Your child is potty trained during the day! Hooray! So now how do you handle night time potty training?
My husband and I were reluctant to night time potty train our daughter. We had a new baby and our daughter already had a bunch of other sleep issues. But we realized helping her learn to use the potty at night was key to her independence and would give her a sense of accomplishment. Plus I was pretty excited to save the $20 on pull ups every month!
I’m happy to say she’s now night time dry and returns to sleep after bathroom trips.
Here’s what you can do to manage night time potty training!
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Get clear on your goal of night time training
Before you begin the nighttime training process, it’s helpful to remember the desired outcome. This helps inform the process you will want to go through.
The goal of night time training is for your child to first recognize the feeling of a full bladder at night, and then to correct respond to his or her body’s cues by getting to the potty on time.
These are some of the steps that lead to independence in toileting – the ultimate goal of potty training.
This helps us remember this is a process to teach our children. It’s about supporting them in their process of listening to their bodies and thus, becoming responsible for their own bodies.
Decide if you’re willing to ditch the pull ups
If you child is still using pull-ups as a diaper at night, you need to consider your readiness to dig in and ditch the pull-ups. Of course, consult with your child’s medical provider, but otherwise make sure you’re really ready to follow through.
If you’re not quite willing to ditch the pull ups, try the strategy we used. Put clean underwear on your child at bedtime and then put a pull-up on OVER it. Then if your child has a pee accident at night, you will hopefully have contained the accident in the pull up. Plus, your child will feel the wet underwear next to their skin.
If your child is dry and the pull up didn’t touch his or her skin, then you can reuse the pull up. You might as well save money and save the environment since if the pull up didn’t get wet or poopy. (Kyle felt differently and threw them away every time he was in charge in the morning – so if this grosses you out, you do you).
We did the underwear with a pull-up over it with our daughter for a few weeks once we noticed she was staying dry some nights. We had her wear her undies under the pull up and when it was dry for two weeks, it made it easier for her to decide to try no pull-ups.
Gather your supplies
Make sure to get the necessary supplies before you night time train. You’ll need at least two sets of waterproof mattress protectors and sheets. If you don’t have access to a washer and dryer in your home or apartment, you might want more sets.
We use these mattress protectors (affiliate link) and have found them to be very effective. They also don’t make that crunchy sound or feel stiff like a lot of mattress protectors. We’ve washed and dried them several times with no difficulty.
Other autism moms I know swear by using these disposable pads (affiliate link). You can layer them right over the mattress protector and potentially reduce the extra laundry to just replacing the soiled top sheet.
Double make the bed
When I was pregnant with my daughter, my sisters shared this tip: double make the bedding in the crib.
My nieces and nephews had their share of spit-up eruptions and diaper explosions that taught my two older sisters the value in double making the crib mattress.
It works the same with potty training:
Start with the bare mattress and then put on the mattress protector and fitted sheet. Repeat with another mattress protector and fitted sheet.
That way if your child has a potty accident in the middle of the night, you won’t have to remake the whole bed at night. You can strip the soiled first layer away and focus on getting your child to the potty and back to sleep. Genius.
Practice the nighttime potty routine during the day
Here’s where I often make mistakes. I just kind of assume my daughter understands after I explain a new routine. Facepalm. I have two masters degrees in education and I still make this mistake ALL THE TIME!
Most children (and adults) benefit from using visuals or picture and words to remember things. You use a calendar and a grocery list, right? Visuals stay in the brain longer so whenever we teach our kids a new routine or want them to follow directions, it’s good to start out with visuals.
Once our daughter was staying dry all night, she still couldn’t quit figure out why she was waking up in the middle of the night. She’d have meltdowns and my husband and I were very perplexed until we identified the problem. She has to go potty, but she’s sleepy and just doesn’t know what to do about it.
So I created the printable chart with her and explained it repeatedly. You can download it here.
When she understood the chart, it was time for a rehearsal. We practiced it during the day. (There might have been M&Ms incentives involved in getting her to pretend.) I had her get in bed and pretend to be asleep. Then we practiced what she’d do if she woke up with tummy ache in the middle of the night.
Important note: Make sure to be clear about the sensations in your child’s body. We watched the Daniel Tiger episode on Amazon Prime where he mentions he has a tummy ache and needs to go poop. Once my daughter understood that body sensation meant she needed to go the bathroom, it made everything a lot easier.
Last, since our kiddo also has sleep issues, we needed her to understand the goal was to return to sleep.
Wake to potty
If you have a child that is a deep sleeper, you will want to be extra certain to have your child visit the potty right before falling asleep. You might also want to try “wake to potty.”
Before your child falls asleep, you’ll want to explain to your child that you will try this is. It’s a good idea to do a rehearsal when your child is awake. (You have my full support to use incentives in this situation, too). Before you go to bed for the night, go into your child’s room and wake him or her. Walk or carry your carry to the bathroom and help them sit on the potty.
If you child doesn’t go at that time consistently for a week, try to set an alarm for yourself a few hours later to take your child to the bathroom.
Wake to potty wasn’t a successful strategy for our daughter but it did spur her to wake from sleep and come into our room and wake my husband. At that point, we realized her fear of the dark was keeping her from going potty at night.
She’ll say, “Daddy will you take me to the potty?” So we realized even bathroom night lights (affiliate link) were not enough for our child.
Be explicit with your child that she can wake a parent to go potty during the night. You can work on the fears and ultimate independence later.
Reward the behavior
When your child successfully goes to the potty at night and returns to sleep, celebrate in the morning with a sticker (affiliate ilnk).
I purposefully left the bottom of the chart blank for you to use. With my daughter we never needed an external incentive to get her to go potty in the night. Once we figured out her fear of the dark was holding her back and she needed a grown-up, she just jumped into the routine. We still celebrated her independence with her and affirmed her pride.
Your child might need an incentive like a toy or a special activity like bowling. Do what works best for your family but remember, your child needs to have understand the routine and the body sensations as mentioned above before they can really work for a prize.
Get clear on why you want to night time potty training, gather your supplies, and do a few rehearsals with the printable chart as your guide.
Congratulations, you’re on your way to successfully night time potty training with your child.
You can download the chart here.
*These printables were made with Smarty Symbols.