This is it, mama, the last step of potty training! The icing on the potty training cake if you will.
I’m talking, of course, about nighttime potty training. This is another one of those parenting milestones that can look mundane 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.
But sometimes our enthusiasm can cause us to rush into it before our little ones are ready. And 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.
So today, I’ve got some tips for you to determine whether or not your toddler is ready to nighttime potty train, and if they are, how to maximize your chances for success without sacrificing all of the progress you’ve made with their sleep.
So, jumping right in, is your little one ready to go the night without using the potty? Notice how I phrased that kind of specifically? 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 can’t stress enough, that is not the approach to take! We do not want to 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, however, your little one’s had a few nights of waking up with a dry diaper, that could mean that they’re up to the challenge. That’s really the prime indicator that this might be a good time to give it a shot. Two or three dry mornings in a week suggests that their bladder muscles have developed to the point where they can hold it for the night, so if that’s the case, let’s give it a shot.
Now, prepare yourself. I’m sure there are stories out there about toddlers who potty trained without a single accident, but the odds of that happening are not in your favor. Not even close. So, pick a week when you don’t have a lot going on, get some extra sheets and PJs at the 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.
It’s important to keep this mindset when you’re explaining what’s going on to your toddler. It’s great to be enthusiastic and super-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.
Make sure your toddler gets on the potty right before bed, even if they say they don’t need to go. I know a lot of parents have found that a potty session 30 minutes prior to bedtime, then again right before bed, has gotten them the best results. It’s also a good idea to limit beverages 1-2 hours before bed. If you have one of those kiddos that loves to have a sippy cup close by for middle of the night drinking, it’s time to say farewell to that habit. Lastly, you’ll want to make sure that you’re rushing right into the bedroom at the first sign of waking in the morning to make a quick trip to the potty. If left to sit too long during the morning hours, you’ll often see an accident happen.
When an accident does happen, as it probably will a few times at least, don’t act disappointed or irritated. (You might be feeling that way, but you keep that noise to yourself.) Just take your toddler by the hand and walk them back to their room, get them cleaned up and into some fresh pajamas, and change their bed with the clean sheets you’ve prepared ahead of time.
I do have one really sweet pro tip for you here: Grab yourself some plastic sheets, lay a layer of that over the mattress, then a set of bed sheets, then another layer of plastic, then another set of bed sheets. That way, if there’s an accident in the night, you just go in, strip off the top layer, and bam! There’s a clean, dry, freshly made bed waiting underneath. That will 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. Getting into the tub is likely to throw a wrench in your child’s sleep for the night, and they might just get it into their heads that wetting the bed gets them fifteen minutes in the bath, which, for some kids, might sound like a pretty fun treat.
So what happens if you’re not seeing progress? Well, if your little one is still having regular accidents after a week or two, give it some consideration. Is your toddler ready and just not willing, or willing but not ready?
And 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 there really is no rushing 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.
One last time just to emphasize the 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 drop two hundred bucks 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 much better off just waiting until the moment is right.