Potty Training

The Night-Time Potty Training Trick You Need to Try

toddler potty

Potty-training ranks up there as one of every toddler parent’s biggest hurdles. Just visit any parenting website or meet up with a group of mom friends and you’ll hear about drama that is potty-training: the pleading and the rewarding and the inevitable accident clean-ups. The begging and the constant nagging to get your wee one into the bathroom (what feels like) 500 times a day, not to mention the multiple outfit changes you’ll go through as your kiddo learns to use the potty. Lysol wipes, plastic bags, and a packet of M&Ms in your purse become your mom arsenal. It’s a jolly good time!

Whether it takes a day, weekend, a month or a year, potty-training can frustrate even the most even-tempered of parents. You can read a million books, scour BabyCenter and talk to your pediatrician until you’re blue in the face, but let’s face it: If your kid isn’t physically and emotionally ready, it’s simply not going to happen.

With my oldest, a week at home from school with a mild case of the chicken pox (yes, she was vaccinated!) when she was 2 ½ was the week she daytime potty-trained–whereas my son easily took to daytime potty-training in a day at the same age; he had been wearing big boy underwear a few weeks, had a big sister who he saw use the potty often, and he was “ready.” They both daytime and nap-time potty-trained a lot quicker than we had expected, and I credit much of this to their daycare being really proactive about potty-training.

But night-time is a different story–that one usually takes longer. While it’s true most kids catch on to daytime potty-training somewhere between ages 2 and 4, night-time is significantly harder for most kids. Biology plays a major role in this–physically, little kids can’t control their bladders when they sleep. So what are parents to do when their little one is all set with daytime potty-training but can’t make it through the night or a nap without waking up wet? Pull-Ups seem to be the common solution among parents.

But allow me to let you in on a little secret: my kids never used Pull-Ups, and both easily night-time potty-trained. I don’t share this to brag, but rather to explain why I recommend ditching the Pull-Up and trying this technique instead: I call it the “Sleep & Go.”

My mom recommended this method to me and it worked like a charm for us with both kids. We started “Sleep & Go” later with our daughter because she was our oldest and it took her longer to “get it,” but when we tried this with our son, within 2-3 weeks he was able to make it through the night until morning. And aside from the rare accident, he’s been dry ever since. I’m certainly no doctor, but this method does seem to work if the parents are willing to put the time in and stick it out.

Here’s how “Sleep & Go” works:

1. Wait until your child is daytime potty-trained.

2. Limit liquids 2-4 hours before bed and be sure your child uses the potty before bed.

3. Be sure to have a waterproof mattress pad under your child’s bed sheet.

4. Put kid to sleep in their favorite big-kid underwear–NOT a Pull-Up.

5. 3-4 hours after bed-time (when you yourself are likely to be going to sleep), carry your child to the bathroom–sound asleep. For real. You’ll need to hold them up, but I guarantee you, once they are seated on the toilet and they feel air on their bottom, they will go. And they will (likely) stay asleep even when you put them back in their bed. They will also (likely) wake dry and ready to use the potty in the morning.

6. Repeat each night. If needed (as all kids are different) try to extend to a 5-6 hour stretch.

7. Do this until your kiddo can make the long 10-hour stretch.

Of course, I’m not a pediatrician and this isn’t a foolproof plan–your child may still have an accident as they “train” their bladder to make it through the night. But eventually what happens is your child will likely wake on their own to use the potty.

If they’re anything like mine that means you’ll hear, “MOMMY I HAVE TO GO POTTY!” at 3 a.m. for a while… but I’d trade that for having a 2 or 3-year-old who doesn’t wet the bed and doesn’t need to rely on Pull-Ups. A dry kid is a happy kid and a happy kid = happy parents! And, think of all the money you’ll save!

Now that you know how “Sleep & Go” works, you’re probably wondering why it works. After all, Pull-Ups were invented for a reason–to help kids ease into getting through the night in something that is lighter and feels more like underwear going on.

But here’s my problem with Pull-Ups. They may have tabs and go on like underwear, but at the end of the day, they still soak up liquid and, therefore, feel like a diaper–whereas going straight to underwear and pairing it with the “Sleep & Go” method yields an entirely different experience. Most kids HATE being wet and since there’s nothing to soak up urine, they will likely feel discomfort while sleeping if they have an accident.

Of course, this technique does put the onus on parents (who need to be diligent about the routine) and is certainly more of a parent-led vs child-led form of evening potty-training, so it’s not for everyone. But if you have the time and energy for it, I swear it works–and know it’s worked for many other families, too.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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