Updated: Nov 1, 2019
Inside: 10 tips for potty training at night and how to drop your toddler's night diapers.
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I still remember that feeling of *okay, here we go!* when I dropped the night diapers for my kiddo. A bit like the feeling that comes up when I ride a roller coaster.
Pretty sure it’s not going to kill me, but tense till I’m through the ride.
Truth is, it’s not as simple as saying bye-bye to the nighttime pull-ups when you want to start night training your toddler.
As with anything else with toddlers, you want to set up your child for success…
Just like starting solids (getting the spoons, plates, pouches, and recipes)
Just like safety-proofing your home when your baby turned into an on-the-go child
Just like planning a roadtrip where you child will be in the carseat for a loooong time
Night training is similar in that some essentials help set you up for success.
You also want to step in with a plan.
Here are my go-to reminders so you can step into your night training journey feeling less tense — and more confident.
1. Know when to start
If your child hasn't naturally started waking up dry in the morning by the age of 3 to 3.5, then as Jamie talks about in the night chapter of Oh Crap Potty Training, you want to attend to night training.
Why is it important to jump in?
Because the process of holding and consolidating is about working that bladder muscle in our bodies so it's able to hold and consolidate for longer stretches of time. If that's not happening, your child is at a greater risk of bedwetting issues as they get older.
2. What if you're seeing dry diapers?
That is your magic window, my friend! When you see a string of dry diapers, that's when it's the best time to drop the night diapers for your toddler. If you wait on it, and continue to diaper your child at night, then what often happens? The child will start peeing in the pull-up again.
Because if the diaper is on, you can't expect your child not to use it.
3. Start bottomless (bare bums for the win!)
The easiest way to ensure success at the start is to have your child go bottomless to bed. This is especially true if you're just out-of-the-gate with potty training.
The muscle memory of wearing a diaper is a real thing.
What often happens is the child is better able to cue into that sensation to go pee if they're going to be bare-bummed. Likewise, you're more likely to see accidents in underwear.
You're more likely to see the child subconsciously pee in bed with the sensation of wearing something that feels like a snug diaper...aka their snug underwear. If you don't want to go bottomless, I suggest loose pajama pants to start.
4. Pad up the bed
I'm guessing you already have a mattress cover of some sort for your toddler's bed. But you'll want extra padding on the bed in case of an accident so that you're not left changing sheets in the middle of the night. I personally like to use a waterproof mattress cover, thick cotton diaper changing pads or super-absorbent cloth pre-fold diapers to lay over the sheet where the child sleeps.
That way, if there is an accident, you simply remove that padding and the sheet is dry.
5. Stock up on cloth training pants
I always suggest cloth training pants for night training (after going commando).
I'm a big fan of cloth training pants. And we still use ours more than a year after night training my second as undies for bedtime. (Cloth training pants are also helpful toddler underwear for any children who tend to dribble, too.)
6. Transition to the toddler bed
As you move forward in the process of night training your toddler, you want it set up so your child can take herself to go pee in the potty upon wakeup.
But I'm not saying expect that to happen. Just set it up so it's possible.
What's not possible? It's not possible for your toddler to go potty when they're in a crib. It's also super hard to scoop up a sound-asleep toddler for wakeup pees from a low crib (done it and don't recommend it! So hard on your back.). So when you're ready to jump in with night training your toddler, that's also a great time to make that transition from the crib to the toddler bed, or even a floor bed.
7. Set up a little potty
Make it easy and set up your toddler for success!
8. Topload the fluid intake:
In Oh Crap Potty Training, Jamie shares the magic of the upside-down pyramid of fluids. That really is a big part of the puzzle with potty training. If your child is chugging water/milk before bedtime, you will not see success with night training. Same amount of fluids — just timed differently through the day.
9. Practice run
Dress rehearsals for plays are done for a reason. You want to literally walk through the steps of what a scene should look like.
Same idea with night training. You want to practice it first.
When it's not going right, it's not behavior (your child is asleep), but you want to set up the process so your child knows what will be happening...and ultimately, buys into the process more.
Talk to your child before you start the night training process to let him know what will be happening:
We're going to say goodbye to your diaper at night now that you go potty so well.
You just need to do one good pee before bed to get all your pee out.
Do you see your little potty? It's right here next to your bed.
I'll help you onto it since you'll be sleepy and then it will be right back to bed.
You can even "practice" the wakeup pee during the daytime.
Do a rehearsal so it's not a surprise for your toddler when the night training starts.
10. Timed wakeups
Then you'll want to time your sleepy wakeup pees spaced according to your child's sleep cycle. Jamie's book outlines the how to, but you can also reach out for support if you feel like you keep missing the magic window.
What if it's not looking right?
What if you're dealing with nightly accidents and feel like you're chasing time trying to figure out the wakeup pees in the night..
then it may be time to reset or reach out for help on how to time it just right.
Illustrations: Citrus and Mint