Routines & Skills

Nighttime Potty Training Tips (for Tired Parents)

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Your child is potty trained during the day! Hooray! So now how do you handle nighttime potty training?

My husband and I were reluctant to nighttime 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 nighttime dry and returns to sleep after bathroom trips.

Here’s what you can do to manage nighttime potty training!

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Goal of Nighttime Potty Training

Before you begin the nighttime training process, it’s helpful to remember your goal. This helps you make good decisions.

The goal of nighttime potty training is for your child to first recognize the feeling of a full bladder at night. Next, you want your child to correctly 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.

When are Children Ready for Nighttime Potty Training?

The short answer: this varies widely.

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics says it usually happens about a year after your child is daytime potty trained. So if most children daytime train between ages 2 and 4, most children will nighttime potty train between 3 and 5 years old.

Just like it’s important to look for daytime readiness sign that your child can toilet train, look for nighttime signs, too:

  • Your child is already waking up at night.
  • Your child is dry some mornings.
  • Your child can hold their urine for longer amounts of time during the day.

It’s always a good idea to check with your child’s medical provider before you begin nighttime potty training.

Nighttime Potty Training Pull-Up Hack

If your child is showing some readiness signs for nighttime potty train, consider this:

Are you ready to go cold turkey and ditch pull-ups at night? You need to consider your readiness to be consistent.

If you’re not quite willing to ditch the pull-ups, try the pull-up hack:

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 if the pull-up didn’t get wet or poopy.

(My husband 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 underwear 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.

So try the nighttime potty training pull-up hack and see how it helps your child learn to use the potty at night.

Nighttime Potty Training Supplies

Once you’re certain your child can go without a pull-up or diaper, you need to get their bed ready. There is nothing worse than changing pee-soaked sheets with a sobbing preschooler at 2am. The right nighttime potty training supplies will make this experience easier on everyone.

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 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.

I’ve heard several autism parents swear by using these disposable pads . You can layer them right over the mattress protector and potentially reduce the extra laundry to just replacing the soiled top sheet.

Grabbing the right nighttime potty training supplies will help your child be successful sooner.

Double Make the Bed

When I was pregnant with my oldest child, 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
  • Put on the mattress protector
  • Then add tge 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.

printable routine sticker chart that reading "I can go potty at night" for nighttime potty training

Nighttime Potty Training Chart

Use a Nighttime Potty Training Chart

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 had to go potty, but she was just too sleepy and disoriented. She just didn’t know what to do about it.

So I created the printable nighttime potty training chart with her and explained it repeatedly. Grab the Nighttime Potty Training Chart here.

This chart shows the steps clear so your toddler or preschooler will understand the routine for using the toilet at night.

Practice the Nighttime Potty Routine (during the Day!)

Once your child understands the chart, it’s time for a rehearsal.  You need to practice it during the day.

Feel free to use the same rewards you used during daytime training (cough cough: M&Ms over here).

Have your child get in bed and pretend to be asleep. Then practice what you’re child will do when he or she wakes 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, be explicit that your child needs to return to sleep. Since my daughter also has sleep issues, we needed her to understand the goal was to return to sleep.

Wake Up to Go 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.

Right 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 your 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.

image reads 'fear of the dark can make nighttime potty training hard for many kids' with a little girl holding a teddy bear peering into a door at night

Nighttime Fears Interfere with Potty Training

Fear of the dark is a real concern for many children. It might even prevent them from getting out of bed.

While wake to go potty wasn’t a successful strategy for our daughter, it did kickstart a new routine:

she came into our bedroom, woke my husband, and said, “Daddy will you take me to the potty?”

At that point, we realized her fear of the dark was keeping her from going potty at night.

You can try bathroom night lights that are on all night for your child and see if it gives your child the confidence.

But also consider that your child might need a parent’s presence.

So be explicit with your child that he or she can wake a parent to go potty during the night.  First, your child can master nighttime potty training.

Then, you can work on the fears and ultimate independence later.

Nighttime Potty Training Sticker Chart

When your child successfully goes to the potty at night and returns to sleep, celebrate in the morning with a sticker! The bottom of the Nighttime Potty Training Chart is 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 understood the routine and the body sensations as mentioned above before they can really work for a prize.

Conclusion on Nighttime Potty Training

Get clear on why you want to nighttime potty training, gather your supplies, and do a few rehearsals with the printable chart as your guide.

Congratulations, you’re on your way to successful nighttime potty training with your child!

Grab the Nighttime Potty Training Chart here.

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