So-called “parenting masters” may disagree, but I’m going to tell you there is no right way to go about potty training at night.
All kids are different. There’s no one method that will work for every child!
Maybe you’ve come here for the secret recipe. I’m sorry to tell you it doesn’t exist.
Sure I’ll go into some methods and tips, but ultimately you’ll have to experiment to find out what works for your family.
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Let me start by telling you of my terribly frustrating night training journey. Be warned, it’s not for the faint of heart.
My Tale of Failure for Potty Training At Night
Let me just start by saying that my kids can be jerks sometimes when it comes to pull-ups.
I read a lot of resources that suggested waiting on potty training at night until they wake up with their pull-ups dry in the morning. For me, this was never going to happen.
My kids love peeing their pull-ups! No matter how much encouragement I gave them, they would continue to do it on purpose.
I decided to start night training my daughter when she was almost 4 years old. I had taken her potty at the start of our bedtime routine and then again after we read books. Then I put a pull-up on her right before bed… and she peed again. Completely intentionally.
Mind you, she’s been potty trained during the day for almost a year. She knows when she has to go to the toilet.
That’s when I decided to start potty training her for night.
I told her these were the last pull-ups I would buy, and then she would be in underwear at night.
Don’t worry, I said it super nicely. She was so excited to be a big girl and be in panties all night long.
Silly me didn’t do the math. The first night sans pull-ups was the first night of my husband’s week-long trip to Vegas. I was in it by myself (AND at 8 months pregnant, to boot!).
I did it all. Limited fluids before bedtime, put her in panties, and gave her an inspirational talk. I even woke up with her throughout the night for a week, sometimes as much as 3 times per night! Which, let me tell you, is a lot of fun when you’re super pregnant and waking up every 45 minutes yourself to pee.
We were unsuccessful.
In the two weeks we attempted to night potty train, we maybe had two dry nights. Mind you, this was when we were waking her up to go potty multiple times. Most nights she was wetting her bed at least twice.
I got discouraged and then did something every article said you should never do. I gave up.
Yes, we went back to pull ups. But I did get princess ones this time and told her I wouldn’t make her throw them away if she stayed dry. (Ok, so I fibbed a little there)
Her first two nights in the pull-ups she stayed dry all night long.
We’ve had accidents here and there, but going back to pull-ups is working for now. There in lies both my success and failure for potty training at night.
What Age Should a Child Be Dry at Night?
Let’s start with the basics, what age should I start potty training at night?
Sorry, but there’s no “right” answer here either.
It’s not just a matter of maturity here, but also of biology. Your child’s bladder has to be physically large enough to hold the urine overnight. The brain also has to be able to process when a feeling of urgency occurs to wake them.
85% of children have the ability to successfully achieve potty at night by age 5. This also means, however, that 15% of healthy 5 year-olds are still not able to stay dry overnight.
A good rule of thumb is to wait at least six months after your child is day potty trained before attempting potty training at night. And even then, it’s a good idea to start with naps.
Night Training Strategies
1 | Change to ‘Big Kid’ Underwear
Let’s be honest, pull ups = diapers in a kid’s mind.
This means they have zero incentive to stop peeing in a pull-up (after all, it’s absorbant and feels dry, just like a diaper).
Instead, change them to big kid underwear at night. But if you don’t 100% trust them in regular underwear, try these. Seriously, these absorbent potty training pants underwear are amazing. Kids think they’re wearing normal underwear BUT you don’t have to change the sheets every time they have an accident.
2 | Establish the Bedtime Routine
Start your bedtime routine by sitting your child down on the potty. Then do everything else you have to do (PJs, brush teeth, books, etc). Take them again right before they climb into bed.
3 | Limit Fluids Before Bed
While the exact number of hours you’re supposed to limit fluid consumption before bed is debated (I’ve seen experts recommend anywhere from 1-4 hours), it’s just common sense that the less they drink – the less they’ll have to pee.
4 | Wait For Readiness
Do not attempt potty training at night until at least six months after day training is established. It is unlikely they will be able to have the capability for night training until 3 1/2 years of age. A good indicator of readiness is waking up dry frequently in their pull-up/diaper.
5 | Set Alarms and Wake at Night
Gently wake up the child enough to take them to the bathroom every 3 hours throughout the night. As they wake up dry, slowly extend the time between potty trips.
6 | Try This Sheet Hack
This one is mostly a tip for parents who don’t want to be changing wet, pee-stained sheets throughout the night.
Set up the bed in a layered system. On top of the bottom sheet, place a layer of PUPPY PADS, followed by another sheet. You can even do another layer of puppy pads/sheets.
In the middle of the night, all you have to do is take away the top sheet/puppy pad layer and a new clean, dry sheet is waiting there underneath it all.
7 | Set Them Up for Success
On the first night you begin nighttime potty training, give them a pep talk. Remind them to listen to their bodies for potty clues. Every time they wake up during the night, they should get up and try to go to the bathroom.
Make sure there are plenty of night lights leading to the bathroom and around the toilet. We actually leave our bathroom light on all night so it’s very easy for them to find, even in a tired state.
8 | Keep a Positive Mindset
Try not to become discouraged if it’s unsuccessful. I know, you’re exhausted, but your child is doing their best. Use positive encouragement rather than punishment.
9 | Incentivize
Use a reward system! Sticker charts leading up to a bigger goal, M&Ms for successful nights, or maybe even the promise of a big kid bed or sheets.