Tips and Tricks for Nighttime Potty Training

nighttime potty training

Potty training is a huge milestone for both kids and parents. But even after your little one has mastered daytime bathroom routines, nighttime dryness can be a whole different challenge. Don’t worry though – with patience and the right approach, you can conquer nighttime potty training too.

The Difference Between Daytime and Nighttime Potty Training

tips and tricks for nighttime potty training

The key is understanding that daytime and nighttime training are quite different. “Potty training is a daytime process,” explains Samantha Allen, a potty training expert. “You can’t teach someone to do something while they’re unconscious, but we can help kids stay dry through the night.”

Pediatrician Dr. Terri McFadden adds that nighttime readiness is a separate developmental milestone from daytime training. “Even children who are completely dry during the day may not be ready to get through the evenings without accidents.”

When to Start Nighttime Potty Training

tips and tricks for nighttime potty training

Since so much of potty training is physical and unique to the individual child, it can be hard to set a hard and fast nighttime potty training age. “It’s more about developmental readiness than chronological age,” Allen says.

She recommends pairing nighttime potty training with daytime training, saying “as long as the child can follow simple directions, can physically get to the bathroom and onto the toilet, and is staying dry for up to two hours, the child is ready.” If possible, she advises trying sooner rather than later.

Allen also notes that potty training is as much about the child being ready as it is about the family’s preparedness, since parents will need to carve out time to dedicate to this endeavor. McFadden says that between ages 2 and 3 is typical for daytime training, and for nighttime, “if they’re completely dry during the day or with infrequent accidents and they’ve gone for a few weeks a month without having a nighttime issue then you can consider that they’re ready.”

How Long Does Nighttime Potty Training Take?

The timeline for mastering nighttime dryness can vary greatly from child to child. For some, the process happens quickly and seamlessly. “Everything clicked into place at once, and they were fully potty trained in just a few days,” shares Dr. McFadden. 

However, for many others, it’s a lengthier journey. “We know that most children should be able to get through the night without accidents by around age 5,” McFadden explains. “That’s why we generally don’t consider bedwetting a problem until about that age – so many kids continue to have nighttime issues even after they’re completely dry during the day.”

There is a common belief that girls tend to master potty training slightly earlier than boys. “There may be a kernel of truth to that,” says McFadden, “but the difference isn’t major.” Ultimately, the timeline is highly individualized and dependent on each child’s unique development.

Nighttime Potty Training Tips

If you’re ready to take the plunge and ditch the overnight diapers, here are some tips from experts and parents on how to make the process as painless as possible:

  • Set a Consistent Daytime Potty Training Plan: Since nighttime training stems from daytime readiness, it’s crucial to have a solid daytime plan in place first. “Make sure you have an individualized daytime potty training plan that works for your child,” advises Samantha Allen.
  • Examine Your Family History: To get a sense of the typical timeline, Dr. Terri McFadden recommends that parents ask their own parents when they or their children stopped having nighttime accidents. “It can give you a general idea, as bedwetting does tend to run in families,” she explains.
  • Limit Evening Liquids: To prevent nighttime accidents, try to cut back on how much your child is drinking in the evenings. As parent Jamie K shares, “We limited drinks after dinner and served them in small, fun cups so the kids didn’t feel deprived.” McFadden agrees this is an effective strategy, especially for sugary beverages that “tend to bring more water into the bladder.”
  • Make Potty Part of the Bedtime Routine: Once nighttime training is the goal, it’s important to incorporate going to the bathroom into the bedtime routine, just like brushing teeth. “Get them to go before bed, and right when they wake up,” suggests parent Elaine B.
  • Be Prepared for Accidents: Inevitably, there will be a few accidents during the process, so it’s best to be prepared. “Double layer the sheets with waterproof protectors!” recommends Lindsay B. “Keep a spare blanket handy too – that way you can just strip off the top layers when they have an accident.”
  • To Wake or Not to Wake: Some parents have had success with waking their child during the night to use the bathroom. As Jo Ann O shares, “I would wake my daughter up and take her, and after a few weeks she was holding it all night.” However, Allen isn’t a fan of this approach, calling it “exhausting” – so do what feels right for your family.
  • Wait for Consistent Dry Mornings: Many parents didn’t have to do much special for nighttime training. As Samantha W says, “I just kept my son in pull-ups until I noticed he was waking up dry for a few weeks in a row.”
  • Follow Their Lead: Some kids will let you know when they’re ready. As Allison S shares, “My 5-year-old told us when he was ready, and he did great with no accidents.” Pay attention to your child’s cues.
  • Celebrate Successes: When your child does stay dry overnight, be sure to provide lots of positive reinforcement. As Misti T shares, “We made a big deal when he had his first dry night, and then he earned special underwear for a few more nights in a row.”
  • Don’t Stress It: As Melissa G learned with both her kids, it can take 6-7 months after daytime training before nighttime dryness kicks in. “I just followed their lead and didn’t push. It will happen in its own time,” she advises. McFadden agrees, cautioning parents not to compare themselves to others or view it as a failure if it takes longer.

How do you potty train a child through the night?

tips and tricks for nighttime potty training
  • Establish a consistent daytime potty routine
  • Limit evening liquids, especially sugary drinks
  • Make using the potty part of the bedtime routine
  • Be prepared for accidents with waterproof bedding
  • Praise and reward dry nights to encourage progress
  • Be patient and let your child’s readiness guide the process

Should I wake my child to pee at night?

Some parents have found success with this approach, as it can help train the body. However, experts say it’s not always necessary and can be exhausting for both parent and child.

Why is my 5 year old not potty trained at night?

It’s very common for children to continue having occasional bedwetting accidents until around age 5. As long as they are consistently dry during the day, this is usually just a developmental lag and not a cause for concern.

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