Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tips for Overnight Potty Training

Potty training your child during the day is one thing, but how do you help your child have a successful and accident-free night?  There were a few things we found to be helpful in the process of foregoing diapers at bedtime:

Foregoing overnight diapers is often the last step to becoming fully potty trained

1. Listen to your child to know when he is ready
Overnight potty training requires both physical and mental readiness on the part of the child.  Many children are physically incapable of holding their bladders overnight until they reach a certain age.  By no fault of their own, their bodies are prone to releasing urine as they fall asleep.  If your child is staying dry for daytime naps, this is a good sign that she is physically ready for overnight training. If your child has potty trained during the day and is asking to wear underwear at night, it's time to give overnight training a try.  Every child is different: if your child is screaming for a diaper at night, he is not ready for overnight training.

2. Limit liquids immediately before bed
Chugging a large beverage right before bed will quickly fill your child's bladder, making it even more difficult to have a dry night.  Set a bed time routine where snacks and a small beverage (if requested) are consumed at least 45 minutes prior to bedtime.  This will allow enough time for your child to digest the liquid and get most of it out in one last bedtime potty break.  It's OK to offer a few sips of water right before bed (if requested), but make sure liquids are being provided out of physical need, and not out of routine or for pacification purposes.

3. Understand that potty accidents will happen
Your child is going to have some overnight accidents during the period of training.  Be prepared and protect mattresses with waterproof mattress covers.  Try to limit the amount of comforters or blankets on your child's bed and dress him in warmer pajamas instead.  If your child makes it an entire night without urinating, you've had success.  Initially, accidents may happen almost every other night, but try to see this in a positive light. Your child is learning to hold his bladder and is having a 50% success rate.

4. Be calm and collected about accidents
It is the parent's job to be stoic about potty failures.  Clean up should proceed in a mater-of-fact way and without showing disappointment about the accident.  Don't blame the child for the accident or for making extra work for you.  If your child sees that potty accidents make your angry or upset, he may refuse to wear underwear to bed (or even altogether).  Remember, some children take longer than others to physically develop the skills needed to hold their bladders overnight.  If your child is having accidents every night, he may not be physically ready for overnight training.

5. Expect a few late-night wake-up calls
It may feel like you're suddenly caring for an infant again.  You will want to be in listening mode for cries or sounds of distress coming from your child.  A child may partially wake-up during the night and feel uncomfortable because of a full bladder.  If it sounds like your child has woken up and possibly needs to urinate, you should go in and ask her if she has to use the potty.  Being on alert for accident prevention is much easier than dealing with accident clean-up.  Your child will quickly get the idea that if she feels uncomfortable in the middle of the night, it's OK to get up and go potty.  Soon she will be getting up on her own to use the potty and this is still a good time to help her if needed.  Luckily, your child will gradually stop waking to use the potty in the middle of the night (at our house it took about 2 weeks to stop the late-night wake-up calls).

6. Tag-team with your significant other
Even getting up once in the middle of the night to help your child visit the potty can be difficult for parents who've enjoyed months (or years) of uninterrupted sleep.  It is everyone's responsibility to help make potty training is a positive experience.  We had evenings where an accident had occurred and one parent worked to clean up the child, while the other worked to replace soiled sheets.  We also had times where Dad heard the little one get up to use the restroom, and Mom was in a deep sleep completely oblivious the little one was even out of bed.  Overnight potty training should be a team effort for it to be the most successful.

7. Get to the potty ASAP in the morning
Your child has made it the entire night potty accident free.  Hooray!  However, you're not in the clear until your child is sitting on the potty chair and emptying his now full bladder.  This can be easier said than done, as some children get a bit distracted in the morning.  An overly full bladder doesn't send signals to the brain as well (your child has been telling his bladder to "hold it" for 10+ hours and his brain has been ignoring messages that the bladder is full).  You'll need to help your child learn that the first thing to do in the morning is... go potty!  When your child wakes up, help him get to the bathroom right away.  Remind him, "First we'll go potty, then you can: eat breakfast, come in Mommy's bed, read a book with Daddy (or whatever it may be)."

Overnight training does require a little bit of effort on the part of the parents, but it is well worth it.  Our family spent about 3 weeks on overnight potty training before we began enjoying uninterrupted nights that were accident-free.


  1. My oldest son is 6 and still isn't night trained. For weeks I woke him up to potty at night then gave up. He doesn't even remember the event in the morning. He will be 7 in 4 months. I just don't know what to do. My 4 year old is fully trained, day and night. My 7 year old can make it through a day time nap without an accident, but not at night

    1. I'm sorry to hear that. This would definitely be an issue to discuss with your pediatrician. Sometimes food intolerance can be an underlying cause of bed wetting and I'm sure there are many other factors that can be involved as well. Chiropractic care could also be another area to investigate. I hope you're able to get some answers and get the problem solved soon. You're certainly not alone!

  2. I really likes these tips. I am taking notes here! I have a 7 months old son but it is never too late to listen to those with wisdom. :)

  3. I hope you don't mind - let me know if you do, but this is a great post, so I have added it to my linky on Potty Training at night-time. Trying to build some resources to help us parents out!