Updated: Oct 31, 2019
Inside: Supplies you need for potty training at night, and tips for night training your toddler.
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Imagine the isolated times you learned (fast) that you never-ever bring your hungry children to the grocery store close to dinnertime. Total disaster.
That’s the kind of overwhelmed feeling that swells up for many parents when they imagine their child going to bed diaper-free at night. For many, it seems destined for disaster.
Night training? How does that even work for a toddler?
Once upon a time, night training was not such a big deal.
One of the key points that Jamie Glowacki, author of Oh Crap Potty Training, brings up in her book is how night training was not even a thing for past generations of moms. She talked to many moms and grandmothers in the generations before us. And what was the pattern she found after interviewing hundreds of moms about potty training at night back in the day?
It wasn’t this thing they dreaded. It wasn't this hyped-up thing.
Because back then, moms didn’t have the same access to disposable diapers that have become an easy, affordable, convenient way of diapering your child.
It may seem beyond bonkers or simply hard to imagine your child being able to go ALL NIGHT without an accident.
I'm here to say it's totally possible.
Sometimes it requires NO work on your part. And then you can count yourself one of the lucky ones. And sometimes the child needs some support in night training. Then here's what you need..
1. A toddler bed or mattress on the floor
If your toddler is still in a crib, I recommend waiting to start night training until you transition your child out of the crib. Or another way to think on it, if you're ready to ditch the sleepy diapers then it's a great time to make that switch out of the crib!
Here's more about transitioning from a crib to a toddler bed.
Related: Worried about your toddler being out of a crib (freedom to roam anywhere)? You do want to toddler-proof your space and stairwell. Here's a handy monitor that lets you know if your toddler has escaped!
2. Padding to go OVER the sheet
There are likely to be accidents for a little while when you first start night training, until you get your rhthym and know when your child tends to pee in the night. I think it's best to layer pads ON TOP of the toddler sheet. Why?
Because if there's an accident in the night, all you need to do is swipe the wet pad, add a new one and your kiddo is back in bed. No change of sheets necessary.
And when there's an accident, that's exactly what you want.
Quick, no-drama changes so the child (and YOU) get right back to bed. I really like using a mattress protector, a big cloth diaper changing pad, or large cloth diaper prefolds actually work well, especially when you're traveling.
Related: I share a free printable with my night training checklist to hang up as a reminder. Sign Up Here For Your Potty Training Cheatsheets.
3. Change the cup if your toddler is still asking for water
One HUGE part of seeing success in night training comes with the upside down pyramid of fluids that Jamie talks about in Oh Crap Potty Training. If you're hitting resistance to drop the bottle/cup of water before bed, here's how to move in the right direction without going to battle with your toddler.
Use a different cup!
Instead of giving your toddler their usual cup or sippy cup with water, and putting way less in — and then hearing protests that they want a FULL cup, try this.
Give your toddler what he wants.
Except, make it a smaller cup!
Toddlers can't drink many ounces of water before bed and hold it for hours.
So start with a smaller cup. Your kiddo can have a nice full cup of water, but it's a small cup, even a bathroom cup, something teeny-tiny so that they're not chugging 8 ounces of water right before bed. That way, everybody wins. Because if your upside down pyramid of fluids isn't working, then it's going to be impossible to NOT see accidents.
Bottles and sippy cups are a wise thing to drop from the bedtime routine, in particular, because toddlers can be sucking on their sippy cup just for comfort (and not even be that thirsty).
4. A small potty to set by your toddler's bed
Most likely your toddler will not take himself to go potty in the middle of the night.
That will be on you, the parent, as part of the night training process.
But you want a small potty in your toddler's room for two reasons.
It will be way easier to do the sleepy wakeup pees — and not have them be disruptive to sleep — if the potty is right there in the room. Ping, you go in, potty your child, and your toddler's back in bed in two minutes. Lights are still off with just a nightlight for you to see. Child is still in a half sleepy state and goes back to dreamland after the quick pee. That's how night training is supposed to look.
If your child wakes up BEFORE you in the morning (which happens quite often, actually). That way your child CAN take herself to go potty when she feels the pee if she wakes up early. In night training, you don't EXPECT your toddler to take herself to the potty, but setting her up to do so independently is still a wise idea. If the potty isn't there, she won't be able to use it if she tries!
5. Leave a small light on
If you don't have a nightlight in your child's room, then now's a good time to get one. You want to keep your child in that half-sleepy place for the wakeup pees (or dream pees) for night training.
So that means you can't turn on the bright light in your kiddos room.
6. Switch to cloth training pants
What do you do after starting bottomless for potty training at night? Then it's time to add in cloth training pants.
Cloth training pants help with dribbles at night and also save the bed from needing to change sheets for every half accident. Until you're seeing fully dry nights, the cloth training pants make a nice bridge.
When you do jump in with your toddler going diaper-free during sleepy times, have these supplies on hand first. Because like packing snacks in your bag for a grocery store run, you want to be prepared.
What's another thing you need for night training?
You need a toddler who's not running short on sleep. That can actually bring on night accidents!
Here's my go-to list for bedtime reads to help your toddler settle in for sleep..
1. I'm Not (Very) Afraid of the Dark: This is my hands-down favorite new bedtime book. And let me say, the fears of the dark come and go in my experience as a mama. So it can circle back even when they're school-age as they're working through what's real and what's not. This book has hundreds of tiny holes that make it so cool to show the changes between day and night, in your bedroom and outside. The message at the end is so sweet, making the dark feel more safe and magical.
2. All My Friends are Fast Asleep: This beautifully illustrated book even includes a song. Your toddler can follow a boy along his quest to find a cozy place to rest. Perfect for settling in any toss-and-turny toddlers for sleepy time.
3. What is Sleep? Let's get down to business with answering the curious questions of toddlers and showing your kiddo why sleep is important. The lift-the-flap design is a winner for wiggly toddlers to setttle in and interact with their bedtime read.
4. How to Tuck in Your Sleepy Lion: It's always easier to get your toddler to buy into something if they're in charge, right? This cute book walks you through how to tuck in a super sleepy lion who doesn't want to go to bed. You can have your toddler use it as a guide to tuck in their favorite stuffie before you tuck in your little lion.
5. What are Stars: This book is a favorite for all ages. Frome peeking under the flaps to see constellations to sharing things that are star-shaped, this interactive book will spark bedtime chats about the stars around us.
6. Secrets of Our Earth: Storybooks are sweet, but sometimes if your toddler is running short on attention at bedtime, it helps to bring a book where they're helping to DO something. With this shine a light book, your toddler can take a flashlight or your phone and shine a light on the backs of pages to see the hidden pictures. Super fun to learn about the earth. Though the entire Shine-A-Light series are fun reads, too. Here's another favorite.
7. Peek Inside Nighttime: Who's sleeping? What happens at nighttime in the city? What are animals doing at nighttime? An interactive read to bring the focus to winding down for the nighttime.
8. I Am So Brave: I love this whole book series celebrating a toddler's mindset of I Can Do It Myself. End the day speaking to how brave your child is now that they know the dark is just when the stars come out.
Illustrations: Citrus and Mint Designs