Inside: Supplies for overnight potty training, and Oh Crap Potty Training tips for nighttime.
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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 overnight. For many, it seems destined for disaster.
Potty training at night? How does that even work for a toddler?
Once upon a time, overnight potty 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 bestselling book is how potty training at night was not even a thing for past generations of moms. She interviewed many moms and grandmothers in the generations before us.
What was the pattern she found after interviewing hundreds of moms about potty training at night time back in their time?
It wasn’t this thing they dreaded. It wasn't this hyped-up thing.
Because back then (say back in the 1970s when I was born), moms didn’t have the same access to effective, disposable diapers that have become an easy, affordable, convenient way of diapering your child at night time (no matter the age.)
It may seem bonkers or simply hard to imagine your child being able to go ALL NIGHT without a pee accident.
I'm here to say it's totally possible. Overnight potty training is possible for your two- or three-year-old.
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 and it's more of a process to potty train at night.
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 overnight potty training until you transition your child from a crib to a toddler bed. 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 door lock that helps keep toddlers from escaping in the middle of the night.
2. Padding to go OVER the sheet
There are likely to be accidents for a short while when you first start overnight potty training, until you get into your rhythm for the Oh Crap Potty Training wakeup pees, 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 child 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 (and sleep.) 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 a checklist of night time potty training tips 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 overnight potty 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 or sippy cup of water before bed, here's how to move in the right direction without stepping right into a power battle with your toddler.
Use a different cup!
Instead of giving your toddler their usual bottle 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 then hold their pee for hours. As Jamie has shared in her podcast on Patreon, (while she's been training her new dog), toddlers are much like puppies in that you can't load them up with water in the evening.
So start with a smaller cup. Your toddler 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 bedtime.
That way, everybody wins.
Because without the upside down pyramid of fluids in place, it's super tough to avoid wet beds in the night.
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.) With an open cup (this teeny one can be used as young as 6 months!), they drink what they want for thirst rather than comfort.
4. A small potty next to 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 potty training at night 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 in the early morning. What we share with Oh Crap Potty Training at nighttime is that 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, now's a good time to get one. You want to keep your child in that half-sleepy place for their wakeup pees (or dream pees) for potty training at night.
So that means you can't turn on the bright light in your child's room.
But you'll need some light to be able to see what's happening. We love the color-changing night lights by Ooly that act as a soothing night light overnight and change colors to help with kids who pop up out of bed too early in the morning.
6. Switch to cloth training pants
What's next after your toddler wakes up with dry beds while being bare-bummed for potty training at night? Then it's time to add in cloth training pants.
Cloth training pants can also help with dribbles at night and 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 into potty training at night time with your toddler diaper-free, look to 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 overnight potty training?
You need a toddler who's not running short on sleep. Why?
When their circadian rhythm is off, that can actually bring on nighttime pee accidents!
Here's a go-to list of favorite bedtime stories to settle your toddler 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. 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.
4. Hiding Heidi: Bring a little hide-and-seek to bedtime with this gorgeously illustrated picture book. Kids love spotting Heidi as she hides in the playground, park, even a birthday party.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Spider on the Floor: You probably have already heard this fun song by Raffi. The repetition and predictable pattern of this song makes it a great bedtime story to read, too. Toddlers will love the silly illustrations.
8. Little White Rabbit: Imagination and adventure take this little white rabbit on a journey till bedtime, snuggled in with his family.
9. 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.
10. Tiny Perfect Things: This sweet picture book walks you through a simple stroll, and all the tiny, perfect things you'll find outside your door. That sense of wonder and curiosity is the perfect way to set up for a chat on what to explore tomorrow, together.
Illustrations: Citrus and Mint Designs