhaps is even dry on occasion.
#3 Let Your Child Guide You
Your child may well tell you when they are ready to stop wearing diapers or pull-ups overnight. If that’s the case, then go for it. Equally, if they are hesitant or get upset, it’s best to drop the subject for a while. You can always try again in a couple of weeks. There is absolutely nothing to be gained from pushing the issue.
#4 Make It Easy For Them To Get To The Potty
When you first start overnight potty training, you might want to consider putting a potty in your child’s room. The easier you make it for them to get to the potty, the better the chances are that they’ll hit the right target.
If you have boys who like to stand up to pee, then learn from my experience. Put something waterproof under their potty – a shower curtain is ideal. I guarantee that no matter what their aim is like during the day, it will be much, much worse in the middle of the night.
#5 Regulate Drinks Before Bedtime
You might have heard that it’s a good idea to stop your child from drinking after bedtime. It’s a logical idea – if they drink less, they’ll need to pee less. Unfortunately, the reason children pee overnight is not because their bladder is full. It’s because they don’t wake up when they need to pee. So drinking less isn’t necessarily a solution.
However, there are some things to avoid. Fizzy drinks and hot drinks stimulate your bladder. They make you need to urinate quicker. So these are the sorts of drinks to avoid at night time.
The same is true for caffeinated drinks like coke. However, I can’t imagine that many parents regularly give toddlers caffeine before bedtime. That’s not a mistake you’ll want to repeat in a hurry!
#6 Making Peeing Part Of Your Bedtime Routine
You want to try and build good toilet habits. An easy way to do this is to make using the toilet part of their bedtime routine. Make it a habit to use the toilet before bed. A good matching habit is to also go as soon as they wake up.
Getting into a routine about using the toilet during the day can also have knock-on effects for nighttime toilet training. If your child always waits until they are bursting, they learn to ignore the signals from their bladder that it’s time to go. This can make it harder for them to wake in the night when they need to pee. If this sounds like your little one, then try encouraging them to pee more often during the day, between four to seven times a day is normal.
#7 Be Prepared For Accidents
No matter how ready you think your child is, I guarantee they will have an accident. So, make life easier for yourself and be prepared. You don’t want to be scrabbling around in the middle of the night trying to change sheets.
If you want to prepare like a pro, then you can give this a try. Make your child’s bed as usual. Put the waterproof sheet on, followed by the bedsheet. Then do it again. Put another waterproof layer and a second sheet. Then if your child has an accident, you can just take off the top layers, and you’re all set.
My bonus piece of advice here is that if you are short on waterproof sheets, try a tablecloth. The plastic ones work just as well as waterproof sheets.
#8 No Risk, No Reward
It can be tempting to leave your child in training pants or diapers until they are consistently dry overnight. However, some kids need the push of feeling wet to help them learn to wake up when they need to use the toilet. By keeping them in diapers overnight, you might be delaying them in reaching this milestone.
In other words, unless you are very lucky, you won’t be able to avoid the extra laundry.
#9 Try A Night Time Toilet Trip
Any amount of research on overnight potty training might introduce you to a technique called lifting. The idea here is that you take your child to the toilet during the night to let them pee. It’s called lifting because you don’t wake them, you just lift them out of bed. The problem here is that your child is still urinating in their sleep. You’re not teaching them anything. You’re just avoiding the problem of wet sheets.
What ERIC (the children’s bowel and bladder charity) recommends is that you wake your child up for night time toilet trips. Most accidents happen shortly after your child falls asleep. So a good time for these trips is just as you’re going to bed yourself.
As techniques go, this is a good one to try at the start of your journey to dry nights. You don’t want to end up relying on it.
#10 Don’t Ditch The Waterproof Sheets Too Soon
As you may have experienced with daytime potty training, even when your toddler gets the hang of it, they can still have accidents. The same is true overnight. So it’s a good idea to hold off on celebrating your child’s milestone by donating, storing, or ritually destroying their waterproof sheets. They may still be useful.
It’s not uncommon for children to continue having nighttime accidents until they are five. So it could be worth keeping them in rotation until then. The alternative is trying to get urine stains and stink out of a mattress.
This method for getting the stains and the smell out of a mattress takes eight hours! What parent has that kind of time to spare? It seems to me that it’s a whole lot easier to keep using the waterproof sheets for a while longer.
#11 Stay Positive
Toddlers thrive on positivity. So, as hard as it can be to wake to more laundry, don’t let it get to you. Just keep reminding yourself that they’ll get there eventually. There will be an end to it.
The other reason to work on staying positive is that your reactions will influence your child. If you get worked up or anxious about the process, your child may start to feel the same way. It would help if you remembered that your child will take their cues on how to feel from you.
#12 Know When To Start Worrying
All kids are different. It might be a cliche, but that’s because it’s true. So if your child is struggling to stay dry overnight, you might need to give them more time. Knowing when to start worrying can provide you with peace of mind.
Pediatricians’ advice is that you should seek help if your child is regularly wetting the bed after the age of seven.
Why Not Share Your Experience?
Have you made it past the mountains of dirty sheets? Or is there still a lot of laundry in your future? Let us know which of these tips worked for you and which didn’t. If you have a great idea that the world needs to know, why not leave a comment and help your fellow parents in their quest for night time dryness.
I hope you found these tips helpful. If you know someone else who could benefit from reading them, then why not share this article.
Hopefully, reading this will help you and your child reach their next major milestone. Good Luck.